Archive for the ‘Content Marketing for Universities’ Category


    By Erin Rowley

    What happens when your higher education marketing strategy doesn’t focus on producing and delivering custom content — such as up-to-date news about your institution, blogs featuring student and alumni stories, student video diaries or advice and information about the application process? You lose the opportunity to present yourself as a thought leader and to make a strong connection with prospective students. Other institutions will step in to fill that void, and, ultimately, enroll more of those students.

    A Time, Inc. consumer survey found that two out of three consumers have greater trust in custom content than traditional advertising. The 2017 Meaningful Brands survey found that consumers as a whole expect brands to create custom content that provides solutions, experiences and more. And in the 2017 CASE Educational Communications and Marketing Trends Survey, respondents listed “keeping up with trends in profession and audience expectations” as their biggest concern for the next five years.

    Building your brand through custom content that appeals to potential students should be an essential part of your higher education marketing strategy.

    Read on to understand why nurturing prospective students through custom content marketing is so important.

    They Have a Lot of Questions

    To learn everything from how to write a college application essay to what people on college campuses are wearing, prospective students use the internet and social media to get information. Will those students end up on your website or Instagram, or on those of a rival school?

    Make sure your higher education marketing strategy includes publishing original, prospective student-centric content that provides answers and solutions to questions your audience is looking for. Optimize that content for search and publish across all your channels: print, social media, website and email. 

    Tap your admissions office for content ideas. Those employees work directly with prospective students and know what’s on their minds.

    They Consume a Lot of Content

    Young people get – and expect – content from their gym, their local pizza place, their favorite soda company and more. Satisfying an audience that’s thirsting for information creates a content marketing opportunity, as well as a challenge: How do you get your message to resonate and translate into enrollment?

    Quality and variety will help you stand out from the crowd. Format and subject matter ideas include:

    • Infographics with information about your student body
    • Listicles, such as “The Top 10 Reasons to Attend…”
    • Short “hype” videos that get prospective students excited to attend your school
    • A checklist featuring everything recruits need to apply
    • Worksheets reminding them of application due dates
    • Quizzes that help prospective students decide what to major in
    • Webinars or live social media events that let recruits ask questions

    They Want to Know If They’ll Fit In

    The college lifestyle is a big change for most students. They want to feel confident that your school will be the right fit for them. Bring the college experience to life by creating custom content that tells stories about your students or, even better, features the students themselves telling their own stories. (Prospective students are more likely to believe their peers than they are to believe you, and your current students are natural brand ambassadors.) Foster a connection between your current students and the students you’re recruiting by featuring:

    • Student Q&As
    • A student-run blog
    • Temporary student takeovers of your social media accounts
    • Student video diaries
    • Photos of campus, the surrounding area and the people who make your school unique

     Including a diverse array of current students in these efforts will help more prospective students see themselves in those students’ stories.

    They Want to Be Able to Brag About Their Choice

    Students want to know that when they finally decide which college to attend, they can shout it from the rooftops (or from Twitter) and that others will be impressed and excited for them. They want to be able to talk about the successful people who graduated from the school, the professors who are doing amazing research, the cool study abroad trips students go on and the fun that students have outside the classroom. Give them something to brag about by featuring content like:

    • Q&As with alumni who have gone on to do great things
    • Profiles of professors who are influential in their field
    • Photos of students traveling on school-related trips
    • Coverage of unique student clubs or fun events
    • Thought leadership pieces about current events

    Custom content marketing is an essential part of a good higher education marketing strategy. It’s key to helping your college or university stand out from others and it can create an emotional connection between your institution and prospective students and enhance the trust and credibility of your brand.

    Questions about custom content for your college or university? We can help. Send us a quick email and we’ll provide some more insight and support.










