There is a reason behind the collective disdain America has for infomercials.
Sure, infomercials are annoying, drawn out, and incredibly predictable, but I think the reason we hate them so much is that they fail to tell us a compelling, relatable story.
Think about it: When an ad for the iPhone 6 comes on TV, it captures and keeps your attention—why? Because Apple sells you an experience, not a product. Apple takes a story and transforms it into a piece of content that we can relate to—or at the very least desire to relate to.
When it comes to creating content for the purpose of student recruitment, you need unique and intriguing content that will engage your prospective students by telling a story. Rather than selling your school like an infomercial, you need to take Apple’s approach to content marketing and sell your institution’s story and experience—not just your brand.
So how do you develop this kind of content?
The answer is by creating premium content. Premium comes from the Latin word praemium, meaning "reward." By nature, premium content is about “rewarding” a contact with valuable information—things like eBooks, videos, guides, infographics, etc.—once they’ve submitted a form and provided the contact information you requested.
Premium content is the key to introducing prospective students to your institution and ushering them into the enrollment funnel. It is about presenting your content in an exceptional way that will give your prospective students the key(s) necessary to unlock the answers to the questions that they have.
Here are five things you need to keep in mind when developing premium content for the purpose of student recruitment:
1. You Need to Know Them
In order to give prospective students rewarding content, you must first know what they find valuable. Research and know your prospective student personas. You must first understand their needs, their problems, fears, and excitements, and then create content that adresses and satisfies these issues.
Look at the Twitter feeds of students applying to college in your area, research frequently asked questions, read blog posts of other institutions, and read recurring comments and questions students are asking on those blogs.
2. You Need to Inspire Them
Remember: you are trying to attract students not bore them to death with monotonous, presented-in-the-same-way-fifty-times pieces of information. Give them fresh, innovative content that will spark their interest and leave them wanting more.
For example, produce short promotional videos for the arts department of your college or university-- capture students photographing the trees or painting self portraits. Continue your shoot by taking a walk to the observatory and filming astronomy students studying the stars. Show them, don’t tell them, why they should come to your university.
Find something that sets your institution apart from others and emphasize that. Think of the reasons students would want to come to your school as opposed to going elsewhere. Illuminate, highlight, mark, check, and bold it—bring it to the forefront! They shouldn’t have to dig through 150 pages on your website to find out what makes your school interesting and unique.
3. You Need to Educate Them
The more relatable your content is, the more rewarding it becomes to a prospect—and the more likely the student is to apply. The more pieces of "content gold" you give them, the more they will want to keep digging.
With eBooks and guides you can provide engaging, educational content that will meet a prospective student right where they are at in the applicant journey. Educate them on what they should look for in an Interior Design program; explain how their AP tests will be credited; show them the value of living in on-campus housing; break down the real cost of education and debunk the myths that private schools are always more expensive, etc.!
4. You Need to Flatter Them
Be funny! Applying to college is stressful and draining enough—make some of your content humorous and light-hearted “just because.” People are captivated by things that are funny. Humorous content is more likely to be shared on social media, too! Appeal to their humor and they will find your content alluring and share-worthy. A humorous element can be integrated using gifs, memes, jokes, and vine videos.
5. You Need to be Helpful to Them
Really attempt to know the questions prospective students are asking and answer them in the most helpful way. What questions are students asking one another, what questions have been submitted via online forums, tweets, or on your school's FAQ page? Use these questions as a springboard for your content brainstorming session. If you develop content that answers the questions and solves the problems of prospects, not only will it be downloaded, but it will also be shared.
Knowing, inspiring, educating, flattering, and helpful content cultivates useful, valuable, and shareable information that will help convert prospective students into applicants.
Remember: You want your content to be like an Apple ad, not like an infomercial!