Stop Being Everything to Everyone: The Perils of Multi-personality Disorder in Higher Education Content Strategy

Carnegie Higher Ed Mar 06, 2019 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

Let’s face it—in higher education, too many of us are trying to be everything to everyone, with a content strategy that focuses on what we do, not who we are. We all offer friendship and a warm welcome, we have close relationships with students, we have a certain number of programs, and we’ve achieved rankings of one type or another. So how are we helping prospective students pick the right school again?

The institutional content approach many of us take is to free flow our content construction and any storytelling decisions based on the medium. For example, on social media, we often see a theme of unbridled fun and enthusiasm expressed and (scroll down a few posts) an insatiable thirst for hands-on discovery. For web content, we receive a message of compassionate support and leadership excellence. In print collateral, we learn of the institution’s eye for innovation, interlaced with boasts of artsy creativity—and in its latest campaign, a hint of elegant sophistication.

This kind of content strategy is holistically a mess of expression with an unfortunate side effect: prospective student confusion. The problem is, when an institution tries to be everything to everyone, it ends up being nothing to anyone. The more scattered the amalgam of expression, the less the audience is able to place its finger on the school. As a result, the institution’s persona, along with all its offerings, can become quite forgettable.

Given the market share realities of higher education today, colleges and universities need to actively move away from talking about what they do. Why? Because in almost every case, it’s not differentiated or unique. Instead, telling the concise story of who you are as an institution is key to standing out among competitors and building reputation in the process. How is this done?

Stand out from the crowd with a purposeful, intelligent approach to content strategy

  1. Start by seeking to understand your institution’s authentic Self, as if it were a human being. Who are you today, and who do you seek to be tomorrow? Involve your stakeholders to help bring this to light.
  2. Put your story into words. Are you a progressive innovator trailblazing the future through experimentation and discovery? Capture that story as it is uniquely defined for your institution.
  3. Turn these insights into a well-defined, focused storytelling platform to serve as a base for all future communications.
  4. Take every opportunity across mediums to tell your story clearly and consistently. Trim away any expressions of personality that don’t fit!

Crystalizing your story and sharing it across platforms is the doorway to creating a strong human-to-human connection that positions your higher education institution outside the herd and attracts an enthusiastic following.

Developing a content strategy is a massive endeavor, and understanding your institution’s unique personality even more so. Don’t go it alone. Carnegie Dartlet’s team of expert researchers, strategists, and creatives can uncover the authentic personality of your college or university and transform it into a meaningful content strategy that forges true connections with prospective students. Talk to us today.

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