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    By Erin Rowley

    With costs rising and state and federal funding getting harder to come by, higher education fundraising professionals are under a lot of pressure to bring in the big bucks. And bring it in they have: Total money donated to American colleges and universities by alumni rose 14.5 percent in the 2017 fiscal year, to a record $11.37 billion, according to the Council for Aid to Education’s annual Voluntary Support of Education survey. But “mega donors” who give more than $10 million at once account for about half of that money, and much of it goes to a handful of elite institutions.

    According to Keith Hannon of Cornell Alumni Affairs & Development, in a piece on Evertrue’s blog, “…most schools are reporting that about 95 percent of the total dollars raised comes from just 5 percent of their alumni.”

    Some of those other alumni are still paying back student loans, making them a tough target from which to solicit donations. Others have different philanthropic priorities. Regardless of why they aren’t donating now, most of them could be convinced to donate if asked in the right way.

    So, what is the right way?


    With the majority of people in the U.S. having at least one social networking profile, social media is a promising tool to harness interest in online giving and bring those unaccounted-for alumni into the fold.

    According to an Alumni Monitor survey, alumni who donated to their alma mater after having been contacted through social media were almost twice as likely to feel close to their alma mater and to have donated more than $250. And 62 percent of millennials say that if an organization engages with them on social networks, they are more likely to be loyal.

    Want to improve your higher education social media strategy? Here’s what you need to do:

    1. Demonstrate Your Value

    Many alumni, especially millennials, are unlikely to give out of obligation. They expect to get something in return (even if that something’s just a warm, fuzzy feeling). To show them you’re worthy of their donations, fill your social media posts with:

    • Info about important research or good deeds the school does. Alumni are more likely to give if they feel good about what you’re doing (and can brag to their friends about it).
    • Stories about successful alumni. The benefits of a degree can feel intangible, but a fellow alumnus’s success shows people how valuable the degrees you confer are, and how worthy you are of support.
    • Invitations to networking or reunion events. These events show your alumni that you’re still relevant to their post-college lives.
    • Perks they’re eligible for. It could be discounted movie tickets, reduced insurance premiums or special travel offers, but if you’re saving your alumni money, they’re more likely to give some of that back to you in the form of a donation.
    • Offer up some football tickets, a book written and signed by an alum, or even just a mug with your logo on it. Giving people a chance to win something endears you to them and can make them feel generous in return.
    1. Tap Into Their Sense of Community

    Out of all the colleges in the world, your alumni chose yours. From that moment on, they became part of your community. They made friends, enjoyed extracurriculars and learned new things. Remind them they’ll always be part of that community by:

    • Posting videos and photos featuring the campus to invoke nostalgia. Information about how alumni could help make the school better is more powerful when it’s paired with images that remind them what they loved about their time there.
    • Showing them what students in their favorite campus organizations are up to. It’s those smaller groups within the larger institution that played host to many of your alumni’s best memories. Show them the great things a club they loved could do with a donation from them.
    • Talking to your alumni – not at Ask for their feedback and encourage them to share their memories and opinions with you and with other alumni.
    • Offering volunteer opportunities. Research suggests 84 percent of wealthy people have given to an organization for which they have volunteered and wealthy donors who volunteered gave 56 percent more than donors who did not volunteer. You can also use volunteer opportunities to reach alumni of more modest means. They may be most comfortable donating their time now, but if they feel good about the difference that time is making, they may be more willing to donate their money, too.
    • Recruit social media influencers. These social media stars have big followings and big reach and should be part of any higher ed marketing strategy. Strengthen your relationship with alumni who have a lot of followers and who already donate. Introduce yourself to alumni with a lot of followers who don’t currently donate but could be encouraged to do so in the future (and to get their friends to do the same). This can be an especially good way to make inroads with young alumni who may not have a lot of discretionary income but are willing to spend it when they see their peers doing it.
    1. Take Advantage of Online Tools

    Many tools exist to help you monitor your social media accounts, learn what your followers are interested in and give supporters a way to donate and get their friends to do the same. Those tools include:

