How to improve your US News business school ranking: A brand strategist’s perspective

Elliance, as a marketing and strategy agency, views the US News business school rankings from a brand strategy perspective. For us, a brand is the sum of all experiences, be they virtual, experiential or architectural interactions.

From our perspective, business school Deans should neither feel paralyzed by the rankings nor surrender their agency over to the rank creators; instead the Deans ought to focus on creating and delivering a superior brand experience.

How To Improve Your US News Business School Rankings

To improve your US News business school rankings, you need to accomplish three things:

First, you must look and behave like a school of consequence.

Recall that 40% of the ranking is based on how peers and recruiters perceive your business school, and 35% of the ranking is based on placement success. There are five things you can do to positively change the perceptions of peers and recruiters.

i. Invest in first impressions.
Remember you become the story you choose to tell.

  • Brand your business school because in the sea of sameness, brands win. Speak with one brand voice to all audiences striking different notes for each audience segment. Tell a better story.
  • Fortify every touch point – including websites, social media channels, your Wikipedia entry, email signatures, newsletters, tours, information sessions, and all your presentations.
  • Celebrate your star students, alumni and faculty because they, not the institution, are the real heroes of your story.
  • Claim your Google page 1 rankings – ensuring the information that appears on search engine results is persuasive and inviting.
  • Make your facilities and grounds beautiful because beauty engenders confidence.

ii. Stand for something unique and let the world know about it.
To draw attention you must do something unique. To stand out, here are three things you can do:

  • Become a product innovator in fields of business that matter today.
  • Position yourself as a thought-leader in emerging fields of business.
  • Champion a meaningful societal or global cause that is rooted in your institutional core strengths.

iii. Mobilize your publishing potential. Claim your keyword rankings.
Weaponize your content based on your schools’ thought leadership, innovation, and intellectual capital with a Keyword Lexicon, and an ongoing search engine optimization campaign that attains top Google rankings and fosters social sharing.

iv. Organize conferences and annual professional meetings in your areas of distinction.
These give peers and recruiters a reason to visit the campus and engage with your faculty, students and alumni.

v. Create an enviable peer and corporate advisory board.
Invite aspirational peers and recruiters to your advisory board and involve them in teaching, shaping your curriculum and charting your institutional future.

Second, you must create a predictable enrollment engine to attract right-fit students.

To improve your student selectivity (which accounts for 25% of US News ranking score),

i. Go beyond traditional list buying.
Expand your applicant pool with cheaper, smarter, and less wasteful paid social advertising. This supports A/B testing, look-alike marketing, affinity group segmentation, and surgical micro-targeting which all leverage partly human judgment and partly machine-learning algorithms.

ii. Mobilize and mutually reinforce paid, owned, earned and shared media.
Surround and engage your prospects with your brand by leveraging various forms of paid media, high-fidelity content marketing, online PR, and social media to create a comprehensive marketing strategy for your program.

iii. Romance prospects with high-fidelity academic program pages and landing pages.
They are the “money pages” on a website used by value-minded prospects to make their business school choices. They must feature stories of peer students, faculty, facilities, and centers of excellence where the students’ minds will be shaped and skills will be developed. They must also paint pictures of exciting opportunities that await program graduates and tell stories of alumni as demonstrable proof of your program’s distinction. Above all, your program pages must have a look & feel that is commensurate with the true value of a student’s decision to attend which includes tuition, fees, moving, housing, food, insurance and the salary they must forgo to attend your program.

Third, you must build an endowment war-chest to improve student experience.

Recall that 60% of the US News ranking is based on selectivity (25%) and placement success (35%). With a solid endowment war-chest, you’ll be able to:

  • Modernize your facilities
  • Contain the class size
  • Attract the best-fit students
  • Manage the placement of your graduates
  • Keep the student/faculty ratio as small as possible.

We recognize that rankings are here to stay, and require an inordinate amount of resources to provide US News your institutional data. However, with a robust brand strategy in place, this herculean effort becomes a fruitful exercise in providing proof of your claims to prospective students, faculty, peers and recruiters.

If you are seeking higher education marketing agencies improve the ranking of your school, view our higher education marketing capabilities and consider partnering with us.