A Case for Developing Your School’s Online Content Strategy

Content is king for your school’s online marketing strategy.

Think about it.

What do people see, read, view or listen to on the web? Content.

Because of this, you really need a content marketing strategy. And, I am afraid that most school marketing leaders don’t have one. In fact, most can’t keep up with key updates to their own website let alone think about the type of content they should produce.
In their book, Content Rules, Handley and Chapman suggest, “Produce great stuff, and your customers will come to you. Produce really great stuff, and your customers will share and disseminate your message for you. More than ever before, content is king! Content rules!”

Most often when we think about content, we first think about the static copy on our website about our programs and processes. When was the last time you read through your academic pages on your website? Pretty boring and uninteresting isn’t it?

You might also think about the content that is focused on informing parents about your events and activities instead of the content that will tell stories about your school and content that will actually be helpful to people.

I believe that telling stories should be a key part of your marketing effort. This will help to drive word of mouth. While I have written about this in other blog posts, I wanted to discuss some other content considerations that take a different approach.

Michael Stelzner, in his book Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond the Competition, says that “Content may rule, but your online content must be the right sort of content: Customer-focused. Authentic. Compelling. Entertaining. Surprising. Valuable. Interesting. In other words, you must earn the attention of people.”

This is a great list.

The key is that you must produce content that your parents and prospective parents will be interested in reading, viewed or hearing. If it isn’t, then it isn’t really content at all that is worth anything. It is just words filling a page.

He goes on to say that “When you offer great content—such as detailed how-to articles, expert interviews, case studies, and videos—that focuses on helping other people solve their problems, you’ll experience growth.”

While all of us are interested in growing our schools, we miss the point of how to produce and deliver content for today’s online world. Therefore, there are two key questions that must be answered:

1.  What content can you generate that will be interesting and appealing to your current and prospective parents as well as the community at large?

If there is any organization that can deliver content, it should be an educational institution. We pride ourselves on knowledge and learning. We are surrounded by educators, people who can produce content. The key is that this content is not self-promotional or self-serving but actually helpful to those consuming it.

Think about these content examples:

  • How do we teach and learn in the 21st Century? What does this mean for today’s children?
  • What is the future of education?
  • How can technology be utilized to enhance learning?
  • What does the latest brain-based research suggest about learning and how does this relate to school?
  • How do the life experiences of your faculty enhance learning in the classroom?
  • For a faith based school: How is faith and learning connected in every subject area?
  • How can a private school education be affordable?
  • What is the value of enrolling a child in a private school?
  • The difference between public, charter and private schools
  • What are the steps that a high school student should take to prepare for the college application process?

Do you begin to see a trend? The content that you develop should provide helpful and interesting information for your current and prospective parents, and anyone else that might read it, listen to it, or view it. You can be an educational thought-leader and content publisher in your community which will, in turn, help your school grow.

2.  How can you deliver this content at your school?

The most difficult part of this process is producing the actual content. Once the content has been developed, there are many ways to deliver this content online that should be part of your strategy:

  • Website – Your school’s website should be the main “go-to” place for educational content. It should be your content hub providing a dynamic array of material.
  • Blog – A blog can be used to communicate key topics that are relevant for current parents and prospective parents. For example, in a recent blog post at Hanalani Schools, the business manager wrote a post on “How to Afford a Private School Education.”  This type of content is valuable for anyone that might be searching on this topic and then, as a result of this helpful article, be exposed to Hanalani Schools.
  • eBooks and White Papers – Select eBooks and White Papers can be published and made available on your school’s website and social media channels. In order to download the content, the person will need to give you their name and contact information. This becomes a great lead generator in your marketing effort.
  • Video seminars and Podcasts – Provide videos and podcasts of key seminars that can be made available on your school’s website, social media channels, YouTube channel or iTunes account.
  • Webinars – Produce content in an online, interactive format that can be live and then recorded. I had not seen another school taking this approach until the other day. In Sewickley Academy’s Twitter feed, I noticed the promotion for an online webinar on the topic of “Raising Kids in a Digital Age” for current parents, prospective parents and anyone else that wants to listen. Once again, Brendan Schneider and Sewickley Academy are on the cutting edge of applying inbound marketing strategies!

If you want to take a look at an organization that is a leader in publishing content online, check out Hubspot. They are the inbound marketing leader and their content strategy sets an example for what your school can do.

We are living in the digital age and content does rule. Therefore, it is critical for you to develop a content marketing strategy at your school.

Have you developed a content strategy for your school’s marketing effort?

Do you have any best practice examples of interesting content and the ways in which it was delivered online?