    • GiveCampus. Use this tool to host online giving days or other fundraising events, which give people something exciting to be part of, rather than making them feel like they’re just being hit up for money. Ask reliable donors to serve as ambassadors, using social media to encourage other people to help. Or, ask them to provide matching funds.
    • HootSuite. Use this tool so that your staff can oversee ALL of your social accounts in one place. This will help you create a unified message across profiles.
    • Facebook’s charitable giving tools. These tools include a donate button you can add to your page and to your status updates, images and live videos. They also allow your supporters to start online fundraisers for you. Plus, nonprofits don’t pay any fees on funds raised on Facebook!
    • Social listening tools. Use these tools as part of your higher ed marketing plan to learn more about what people are talking about on social media. Then figure out how you can offer value to that conversation.

    Studies suggest about 22 percent of alumni donate to their alma maters. But with these tips, you’ll be on your way to making that number go way up.

    Want help implementing your higher ed social media strategy? We’ve got you covered. Reach out to us today.

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    Master the 4 R’s of Social Media & Increase Gen Z Market Share

    For higher ed marketers, Generation Z is an important demographic: It is predicted that this group will attend and graduate from college in greater numbers than any generation before them, including millennials. And because this demographic has never spent a day without being digitally connected, it’s no surprise that colleges and universities have embraced social media marketing as a primary way to engage with this group.

    “Gen-Zers are clearly engaged with social media and it’s time for marketers to learn how to reach them,” writes Josh Perlstein in an article in Adweek. “They fragment and focus their social media time – they share certain types of content on particular social channels. All of this is done in quick touches, or micro-interactions, that might last only a few seconds. They’re also frequent, with some Gen-Zers checking their social media accounts as often as 100 times per day.”

    While there is no question that Generation Z can be reached on social media platforms, marketing higher ed to Gen Z starts with understanding how this demographic uses social media and then communicating with them in the right way.

    Here’s what you need to know about the four R’s of social media marketing that can help you increase Gen Z market share:


    When exploring where they will live, learn and grow during their college yeats, Gen-Zers are using the same methodology as they would to explore where their favorite band is playing or where their friends are hanging out – social media. They want to know if they will fit in at your institution and are attracted to messages that showcase people who reflect their lives. Showcase your school’s personality by publishing photos and telling stories about real Gen-Zers at your school. And if you can involve other Gen-Zers in producing those images and stories, all the better.


    Gen Z is highly vested in socially responsible behavior. They have a deep passion for the greater good and want to make a difference. They also expect your brand to do the same. To effectively market higher ed to this audience, make sure your school’s social media marketing strategy includes messages and visuals about how your students and your institution are helping solve social problems like unemployment, prejudice and racism.


    Know your social channels. Gen Z uses different channels for different reasons. Snapchat is the preferred channel for real-life moments and relationship building. They get their news on Twitter and insight on YouTube. That means that using the same social media marketing strategy over all channels will not work. Content and ads that you publish on these channels must be different – and they must offer opportunity for cool and unique interaction.


    No doubt about it, this is a difficult generation to engage, simply because they switch regularly between multiple social channels. By keeping your social media marketing content fresh, short and to-the-point (think snackable content) you can gain some serious market traction with this audience. And remember, Gen-Zers are collaborative and want to engage in conversations. Ask them to share their insights, their questions and your content.

    In Conclusion

    Want to grab the attention of Gen-Zers? Your best bet is to diversify your social media marketing within the social channels these digital darlings prefer. Marketing higher ed to Gen Z means you must tailor messaging to the channel and the audience. And connect the dots for them around how your institution can help them meet their educational and career goals while aligning with their values and aspirations.

    Does mastering the four R’s of social media seem daunting? Have no fear – we can help!

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    What’s the reason for the five-year trend of falling post-secondary enrollments on America’s college campuses? New data suggest that it is because a majority of those who would typically go to college believe it isn’t worth the cost. Additionally, studies indicate that less than half of college graduates feel their degree was useful in providing them job-related skills and knowledge. Those are tough realities for admissions departments to manage.

