Best Practices for Communicating to Students through Salesforce Communities and Pardot

Universities have noticed a growing concern to provide consistent communication with their students, especially during the current pandemic.  It is necessary now more than ever to provide a place for students to come together and collaborate with each other as well as collaborate with university staff.  Higher education institutions are being flooded by questions regarding the upcoming fall semester, the availability of financial aid, online learning and technology assistance, and various other topics that students need answers to.  Since most campuses are currently closed due to the pandemic, it is very difficult for staff to create a personalized experience for students and many students find it difficult to collaborate and communicate with their fellow classmates.  Along with creating a personalized environment for students, universities need to ensure they have the proper tools to readily communicate the various changes that affect their student population through email marketing.

Salesforce Communities can be used as an internal or external collaboration tool, a help desk, a forum, or a knowledge base.  Higher education institutions can look to these communities to help streamline communication with students by providing them channels to interact with each other, channels to interact with staff, and providing answers to some frequently asked questions.  Let’s dig into each of these topics deeper:

Students collaborating with each other

As most Salesforce users know, Salesforce offers great features through its Chatter tool to help with internal collaboration through posts, groups, and questions.  Chatter is basically a social media tool on the Salesforce platform that gives users the opportunity to chat with each other on certain objects, join a specific group based on your interests or work responsibilities, or to pose questions to other users in hopes of getting solutions.  These features are available through Salesforce Communities and would be very beneficial for students to utilize throughout their college experience.  Universities can help create groups for different student groups on campus, the different resident halls, for specific degree programs, and many other topics so students can join and interact with other students and promote communication between students.

Students interacting with university staff

Similar to everyday consumers, students want a personalized experience where they can contact university staff through multiple channels.  Most universities give students the option to email them (through generic email addresses), call a general line, or potentially have a chatbot or live chat available on their website.  With the implementation of a community, higher education institutions can give students the option to create cases that can be routed to the appropriate department based on the question or issue that the student has.  Departments can use queues and list views to help manage the cases that are specific to their expertise and can use Chatter on the specific case records to communicate and resolve with the student.  Higher education institutions can also consider using Salesforce Advisor Link to give students and staff better access to appointment management and degree planning tools.  It is worth noting that universities need to have EDA (Education Data Architecture) configured before installing Salesforce Advisor Link in their org.

Students receiving information necessary to succeed

Most universities have multiple departments that respond to hundreds of student emails throughout the week but have to answer the same 10-20 questions in each email.  Communities work well with Salesforce Knowledge articles, which can be used for frequently asked questions.  A higher education institution can create one specific page in their community to house all FAQs to easily be able to manage as new questions are received or larger universities can look to build a knowledge base with many articles to allow students to self-service themselves.  Along with these articles, universities can set up their communities to give students access to their personal information, financial information, or even their course information so they can easily manage their information in a central location.

Pardot Best Practices

Once a university has implemented a community for its students, its next step is to set up a communication plan to its students.  Pardot’s Engagement Studio is a great tool that will allow university staff to create an onboarding journey for their students.  Through dynamic lists, a university can create an engagement program for a specific audience, such as incoming freshmen, and have students automatically added to this program based on the criteria of the dynamic list.  Onboarding journeys are perfect for helping students navigate the student community through multiple informative emails that can be personalized for the student’s academic program.  Some things to consider when setting up onboarding journeys in Pardot:

  • Determine how many emails you want to send and the cadence of the emails before you start building the engagement program.
  • Consider using triggers to resend important emails when students do not open the original email within a certain amount of days.
  • If you want new students to automatically be added to the engagement program, you’ll need to make sure your Salesforce-Pardot sync is enabled to allow newly created students to be synced over to Pardot.
  • Make sure to pay attention to your engagement program metrics throughout the onboarding journey.  If an email template is not getting as many views as you would like, you should consider updating the subject line to make it more personalized for students.  Pardot allows users to use PML variable tags in their subject lines to individualize emails sent to students.


  1. Students require a central location to be able to collaborate with each other and get their questions answered in a timely fashion.
  2. Salesforce Communities is a great solution for universities to improve their customer service for their students while providing a central location for students to communicate.  Administrators can enable dashboards for Community Managers to be able to report on the success of the community through various metrics such as activity trends, community engagement, unique community contributors, and most used Knowledge Articles.
  3. Pardot is typically known for its lead generation and lead scoring features but is also very beneficial for building onboarding and other nurturing email journeys for customers.

As always feel free to post your comments below or email me at to discuss further.

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Author: Jordyn Jaffer

Jordyn Jaffer is a 9x Certified Salesforce Administrator and Marketing Champion with a specialization in Pardot. She is an avid trailhead user and is interested in getting into Salesforce and MarTech consulting. She is currently taking graduate courses at her alma mater, Northeastern University, in pursuit of a Master’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing.

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