We recently pinned home pages from 50 of the country’s top liberal arts college on a large work wall. Our motive? Learn something about story, content strategy and voice — favorite topics among Elliance creatives. Here is a confession — there’s nothing I avoid more than turning the art of writing on itself. Yes, I call writing art, not craft — because while you can teach all of the rules of composition, you can’t teach a great sentence, headline or billboard copy. Practice alone makes persuasion, especially in higher education branding. As for story, Elliance believes the essential building blocks of story as it applies to web site creation and higher education branding actually emerge earlier, at the site map stage. In my days writing for an award-winning university magazine, I worked alongside many fine MFA-holding writers and editors schooled in the finer points of narrative non-fiction. They talked about a writer’s motives and an article’s spine. My journalism training had given me instincts for story hunting and telling, but not my colleague’s vocabulary of literary deconstruction. Today, I experience a similar confusion around the concept of content strategy. How do we advocate for great emotional content within the construct of cool and rational content strategy? As Peter Drucker said, “Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing.” Content strategy evokes a sense of process efficiency — accounting for all of the elements, but not risking the question of what prevails. To touch a nerve within higher education branding, I find that you have to risk something of yourself as a writer and as communicators — in order to appeal to a prospect’s deeper, more primal sense of self-interest.
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