Content marketing should be the core of every community college’s marketing approach.
For most community colleges, each semester brings with it the recurring challenge of attracting new students to sign up for courses. Colleges rely on enrollment for their funding, and when enrollment dries up, it begins a downward cycle of cuts that can exacerbate the situation.
Community colleges are well aware of this, and have long known that they need to market themselves to remain sustainable. Unfortunately, community colleges far too often have relied on outdated, slogan-based advertising tactics that are as expensive as they are ineffective. These advertising narratives are necessarily shallow, and are rarely enough to overcome a prospective student’s hesitations or spark that student into taking action.
Fortunately, content marketing offers an approach that has proven successful. Rather than relying on a billboard or headline to make the case for community college education, content marketing provides context and depth. Doing so gives education leaders a chance to change the narrative around community colleges, demonstrating that they provide an affordable, high-quality education alternative to four-year colleges that prepare graduates for fulfilling and profitable career paths.
However, to be successful, colleges must be intentional about their messaging. And to do that, they must return their focus to the student.
Content marketing returns the focus to student need rather than brand messaging.
The reason content marketing is so successful is because it is based on in-depth content that directly addresses student needs. It’s rare to find a single slogan that can encompass the range of student questions and challenges. Part of why these fail to resonate is because they often only address one idea, leaving some portion of prospective students unengaged.
However, by using content marketing to tackle concerns head-on, community colleges can make a richer case for their programs. Rather than having to pick and choose which members of the student body to address, marketers can devote more attention to addressing the deeper hesitations a student might have before signing up, as well as some of the motivations that might encourage them to act.
One way community colleges can address this is to use their marketing as a storytelling platform. Sharing stories of student or program success is a powerful trust indicator that offers practical examples of a school’s positive performance. By returning the focus to the student, colleges move past lightweight marketing language that too often fails to address real student needs.
Many community colleges are beginning to realize the value of content marketing as they’ve tested the strategy and witnessed its success first-hand. However, even knowing what the right approach is, these colleges need assistance in building—and executing—a marketing strategy.
High quality, long-form content is difficult to produce, but demonstrates better ROI.
The only way to producing high-quality content is to delve into research on educational fields and their related job markets. This is where strategy comes in. In performing this research, colleges should consider many of the same questions a prospective student would:
- What courses does the community college offer, and how long does it take to attain a certification or degree?
- Does the college offer flexible course schedules that would allow a student to maintain a job?
- What career prospects will open up to the student once they finish taking the course?
- What student support—including financial aid, childcare, and disability resources—are available to students?
- What other programs and services do community colleges offer that a student might want to know about?
The purpose of assembling these questions and building a strategy around them is that presenting students with answers to these questions empowers them. Students who have access to in-depth information on their course of study will make better choices for their careers. By setting reasonable expectations at the start, students will be more satisfied with the courses they do take, and will feel more motivated to persevered when the going gets tough.
The obvious downside to content marketing is that the breadth of programs can overwhelm a small team of community college staff, making it difficult for them to address the range of programs they have to offer. Most community colleges don’t have large marketing departments, and those staff members are usually already occupied by ongoing internal initiatives. Most do not have the bandwidth to add another resource-intensive project to their task list.
This is where Aperture comes in.
Aperture takes on the burden of creating content for community colleges.
Our mission at Aperture is to provide the content resources that community colleges need to reach their audiences, but don’t have the time to create on their own. Community colleges rarely compete for the same pool of students, so there’s no reason they can’t pool their content creating resources. Instead of writing resources for each program out of whole cloth, Aperture provides high-quality articles that community colleges can fine tune for their own audiences.
Our experience in this field means we are able to create content that is relevant to quickly changing situations. Because content for community colleges is primary focus, we stay up to date on the most recent information. A community college handling content for twenty, fifty, or a hundred programs on their own might only be able to revisit their old articles once every few years. We refresh the content in our archive on a faster schedule, allowing colleges to choose pieces to edit as they need.
By devoting more time to the content that students need, colleges learn more about which marketing messages are the most effective.
When community colleges center their marketing efforts on student needs, it has a ripple effect throughout their marketing endeavors. A focus on content marketing helps to refocus community colleges on the messages that resonate most with their audience. This can carry over to their other communications, leading to a more unified message.
Instead of struggling to find the handful of words that might sum up an entire college’s value proposition, community colleges can use a more targeted approach, distributing their content over social media or through mailing brochures. Faculty and staff can be more aware of programs and student support initiatives, and direct students to them as needed. And the high-level marketing messages that a college does use are better grounded in ideas that appeal to prospective students.
So, when we talk about the importance of strategy, we’re talking about the importance of understanding and addressing student needs. Doing so builds trust with audiences, empowers students to make strong educational choices, and yields better results for colleges than any other marketing method available.
If you would like to learn more about Aperture’s resources and how we can help you develop a strong content marketing strategy, contact us today.