why colleges need to be storytellers
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Why Colleges Need to Be Storytellers

Capturing imaginations with content marketing

School is starting up again this week, which means that in community colleges across the country new students are finding their seats, meeting their professors, and buying their books. It’s impossible to understate what a huge achievement this is for many. Community colleges are a path to a degree for people who never expected to enroll in an institution of higher education. We honor these students’ determination to dream big and change their lives.

Just like each student, each community college has a story to tell. When your marketing harnesses the power of those stories, your audience will respond enthusiastically, by subscribing, sharing, and even filling out applications. It’s an authentic way to build relationships with current students, prospects, alumni, and your wider community.

Using stories to engage with your audience is called content marketing. It’s an ideal marketing strategy for community colleges looking for a way to cut through the noise in the digital age. By creating narrative-driven content, your school can grow enrollment and enhance your institutional reputation. However, not many colleges know how to use content marketing effectively alongside their other marketing campaigns.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is an ongoing marketing strategy which attracts and retains students by creating and curating relevant, honest, and action-guiding content. It’s also a ROI driven marketing strategy, which can provide fast and measurable results. Good content will increase:

  • Brand awareness and loyalty
  • Social engagement
  • Search Rankings
  • Site traffic
  • Conversion rates

The bottom line is that content-marketing will attract and engage prospective students and convince them to enroll in classes.

What does the “content” in content marketing refer to?

Content marketing can take a lot of forms. It can be blog posts, social media campaigns, mailings, magazines, videos or podcasts, and more. Depending on your audience, you might engage them with different sorts of content. For instance, market research shows that Gen Z enjoys short online video content and infographics. On the other hand, if your target demographic is digitally disadvantaged, an online campaign won’t produce the best results.

Choosing the right content and an effective delivery strategy is key to a successful content marketing campaign. That’s why content marketing starts with identifying your market segment and then adopting the most efficient delivery format. Colleges, especially those reaching out to nontraditional learners, often need to use a host of delivery techniques to reach every possible prospective student.

How is content marketing different than advertising?

Traditional advertising, like billboards, bus signs, TV spots can do a lot of things to raise your college’s profile. However, content marketing is not the same as advertising. First of all, content marketing creates a shared experience between the reader and the content-producer. Rather than passively taking in an advertisement, the reader can directly engage with the content, by subscribing, sharing, or responding.

Helpful content is also a resource for the reader. People refer back to clear and honest information created by the college when they are trying to make decisions about enrollment. Unlike other advertising, good content is often a helpful tool, something that the consumer seeks out independently because of its perceived value. With real-time metrics about what content your audience is engaging with, you can fine-tune your marketing strategy as you go.

There’s content and there’s content

Content marketing does something for your business that simply producing content does not. Your school might already have a Facebook page or a Twitter account or a website. But, there’s a difference between content marketing and posting content. Content marketing builds brand awareness, creates leads, converts readers into students, and increases subscribers. If your web content isn’t doing these things, then you aren’t content marketing.

So how can you know if your marketing department has mastered content marketing? Ask if you have clear goals, a defined audience, and a comprehensive strategy. When your marketing team sends out a couple tweets about fall enrollment deadlines, it might be helpful, but it’s hardly compelling. On the other hand, a series of infographics about employment trends or a student success stories will attract attention. Creating this kind of content takes consistent work, but it pays off.

How does this look on a real campus?

Maybe you like the idea of content marketing, but you’re still not sure what a good content marketing campaign looks like. Since we’ve run successful content marketing campaigns around the country, we do. First, you need well-written, well-researched material that you can turn into digital or print content. It should also be personal – move from general facts about education or employment to your campus and your students. Then, add quality photography of students, faculty, or your campus facilities.

For instance, maybe you want to highlight the employability of students who graduate with a B.S.N. You can begin by creating an infographic showing the positive market trends captured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, something that arrests attention on social media. Then you could share a student story from someone currently in your program, giving that person a chance to talk about why they chose the degree. After you’ve received some likes and shares, follow it up next week with more data driven and personal content.

Isn’t content marketing a lot of work?

Creating good content isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean that your community college can’t do it easily. When you work with us, you’ll have all the tools you need to create custom content quickly and share it across multiple platforms. You can choose from hundreds of customizable articles and design resources to roll out print and digital campaigns that produce real results. If you’re ready to start telling your story, contact us for a demonstration today.