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Press releases and perfunctory social media posts don’t cut it anymore. In this day and age, every organization (not just higher education) is fighting for attention. Every organization is fighting for eyeballs.
Over the years, we’ve worked with higher education institutions from community colleges to top tier universities. One of their major challenge’s is how to take the rich, in-classroom, on-campus, and now-increasingly-digital learning environment and make it accessible, meaningful, and relevant to these institutions’ broader constituents. This is where content marketing for higher ed comes into play.
It’s one of the reasons that I’m teaming up with Tom Ellett, Senior Associate Vice President of Student Affairs at New York University and Jenna Rutschman, Director of Marketing & Communications at University of Arizona, College of Social & Behavioral Sciences to bring a panel on doing this work effectively to SXSW Edu.
If this is a topic that interests you, please take one minute (I promise!) to up-vote our panel proposal for SXSW Edu 2020. It will allow us to produce more content like this for you! Thirty percent of the consideration criteria is participation from the public, so YOUR VOTE is vital to our ability to proceed in the panel process.
With this challenge in mind, I want to share four awesome higher education content marketing examples. These are the ways that colleges and universities are using content marketing to reach important audiences.
Higher Ed Content Marketing Example #1: NYU’s “Where RA Now” Podcast
Leveraging Niche Communities—Target the Human Networkers
Resident assistants (RAs) oversee several dozen students within residential communities at colleges and universities. As Senior Associate Vice President of Student Affairs at New York University, Tom Ellett has worked with thousands of RAs over the years and knows how important they are in supporting students within their personal and academic lives. Tapping into this existing community of highly motivated current and former students, Tom launched a podcast called, “Where RA Now,” that pairs a current RA with a former RA to explore the skills that former RAs (now successful alumni of NYU) leverage in their daily lives. Full disclosure: I have been a guest on the show.
What I love about this podcast is that it isn’t trying to go after a broad audience. Rather, it’s focusing on an influential niche community within the huge behemoth that is NYU (with more than 500,000 alumni). As content creators, you know it is so important that your content is highly relevant to your audience, and that usually means being targeted. By focusing this podcast on a unique community that has broad impact, Tom and his team are able to create content that builds affinity through reminding alumni (and current students) of the RAs in their own lives.
Higher Ed Content Marketing Example #2: University of Arizona’s Videos About Majors
Facilitating Student Decisions: Make It Easy to Take Information In
For just about everyone, selecting a major is a significant decision in the course of one’s college/university experience. Of course, most schools have guides on their websites (and sometimes still in print) from the department explaining the requirements, expectations, and experiences of the major, but in today’s high-speed, always-on, digital environment, is this still the best way to serve this important information to students?
The University of Arizona’s College of Social & Behavioral Sciences* is a unique school within this large university. “The people college,” SBS focuses on disciplines that explore people and the way they interact with the world. However, this focus area may not feel particularly intuitive to an undergrad freshman, so their team has created a new series of short-form videos that explore each of SBS’s majors: not only how current students feel about them, but new students might be surprised to learn, and how these majors benefit alumni out in the real world.
Although each one is short, they pack a ton of useful, engaging information and feature real members of their community, sharing their stories. This series is just getting started, so I—for one—am looking forward to seeing how they perform as more students engage with them in the 2019-2020 school year.
Higher Ed Content Marketing Example #3: Indiana University’s “Pride of IU” Microsite
Drawing in the Community: Tap into Personal Pride
When it comes to fundraising, it is vital for higher ed organizations to tap into broader communities: supporters, fans, and alumni. Therefore, it is essential for them to make sure that these communities are engaged and interested in the work that is being produced as a result of their involvement.
Indiana University’s* “Pride of IU” microsite does an excellent job of taking a journalistic approach to exploring the traditions, innovations, and experiences that IU is powering on-campus and off-campus. By exploring the why and how of its work, instead of the usual “announcement” post, it gives its community a real stake in the impact of and meaning behind its work.
Higher Ed Content Marketing Example #4: Concordia College’s #AlumniFeature Series on Instagram
Going Small for Big Impact: Tell Micro-Stories
No matter the brand or industry, the vast majority of our audiences are no longer coming to brands’ owned properties to experience their content. Therefore atomizing content natively on social media is a critical part of brands’ content marketing strategies.
Concordia College in Moorhead, MN is doing this well through its Instagram page, which prominently features the faces and personalities of its community on an ongoing basis.
Its #AlumniFeature series showcases intimate portraits of their alumni out in the real world, making it easy for prospective, current, and past community members to relate to these individuals—and the Concordia community as a whole. They recognize that Instagram is now as much a micro-blogging site as it is a photo site, and they’ve leveraged both aspects of this channel in an effective and engaging way.
Do Us a Favor
If you want to see more digital marketing and content marketing examples from higher education, please take a minute to up-vote our panel proposal for SXSW Edu 2020—and if you have case studies you’d like us to consider for that panel or future content, drop us a note! Again, 30% of the consideration criteria of the SXSW Panel Picker is participation from the public, so YOUR VOTE is absolutely essential, and we appreciate your time.
*These schools are Convince & Convert clients.