Higher education content marketing can boost brand awareness and enrolment as schools meet growing expectations for hybrid learning.
Strategic content marketing by higher education institutions matters more than ever after the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Universities and colleges have had to embrace online learning to new degrees, sometimes with rapid pivots from lecture halls to virtual instruction. Gathering restrictions and limits to on-campus visiting have also affected how they connect with student populations. Schools with long traditions of on-campus tours and events have been challenged to find new ways to attract the attention of prospective students and welcome new attendees.
Providing ways for students to learn both virtually and in person has become important to every school’s success. Without a seamless way to offer both education and experiences online, schools can lose momentum in their marketing and see enrolment numbers to drop.
How to upgrade higher education content marketing strategy
- Make brand development a priority
- Identify your target audience
- Use multiple channels
- Make your content accessible
- Establish a smooth production process
- Improve user experience
- Use storytelling for authenticity
- Use question and answer formats for online content
- Deliver a high-quality mobile experience
- Customize the content experience for audiences
How to develop a higher education content marketing strategy
Creating a content strategy is an essential first step for any brand. This is especially true for schools with distinct audiences they need to reach with specific messaging.
Build a strategy before you invest in content creation and distribution will help ensure you can engage each audience with the content they need and deliver it via the best channels. Your strategy should include all marketing material you will create, who it needs to reach and how you will distribute it.
Your content is what will attract prospective students and keep your communities updated and engaged. The more strategic you can be, the more effective your marketing will be and the better the return on your investment.
10 content upgrades for institutions looking to boost brand presence
Schools need to keep people informed, deliver quality content to students, build a connection with their communities and pivot as required when demands change. It’s no small undertaking.
Let’s look at ways to upgrade your content marketing to get the best results. When you apply these concepts, you will most effectively reach your audiences with each type of content you create.
1. Make brand development a priority
Develop a strong brand and spend time figuring out what messaging matters to your audience. What makes you distinct from other institutions? Before you can communicate your brand, you need to develop it. What are you all about, what sets you apart and what do your students value?
2. Identify your audiences
It helps to know the audience for each key message you want to communicate. For example, you may have specific marketing goals for each group: current students, potential students, parents, faculty and staff, and alumni. Identify each audience and their needs, then target each with relevant content via whatever channel suits them best.
3. Use multiple channels
Your content will be more impactful if you share it where your audience likes to get their information. Use multiple marketing channels to reach people and meet them where they are spending time. For example, you may have a website and Facebook page, but students might be using Snapchat and TikTok, and watching videos on YouTube.
4. Make your content accessible
Accessibility is critical. Audit your content across all channels to identify and remove barriers. Make sure learning and communication are seamless for all your audiences. Empower users to find what they need quickly.
5. Establish a smooth production process
Create a process for all your content that outlines every step of production. Get relevant departments on board to move pieces through your workflow, so there are no long delays in content production. In addition, look for ways to automate parts of your marketing to help optimize your time and efforts.
6. Improve user experience
Clear language and user-friendly design help students, staff, faculty and alumni navigate your content. Awkward navigation, complicated instructions and slow loading pages will cause people to abandon your content, missing out on its value.
7. Use storytelling for authenticity
Authenticity in your content is important to students looking for a campus to call home. They’ll need to see themselves in the stories you share. Be informative, but also be welcoming, genuine and transparent in how you share your brand online.
8. Use question and answer formats for online content
Creating content within a framework of questions asked and answered can help your content show up in Google snippets – short previews of content that appear in search results. Answering common questions can help improve search engine optimization, user experience and facilitate better voice search results through digital assistants such as Siri and Alexa.
9. Don’t skimp on mobile access
Responsive design is important to ensure people have a high-quality experience on mobile devices. Ensure students have mobile access to information, applications and online course content.
10. Customize the content experience for audiences
Give students options for customizing their feeds and experiences with your content. For example, you may need a general website as a hub for all audiences. However, you may also want curated content and a special channel for the students’ association or people enrolled in a particular program of study.
Types of higher education content marketing
Most universities are making good use of familiar platforms to reach their campus communities and keep audiences engaged. However, a well-built website and active social media accounts are no longer enough to compete for the attention of diverse audiences.
University marketing departments should incorporate multiple channels into the school’s content strategy. When you can reach an audience through multiple contact points and stay visible across platforms where people spend time online, you have a better chance of your messaging making an impact.
Is your school making strategic use of the following types of content? Which could you add to your content strategy to boost brand visibility and drive more engagement with students?
- Social media
- Live chat and chatbots
- Virtual tours
- Blog posts
- Webinars, online events, lectures
- Downloadable resources (e.g. checklists/cheat sheets/worksheets)
- How-to videos
- Email communication
- Direct mail
- Text messages (allow users to opt in)
- User-generated content
- Social media account takeovers by students
How might this be put into action in your marketing? Identify an audience segment and develop relevant messaging. Then, target your messaging to your to your target audience through channels they use.
For example, you can create messaging for prospective students to highlight the quality of campus life and develop content based on that messaging. You might want to deliver this content via virtual tours and social media content with user-generated content, like video submissions from existing students, to bolster your message.
However, an outreach for school alumni to get involved in mentorship or giving programs would likely require a different approach. In this case, a high-end direct mail piece and targeted email marketing might have a more significant impact.
Hybrid learning environments offer new challenges
The pandemic has made a significant impact on how universities can deliver program content and provide a campus experience to students.
While some of these changes are likely temporary, schools may keep others in place permanently as they begin to recognize the limitations and vulnerabilities of only being able to offer program content on campus. Accessibility demands, developments in technology and the ability to welcome students remotely will encourage schools to continue the shift to hybrid learning.
With robust content delivery systems that allow quick shifts from virtual to live learning, schools can offer a seamless experience to students who need to feel a sustained connection.
Content is key
You’ll be investing in content creation over the long term, so building out a solid strategy is a good first step. Schools need to stay competitive and keep pace with changes in technology, as well as education.
Schools that deliver high-quality content across multiple channels consistently stand a much better chance of attracting new students and creating a vibrant school community, both online and on campus.
Not sure where to start? Get in touch with us to learn how upgrading your content marketing can pay off with better brand awareness and enrolment numbers.