For most schools, the idea of creating content from scratch is overwhelming. Luckily, schools are never really starting from scratch.
You have countless resources at your disposal to build blog posts, ebooks, webinars, and social media content without exerting too much time, money, or energy. In the content creation process, marketers should be editors, not writers. Your writers are all around you on campus.
The first thing you have to do when choosing what types of content to create—and who should create it—is to answer this question: Who are you trying to reach, and what action do you want them to take? Everything you do should direct back to these questions.
Both of these answers should be reflected in your school's student personas—semi-fictional representations that stand in for your real-life audience, who encompass the desires, goals, and behaviors of potential applicants.
Who Are Your School's Personas?
Schools are generally pretty clear on who their personas should represent: potential students and adults who are aiding in the decision-making process. But who exactly are those prospective students? Where are they in their decision-making process? What factors influence their application decision? Consider the following questions to help really bring your personas to life.
What are your target applicant’s common behavior patterns in-and-outside of school?
What are their academic research pain points?
What are their academic and extracurricular goals and wishes?
What is their basic demographic and biographic information?
Using these personas, you can hone in on the information that will help your prospective students and their parents move down the admissions funnel. You can leverage resources across your organization to create substantive content that meets these queries. To help get started, here are eight resources to consider.
1. Current Students
It may seem like a no-brainer, but your current students are by far the most helpful resource for creating all kinds of unique content. They know how to attend to prospective students’ pain points and wishes because they once stood in their shoes.
Students can use their experiences to write helpful posts on topics like, “What I Wish I Knew Before Coming to College,” “How to Adjust to Campus Life as a Freshman,” “How to Form New Relationships In a New School” and other content that touches on the concerns prospective students may be searching for answers around.
Current students can also offer insight for students searching online for program information that digs deeper than a sample course list of program overview could. Consider the value of posts like, “The 10 Best Hidden Study Spots on Campus,” “The Coolest Classes You Must Take,” or “My Study Abroad Journal" to a prospective student.
Just like current students, alumni have also stood in the shoes of prospective students. They went through the same decision-making process and ended up not only applying to your school, but attending, and graduating. Alumni have the benefit of hindsight, so they can contribute insider content on topics like “How I Learned to Survive Finals Week,” “The [Your College] Bucket List to Do Before You Graduate,” and “5 College Traditions I Miss in the Real World.”
Alumni are often looking for ways to give back, and creating content can be a great alternative to a monetary donation. Keep in mind that Alumni can also be resources without being writers. Think: a “Where Are They Now?” round-up of successful alumni.
3. Professors and Department Heads
Professors and department heads are experts on the academic programs your audience is evaluating—and they already have all types of content around those programs on hand. Department overviews, class presentations, projects, lectures, and research can all be repurposed as offers to help prospective students get a better understanding of your school's curriculum.
4. Your Admissions Department
Your admissions department is well equipped to answer your audience’s most pressing questions. It's what they do on a daily basis! Repurpose fliers and pamphlets for content such as “10 Best Tips for Acing a College Interview,” “Writing a College Essay that Will Get You Admitted,” “Questions You Should Ask on a School Tour,” “Do You Have to Choose a Major?” or even “What to Expect at Orientation.” Consider posting a video of a campus tour, or virtual maps and photos of campus. This type of content will be particularly helpful for families who haven’t gone through the application process before, or don't have the ability to visit your campus first hand.
5. ResLife Staff
For many students, going to a boarding school or a college is the first time they will live away from their childhood bedroom. Offering information about residential life and an inside peek into the dorms and student programs on campus can ease a lot of worries. Post video tours of your dorms, or have a ResLife staff member write a post on “The Top 10 Best Decorated Dorm Rooms on Campus.” ResLife can also recap on-campus events and repurpose other student wellness content they already share with current residents.
6. Your Athletics Department
If your school already has a vibrant, separate Athletics website, there’s no need to start from scratch. Repurpose content about game days, game recaps, and pictures from fans in the stands. Add a personal touch by featuring stories about your student athletes, marching band members, and more. Even if a prospective student isn’t an athlete, this content can still answer questions about the school’s culture and extracurricular life.
7. Your Campus Career Office
Parents and students both want to ensure their school offers not only a great education, but a chance to succeed in the real world post-grad—particularly for graduate schools and specialized schools like law schools, technical schools, and medical schools. Your campus career office can repurpose content to create posts to showcase their knowledge around career-prep, for example, “10 Tips on Interning When Still In School,” “How to Make a Winning Resume,” and Q&As with alumni who have found career success. While prospective students aren’t job-hunting yet, seeing the support the career office has for students will alleviate some fears on investing so much money into a school.
8. Partnerships with Regional Associations and Institutions
Build a win-win relationship—you get free content and they get exposure to thousands of young adults—by asking local museums, festivals, tourism boards, and other institutions to pass along content for your school blog. It can offer prospective students a look into life in a new city, off campus.
To build a better content strategy for your school, repurposing content is not only allowed, it’s encouraged. Don't be afraid to loosen your grip on the reigns and act as an editor, rather than author. You might just find that amazing content and content creators are already swarming all over campus.
Originally published Oct 21, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017