Best advice ever on #HigherEd content

March 6th, 2018 Karine Joly No Comments

Content is King. And, it’s a pretty tough ruler. When you have to feed the content beast on the social media accounts or the website of your school, it’s NOT an easy job.

So, good advice is always welcome in the higher ed content professional community. :-)

That’s why I asked the 12 higher ed speakers of the 2018 Higher Ed Content Conference to share with us the best advice about content they’ve ever been given.

Best advice for Higher Ed Content

Think audience AND goals for Erika Forsack, Social Media Strategist – Virginia Commonwealth University

Erika ForsackAsk yourself how the content you’re creating relates to your audience and to your goals. I think too often folks are focused on the newest viral video and content with whiz-bang effects rather than on the storytelling. It’s really important to think about how trend relates to your institution (Is the trend appropriate for a higher education institution to take it on?) and how what you’re making represents you. This allows you to measure the sentiment rather than using resources to create a mannequin challenge video a month after the first was uploaded. Asking yourself these questions is really useful because it can be a good gauge to help decide what projects to make time for (and which ones to leave in the corners of the Internet). My experience working with prospective students, keeping a pulse on what they’re interested and building relationships so we can best serve them through our content has been very beneficial.

Remember the Why for Danielle Sewell, Director of Marketing & Communications at Coker College

Danielle SewellSimon Sinek says “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” That is so important to remember when you start developing a content strategy, especially in higher education where the work we do is inherently driven by our values. In higher ed, we put so much effort into developing services and programs that transform lives—and then when someone asks about them, our descriptions tend to come in a bullet-pointed list of deliverables. If I can create content that connects our audiences with a sense of purpose and inspiration, I can support the incredible work that my colleagues are doing and really help our college community to make an impact.

Think about the goals for Andrew Cassel, Social Media Admin at the University of Alaska Fairbanks

Andrew CasselThe best advice I’ve ever been given when it comes to content is to make sure that each piece of content shared aligns with the overarching goals of your communications plan. Every communication plan should now include a social media component. When I’m in meetings about developing a plan I fight to make sure that social media is included in the discussion. Often the people creating the plan aren’t used to thinking about social. Keeping the institutional goals of the overarching communication plan in mind when creating, scheduling and curating content is essential. How does this cool picture of campus help recruit a student? How does this story from a PIO help with retention? How does this event help the community like us more? Keeping those goals in mind when sharing is essential.

One size doesn’t fit all for Tia Linder, Assistant Director of Online Communications – Fordham University

Tia LinderThe best advice I have been given about content was that it is not one size fits all. Content must be tailored for a specific target audience. When creating web pages, I ask web editors to first identify their target audience and then present their content to align with their wants and needs.

Keep your audience in mind for Carol Duan, International Social Media Specialist at Boston University

Carol DuanThe best advice I’ve ever been given would be “Always keep your audience in mind.” As we learn from our own experiences, this is the key to successful storytelling. At Boston University, we talk to a broad range of audiences and have no shortage of content related to our students, faculty, research and University as a whole. Knowing our audience’s needs, wants, concerns and limitations helps us effectively identify content opportunities, pick the best distribution platforms and create engaging messages that speak to each segment of our audience. For example, on our Chinese social channels, we’d highlight international student stories, and create pre-arrival materials to help Chinese students adjust to the learning culture and campus life at Boston University.

Put the audience first for Amanda Waite, Creative Communications Director at the University of Vermont

Amanda WaiteFor content to be absorbed, it must first be read. In the work that we do, where we’re trying to get our school’s messages across to various audiences, it can be easy to forget that readers are under no obligation to see a story through to the end — or even pay attention to it in the first place. Putting the audience first is so important to ensuring that your content isn’t scrolled past on social or sorted into the junk mail in print.

Think of audience first for Sonja Likness Foust, Director of Social Media and Content Strategy at Duke University

Sonja Likness FoustThink of audience first! There’s no point in creating content at all if you don’t know who’s going to look at it. When you’re thinking of audience, you’re also going to have to think about distribution so that you know how to reach your audience. If your audience is students, your distribution strategy and channels are going to be much different than if your audience is parents and families. You might even need different types of content—for example, a quick Snapchat video for your students, and a newsletter for your parents and families.

Create Once, Publish Everywhere for Conny Liegl, Senior Designer at California Polytechnic State University

Conny LieglWhen Daniel Jacobson (@daniel_jacobson) first coined the term COPE (Create Once, Publish Everywhere) in 2009, he opened my eyes to the potential of this new, digital world we live in. Instead of creating original content for each of the many platforms, he advocates for the separation of content from the display to ensure modularity and portability. I have since adopted this philosophy, and create many communication pieces out of a given “base text.” This copy is then transposed into posts for social media, press releases, blog posts etc. which makes content creation quicker and more effective.

Minimal Viable Content for Jeff Stevens, Assistant Web Manager at UF Health

Jeff StevensLast year I saw a slide from a presentation by Malaika Carpenter where she presented the idea of Minimal Viable Content (MVC). As a phrase, this resonates with me, as it encapsulates why it’s important to create simple, effective content: we’re respecting the time of the user, the time of content creators with limited resources, and the digital team responsible for putting it online. It’s helped me to refine my processes in looking at our content and finding ways to reduce the transactional costs of maintaining each page.

Give them what they want for Krista Boniface, Social Media Officer at the University of Toronto

Krista BonifaceGive the people what they want! Social media management is at its best when it builds connections and trust. Using this advice to craft content for today’s busy students has helped me understand their perspective in tandem with our strategic goals. For teams of one out there in the Higher Ed Social Media space, listening to what your students or prospective students need and then taking the opportunity to respond with strategic, curated content can be a slam dunk.

I can’t wait to show you an admissions case that we built out in @UofT’s Instagram Stories turned 24-7 guides in Instagram Highlight in my session at the upcoming Higher Ed Content conference — a template you can use for your own goal-oriented content. If you engage people with what they want throughout the process and deliver with specific flow, the results will follow.

Define your social media voice for Lindsay Nyquist, Director of Digital Communication – Fort Lewis College

Lindsay NyquistOne of the best pieces of advice I’ve received regarding content is to define your social voice verbally. I feel terrible because I can’t remember where I saw this tip, and now I use it constantly! But this idea is incredibly useful for those of us who manage social accounts with a team of staff or interns and to help keep voice consistent throughout. Defining your institution’s voice verbally really helps clarify your perspective for new interns and staff. Here is what we work with:

  • Our voice on social media
  • Positive, upbeat, enthusiastic
  • Love for campus, students, and the outdoors
  • Fun! This is not a serious website
  • Occasional use of slang, but not trying too hard
  • A tiny bit sarcastic sometimes

Why not both? for Aaron Baker, Digital Analytics Lead at Harvard University

Aaron BakerThe best advice I’ve been given when it comes to content is, “Why not both?” Whenever you feel stuck between writing something one way, or writing it another, try both ways in an A/B test to prove which option works best. When I update the Harvard homepage my goal is to send the most engaged traffic to our news content. By testing various combinations of headlines, descriptions, and calls to action using A/B or multivariate testing, and setting the goal to an engagement metric (like scroll depth for example), I can know which combo is best at attracting quality traffic.

A conference focusing on higher ed content?

The Higher Ed Content Conference (now available on-demand!) is a must-attend event for higher ed content professionals and teams looking for new ideas and best practices.

Read below what a few of your higher ed colleagues who attended the past editions of the Higher Ed Content Conference say about the experience.


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