Non-profit colleges are playing a serious game of catch-up when it comes to marketing themselves. Even the Chronicle of Higher Education has run features on the impact online marketing is having--as colleges come to realize that today's prospective students prefer to conduct their college searches online.
Traditional marketing methods such as print advertising, TV, radio and the ubiquitous college catalogs/pamphlets suffer from an almost total lack of accountability. After enormous up-front costs, there is no performance tracking/analytics of the sort available in well-orchestrated online marketing campaigns.
The old ways of "getting the word out" are too expensive, too difficult to track, and simply don't connect with today's prospective students.
However, if a college enters into new media advertising without the necessary research and expertise, you end up doing an enormous amount of damage to your image by posting ill-conceived promotional videos on YouTube, or creating an ugly and difficult to navigate website.
I came across this video from Appalachian State University on YouTube. Beware! A promotional video can take on a life of its own. This one has been viewed over 245,000 times, and has received almost 300 comments. Most of the comments are like these: "This video makes me what to stab myself in the face!" "This is why I go to Penn State." "Why would you go there after seeing this?!"