    To combat the belief that college isn’t worth the cost, savvy admissions departments are marketing the ROI of a college degree. It’s a great idea – as long as those marketing messages go further than promoting affordability and the median or average salaries of graduates.

    Here’s why that’s true: Attitudes about going to college have changed. Today, prospective students want to know how their investment in your school will help them be successful both during school and in the decades after graduation.


    Market the ROI of Attending Your School.

    Americans are beginning to view the purpose of college differently and in more practical terms than they have in the past. They are keenly aware of the high cost of college and the potential burden of student loan debt. Now, when thinking about going to college, many want to know that the classes they will take and the majors they will commit to will provide them with workforce-related skills and knowledge. They also want to know that they have some control over what classes to take and when.

    To market to these needs, develop content that shows how your school excels in these areas. Communicate how students gain skills and become job-ready by coming to your school. And tout any flexibility they have to customize their learning experience. Ideas include:

    • Highlight any opportunities students have to dive deeper into subjects that interest them.
    • Showcase how students participate in skill-building internships.
    • Feature mentorship opportunities where students work with industry experts.
    • Promote the different services available to help students succeed and graduate.


    Market the ROI of Graduating From Your School.

    Prospective students also want to know how likely a degree from your school will enhance their welfare decades after graduation. They know the data about how those with college degrees are more likely to earn more over a lifetime, stay employed and be overall healthier and happier. But how, exactly, will a degree from your school improve their well-being? To define that, talk to your alumni to gather appropriate data and then tell the stories about how their:

    • Careers bring them engagement and fulfillment.
    • College experience prepared them for grad school.
    • Career preparation helped them launch a successful business.
    • Experiences at your school helped them become good leaders.
    • Programs of study helped them take control over their life path.


    Market the ROI of Being an Alumnus.

    Along with marketing the benefits of attending your school and graduating with a degree, you should also market the benefits of joining your alumni. Promote how your alumni network helps graduates get ahead by telling stories from the points of view of both new graduates and senior alumni. Consider telling stories about:

    • How your regional, national or international network helps alumni make new contacts faster when moving to a new city.
    • How the network can deliver crucial knowledge about job opportunities that help with career advancement.
    • How life-long career development services make a difference.
    • How graduates take advantage of the exclusive perks available to alumni, like discounts on insurance, special banking services, and discounts on travel and entertainment.


    With more people questioning the ROI of a college degree, marketing the value of attending your school needs a creative approach. Delve into the value your school offers by supplementing statistics with tangible examples and real-life stories.  


    Stuck for some more ideas about marketing ROI to prospective students? We can help. Call or email CrucialContent. We can save you time and money and help you meet your marketing goals.

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    Higher ed brand building requires generating a lot of useful and interesting content. Luckily, universities have a wealth of subject matter to draw from. From thought leadership and campus life to community partnerships and special events, your campus presents endless opportunities for content development.

     However, finding a voice that represents your brand and keeps the attention of prospective students, current students and alumni can be difficult.

    Many universities are finding that one of the best ways to successfully channel perspectives that resonate with their target audiences and enhance brand laoyalty is to engage students to create content. All they need is a little oversight and direction. 

    Here are six strategies for incorporating student-authored content into your marketing plan:


    1. Encourage social media spotlights. Ask students to post (vetted) perspective pieces to your college’s Facebook page or photos to your school’s Instagram. Encourage descriptive posts and photos that capture exciting research, unique on-campus or international experiences and more.
    1. Publish student-created pieces in your alumni magazine. An alumni magazine or newsletter is essential for staying on your grads’ radar and encouraging them to support the school. Ask students to write program updates from their perspective so alums can see how their favorite programs and campus activities are flourishing.
    1. Build a blog around internships and study abroad experiences. Invite student guest bloggers to document their reflections. Keep an eye on the content, but a day-in-the-life of an intern or student studying internationally is a great opportunity for students to offer candid and/or humorous perspectives on these programs.
    1. Invite student reporters to recap events for your news page. Sure, your marketing team does a great job capturing important presentations, speaking engagements and campus events, but why not give some students an opportunity to offer their points-of-view?
    1. Build separate sites for prospective students, current attendees or alums. Provide engaging content that will appeal to each of your audiences through dedicated content hubs. Work with select students to publish blog posts about their college experiences and share stories, videos, photos and other snapshots of campus life. This portal could be a powerful recruitment tool, attract students to pursue new passions or convince alums to support a specific on-campus project.
    1. Get students to contribute to recruitment and welcome materials. Starting college is an exciting and often stressful time. Hearing about topics like dorm living, class schedules, meal plans, or balancing academics and activities from current students who have been in their shoes can help sway prospective students and make incoming freshmen feel more comfortable and confident.


