Empowering Quality Student Outreach at the Mohawk Students’ Association
The Mohawk Students’ Association (MSA) is a student-driven, non-profit organization established in 1965 at Mohawk College. Its core mission is to enhance the Mohawk student experience by helping students create an inclusive community that supports their academic, personal and future success.
Since its inception, the MSA has served over 125,000 Mohawk college graduates. Today, the Association offers ongoing support to the 30,000 full-time, part-time, and apprenticeship students that attend the college’s 169 programs across Mohawk College’s eight Hamilton and Brantford campuses annually. In addition, the Association serves 4,000 international students from over 90 countries.
The MSA is responsible for student access to offerings like the MSA PRESTO Bus Pass, food bank, equipment loans, and health and dental plans as well as support for its members’ physical and mental well-being. It also provides employment opportunities and facilitates financial aid.
Beyond its support role, the Association provides students with affordable and diverse food services offerings.
Seeking autonomy to improve communication
The MSA is independently run by a board of the students it serves. Despite its autonomy, however, the MSA lacked independent use of the college’s student contact and demographic information — it also had no mechanism for communicating directly with its members to provide them with critical information about the services they are entitled to.
“Historically, we haven’t had access to student contact data even though every student was an MSA member,” explains Marc Iturriaga, MSA Executive Director. Our communications relied strictly on the college and their email communications infrastructure.
Even with the college’s cooperation, the MSA had difficulty efficiently meeting its communication goals. A primary pain point was the convoluted process association members had to undertake to send an email and their lack of control over when their communications would actually be sent.
“For every email, we prepared our key elements like the text, graphics, and subject line and submitted a ticket through the college’s queue system, where we specified our preferred release date and the message priority,” says Paige Petrovsky, MSA Communications Specialist. “Unfortunately the college marketing team frequently had a lot on their plates and that would sometimes delay our emails. It had a significant impact on how we put our messages together.”
In addition to this inconvenient and unpredictable process, other limitations affected the MSA’s ability to communicate effectively with its student members. One major concern was a lack of clarity regarding the source of the Student Association’s emails.
“We weren’t meeting our communication goals. Using the college system, we weren’t able to personalize our messages beyond including small graphic elements connected to the Association,” says Petrovsky. “The messages we sent contained the college’s footer and website links and the conflicting branding added to the confusion over the distinction between college and the MSA.”But before it could resolve these issues, the MSA had to satisfy both the government and the college’s regulatory requirements on the use and storage of student data.
Secure, compliant, targeted email
After researching its options, the MSA turned to Envoke, the CASL compliant email broadcast solution.
Envoke ticked the MSA’s boxes with its ease of use and implementation, its data security, permission, subscription and mandatory message management, and its user segmentation — features that establish Envoke as an ideal email broadcast tool for associations and organizations focused on communicating important information. Envoke’s clients include Concordia, McGill and the University of British Columbia, the Municipality of West Vancouver, and the United Way. Its experience with higher education and non-profit organizations simplified the MSA’s selection process.
“The college was very risk-averse and the data agreement contained a list of criteria our email solution had to satisfy,” says Iturriaga. “But they had already done the research and were using Envoke themselves. That, combined with Envoke’s competitive price point, features, usability, and the way Envoke presented the product to us in a clear, straightforward manner, made the decision a no-brainer.”
Getting Started with Envoke
“Opening up Envoke that first time, it was something I understood,” says Petrovsky. The interface wasn’t overly complicated and controls for tags, subscriptions, and segments were under clear headings. The supporting web articles and videos were also super helpful.”
Another factor contributing to Envoke’s usability out of the box was the drag and drop email editor, customizable responsive templates for desktop or mobile, and on screen previews and editing.
“We quickly designed a base template for all of our emails,” says Petrovsky. “It is very user-friendly. Even without design experience, I regularly make small changes and copy edits. I can easily go into the template and plug and play.”
Sending the right message
Three months after adopting the solution, the MSA is seeing the potential of Envoke’s more advanced features. List management using segmentation, tags, and subscriptions allows the MSA to tailor its messaging to match its objectives. For the MSA, Envoke is a powerful tool for promoting understanding.
“Our domestic students already know what a student election is all about. However, our international students may not — they get an election message and incorrectly think, ‘That’s not for me, I’m an international student. I can’t run or vote,’” says Iturriagia. “By segmenting with Envoke, the message can be different, we can change the content and pictures to send a more clear, context-specific message tailored to the needs of both groups.”
With advanced list management, the Association can also send mandatory emails containing critical information or opt-in and subscription-based emails promoting secondary events and services.
“Before Envoke, we needed to be careful with the intent of every message we sent. We were cautious sending information about food specials or a small trivia event and having students think, ‘Oh, I don’t want this type of information. I’m going to unsubscribe,’” says Petrovsky. “We had to avoid that because our next message could be about elections, or the bus pass — important information that students need to see.”
Gaining insight and increasing engagement
Although it is early in their adoption of Envoke, the MSA continues to explore the benefits of the email communications tool. In particular, the reporting tool provides them with important insight into the efficacy of their communications. They now receive feedback that was previously unavailable to them.
“Envoke reporting has changed how and when we send our emails,” says Petrovsky. “With our election emails, we discovered that more students are opening and engaging with our content when we send it later in the day.”
“When we promote an event and look at open and click rates and see that 100 people clicked, and then 60 of them actually show up, it’s great. The reporting has been great,” adds Iturriaga.
As a result of the enhanced feedback, the Association team is already exploring additional Envoke reporting features like tracking recipient behavior over time and Google Analytics integration to further drive student engagement.
“At MSA, we want to invite members to and inform them of association-related opportunities in a timely and impactful manner — to send meaningful communications that anticipate and meet the needs of our diverse student population,” concludes Iturriaga. “With Envoke, we are already 100% better off and there is much more to learn.”
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