As a writer who spent the first 10 years of her professional life as an agency copywriter, I approach writing with two specific questions: Who’s the target audience? What’s unique about this client? I had a creative director once who often quoted David Ogilvy and I still remember this classic:
“Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your family to read. You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine.”
As a mother whose daughter is a junior in high school – prime time to be inundated with higher education marketing materials – it saddens me to see that many universities don’t take the time to write something truly unique about their school.
Surprisingly, my sixteen-year-old daughter noticed the same thing. Her assessment of the brochures that keep filling the mailbox is this:
“They all tell me I’d be perfect for their school but they don’t do a good job at explaining what they can offer me.”
Here’s another quip from her that will make a marketer cringe:
“Most of them look the same.”
My daughter wants to know specifics. Instead of reading that a school has state-of-the-art labs, she wants to know what types of research is being done at a school. She’s also very active. She shakes her head when she reads that a school says they have a number of student activities but doesn’t give any examples.
Which reminds me of another classic from David Ogilvy:
The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.
First impressions leave a lasting impression. Read your higher education marketing materials with a critical eye and then ask yourself two key questions. Does it answer the questions teenagers are really asking? And, perhaps more importantly, does it make the same claims as every other school?