Learning how to build and create engaging content takes time, discipline, and a lot of trial and error, but the results are well worth the effort. A successful content marketing strategy can be a game changer in the way you attract new students or resources to your university.
Content creation is core to all academic disciplines, yet our researchers and subject matter experts are often busy in their work, so their time with us, as marketers, is limited.
Inspired by what I learned at Content Marketing World, as well as from other leaders in mainstream marketing, I realized there was an opportunity to shift the way we thought about content and start using some of the tactics employed by big brands.
In order to build engaging content that could help attract new students, donors, and prestige for our university, we had to understand how to best optimize time and go beyond our typical protocol of filming a video or producing a media release. In the last year, we set out to achieve a big but attainable goal: creating up to ten pieces of content from every one hour with a researcher on campus.
While developing more content and spending more time on this content requires a larger lift, engagement with our content has proven that the effort is worth it.
Set Your Efforts Up for Success
In the past, we would put together a media release or video, publish it, and move on. In order to push ourselves to create multiple pieces of content, we had to move away from that model, which took some trial and error.
You have to set yourself up for success, and that starts with taking the time to do as much research as possible in preparation for your interview. It’s harder to book time with faculty and alumni than administrators, so when you get their time you want to use it wisely.
We make a real effort to learn about them and about their research in advance so we can dig into the deep answers and avoid frustrating them with a lack of awareness. It’s important to note that we’re not always relying on a new piece of research that’s about to be published with this concept. Sometimes, we find a subject matter expert to weigh in on topical or current news and affairs, so research is a critical element of content creation.
More engagement internally as well as externally has quadrupled our blog traffic and raised our social media engagement by 20%.
We also do our best to prepare our experts by providing in-house media training. It not only helps when we have them on camera, but it builds their confidence when they have the opportunity to share their research with an outside journalist. This is something we make an effort to do a few times a year.
How to Transform One Conversation Into Multiple Deliverables
To maximize our hour-long interview, we have strategized the types of content that we can effectively create that will be worth the effort.
Before we do anything, we analyze search traffic on the subject to ensure our content has a substantial audience and our questions will produce answers that people want to hear. We record the initial conversation, which can be repurposed into a podcast or audio file that we embed onto our blogs. We also film the interview and capture some overlay footage at the end, which is produced as a long-form video as well as short social clips. A lot of this content goes on the editing room floor, but the more you have to start with, the more opportunities you create for unique pieces of content. Transcripts of the conversation can be repurposed into blog content, or a Q and A column.
We take photos before and during the interview, including a professional headshot of our subject matter expert. We use these on social media and also develop a new profile photo for the researcher’s website as a quick win. This tactic has been an excellent way to demonstrate immediate value with the researchers, who often have outdated photos on their lab page. We’ve also started to trial the use of a 360-degree camera inside the research facilities and hit record, giving a sneak peek at where the magic happens!
In the end, we can have a small library of content: a professional headshot, one blog post, a podcast episode, a few Instagram posts, some behind the scenes moments we use for an Instagram story, and two to three videos.
This process doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does require a shift in thinking. While we have scaled up production, we haven’t scaled up our staff. Our hardware investments have also been minor, with much of our early trial and error filming on iPhones. Eventually, we moved to a cost-effective DJI Osmo camera and more recently to mirrorless camera systems. More than any financial investment, it’s the mind shift that matters most.