Your college brand isn’t about a single advertising spot or a full-out marketing campaign. It’s bigger than both. Brand goes to the core of who you are; the heart and soul of your entire institution. It’s more important than your majors and programs and geography and even your faculty. Because if potential students cannot connect to your brand, they will not enroll. That’s where content marketing can make a significant impact.
Listen to Relevant Stakeholders
Before you can build a successful content strategy that will lift your college brand, you need to understand and embrace your own story. Consider all stakeholders. Even if your administration should be able to answer the who am I? question, don’t depend just on them. They may actually be too far removed from day-to-day college operations to help with what makes content work. On the other hand, your faculty, staff and students do know what’s going on. They live it every day.
Also look outwardly. Who comes to your website? What pages do they visit and what queries do you answer for them? How do they find you? Search analytics can tell you the questions users ask, how many pages they visited, how long they stayed, what digital path they took to reach you and even what kind of device they used. It’s a trove of data that tells a compelling story—if you bother to listen.
That outward vision also needs to include your competitors. What do they offer that you do not? Are you losing students because your programs really don’t measure up? Or is it just a matter of brand messaging? Shine a spotlight on how you’re different—and better—than that other school. Those passionate professors, relevant curriculum, renowned reputation, amazing students, successful alumni—are all a part of your brand.
Build the Story
Two bromides from journalism school that have always stayed with me are: 1) show, don’t tell, and 2) there are no boring stories, only boring writers. Both apply to content marketing and branding. Here’s how:
Show DON’T Tell
I work with a lot of young writers who have some great ideas and their writing tells me all about them. That’s the problem. Instead of allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions, they tell them what to think. Good content paints a clear picture that shows with crystal clarity. With regard to your brand, it presents a clear case that lets users intuitively understand all that is great about your school. They see the picture and picture themselves there.
Create Great Stories
You have an amazing institution that is unlike any other. If you don’t believe that whole-heartedly, what are you doing there? And if you can’t find content producers who share your passion and have a real desire to help you fulfill your mission, find someone else. There really are no boring stories. But the best way to promote your institution is through the people who are its fiber and sinew. Your students have overcome obstacles and challenges to reach you. Your alumni find the kind of success that isn’t measured solely by titles and promotions (although there’s that too). And your faculty is knowledgeable, professional and caring. In fact, your whole staff is pretty amazing. And they’re all part of your brand.
Fantastic content that makes it no farther than your website is a wasted investment. A vibrant and robust presence on social media allows you to share your content with people who actually care about what you produce. In the best case scenario, you’re on the radar of students—and often their parents—long before a college decision is on the horizon. Because you answer questions they ask online, on platforms like Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, you become an authentic and trusted resource. You’re a reliable go-to –one they may want to come to when they make that final decision.
If you’d like to learn how to build a content and social media strategy that reaches students at the very beginning of their search and follows them through to their decision, contact ESM Digital today. We can show you how.