South African universities must place content marketing at the centre of their brand strategies in order to attract and retain top student and academic talent.
Universities are increasingly experiencing strain from issues outside of their control: the ‘fees must fall movement’; a lack of professional black academics in leading universities; and rising internal costs – all giving educational institutions a headache both in terms of their brand image and their balance sheet.
Educational institutions in 2016 and beyond are going to have to be more innovative with how they operate. One area where they can be innovative is by adopting a content marketing strategy. They are ideally placed to get the maximum reward that content marketing offers in the form of three key benefits:
1) Brand awareness
Universities can generate huge brand awareness with content marketing. Why? Simply put, universities are full of subject experts doing interesting things and possess a wealth of knowledge that can captivate the public’s imagination. But how can universities package that knowledge into captivating content that increases brand awareness?
That’s where content marketing comes in. Content marketing experts know how to convert and distribute the wealth of expertise and knowledge that universities possess into powerful, captivating and easy to access content.
Content marketing directly increases brand awareness of educational institutions by:
• Attracting people with a real interest in the educational brand and their work.
• Generating content that provides SEO (search engine optimization) value to digital platforms.
• Building brand authority by positioning staff as experts in their field.
• Providing marketing fuel across all existing marketing channels in the form of re-packaged content.
An example of a university that uses content marketing effectively to generate brand awareness is the University of Connecticut’s UConnToday. Their website is structured like a traditional news website and is a great thought leadership and brand positioning tool for the university.
2) Brand engagement
Educational brands have multiple points of interaction. Think of the websites, brochures, online systems, emails, social media etc. that educational institutes possess. Generally these are straightforward sources of information, but what if they could be used to entice brand interaction and build an emotional connection with consumers?
Well that’s what content marketing does. It takes information and builds compelling content that provides a benefit to the consumer and increases brand engagement. Consumers get access to information that is beneficial and entertaining, while educational brands get access to leads. This means both parties win by interacting with each other and building a relationship.
So how does content marketing build educational brand engagement?
• When educational brands provide beneficial content, they build lasting relationships with their audience. People begin to see educational brands as an asset, not a financial burden.
• Well-designed videos, infographics and written content entice interaction with the band. After all, who wants to interact with a dull website?
• Ensuring an educational brand’s content is worth sharing online.
• Ensuring a brand’s website content is top quality. Sixty percent of consumers seek brands after reading content about them (Demand Metric).
• Providing brand engagement at every touch point.
A leading educational brand that is using content marketing combined with the functionality of mobile technology is MIT’s free mobile app. It features a real-time shuttle tracker, a searchable campus map and provides useful current university content. This is valuable and relevant to students, helping them associate the brand as helpful and one that has their best interests at heart.
3) ROI and leads
Educational brands need marketing that is not only effective, but cost effective. Content marketing is ideal for this as the very purpose of content marketing is to build and distribute content that people are already looking for. This means no eyeballs are wasted and the marketing budget gets a better ROI.
Content marketing also generates more and better leads as they are openly given. Traditional advertising, by contrast, interrupts consumers during their day. Leads generated by content marketing are also much easier to convert into sales as consumers are already looking for information about the products produced by the educational brand.
The direct content marketing benefit to lead generation and ROI are:
• Content marketing tactics save an average of 62% less than traditional marketing. (Demand Metric)
• Consumers aren’t deterred with a hard sell before they are ready to make a purchase.
• Content marketing creates great website content. Seventy percent of people use website content before they make a purchase. (Cisco)
• Consumers are informed and can move through the purchasing decision quicker, rather than having to do more of their own research.
A prime example of an educational brand using content marketing to build brand engagement is the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut. According to a case study by streamingmedia.com, the university released a series of specifically targeted YouTube videos for majors like psychology and computer engineering, which in turn increased enrollment past their goals by 30%.
In conclusion, universities are an abundant source of potentially great content. What is needed is a content marketing strategy that can turn that potential for content into actual collateral and make sure that it is seen by the right people at the right time. Rothko has had years of experience working with educational institutions and can provide expert advice about how to successfully implement content marketing.