Creating and maintaining a steady flow of content to support your schools marketing objectives is a tricky process. Not because, as many businesses find, that there's not a lot to say about their product, but because there is just so much happening in schools that is interesting and newsworthy. The challenge for school content marketers is to find the news stories and case studies that effectively market the school within the limited time they have available.
A key tool for a school is the ‘content plan’ — thinking like a newspaper to focus the most important messages for recruitment while being flexible enough to respond to exciting new developments. In the process you'll also find it very easy to create a regular balanced newsletter. Here are the steps to take.
1. Identify the key messages you want to communicate (ideally 2-4).
These should together reflect the unique offer of your school — for example you might offer extensive academic support and parental feedback, a focus on academic and sporting success or opportunities for wider community involvement or personal development.
2. Work out how many stories you can effectively cover in depth.
For small schools with limited marketing resources you may want to focus on 4 per month, while larger schools with dedicated marketing personnel and student news teams might be able to cover 8 or even more per week.
3. Calculate your “story cycle length.”
This is the time it will take you to cover the key messages — mathematically the number of stories you can cover/(number of key messages +1). Within each story cycle you will focus on one story that promotes each key message as well as a ‘”major event” story in the school over that time period even if it doesn't specifically fit a key message.
4. Create a content calendar.
Take your school's calendar and identify events that would be of interest to prospective parents and students — as well as the obvious events such as sporting events, drama productions and school trips. Make sure you're aware of academic competitions, visiting speakers, charity events and collections and school clubs. Keep talking to teachers and school leaders to keep this up to date — both adding new events and removing ones that are postponed or cancelled.
5. Choose your stories and make your plan.
In each “story cycle,” choose the single most news-worthy event. Then pick one story from the remaining events that most exemplifies each of the other messages. If you find a gap in any area, fill it with a “feature” story that looks at the work of a department, club or team, or an individual student success story.
6. Plan how to record each story — and do it in multimedia.
Being focused in advance means you can involve your students, skilled teachers and perhaps your external media relations agency in recording the event.
7. Publish and reuse.
As each story takes place you can publish it on your school website and share it via social media, as well as seeking media coverage. You can then collect the stories into a weekly or monthly printed or e-newsletter, which can be targeted to specific audiences, and use individual stories in advertising material.
Here’s an example of a content plan for a monthly newsletter: