Note: "Driving Demand" is a three part series on manufacturing interest and demand for independent schools and colleges. Written by our Director of Enrollment Management Services, Kelly Laboe, each article focuses on foundational aspects of generating interest and demand for enrollment. This is the second in the three part series.
The need to effectively engage readers and drive demand through social media content is a must yet many institutions leave this on the back burner. Driving demand through content marketing can be perceived to be a daunting task as directors of admission and enrollment management are often tasked with instantly becoming marketing professionals in a marketplace that is driven by a proliferation of new media. Although this may be an institutional challenge, it is a mission critical tool for driving the top of the enrollment funnel. What is content marketing and how do you implement it as a strategy?
Content marketing is a concept that is often discussed but rarely defined. It is not a new concept but rather a new school adaptation to an old school practice. It is a simple strategy that traditional broadcast media - such as radio and television - have used for years. Traditional broadcast media have used content through syndicated shows, movies, news, and other rich information to drive their advertising revenue. Today, content marketing looks a little different, using expert content in interesting topics that are relevant to a given demographic to drive interest, or demand, most often through blogs, websites, and social media channels. Think of content marketing as the creation of a "digital commons" that advances the thinking on a particular topic in line naturally with the mission of an organization.
Let's try an example to get a better idea. A Jesuit university might develop and distribute a lot of content on service and justice, which is naturally in line with their 450 year old educational tradition and at the same time of natural relevance to specific demographics in which the university might want to recruit. Positioning the university as an expert in the area of service and justice through generating and distributing content in this area may drive visibility, demand, and cultural relevance. It is the content that serves as the "bait" or "hook" into the university, and, potentially drive more demand into the institution.
Content marketing is a more natural and organic method of outreach. It serves a higher purpose than merely advertising in that it is a natural act of giving information rather than promoting an organization. It is focused on the client and culture rather than on the organization. And, if you have read any marketing studies recently, most will all point to the natural inclination of the general public to ignore "interruptive" advertising that is focused on a given product or organization. Content marketing offers some heuristic value, adding to the body of knowledge in a given content area and simultaneously positioning the organization as an expert in that area.
How does an organization get started in content marketing? Here are three foundational steps we suggest as you begin your endeavor:
- Choose a Position or Area of Focus. This is an all important task as it will define your content for the future. Pick something that is in line with the mission of your organization and of relevance to target audiences.
- Develop Mature Channels of Distribution. You must have a "hub", which is generally a blog or website, with many "hooks" to drive readership to the site. Our website here uses Facebook and Twitter, as well as our own client collaboration platform, to drive people to our blog site. Yes, even our site is organized around content marketing, which is why you are reading this!
- Generate Content Consistently. A strong content marketing effort relies on content. If your organization cannot produce dynamic content consistently, you may want to revisit whether this strategy is right for your toolbox. Nothing is worse than going to a static website with blog entries that are old.
Content marketing is a new adaptation on a traditional marketing strategy. It can serve to drive demand into the institution if it is approached carefully with relevant content generated, strong readership cultivated, and audience engagement achieved. Ultimately, the content should be in line with the overall positioning strategy of the organization. Try it on for size, or, if you are already doing some content marketing, share your results with us below or on our Twitter or Facebook feeds.