At NJIT, getting word out about big accomplishments helped spur big jump in U.S. News rankings

Content director: ‘We have to do the boots-on-the-ground work to make sure that what we're doing is being recognized and publicized’

By Tom Bergeron
Newark | Sep 10, 2018 at 2:02 pm
Editor’s Desk

New Jersey Institute of Technology was thrilled to see the efforts it has made to improve its facilities, faculty, student body and programs result in the school jumping 34 spots to No. 106 among national universities in the coveted U.S. News & World Report rankings that were released Monday morning.

It was thrilled even more to see the efforts the school’s marketing, communications and social media teams made in getting the word out about its improvements were effective.

Raising your spot in the rankings is not easy. NJIT’s jump was the third-highest among all the national schools ranked.

Deric Raymond, director of content planning and intelligence at NJIT, said letting other schools know about the good things at NJIT was a key in the big move.

“One of the biggest contributors of these rankings is the reviews from our peers,” he said. “Peer institutions are notoriously difficult in changing their mind.”

Simply put, other institutions have a vested interest in keeping schools where they are in the rankings.

Raymond said that’s why getting the word out is so important. NJIT made sure it could not be ignored.

“We have to do the boots-on-the-ground work to make sure that what we’re doing is being recognized and publicized,” he said. “We rely on our students and their success stories quite a bit. Any time we can highlight great research, we get it out there.

“We really wanted to make a concerted effort appealing to our peers about our various research and economic development opportunities in our community. Those things are big drivers of why this change came about. Our peer institutions are seeing us as doing better.”

In any number of areas.

Raymond said NJIT feels part of its jump comes from its social economic mobility factor, which was added to the rankings for the first time.

“We do exceptionally well taking people who would be bottom economic earners, have them go through NJIT and eventually become some of the top economic earners,” he said.

Again, the key is getting that word out. And it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Raymond said it’s more than just producing content. He said it’s about producing content that resonates not only with other institutions, but with students and guidance counselors and anyone else in the higher education landscape.

“I spend a lot of time looking behind the scenes at some of the data that we have been able to take in on our news stories and see the outreach,” he said. “Part of my job is to look at the type of content we are producing and then giving feedback on either A) how to improve it; or B) a different direction to go.

“Here’s how the public at large is taking it. And here is how the public segmented is taking it. It’s things like that, plus analyzing the type of content, the lead image that is being used, what platform it’s going on — this is taking top-level basic things we’ve never really looked at in the past and looking at them under a microscope.”

Raymond credits the communications, marketing and social media teams for leading the  way.

Jim Marko, the social media and digital media director at the school, for leading the way.

“People are consuming what we’re producing in a very mobile-oriented way,” he said. “People are consuming our media on a wide array of platforms and we’re making content to support all of them.”

It’s clearly working.

At No. 106 among national institutions, NJIT is the fourth-ranked school in the state, trailing only Princeton University (No. 1), Rutgers University-New Brunswick (No. 56) and Stevens Institute of Technology (No. 70).

And while making the Top 100 certainly is a goal, Raymond said he does not want to put a number on where he would like to see NJIT.

“I’d be thrilled if we kept on rising, and I think what we’re doing is accomplishing those goals one step at a time,” he said. “I don’t want to put a particular number on it, because the next year I’ll want to do better.”

That being said, Raymond said the school does look at its competitors — based on size, geography and purpose.

“We certainly look at other institutions as a benchmark and we try to figure out what they are doing and how we can do better,” he said.

Doing so helps in more ways than just raising your rankings.

“If we expand out our competitive base, we’re able to learn a lot more about the students who are going to those schools and how we can make our institution more appealing,” Raymond said.

Which will give NJIT plenty more stories to tell.

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