For most schools, blogging is last on their to-do list. Whether it seems too insignificant for the time investment or you and everyone on your team simply hate to write, there are dozens of excuses that prevent schools from creating and maintaining a blog.
And as someone who blogs three or more times a week on top of my everyday work, I say "quit it with the excuses."
Everyone is a blogger. It's easier than you think. And the results are well worth the time investment.
Blogging houses so much untapped potential for your brand, community engagement, and that oh-so-important admissions funnel.
For example, brands that posted an average of 15 blogs per month converted about 1,200 new leads. Now of course, as a school you would be completely overwhelmed by 1,200 new applicants. But imagine the potential of blogging for your different audiences including donors, parents, prospective families, young alumni, current students — the list goes on and on.
And, there are dozens of other statistics and studies that prove that blogging is the simplest and most effective form of content and inbound marketing.
Simple. Effective. Free. In my opinion, you can't really argue against having a blog. So, for those of you ready to start a blog at your school, here are a few pointers to guarantee your success.
1. Determine a Focus for Your School's Blog
I spent some time perusing school websites to discover one thing: unless they had a Head of School blog, they didn't blog at all. And even if they had a Head of School blog, it was updated so rarely that it lost its value.
I could have a million guesses as to why this is the case. But based on this initial, quick, research, I have one piece of advice: determine a focus that works for your school.
When using your school's blog as a traffic driver, depending on your head of school might not be the best solution. Rather, put the focus where you have the resources: your school's culture. When you broaden your focus you have coaches, teachers, directors of marketing, admission and advancement, and yes, even students, who can all contribute.
While you may want to have different blogs for different programs or pieces of your community — like alumni or a travel program — these should be kept in addition to the main blog. Use a tool that allows you to categorize posts that they can dynamically publish to all related categories to, for lack of a better term, "kill two birds with one stone."
2. Gather a Group of Dedicated Writers
Blogging is a commitment: in order to really make it count, you must be consistent. And while it may seem easy to assign "blogging" to a single individual to keep a consistent tone and voice, the more contributors you have, the easier it will be to produce content on a consistent basis.
To gather your group of writers, simply start by polling faculty. See if anyone has some ideas on posts they'd like to write, or topics that would be beneficial to prospective, current, or past families.
Once you've tapped your faculty, reach out to your students. Individuals interested in English and Journalism can become extremely valuable blog contributors for a couple of main reasons:
- It's great for them to see their work published online on your website, so they'll love to blog frequently
- Prospective students love to hear firsthand from current students — and they'll think it is a pretty cool opportunity
Remember: It only takes two blogs per week to improve your website traffic — so this is a completely obtainable feat!
3. Create a Content Calendar
Once you've formed your group of writers, work with them to create a content calendar. Determine on which days you want blogs to be published, which topics are timely and need to be published right away, and which topics are a little more evergreen (can be posted whenever.)
Creating a content calendar holds your blog contributors accountable, and gives you time to brainstorm posts as many weeks in advance as you have time for.
If you're only going to blog twice a week, take into consideration that blogs tend to get the most visits on Monday mornings, and shares on Thursdays; so if you only have time to blog twice a week, focus on Mondays and Thursdays.
4. Get an editing process in place
Determine and editing process that works for you. You're going to want to receive blog posts from your contributors at least one to two days in advance to allow your director of marketing (or whomever is the primary contact for your blog) to edit, format, and post.
Here in marketing, we use a process called "press call." It's basically a made up term where at 3:30 PM, everyone in marketing gets an email with all the content for the next day. It works for us, and now, everyone expects it and prepares for it. By the time I get in the next morning, at least three or four of my co-workers have reviewed my content and I feel confident about posting it.
5. Write Simply and with Intent
Blogging isn't rocket science; and you surely don't need to be a New York Times bestselling author to make an impact. Although their primary intent is to inform, blogs are meant to be easy-to-read, conversational pieces.
Despite this, for whatever reason, I find that writing is something that so many individuals are self-conscious about. But if your blog is simple and written with intent, it will always be well-received.
Here are a few tips for always writing simply with intent:
- Write in lists (like I am now!) It is easy to digest, and gives readers key takeaways
- Write your blog post title first (you can always go back and fine-tune it later). But this will give your writing a focus
- Write in chunks or sections. Blogs shouldn't be written like an essay. They should be segmented by different thoughts or ideas.
- Use a textual hierarchy to break up your post and make it easy to read
- Use numbered posts like "5 Reasons to Join Drama Club" and then let each section be one reason. These are fun and easy to write and read.
- Be sure to always incorporate photos in your posts. I recommend one near the top, and throughout when necessary.
- End all blogs with a call-to-action.
- Always be yourself and use your own voice!
6. Share via Social and Subscriptions
Hello, I'm blogging — is anyone listening? It's a common fear of marketers (including myself) that we'll spend hours on a post that no one sees. But when you follow a few simple steps, I promise you, your blogs will be seen, appreciated, and shared.
First: create a subscription. Whether you use Finalsite's Blog tool and set up push notifications, or you have an email newsletter you want to create a new subscription for, invite your avid website users to sign up! This way, they'll get the blog posts delivered right to their inbox.
Second: Each time you post a blog on your website, share it on your social feeds. This is such a pivotal piece for your inbound strategy! You can also share older blog posts that are still relevant on social media, too! Be sure to always include a photo in your tweets and Facebook posts, as it is more likely to get clicked.
Third: Add them in the newsletters that you're already sending. If you have a monthly newsletter that goes out, include this month's best posts as a way to drive readership and subscriptions.
Fourth: Use them as inbound marketing content. When sending communications to families in the admission funnel, consider which blog posts you have, and use them as your inbound content. For example, if a student wrote a post on their experience as a student-athlete, it would be great to share that with all applicants interested in your athletic programs.
Pulling it All Together
Your blog won't appear overnight, and neither will differences in website traffic — so don't get discouraged. A blog takes weeks to really get up and running and months to really make a difference. However, with the right people and plans in place, it will quickly become a central piece of your inbound strategy and school culture.