Admission Viewbooks Aren’t Dead – They’re Evolving!

My friends at Turnaround Marketing recently asked the question: “Are Viewbooks Dead?

Their answer: Not Yet – and I couldn’t agree more.

Turnaround Marketing does a great job of supporting their answer and I would like to offer why I think admission viewbooks, through their evolution, should remain a vital part of the admission process.

Today, Admission Viewbooks Are a Part Of A Larger Whole

In the past, admission viewbooks were at the center of a school’s marketing efforts. A physical copy was printed and sent to potential families to give them a preview of the school. A written letter is usually included as an added thoughtful gesture.

Aesthetics are a big part of admission viewbooks. The design of the viewbook is an important branding statement. Some viewbooks use modern design aesthetics in an attempt to appeal to the younger generation. Often, student testimonials or highlights are included in the viewbook, signaling to families that the school cares they are telling a story that resonates with students and families.

As Turnaround suggests, schools can control the reader’s experience and deliver your school’s brand messages.

I absolutely agree with their assessment but feel that with the advent of social media, search engines, and inbound marketing, the viewbook’s position must shift from the center of a school’s marketing plan to just another piece in their inbound marketing strategy.

We’ve recently freshened our admission viewbook at my school and had discussions about the future of this type of publication. We now think about our admission viewbook as a very important second piece in our content marketing strategy and have moved our content away from text toward using more photos to make the experience more visual. Let me now explain…

The Admission Viewbook is a Visual Experience

We now assume that most prospective families find my school through the internet and their first contact is our website. We make two assumptions about a prospective family’s experience with our website: 1. It is mostly text based and although we try to include visual elements, we are inherently limited by the capabilities of the web experience, and 2. As Turnaround suggests, we can not control the reader’s experience and can’t be certain that a prospective family will even read everything we would like them to see.

As a result, we now think about our admission viewbook as being the second major piece of our inbound marketing strategy with the following assumptions:

1. If we assume that a prospective family’s web experience is more text-based, we are attempting to make the admission viewbook experience more visual. Print allows us to include more dramatic and inviting photos our people, campus, and school life in general.

2. We have pared down the length of our admission viewbook to include only essential branding elements to make sure that each family has experienced the core of what we do and who we are – we don’t want to dilute that message.

3. Our viewbook consistently points back to our website in a complimentary relationship for a couple of reasons: 1. We’ve tried to keep the viewbook school year independent to allow us to have a longer shelf life of this current version to help save money – it’s much easier to update the website, and 2. By pointing back to the website we are able to convert students to inquires, from inquiries to applicants, and from applicants to enrolled students.

It’s Your Turn

I would love to hear your thoughts about the future of admission viewbooks and where you think they should belong in the admission process. Please share your thoughts by posting them in the comments section below.

Image Courtesy: Turnaround Marketing

Originally published November 4, 2011, 10:13 AM, updated February 14, 2022

  • Brendan, thanks for this thoughtful response to our blog post. I think you’re dead on (haha) with your thinking that “the viewbook’s position must shift from the center of a school’s marketing plan to just another piece in their inbound marketing strategy.” Some schools put all their brand positioning into this one basket and are missing a plethora of opportunities with other channels — including their website and social media. Also, I like your comments about the web vs. viewbook experience. At Turnaround, we like to think of the difference this way: websites are more informational (just the facts, ma’am) and viewbooks are more experiential (branded). That said, we are trying to encourage our clients to make their websites more experiential through better, stronger, more consistent brand messages and more (much more) video of individuals who are already affiliated with the school. The next chapter of this conversation leads to bump and yield marketing (print or otherwise).

  • Agree with your thoughts. To make viewbooks even more dynamic I love the idea of using QR codes by/on a photo to link to a video of a student in action and sharing their thoughts about the school.

  • Yes yes yes. We are designing an infographic to use in place of a bunch of text in our print and online promo materials. There will be several sections of the infographic that fit together into one large one, giving us the ability to pick and choose which data to display where. I love Kristen’s idea of a QR code as well!

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