    Need help organizing an approach to including students in your content marketing strategy?  We’d love to help.

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    They drop at a rate of 10 to 40 percent across the nation – freshmen who have committed to attending in the fall, but then never show. The phenomenon known as “summer melt” is thought to be a result of accepted students feeling anxious about college costs and social changes, as well as encountering barriers in the enrollment process.

    Whatever the reason, summer melt is an enrollment-busting paradox and the bane of higher education admissions departments.

    A shift in marketing strategy after students are accepted helps to cool summer melt. Some colleges and universities that have employed a social media strategy focused on accepted students have found a way to get more students into the classroom on the first day of school.

    Why do students melt?

    Students melt for a number of reasons, but the majority fall through cracks because the support and guidance they received in the college-application process from their high school is no longer there once they graduate. They have a great degree of social anxiety about fitting in and being liked. They have no experience in making a move to a new area. And they often struggle with the mechanics of pre-enrollment deadlines, like financial aid and class registration. Feeling alone and unsure, students can simply stall out in their process of enrolling.

    Preventing summer melt with social media.

    Admissions departments are finding social media a great help in shifting their marketing focus from selling the school to encouraging enrollment. Social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allow admissions to really understand what accepted students are concerned about and then to reach those students in a timely manner via a channel they are comfortable with. An effective social media strategy to stem summer melt revolves around three goals: listening, connecting and promoting.

    • Listening and responding to the incoming class. Social media is a two-way street, where the school can actively listen to what accepted students are concerned about or struggling with, and then provide information that meets those needs. Concerns and questions can be addressed and resolved almost immediately. The institution can also be alerted to more complex issues that may come to light, which can then be addressed more confidentially off-line.
    • Connecting incoming freshman with each other, and experienced students with disenfranchised newcomers. Most admissions offices use at least one, and probably more, social media platforms to connect the incoming class to each other, allowing socialization to naturally happen. To extend that utility, experienced upperclassmen, under the guidance of college staff, can use social media to engage and support new students in a trusted peer-to-peer environment.
    • Promoting resources to meet the needs of students and their families. Enrolled students (and often their parents) need a lot of assurance during that gap between acceptance and the first day of college. Because they are already on social media, you can use those channels to provide that assurance and direct them to resources that can help them with specific tasks like completing financial aid paperwork, choosing courses and purchasing textbooks.

    Social media is no longer presumed to be an online distraction or venue for the self-obsessed. Social media is a respected and essential tool that colleges and universities can use to distribute news and information, monitor for questions and concerns, and provide a forum for students to gather in as a new virtual quad. 

    Do you need content that will help you meet your social media marketing goals? Create a content marketing program that delivers real results with the help of our free e-book. Download now.

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    As a higher education marketer, you should be using social media to cultivate connections with alumni and industry leaders. One of the best social media platforms to connect with this audience is LinkedIn. Unlike other platforms, LinkedIn revolves around the professional backgrounds and interests of its users, and its sponsored content features make it easy for you to use this information to connect with them.

    With sponsored content, LinkedIn makes it easy for your university to connect with alumni, thought leaders, and companies and strengthen their relationships with you.

    What is LinkedIn Sponsored Content?

