Effective marketing today, especially to college-bound people, must include a strong content marketing component. Content marketing is the art of communicating with your targets without specifically selling your institution.
Modern prospects are savvy online shoppers, empowered by the vast array of information that the Internet can provide. Simultaneously, they have learned to ‘tune out’ much of traditional advertising, using Netflix and Hulu to avoid the bulk of TV commercials, switching radio stations when ads come on, and scrolling past sponsored stories in their Facebook newsfeeds.
The goal of content marketing is break through traditional advertising, to educate and inform your audience, providing them with something interesting enough to engage them while stopping short of a sales pitch. This type of non-interruptive marketing results in a deeper emotional connection than traditional advertising by prompting an interaction with your brand that provides real value to your target. However, in order to attract prospects effectively, you must provide them with something that will be fundamentally interesting to them, something they will love.
Colleges and universities are in a very strong position to engage in this practice because of the vast array of expertise they hold on a variety of subjects. Here are a few examples of how you can engage in content marketing at your institution:
- Recruit professors to start a podcast on their research findings, debates in their field, and relevant stories. High school students (or their parents and influencers) searching for this kind of content because of their passion for the subject may have never heard of your institution, but would be likely to now develop a favorable impression of your institution as a valuable resource. The information and insights they gain from these faculty members may even inspire them to reach out to you for more information.
- Start a blog for one of your academic programs or majors. Blogs are an easy way for institutions to start experimenting with content marketing, with low barriers to entry for students, alumni, and faculty to each contribute their thoughts and experiences. An academic program focusing on sustainability, for example, could include posts from alumni of that program on the work they are doing and types of jobs you can find in that industry. Students could be enlisted to create short videos on their class assignments and projects being done on campus, and faculty members can contribute commentary on breaking news in the field. A robust blog with regular posts, photographs, and video will help prospects visualize what their academic life will be like at your institution, while engaging them in a subject they are passionate about
- Ask your financial aid director to host a webinar about decoding financial aid ‘lingo’ and different options for paying for college. Invite parents, students, and guidance counselors to the live event, and then post the video on your website and YouTube channel for others to watch. By being transparent and helpful in answering some of the most confusing and emotionally charged questions in higher education, you leave viewers with a favorable impression of your institution.
The power of content marketing is that if you provide the right content in the right place at the right time, it becomes relevant and helpful to your customers, rather than disruptive. It allows prospects and their influencers to have interactions with your brand that they seek out, rather than try to avoid.
Content marketing has a purpose at all stages of the funnel, but the goal you must always bear in mind is to build trust over the long term, by providing relevant, useful information. How is your institution using content marketing?