Content marketing, the use of interesting and useful content to attract a target audience and accomplish a goal, has been big news for brands lately. While B2B companies have been capitalizing on the tactic for years, higher education has recently been seeing the benefits as well. Some institutions are basking in the light of their viewership already, while many have yet to realize their full content potential. Getting started can be overwhelming, since content can be posts, articles, photos, memes, videos, or a number of other pieces that grab and hold your target’s attention. There are a lot of options! Narrowing down a strategy is a daunting task, so I’ll start with the basics.
As with any marketing, starting with your goal in mind is key. Content marketing offers the opportunity to accomplish a wide array of objectives, such as
- Building credibility,
- Increase top-of-mind awareness,
- Developing an understanding of a brand,
- Staying relevant, or
- Collecting contacts for a CRM.
Once you’ve defined your target and your goal, keep that information somewhere prevalent- it should be the focus of every piece your organization creates.
Let’s use an example of a graduate college that aims to build credibility among graduate prospects who are already professions in their fields. That goal will drive the topic selections and the presentation of the content. Cutting-edge research at the graduate college itself would appeal to that audience. To connect with your audience and build a following don’t forget to incorporate pieces that aren’t self-promoting. What else is your target interested in? In the case of the working professional graduate prospect, perhaps recent advances in workplace childcare would grab attention.
In the content arena, competition isn’t just your local similar institutions. Since reading, viewing, and engaging with content is entirely optional, brands compete with magazines, news outlets, blogs, and entertainment sources online. This creates a cluttered environment for the marketer, so an effective brand must be more strategic and highly attention-grabbing to stand out. To get started, I’ve put together a list of a few guidelines for executing a content marketing strategy.
- Titles of posts, articles, videos, etc. and accompanying images are often your only chance at a first impression. A good rule of thumb is to keep the title three to eight words. Imagery should be on-brand- for more on branded imagery, check out Bring in the Brand Photography. In short, titles and images should accurately reflect the content and give your audience a reason to want more.
- Keep it short to hold interest. Long articles and videos can lose your audience before they get to your closing statement.
- Don’t make your audience work. Easily accessible content will have higher readership than a piece that is buried deep within a website, and requires multiple clicks to access.
- The tone- whether written or reflected in visuals- should match your goal and audience.
- Multiple contributors are great! They can help add variety and spice for readers. Just make sure everyone is on the same page with respect to the end goal.
- Encourage conversation around your content. Word-of-mouth is still a great marketing tool.
The University of Mary Washington uses content as one tactic in executing their brand. The Great Minds page holds a set of articles featuring the stories of students, faculty, staff, and alumni (click through the embedded website below).
These articles highlight accomplishments of the “great minds” at UMW, such as an undergraduate making strides in environmental science. Photography is on-brand, and the stories are compelling. “Digging for Answers,” for example, shines a spotlight on an undergraduate student’s research into reversing the pollution levels of a local creek.
These tips will help hold your audience’s attention and drive them to your goal. Next, in Give Them Content: Part Two I’ll discuss repurposing that awesome content you developed. Stay tuned!