Community colleges need to sell their unique strengths while maintaining a unified message.
Over the past few years, a growing number of community colleges have benefited from using content marketing to grow their enrollment rate. These colleges recognize the value prospective learners find in practical, career-minded information about the real costs and benefits associated with a community college education.
CareerFocus has been part of this movement, supplying content to colleges and helping them distribute it, first through print, and then through digital means. We have seen how shared content has helped community colleges thrive through lower production costs, while also expanding their marketing reach and raising enrollment.
We have also heard the colleges we work with asking about the benefits of custom content, and questioning whether shared content is a viable strategy for community colleges. It’s an important question, and the short answer is that we believe there’s room for both. But when and how you used shared content, custom content, or a custom edit of pre-written content, is a question of strategy. Here’s our perspective.
The benefits of content sharing: presenting a consistent message.
A common struggle among many community colleges lies in challenging the many false impressions that exist about their role in higher education. Community colleges frequently face charges of being “second rate,” of being mere transition colleges, or of not being as focused on student success as vocational schools.
As anyone who works with community colleges knows, these assumptions are wildly off-base. Community colleges work directly with students to help them achieve success, both in the work force and in their continuing education. However, given the pervasive nature of these narratives, it can be difficult for community colleges individually to deliver a coherent response.
This is where content sharing delivers a strong repartee to combat the most pernicious of these attitudes. When community colleges come together to share a response to the charge of being expensive fallback options, they can change public perception to the benefit of all. Instead of each individual college spending resources to write a myriad of articles which all share the same substance, they can pool resources to distribute selections of the same content.
The benefits of customizing content: existing content, tailored to your needs.
That said, there are many cases in which shared content, left as-is, might create a disconnect between the college’s brand and its audience. It may be that a college offers a variation on a more standard course, or that they have developed a strong style in communication with their students.
Accordingly, we feel it is important to emphasize the extent to which articles can be edited to reflect the specialties of their college. For many marketers, starting with existing content and then editing to suit their needs isn’t just cost effective—it’s a huge time saver as well. Without having to research national statistics, colleges can build off the bones of a piece to create something that perfectly matches their subject and style.
Customizing existing content solves another common problem for community colleges: coming up with good content ideas. While it’s not the same as writer’s block, colleges frequently struggle with selecting subject matter for their articles. And, even when they’re writing the articles themselves, the final result may differ from what the team intended.
By using shared content, a marketing team can select articles that already meet most of their criteria, leaving the final tweaking to their department. The results are more aligned with the team’s vision, and help move the marketing forward at an efficient pace.
The benefits of original content: showcasing your inimitable value.
Finally, some community colleges have such refined specialties that their courses may bear little to no resemblance to other courses nationwide. If your program offers professional a special certification program, or an unusual degree course, you may want to consider creating original content to highlight these programs.
That isn’t the only kind of unique content you can create, however. Faculty interviews and student profiles can work together to showcase success stories and familiarize prospective students with department staff.
If your marketing department is low on time, this can even be an initiative you run with your college’s writing department. You can talk with teachers of the writing and composition courses about asking students to submit an article for the next CareerFocus issue that highlights a benefit or a unique advantage of your community college. This can be a rewarding experience for students, and a point of interest for those considering enrollment.
Community colleges don’t have to choose between shared and custom content.
As you can probably see for yourself, a single issue of CareerFocus can use any combination of the above. While two or three inside pieces may use whole articles un-edited, they can be supplemented by original interviews and feature segments. Meanwhile, the title article can be based off a pre-written piece, but with some of the paragraphs altered to focus more on the specific community college’s interests.
The bottom line is that colleges do not need to restrict themselves to only one approach or the other. By being strategic in their use of shared content and saving their resources for the custom content when they need it most, they make more of their marketing budgets—all while providing the valuable, informative content their learners need to make decisions about their education.
If you would like to learn more about how CareerFocus helps community colleges provide a united front in order to change public perception, we encourage you to read our whitepaper, Changing the Narrative: How Community Colleges Use Content Marketing to Transform Public Perception and Build Enrollment.
To learn more about how our multi-channel content marketing campaigns can help your community college build enrollment, contact us directly.