How can schools use content marketing to promote their programs and services?
Before the information age, businesses marketed their brands through mediums such as television, radio and print. With the change in times, the traditional approaches to marketing are outdated. Consumers pay less attention to commercials and even utilize technology such as TIVO to record their favorite programs allowing them to skip the commercials for their convenience. To be competitive in a social networking era, businesses must now use content marketing to attract consumers. With school budgets being tight and funding predicated on student enrollment, schools must also find innovative ways to promote their programs and services, as well as maintain their bottom line. So the critical questions to be asked are: How can schools use a content marketing approach to promote their programs and services?
According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is designed to create and share relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined target audience with the goal of driving profitable customer action. The motivation behind content marketing is the belief that customers will purchase our products or rewards us their business and loyalty if we deliver consistent and relevant information to them.
In a recent seminar at Zoo Atlanta, Rachel O’Connell, director of the online marketing company, Constant Contact talked about the future of content marketing. O’Connell says that in the past from a content marketing standpoint, there were limited communication channels and thus, the organization was able to control the information about its brand. In a social media era, consumers can learn about your brand from various sources. And, consumers trust and value more of the information about the brand that is coming from their friends and colleagues than from the actual organization. To meet the challenges of this new marketplace in attracting customers to your business, firm or school, O’Connell recommends that organizational leaders consider the following when using content marketing: (1) be where they are; (2) find multiple ways to tell your story and (3) get out of the spotlight.
“To be where your customers are,” O’Connell suggests that you promote your programs and services through all facets of social media. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Google, Linkedin, YouTube, Pinterest etc. In doing so, O’Connell emphasizes the importance of being real, human and responsive to your audience for effectiveness. From a K-12 perspective, schools should use a social media strategy to market their academic and extra-curricular programs to parents especially since social media is prevalent among all age groups. The adage that says, “If you can’t beat them, then join them,” applies to the use of the social media to promote programs and services in schools.
In O’Connell’s second illustration, “find multiple ways to tell a story,” she suggests that organizations promote their programs and services through different communication mediums. For a school that is in compliance with its district for having permission to use photos or video of children, this might encompass advertising a special student program on the school’s Facebook site by including a video clip, pictures or photo albums of students performing in a school play. This gives the audience an opportunity to learn about an event or service in an engaging manner. Instead of thinking what do I need to tell consumers, the adage is, what can I show them. O’Connell says that you should let your content be transparent so that it entices people to act. This is so important because students enjoy seeing their peers in the limelight and simulating the experiences they may have in the same setting.
O’Connell’s third example for attracting consumers to your business, firm or school is to “get out of the spotlight.” This means, looking for opportunities for reliable sources to share their experiences with your brand. When others have good experiences with your brand, they are willing to tell your story which means the news travels to other potential audiences. For a school, one example of this might include sharing the success of the organization with local realtors and businesses. Thus, these entities become reliable sources that can express positive experiences with potential parents.
In times of a tight fiscal budget combined with funding being tied to student enrollment, school must employ creative approaches, “outside the box” thinking to promote their programs and services to parents. Content marketing is an approach that businesses use to engage consumers about their products and services. These same approaches have relevancy for schools as we grapple with ways to keep students and parents informed about the services and programs that are available to educate our children. We encourage schools to use these innovative strategies to entice their current and potential stakeholders and maintain good business relationships with them.
Dr. Ronald Holmes is the author of two books, “Education Questions to be Answered” and “Current Issues and Answers in Education.” He is publisher of “The Holmes Education Post,” an education focused Internet newspaper. Holmes is the national superintendent of education for the National Save the Family Now Movement, Inc., a former teacher, school administrator and district superintendent. He can be reached at [email protected]