Episode 019

Perfecting Your Content Strategy With The Associate Marketing Director Of Harvard Business School Online

Despite the undeniable value of omni-channel strategies, an education organization’s most important marketing tool is its website.

If the content is informative and engaging enough, it will be all a prospective student needs to decide that your school is the right fit. Creating content that gains serious traction, however, is no easy feat. Perhaps the biggest challenge is figuring out how to simultaneously promote your programs while providing genuinely helpful information for anyone interested in this career path.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • What role does content play in a student’s research process?
  • How should you choose your blog topics?
  • Which channels should you use to promote blog posts?

This week, I spoke to Lauren Landry, the Associate Director of Marketing and Communications at Harvard Business School Online (HSBO). Lauren specializes in content strategy, which is no surprise considering her background in journalism. As an education reporter for a Boston-based media company, Lauren frequently interviewed college students about their post-graduation plans. She learned why many students were focused on honing specific skills, and why some chose to pursue post-graduate degrees. Today, Lauren applies this firsthand knowledge to develop and distribute content related to both topics, which are still paramount concerns of incoming students.

What role does content play in a student’s research process?

Online search is the most popular method for discovering education organizations and programs. This is largely because about 90% of prospective students have no idea what school they want to attend before performing their searches. “No one just wakes up one morning and says ‘I know for sure that I’m going to get a business certificate from Harvard Business School Online,’ “ Lauren said. It’s a school’s online content that leads prospective students to this conclusion.

At HBSO, Lauren and her team create content that answers criticual questions for business students. Which skills will be most integral to their success? What kind of career paths would benefit from an MBA? The HBSO team also presents different types of content for prospective students at different stages of the marketing funnel. For example, a prospective student’s journey might begin with an alumni testimonial, followed by a long-form blog post, and then an E-book to push them to the brink of enrollment.

How should you choose your blog topics?

It’s vital to remember that blog posts are geared towards high to mid funnel leads. This creates the need for an equal (or nearly equal) volume of two types of posts: Those that cater to readers who have already chosen a certain area of study, and those that cater to readers who are almost there but not 100% sure. In the case of HSBO, an example of the former would be a post about achieving work-life balance. An example of the latter might be a post about the necessity of the skills acquired at business school.

But regardless of the post’s target audience, your number one priority should be providing helpful information, not promoting your school. Prospective students will not read blatantly promotional posts. They are more likely to enroll at schools that display a genuine desire to guide them along their educational journey.

Which channels should you use to promote blog posts?

After solidifying the themes of your blog posts, your next step is content distribution. Lauren’s team promotes their content through organic social media posts, email newsletters, and their loyal alumni base. They don’t pay to push traffic to blog content, likely because paid social media posts are usually designed for low funnel leads. Promoting content through this manner might also give the posts that self-serving vibe, which the team avoids at all costs.

Another crucial element of successful blog posts is SEO. Aside from following the easily accessible best practices, Lauren says the key to mastering SEO is patience. It takes at least three to six months for a single blog post to generate real results. If one of your posts isn’t performing as well as you hoped, Lauren advises revisiting it to make sure it is as SEO-proof as possible. The SEM saying “Don’t ‘set it and forget it’ ” certainly applies to SEO as well.

Content is too important to ignore

It is no longer acceptable to forego blogging because of the required time investment. Today’s students won’t apply without sufficient information about their desired area of study, and blogs are the perfect way to give it to them. So, until you start or prioritize your school’s blog, you cannot say for sure that you are doing everything you can to grow your enrollments.

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