If you are part of a higher education institution, you know the importance of effective communication on many different levels, from student, to faculty, to staff, and to the public. How a college communicates certain events, opinions, and information truly reflects the face of the institution, whether positive or negative. By implementing a sound content marketing strategy in your digital marketing efforts, you maintain the college’s brand standards and transparency. An effective communication plan for higher institutions uses a multi-step process involving specific strategies and successful implementation of content to a specific audience.
The Cultural Aspect
While communication and brand messaging can come in the form of newsletters, blogs, tweets, videos, and infographics, at the core of establishing a culture of effective communication for your higher education institution is implementing the correct voice in the right medium for its specific audience. For example, to whom is your content speaking? Domestic and/or international students? Here are some things to be aware of when just considering the cultural implications you need to be cognizant of when the international student is a potential student.
- International students rarely speak native English: And what we mean here is that while, yes, those in England do speak English, they use a slightly different vocabulary. The term “grades” means “marks” in England, for example. Be aware of variations in dialect, even when speaking the same language, and avoid idioms and jargon that do not translate across international “waters.”
- Their decision may be more grounded in potential career opportunities: Of course, this is a broad generalization, but for those students who choose to leave their countries, they are most likely in search of a better education, and, ultimately, a better career than their home country can offer. Attending a school in another country is a stressful and expensive adventure, so ensure that the content you are producing addresses WHY your university is worth their consideration.
- Address monetary & safety concerns: In a 2014 International E-Expectations Report, international students listed funding and safety as their top two concerns when considering studying abroad, so it is important that your institution’s content being generated around these subjects is clear and concise and that the resources to investigate funding opportunities are readily available with a click. In regards to safety, while domestic students may easily know how safe your university and its surrounding area are, international students, generally, have no idea what the town/city is like. Provide concrete data on student safety, crime statistics, and what protocols your institution is implementing in keeping all students safe.
The Importance of Transparency
To create transparency for your higher education institution through content marketing, the appropriate voice for your audience, topic relevancy, and correct social media channel distribution must all be strategized so that an authoritative and credible conversation can ensue. Here are some ways that you can achieve transparency for your education institution.
- Develop web content with the backing of a seasonal editorial calendar: Start thinking about those who come to your website and what information each demographic may be in search of. Parents, students, alumni, and employees are all potential users of your website, so be sure you create content that speaks to them. Once you know who you need to talk to, figure out what times of the year your website traffic will be searching. For students, blog about how to pick the best classes a few weeks before it is time for them to do so. For parents, offer information pertaining to financial help and tips to help their child transitioning to the college life. The point is to not produce content about how to study for finals when it is the beginning of the semester.
- Topics need to be both timely and evergreen: Evergreen content is the type of content that stays relevant forever, such as eBooks, study guides, and FAQs. Users will always find evergreen content beneficial for years to come with little to no updating. This type is also more likely to be shared for others to see, too. But to make sure it remains seen, ensure it is shared and linked to periodically.
- Maintain a social presence: Potential and current students, alumni, parents, and employers often use social media to reach out to universities. In fact, a 2016 survey by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education of higher-education employees reflects that “90 percent of respondents agreed that social media is a much more important part of their communications and marketing efforts than three years ago.” The daily happenings of on a college campus can be shown with real-time updates and news. Using social media can also create a more personal experience with students as colleges can set up Q&As about registering for classes, for example. It is also a good idea to set up individual social accounts for each program and department of the university so that your target audience is reached. This creates an intimate place for those users and the university to interact in.
- Measure efforts to know your efforts are working: All of your content generation efforts will be for nothing if you cannot gauge what is working and what is not. Do not get lured into the false security high numbers can provide. Let’s say that one blog was read by 2,000 people, but not one person did anything with the information, then what is the value in that blog reaching that many people? However, if another piece of content was read by 50 people, but five people signed up for a specific program, then the less-read piece has a much higher success. Use analytics to measure not only content reach, but the return on investment (ROI) of the content that you are generating and how that is working towards your main goals.
While all the above suggestions are not the holy grail to establishing a healthy culture of communication for any university, committing to producing transparent content that is aware of your audience and their needs is a great start in being there for those users who seek your website and social platforms for information. Contact On Target Digital Marketing today for more information on effective content marketing for higher education institutions. You can call us at 866-998-6886, or contact us online.