    Sponsored Content consists of relevant, easily consumable information including blogs, videos, white papers, and podcasts that companies pay LinkedIn to distribute to highly targeted demographics. When you spot a post on your feed with the “Sponsored” label, you know that the organization paid LinkedIn to show you and users like you that post with the purpose of driving well-defined customer action.

    From a higher ed marketer’s perspective, Sponsored Content is an important tool because its advanced targeting options let you reach users based on criteria such as job title, schools attended, current employer and other options.

    Use Sponsored Content to Connect With Alumni.

    Sponsored Content makes it easy to reach alumni because you can specify your institution when you set your targeting options, increasing the likelihood that former students will see your content. You can combine this benchmark with other criteria such as fields of study and years of experience to get your sponsored posts directly to the graduates who are most likely to respond positively to them. Posts about events, job openings, and alumni giving opportunities are more likely to make an impression and elicit a response when they are tailored for the very people they are intended to reach.        

    Use Sponsored Content to Connect With Industry Partners.

    LinkedIn isn’t just for reaching individuals – it’s also a crucial B2B advertising platform. Just as LinkedIn’s targeting options make it easier to connect with alumni, they also make it easier to connect with industry leaders and corporate decision makers who can help open doors to funding needed to develop new technology or perform groundbreaking research at your institution. Using targeting options like company, job title and company size, Sponsored Content can connect your institution with the right people quickly and efficiently.

    With Sponsored Content, you can develop and maintain the connections your university needs to get all the recognition it deserves.


    In need of more tips on content marketing? Learn the state of higher education in the content marketing industry in our quick, 15-minute demo

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    Social media is a transformative agent in higher education marketing. From guiding each step of the student journey and engaging fully with alumni and faculty to enhancing and protecting your brand, social media is an important business strategy for college and university marketers. Learn why in this  infographic.

    Why Social Media Marketing Matters for Higher Ed infographic

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    How do you reach media-savvy students and alumni who are used to scrolling past banner ads, swiping past mobile social ads and skipping commercials on YouTube? By reaching them through whatever news they’re viewing anyway. That’s newsjacking, and it’s how savvy marketers get their brands in on trending news and conversations without making their own from scratch.

    Put more formally, newsjacking is the practice of inserting your brand in a story or conversation that’s already trending. It can be as simple as tweeting a post with a trending hashtag or as involved as having an expert from your institution weigh in on a Facebook live discussion.

    Here are some tips you can use to make newsjacking work for you:

    1. Keep your experts connected.

    Just keeping your faculty ready to chime in on trending news is a good start.

    When astronomers spotted the birth of a three-star solar system last October, there’s a good chance many college-aged science enthusiasts spotted this story about it on The Verge. Even though University of Massachusetts Amherst assistant professor Stella Offner “was not involved in the study,” her quote in the story still helped readers better understand it. It also helped the University of Massachusetts get mentioned in exactly the kind of story a potential applicant might read.

    2. Bring your own angle.

    For a good news hack, you also must provide your own angle. The more interesting you can make your contribution to the conversation, the more success you will have.

    Tulane University, for example, recognized the end of daylight saving time as the perfect opportunity to promote the work of one of its leading sleep researchers. Along with reminding followers to fall back, its Nov. 6 tweet links to a list of sleep tips from Dr. David Blask, which in turn links to a story from when he was featured in a Canadian Broadcast Company documentary.

    3. Be timely.

    Like all content marketing, newsjacking takes creativity, finesse and good timing. You can’t make your angle on a topic viral when the topic itself is old news.

    While the Zika virus was all over the news, Florida State University published its breakthrough in drug research. The best newsjacking happens with topics that are already being discussed.

    4. Watch out for controversy.

    Just because you have a topical, clever idea doesn’t mean you should always put it out there. Newsjacking can easily backfire when sensitive topics are involved. 

    Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you find yourself spending a lot of time weighing the positive effect of getting involved in a story against the potential fallout, it might be best to stay away. And as always, remember to think about how your message will come off to the students or alumni you want to receive it.


    Questions about content marketing for your college or university? Learn more today.

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