Content Marketing for Universities

Content Marketing for UniversitiesAs a copywriter, you must be able to adapt to the internal processes of diverse industries. While each specialty of a given industry will have its own way of doing things, a copywriter will find it harder to work with some than others. Thus far, I have found it particularly difficult to develop content that meets the expectations of university personnel.

This is not to say that university personnel are incapable of providing proper guidance, but rather that they operate on an entirely different schedule and have a lot of people involved in the review process, making it difficult to achieve specific goals for an online content marketing strategy. Because they are not always available at a moment’s notice, working on a content strategy for a university can produce multiple bouts of trial and error as well as timing issues.

I can attest to a copywriter’s innate desire to fully understand and meet the expectations of the client. However, some industries have a larger learning curve than others and this is especially true for universities. The material you must discuss is a subject that others must study for years to understand. If you are not a graduate in that particular field, it can be difficult to do this competently, which means you’ll have to return to the drawing board as you work with the client to understand the nuances of their field and their goals for the content. It can be frustrating to spend hours researching and writing only to find that your approach still isn’t cutting it in the eyes of the client; but don’t give up!

Through these experiences, I have come to understand what it takes to work on a content strategy with a university and the obstacles you may encounter while doing so. I’d like to share a few of these as well as some tips on how copywriters like me can overcome them.

The Beauty of Bureaucracy

Similar to government, universities and their programs have a lot of hurdles to jump through when it comes to the allocation of budget, access to digital properties, collective approval of content, and a synergized social media strategy. Since one person’s decision usually relies on a decision or input from another, usually a Dean or an Associate Dean, it can be difficult to rev the engine of a university’s content marketing strategy. For instance, one person may initially approve your content and then come back to you a few months later disparaging the very things they approved.

When you’re working with a university for content marketing, it’s more than likely that you’re working with a group of people as opposed to one or two business owners. Opinions are exchanged, minds are changed, and you feel forced to bend to the whim of every single person’s perception.

Non-academic Writing

Although it’s granted that university personnel possess strong communication skills, many have trouble comprehending the true purpose of the copywriter’s approach, which is to appeal to the university’s ideal student through web copy. Of course, prospective students will require assurance that professors from the university have legitimate experience and credibility in their field, but the purpose of a content strategy is not to provide this assurance. Nor is the purpose of this content to provide an informational wellspring of extremely detailed research. Not every piece of content needs to be an academic research paper, which often take months to write. Copywriters generally work at a much quicker pace and are required to have a high turnover of articles than one every few months. Our focus is generally getting students to inquire about or enroll in the course – not teach them the coursework.

When a prospective student wants to learn more about a university and its programs, they want clear-cut reasons as to how their potential enrollment and completion of a degree program will benefit them in the long run. Furthermore, most people do not look for complex writing when assessing the value of a university at first glance. Necessary information should be readily available without convoluted explanations.

I have found that most university personnel are not keen on friendly, yet professional writing. While a certain level of prestige needs to be maintained, the content must be engaging. After experiencing persistent back and forth between the style and tone of the copy for past clients, it is apparent that some university personnel are not aware of what their web copy is meant to achieve. Overall, web copy for a university must get a prospective student EXCITED about the journey they’re about to embark on, using as many creative elements as possible.

Content Must Be Course Specific

Thanks to the vast amount of scholarly research available through the Internet, it may seem somewhat easy to find credible research that applies to a university’s specialty. Nonetheless, you will soon find that generalized information won’t always do, as each university program and its courses contain a plethora of nuances. Unfortunately, not all universities will give you sufficient resources to properly convey the nuances of a program or the way a particular professor approaches the subject.

Since university personnel don’t always have time to deal with the copywriting process (hence why they hired you), they might expect you to know exactly what to communicate. You may soon find that they are dissatisfied with your approach and are unwilling or unable to thoroughly assist you. Make it a point to bypass this possibility by obtaining as much information as possible about the courses and its professors in order to capture the details from the start.

The Irony

Universities tend to have a sufficient amount of authority on the web due to the amount of pages indexed, backlinks, and press mentions, among other factors, making it easier for them to gain traction in a shorter period of time when compared to other industries. While this is reassuring, it still depends on a strong content marketing strategy that harmoniously coincides with other digital marketing assets, and most importantly, the wholehearted participation of university personnel to make this possible!

This is not to say that all universities will operate in this manner when working with outside marketing agencies, but if they expect results from the marketing team they hired, it’s important that they understand from the beginning that their involvement will be paramount to the success of the efforts made by the marketing agency.

Launch Your Program!

Optimum7 knows what it takes to get enrollments for a specific university degree program. Contact us today to learn more about our various marketing strategies and how they can help get your university soaring.