Higher Ed Content Marketing Advice

ScholarNet Blog Articles | March 17, 2020

Building Customer Relationships with Words: Marketing Advice from a ScholarNet Content Writer

Good stories move people. As a content writer for ScholarNet (and other businesses), Susie McCormick knows this better than anyone.

Susie has written ScholarNet content since 2012. For years, our blogs, newsletters, and social media content have been part of her wheelhouse. But her content marketing experience goes far behind her time with us. We sat down to talk about her life, writing process, and marketing tips for higher education professionals.

How did you start your career as a writer?

The passion for reading and writing has always been there. I went from having my nose in a book as a toddler to writing short stories in elementary school. After that, I just wrote at every opportunity I could get. Obituaries, business proposals, bridal guides, editing for college textbooks – you name it.

How did those writing opportunities lead you to content marketing?

Honestly, content marketing itself isn’t new – it’s just a new name for what marketers have already been doing for decades. What has changed is the number of ways we’re able to communicate with people. Digital media multiplied the touchpoints we have with people, creating the need for a role that manages how we communicate to our audience for each of them.

What does the life of a content writer look like?

Sometimes, writers actually get to spend time writing, revising, and re-revising their work. When you aren’t writing, you’re doing prep work for other writing projects – interviewing people, researching products or market trends, and brainstorming new ways to share content.

How can higher ed institutions use content marketing to connect with students, families, and staff?

Make sure you set up communication preferences with students and families right away. Text notifications will likely be more effective in getting students to take important actions than any other channel, but use your website, app, email, social, and other channels you identify that work for your campus to inform your audience.

For institutions with limited resources, what’s the priority from a content standpoint?

Focus on making sure your website and app are clear, user-friendly, and built with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind. People need to be able to find you when they search online. Good second steps are setting up text notifications and establishing a strong social media presence (start with Twitter and Instagram, then Facebook).

Financial aid offices that collaborate with marketing, admissions, alumni, bursar’s office, student support, and housing to get everyone on the same page will see the most success. If you collaborate, your message will be more powerful and effective, and you can share resources.

Any specific marketing tips for those institutions?

Keep things short. People are busy. The more quickly you can give them what they need, the more people will see and benefit from it. Aside from that, make sure your content has value and is simple to understand. Write content that sounds conversational. Speak to people like the humans they are. And always avoid jargon.

Lastly, what’s the most important life lesson you’ve learned?

Put people first. Your customers, coworkers, kids – everyone. Otherwise, what’s life all about? If what you create isn’t helping people – or how you interact with others isn’t positive – what’s the point of even being here?

And you miss so much when you don’t interact. People in financial aid deal with very specific challenges. I can’t know what those are. But other financial aid professionals do – and may have ideas that could work for them. Anytime you get the chance, ask others for advice. If you’re a ScholarNet customer, check out our LinkedIn group, contact your rep, or comment on the blog post. Share your successes, ask questions – start a discussion. That’s when content marketing does its job right.

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