Picture it: It’s early 2020, and you can’t wait to strategize and plan your recruitment efforts for the coming year. You start imagining all the possibilities for your Viewbook, an essential piece in every post-secondary institution’s recruitment toolkit. What should the cover look like? What inspirational message will the president share this year?  

But wait a minute.  

Here comes a global pandemic. The next question you likely asked was, how are we going to get our shiny new Viewbooks into the hands of students when we all have to stay home? 

This was the challenge McMaster University brought to ED. as it struggled with school closures and the cancellation of in-person recruitment events (thanks COVID).   

What they said: Our Viewbook is essential to recruitment. Regardless of the pandemic, we need a way to get them in front of students.  

Viewbooks are practically the bread and butter of recruitment efforts. They raise awareness and educate student prospects about everything a university or college has to offer. Not to mention, they also play a role in capturing leads. 

No wonder most schools had processes for ideating, creating and distributing Viewbooks down to a fine science. That was, until the pandemic hit. 

Like many other higher ed. institutions, McMaster distributed their Viewbook in person and digitally as a PDF (by request). But, with the cancellation of in-person events and the chance that the Ontario Universities’ Fair (a major recruitment opportunity for universities) would be nixed, McMaster needed a solution that would still allow them to get the Viewbook to students and achieve those important lead gen. opportunities.

Our insight: A novel approach to a traditional medium

With restrictions in place, the university could not capture the leads it used to get from recruiters who would visit schools. ED. knew that digital distribution was key to the approach. But we wanted to do better than simply making a PDF version of the Viewbook and posting it to McMaster’s website.

For all its numerous benefits, Viewbooks had become a status quo product in the industry. This was an opportunity to turn McMaster’s Viewbook into a unique piece that would feel new to students.

As a starting point, we looked at different distribution options and its equally important cousin, lead generation. In years gone by, recruiters had been distributing McMaster Viewbooks in person and manually capturing prospect information with pen and paper (yup, old school).

Leaning into this insight is what informed our approach. Knowing that McMaster’s process for capturing leads involved a lot of manual labour (and pen and paper) kept us up at night (figuratively, of course). Beyond pivoting fully to digital, ED knew this was an opportunity to improve processes by making them simpler and more efficient.


McMaster University microsite in 2021

Our recommendation included developing a personalized Viewbook tailored to each prospect. We recommended gating the Viewbook asset on a microsite we designed and developed, where prospects would fill out a form to answer questions such as graduation year and programs of interest.

ED.’s customized program would then generate personalized Viewbooks with a prospect’s name on the cover and pages with information specific to them. Access to personalized Viewbooks would be made available through instant download and email.

This approach allowed us to move the Viewbook distribution online (much needed during a pandemic) while preserving the opportunity to capture leads. Our data capture solution transferred the lead information directly to McMaster’s lead funnel in their customer relationship management (CRM), allowing for faster follow up than a high volume of emails in a recruiter’s inbox. This was a huge time saver that freed up staff for other projects.

We also suggested adding a drip campaign so McMaster could stay top of mind through continued engagement with leads via email.

Example of personalized McMaster Viewbook


We delivered.

After the new Viewbook concept went live, McMaster received a staggering number of leads (in the thousands!) in its first 60 days.  

ED. transformed what was an ordinary, analog Viewbook into a personalized, online lead-capture mechanism – all the while resolving distribution challenges presented by the pandemic and freeing up staff from the time-consuming task of data entry. The solution streamlined – and accelerated – the school’s lead gen. activity with little effort, and no pen and paper were required.

2021 McMaster University Viewbook