The Case for Strategic Content

The Case for Strategic Content

“Content marketing.” “Inbound marketing.” “Native advertising.” “Branded content.” “Retargeting.” “Social marketing.”

For enrollment professionals, it’s a dizzying array of terminologies, definitions, and fine distinctions.

If you’ve been reading the “content” blogs and Twitter streams over the past few weeks, you’ve noticed some spirited discussion about the definition of content marketing. Godfather of Content Marketing, Joe Pulizzi, recently confessed that he “loathes the term branded content.” Kelsy Libert, Director of Promotions at content agency, Fractl, wrote a pseudo-scientific analysis of the ROI of content marketing vs. native advertising for HBR’s marketing blog. Guess who won? At the same time, the proponents of native advertising have mounted their own highly spirited defenses. HubSpot, staying somewhat out of the fray, prefers the more ambiguous term “inbound.”

Why do we need to choose one content marketing term over the other?

Truly, how does any of this banter really serve your needs, as you struggle to use content to meet the challenges of today’s capricious and well-informed prospective students?

Let’s go back to the definition of content marketing provided by Mr. Pulizzi’s own group, The Content Marketing Institute:

“Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

As long as we’re creating “relevant and valuable content” to a clearly defined audience to drive action, isn’t it all “content marketing?”

To put it simply, we need to be sure that every piece of content we produce is strategic, no matter how we distribute it

Here are a few precepts that I’ve come to over the last several years of working on content marketing programs for higher education:

  • Content marketing without promotion is a very slow burn for colleges and universities that are looking to make their next class. Social marketing, student search, native advertising, retargeting, digital display, pay-per-click, print publications, and even traditional advertising are valuable tools to build awareness and drive to content.
  • Building a content subscriber base is key, but using content to motivate action and uncover your prospects’ deeper needs, interests, and desires is perhaps even more important.
  • There should never be a dichotomy between serving your prospects’ needs and building your brand. Isn’t that what your brand is about anyway?
  • If done correctly, your content marketing plan should become your enrollment marketing communications plan.
  • Lead nurturing strategies (and the content that supports them) need to be determined before you write, publish, or promote any piece of content.
  • Different types of content are crucial at every phase of the enrollment journey. Creating a Communications Sequencing Map can help you identify what goes where and keep you on track.
  • Curating and repurposing great content can be the key to keeping this whole process efficient and affordable.

Strategic content is authentic and relevant

Offering strategic content — content that is authentic, relevant, and true to your brand — is the best way to engage millennials, short-circuit the “stealth applicant” phenomenon, and create preference for your institution over your competitors.

To find out more about how strategic content can help your institution compete, call me in our Albany office at 518-591-4640 or email me at randy.burge@stamats.com.

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