Content Marketing Isn’t for the Faint-Hearted

Most colleges and universities are doing some kind of content marketing. They’re blogging, they’re posting to Facebook, they’re tweeting, and they’re posting pics to Instagram. At the same time, when I talk to the marketing or enrollment people, they just aren’t satisfied with the results they’re achieving.

Producing good content is hard

“Producing content is hard,” they tell me. After creating and managing enrollment communications programs for well over a decade, I have to agree. While clearly the most effective means of engaging millennials, strategic content marketing is probably the most challenging of all the marketing disciplines. Sure, you can hire work study students and recent grads to post, and blog, and tweet, and snap all day (“because they have the voice”), but chances are pretty good that the effort won’t move you one whit closer to achieving your goals.

It’s a given that an effective content marketing effort begins with a solid strategy: a mission, measurable goals tied to institutional objectives, a plan for implementation and deployment, and rock solid analytics. Beyond that, however, effective content marketing requires effective content producers.

Here are a few of the qualities to look for in a content producer. They fall into two categories: personality characteristics and work style.

Personality characteristics of an outstanding content producer

In terms of personality, content marketers show a scientist’s love of discovery, a cruise director’s need for social engagement, and a drill sergeant’s attachment to discipline:

  • Obsessively curious. Good recruitment content producers are always looking for a new angle, an intriguing news item, a social trend, a personal vignette… something that will be relevant to their audience, and that will help them unfold their institution’s brand story in an engaging and authentic way.
  • A joiner. Your content producer will instinctively understand that the best way to understand the craft of content marketing, as well as uncover unique bits of content, is to mingle and monitor. They’ll demand to attend content conferences, they’ll follow the content gurus, and they’ll read the hundreds of blog posts the pundits produce every day. At the same time, they’ll be where students and prospective students hang – both online and in person.
  • Has OCD. Joe Pulizzi, from the Content Marketing Institute, is famous for saying that most content marketing programs fail because they’re inconsistent or the just stop. This is the really tough part. An effective content marketer will set an aggressive (but realistic schedule) and stick to it. I call this “content discipline” and it’s absolutely essential if you’re going to see results.

Work style qualities required of a content producer

At the same time, most great content marketers are truly journalists at heart, focused on the “who, what, when, why, and how” that builds great stories.

  • A validator. A good content marketer will always ask “does this content add value?” If not, it’s just not good content.
  • Hates fluff. Sure, there’s a place for the crazy campus photos – they help to build community – but quality of content cuts two ways. Poorly conceived and poorly written content just won’t get you the engagement you want. In fact, it will send a negative message about your brand. Crappy content could also have a negative effect on your search rankings.
  • Loves variety. Prospective students need different types of content at various stages of their enrollment journey. The effective content marketer understands when to blog, when to offer an e-book, or when an emotive video will move the prospect along to the next level.
  • Listens. Strategic content marketing is built on conversations. That means that your marketer will be monitoring blog comments, social interactions, and review sites. They’ll also have some way of tracking which posts resonate, and which posts create deeper and deeper engagements. They’ll put their ego aside to understand that content marketing is a process of continual improvement.

Yes, it’s hard to produce strategic content. But maybe it’s time to consider if the alternative is worth doing at all.

Let’s chat more about how you can use strategic content to attract, engage, and enroll students. Drop me a note at randy.burge@stamats.com, follow me on Twitter @strategyfirst1, or call me in Albany at 518-591-4640.

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