Content Marketing Applied to Higher Ed Recruitment

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As an up and coming content marketer, I was thrilled to join Georgia State University’s College of Education and Human Development this past January as a graduate student recruitment and marketing specialist. Even though I had no experience in college admissions, the hiring committee took a leap of faith in me because they wanted to engage graduate student applicants using non-traditional methods higher education institutions don’t normally use (i.e., inbound/content marketing). I eagerly accepted the challenge because it was a new position, and offered me an opportunity to delve into uncharted waters.

State of Recruitment

To acclimate myself to the college and to the field of education, I went on a fact finding mission the first three months by interviewing department chairs, graduate program coordinators and about 50 students and alumni from each of the seven departments. I also researched data from federal and state education agencies, news articles and studies to better understand the challenges affecting teacher preparation programs locally and nationally.  I presented the findings and recommendations to the college’s executive committee and was given the green light to proceed with a timeline and action plan.

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Developing a Strategy

According to the Content Marketing Institute, one of the first steps in developing an effective content marketing strategy is crafting buyer personas to understand the pain points customers want to solve using a brand’s service and/or product. More importantly, each persona allows you to segment your audience in order to develop personalized messages vs. vague, general messages for everyone.

Given the number of graduate programs offered by the college (40+), I recommended we launch a pilot project focused on eight programs. Graduate student applicant personas were developed for each based on the interviews I’d conducted.

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Recruitment Tactics

If you’re familiar with content marketing, you know there are numerous tactics that can be adopted to engage your audience. Since this was a new approach for the college, I wanted to be financially prudent and practical, so the pilot project focused on the following seven:

  1. SlideShare Information Sessions
  2. UrbanEd Podcast
  3. Alumni case studies
  4. Faculty tip sheets
  5. Graduate student blog
  6. Optimized program landing pages
  7. Email marketing automation

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Repurpose and Distribute

One of the aspects I enjoy most about content marketing is the concept of repurposing and distributing pieces on multiple channels. For the launch, I approached this in the following way:

  • Podcasts on SoundCloud are included in the SlideShare Information Sessions as alumni or student stories, and used as blog posts.
  • Alumni podcasts are repurposed into alumni case studies.
  • Noteworthy comments from faculty podcasts are repurposed into faculty tip sheets.
  • Podcasts, SlideShare Information Sessions, alumni case studies and faculty tip sheets are used on optimized program landing pages as well as in email marketing campaigns.

What about social media? The great thing about using sites like SlideShare and SoundCloud as distribution channels is that they’re designed to easily share the Information Sessions and podcasts across the college’s social networks.

Tracking and Tweaking 

As we slide into the new year, my main goal is to measure each piece of content using the following metrics in order to continue modifying the strategy:

  • Landing page: Number of leads through contact form
  • Email campaigns: Open, click through, unsubscribe and lead-to-applicant conversion rates
  • Podcast: Number of plays, followers, shares and likes
  • Blog: Number of views

Are you working for an organization new to the concept of content marketing? If so, I’d love to know what kinds of inbound marketing tactics you’re using to engage your audience.

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