What will 2018 hold for your university’s marketing and enrollment management? If you want the New Year to be better than the old, you need a plan to make it happen. A strategic editorial calendar can be the foundation on which you build content that fulfills your mission and fills your applicant pool. Here’s why you need an editorial calendar for higher education marketing and what you need to do now.
- Develop a big picture strategy. Use your institution’s mission statement and goals to develop a content calendar that reflects what you believe is most important. Consider why you produce content in the first place and whether or not you are properly addressing your stakeholders’ needs. Do you wish to draw the attention of current or future students? Or are you looking to attract alumni donors to your website and capital fundraisers?
- Organize your messaging. Choose themes that address your stakeholders’ needs and touch upon various holidays and seasons throughout the year. The first of the year? Of course it’s easy to consider how education can have a positive impact, but don’t opt only for the easy win. How about messaging around great accomplishments that started with a single step? Or words of encouragement from alumni and faculty? Know what you want to say and when the best time to say it is. It’s okay to have several themes but you need to have a consistent voice that fully represents your school’s brand.
- Organize your assets. Each and every piece of content needs to be fresh, original, and meaningful, but that doesn’t mean you need to reinvent the wheel for every asset. For example, if you choose to produce a quarterly whitepaper, consider the components that will need to accompany it and template the assets. Store them in an easy to access digital file. When it’s time to curate your content, you want to be able to grab and go.
- Build an efficient process. Include details in the editorial calendar about whom is responsible for each content component, with a well-defined and repeatable process, and clear deadlines. For example, if you build an email campaign around a spring fundraising initiative, your calendar would delineate who writes copy, designs, deploys, and tracks. Build out next steps that are triggered by a user’s actions and include that what-if scenario in your content calendar. Have additional emails, landing pages, and possible ads ready to go as part of your regular process.
- Integrate your marketing. The best content calendars use consistent themes across media and methods. Inbox emails should be a thematic match to those glossy brochures delivered to actual mailboxes. Emails can also trigger ads that find users across the internet, answer their questions and fit where they are in the decision-making process. Keywords for SEO should complement what’s happening on paid media. And blog posts, articles, whitepapers, and infographics can and should overlap.
- Publish regularly to build your audience. Once you have the attention of a prospective student, parent, or alumnus, what will you do to keep it? If your target audience finds your blog interesting and valuable on a first visit, do not disappoint on the next. If future students come looking to your website for an informative blog and are met with stale content, they won’t come back. And those ads that draw their attention only work if they see them. When you pause campaigns too long or serve inconsistently, you create a void that can easily be filled by a competitor institution. On the other hand, if you consistently provide them with a positive user experience, they’ll come back time and again.
- Produce quality and quantity to achieve results. It’s not enough to post, publish, and tweet frequently. You need to create quality content that resonates with your stakeholders. Likewise, great quality content that appears with super moon frequency is a wasted effort.
- Amplify your content. One of your rock star professors was just published in Scientific American. You shoot out a press release, send out an email, and feature her in your quarterly news magazine. That’s a great start. But it’s not enough. Use the power of social media to deliver the good news across the globe and send interested users back to your website where you can capture their info and follow them across the internet. Then, serve them more of what they care about. And don’t forget to revisit the whole story six months or a year out. It may be old news to you, but it won’t be to someone just starting their college search.
- Start rigid to become flexible. Huh? One of the true benefits of a well-structured content calendar is that once it’s in place, you’ve done most of the heavy lifting. Since you know what you’re going to create and when, you can plan/research/write/edit/create well in advance of a deadline. You can also pivot more quickly if an unscheduled topic or event requires immediate resources. You want and need to be able to be part of the broader conversations that affect your school and the world at large.
- But maybe the best reason to have a content calendar? It takes some of the stress away from your overall marketing plans. No more frantic last minute brainstorming sessions. No poorly pulled-together posts with mismatched messaging. You have time to think about the big picture and all its tiny little details and you have time to breathe. Ahhhh.
With the old year coming to a close, it’s time to think forward. If you want to learn how to build out the perfect content calendar for your institution, let me know!