- General Best Practices
I might be somewhat biased as Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, but I firmly believe that good content marketing is the foundation of a strong brand, lead generation and conversion strategy, and retention strategy. Blogs, photos, videos, podcasts, viewbooks, annual reports and news stories all play a role in your ability to grow your school's brand.
So the good news is that if your school is already producing some of that content on a regular basis, you're well on your way to having an effective content marketing strategy. Keyword: strategy.
A good content marketing strategy has three main phases:
Planning: During this phase you choose what kind of content you want to use, who your target market is, and how you're going to use content to recruit and/or retain students. You then use content mapping to determine where, when, and to whom each individual piece should be marketed to.
Free Download: Strategize your website content now with this content mapping toolkit.
Production: At this point, you have a plan in place and you start producing content on a regular basis. Whether you choose to do a podcast, blog, or video strategy, set an attainable goal that will help you remain consistent without feeling overwhelmed.
Distribution: Content distribution is the most important phase, as it is how your content will be seen. In general, you should plan to distribute your school's content in three main areas: your website, via email marketing, and on social media.
While most schools are already producing great content, it is either not frequent enough to make an impact, or the distribution lacks strategy.
In the case of the following three schools, their content marketing planning, production and distribution strategy are brilliant — and it is something every school can learn from.
The Providence Country Day School's "Raising Great Kids" Blog
I see a lot of school "blogs," that aren't really blogs at all. They're a collection of news stories, 200 words or less, about recent events. There's no analysis, no clear take-away. They're just news, and therefore, they belong on the news section of your website.
In order to start and maintain a school blog, you need to consistently write pieces of content of at least 500 words that do more than just share a recent event. Your school's blog needs to provide value to those who read it — and that is why I LOVE PCDS's "Raising Great Kids" blog.
The school's health and wellness blog, Raising Great Kids, maintained using the Finalsite Posts module, is blog that shares inspiration, ideas, and real stories on how to (in their words) "to help navigate this sometimes messy process." The posts are informative, inspirational, and provide valuable insight that enhance the school's brand and strengthen the school-to-home bond. The blog posts include how to communicate with children, help them balance athletics and academics, how to help them build resilience, and more.
While the blog doesn't have hundreds of posts and receive contributions on a weekly basis (yet), this is a case where quality trumps quantity, and builds a demand for more. The school also makes the smart move of hiding the "publish" date so that blog posts don't immediately seem old if they can't post frequently.
Baylor School's Podcasts
Before I mention why I love Baylor's podcasts so much, I want to note that Baylor has been podcasting for a long time — far before there was a buzz around content marketing strategies for schools. They have podcasts dating back to 2006 — meaning they've had more than 10 years to perfect their podcast strategy, and they're doing a really, really good job.
There are a two main traits that make this one of the best examples of school content marketing.
First, the podcasts are segmented by speaker, and therefore, audience: distinguished speakers, students, alumni, and academics. This makes it easy for website visitors to find the content most relevant to them.
Second, the podcasts always include a video option along with the audio option. This video component is uncommon, and appeals to two types of website visitors: those who want to listen, and those who want to watch. With marketing continuing to move towards video, this helps Baylor stay relevant and up-to-date, without having to put in a ton of extra effort to repurpose content.
Stuart Country Day School's #LeadLikeAGirl Conference
I spoke with Risa Engel, Stuart Country Day School's Director of Marketing and Communications, back in May after I had heard about the success of their #LeadLikeAGirl Conference. Now at first glance, a conference doesn't seem like your standard form of content. It's not as tangible as a blog or video, but it has the same exact purpose. The conference was created to drive brand awareness, as Stuart Country Day is a small, all-girls school, tucked away in a nook of one of the most competitive markets in the country: Princeton, New Jersey.
The goal of the conference wasn't to sell the school, but rather, expand on the school's values of women's leadership. Gathering notable speakers — like Debbie Sterling — from across the country, this free conference quickly gained national attention, receiving more than 700 registrations, and a waitlist of more than 200.
To promote the conference, they used a microsite, email and social media — where their dollars went far. $100 on Facebook earned them 39 shares and 75 registrations in one day. And while Risa and her team did paid ads to promote the conference, their biggest return came from un-paid social media. Students, faculty and presenters took to social media to talk about the big event, and all conference speakers were provided with a graphic to share on social media that said "I'm presenting at #LeadLikeAGirl." The school also had branded social media graphics in place to keep the momentum going on their own networks.
The success of the conference has helped Stuart Country Day shape their overall content strategy, as they now use the #LeadLikeAGirl theme across all marketing and branding initiatives. The school also has a podcast that carries the same theme. And yes, there is another conference on the calendar already.
Content marketing comes in many shapes and forms, but shares the common goal of growing your school's brand, without doing a hard sell. This helps you establish the kind of trust and relationships with students that increase inquiries, enrollment, retention, and eventually, donations.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, and Finalsite's popular eBook, The Website Redesign Playbook.
- Content Marketing