Create Content for the Elusive Audience

Advice for Communicators in Higher Education

Get real. That was my takeaway from a day at Content Marketing World 2015 spent with dozens of communicators who work in higher education. Authenticity was the buzzword. It’s the glue that bonds people to brands.

There was great dialogue about how colleges and universities can connect with their target audiences, and there are many opportunities for this connection along the customer journey. Whether it’s recruitment, admissions, retention or advancement, colleges that connect with their audience in an authentic way stand to gain more than those who shout from their ivory towers.

So how can marketers connect with people in a way that will resonate with them? Here are a few takeaways from the Content Marketing World 2015 Higher Education Lab:

  1. Share original stories. You can find them everywhere. In classrooms, study abroad programs, field experiences, labs, cafeterias, museums, alumni in interesting roles – wherever people are, there is an interesting story to be found – if you’re willing to dig a little to uncover them. Leverage faculty, staff, students, admissions counselors, development officers and alumni as resources for ideas.
  1. Avoid the “meh.” Let’s face it – reading stuff that’s boring and bland isn’t going to get people to pay attention. Remember, you’re competing for time and attention from hundreds of other colleges and brands that want to reach your same audience. Think beyond the plain text-based Facebook post and long blocks of web copy that seem to drone on forever and favor interesting photography, cool infographics and short and inspiring videos. Think about what captures your attention. Find your brand’s unique voice and use it.
  1. Exchange the interchangeable. How many small, private colleges tout small class sizes, professors who know students by name and a beautiful campus? Most all of them. Sure, these attributes are desirable, but do they really differentiate you from your competitor 30 miles down the road who says the same thing? Is your website copy interchangeable with that of colleges similar in size? Hone in on what makes you different and point it out in your content. The best brands are desirable, defensible and differentiated. 
  1. Make data your friend. How do you know if what you’re sharing is connecting with your audience? Access and interpret data and use it to your advantage. Consider just how simple, easy and inexpensive it is to see how people engage with various types of content on Facebook alone. Dozens of great tools exist to help you. Use them. It’s easier to make the case for additional resources when you have data to support it.
  1. Good content doesn’t need to cost a fortune. Some of the most interesting things we see and share are inexpensive or even free. With smartphones, affordable content creation tools and a wealth of stories to tell, it’s easier than ever before. Online tools such as Canva are great for creating usable images that you can share through your channels.
  1. Think snackable. Simple, easily digestible content works well, especially for prospective students. Catchy copy, cool photography, simple graphics and short videos help them connect quickly when so many other brands are vying for their attention. Today’s teens can spot marketing a mile away, so focus on telling rather than selling.

 

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