Ideas, insights and inspirations.

Reducing the frequency of a printed alumni magazine is a controversial idea. Generations of alumni will react to this change differently. However, as Yogi Berra said, “if you see a fork in the road, take it.” Benefits and Costs of Print Alumni Magazine Great alumni flagship magazines are beautiful, comfortable and great coffee table pieces. They have the potential to move your college’s perception/reputation needle with alumni and friends.  They draw you into the great stories and iconic photographs that slow you down and take you back into the memory lane of your youthful idealism. Above all, they don’t get lost in the email clutter or sea of web distractions. However, they are not cheap, they’re difficult to produce and have a limited reach. It’s not uncommon for them to consume budgets of over $100,000 for quarterly or bi-annual issues. Production requires teams of editorial and design staff. Despite best efforts, you can only tell so many stories that can … Continue reading

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When I left journalism and joined Elliance in the Fall of 2006, Facebook had recently celebrated its second birthday, Google had just paid $1.65 billion for YouTube, and some of America’s old-growth daily newspapers had begun to sway violently against the winds of economic change. The new laws of digital communication had emerged, along with a breathtaking set of opportunities. But when I spoke to higher education communications leaders, I found that many still gauged success (personal and professional) by the number of returned phone calls and media placements they secured from local education beat writers or broadcast media. Within weeks of crossing over to the digital side, I realized that colleges and universities possessed far more control over their reputation destinies than any of them seemed to grasp. My old-school eyes had opened wide to new tools of the trade: I learned to combine the power of keywords and code to win page one Google results for a range … Continue reading

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Great content is the lifeblood of successful brands. However, creating great content is a labor of love. It takes both an investigative mind (that discovers and uncovers brand evidence and proofs) and an imaginative mind (that infuses brand romance) to create persuasive content. Two quick reminders before I dive into the content ecosystem. First, the best college copywriters and storytellers uncover truths about an institution that it may not have even known about itself. They instinctively know that the real hero of their story is the student, the alum and the faculty member — not the institution. They tell the stories of the challenges the brand heroes faced and how they creatively overcame them to realize their personal destinies. As my colleague Todd Erkel would say, a college becomes the story it chooses to tell. Second, before you embark on your content journey, I would strongly encourage creation of a SEO Keyword Lexicon that’ll guide all future content creation. It’s comprised … Continue reading

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What’s the difference between a college with a surplus of applications and one with an unacceptably high acceptance rate? Sometimes, it’s curiosity and nerve. Adversity — brought on by geographic isolation, shifting demographics, living in the shadows of giants, deep-pocketed for-profits and other Goliath competitors — can inspire a college and university to challenge assumptions and try new approaches to gain an unfair competitive advantage. We call these schools underdog brands — and salute the leaders willing to rethink the potential of a school website, blog, and social channels. Underdog brands evolve from thinking of marketing assets as a fixed cost — an unwelcome guest knocking at the budget door — to seeing its potential to enlarge the vision and change institutional culture. Underdog brands tend to serve a lot of first generation in college families and students who are willing to try harder. These students are unafraid to roll up their sleeves and get things done, and are eager … Continue reading

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Communicating before, during and after a capital campaign requires the kind of symphonic thinking that author Daniel Pink explores in A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. Strategic visions and campaign priorities can quickly deconstruct into campaign inventory and itemization — losing all connection to a larger and more compelling story about why a college matters and to the invitation for how donors might connect their singular sense of purpose to something larger. It’s not a matter of longer versus shorter content, but a question of what Pink calls the “relationship between relationships.” Pink talks of the three types of people that thrive when asked to overlay little and big pictures. Boundary Crossers: comfortable with abstraction, they understand how a concept like regulation can inspire donors to support the training of future financial accountants who will police insider trading and osteopathic doctors equipped to ease an epidemic of diabetes. Inventors: able to project new … Continue reading

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Like every market, the audience of college-bound high school seniors is responding to change and uncertainty with… more change and uncertainty. Very recent surveys show roughly a quarter of next year’s class feeling uncertain about whether they will attend their first choice college, attend a school closer to home, or delay college enrollment for a year. College enrollment marketing teams (already stressed by acceptance/deposit season) now have to scramble to reassure and to some degree, re-recruit the Class of 2024. Here are five content needs/priorities to consider. Liberal Arts as catalytic. How often and how well do you make the case for why complex times and challenges require agile thinkers? Do you routinely interview students who find the core curriculum applicable across a range of research, internship and other experiential learning opportunities? Do you trace that confidence back to encounters with specific faculty, courses, assignments and texts? Do you ask internship supervisors and employers why such learners outperform their peers? … Continue reading

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College marketing and communications teams increasingly look to boost video teams and budgets. All well and good, but we should not overlook the enduring value and impact of your still image library. It’s easy to grow complacent and assume that last year’s photos will meet this year’s needs. It’s tempting to hire less qualified photographers, and to cram too many shots into a long day of shooting. Here are 5 Quick Tips on how to build, maintain and mature your campus photo library. Frequency: Many college photo libraries grow stale without anyone noticing. If you want to maintain a viable collection of photos, plan on four, two-day shoots each year. Story needs and brand understanding change — as do seasons, fashion, hair, and the campus environment. You will need to schedule multiple shoots each year for photos to keep pace. Quality: Staff photographers spend so much time shooting grip-and-grin, raise-a-glass campus events that few have time to hone their editorial POV … Continue reading

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The golden age of print magazines long ago expired (Time once reached 20 million readers a week at peak circulation). Still, writers, editors and photographers charged with producing a college or university magazine juggle the same risk/reward choices as their predecessors when it comes to creating memorable cover art.   Whether your college magazine comes in print, responsive or hybrid formats, your cover competes for precious reader bandwidth in an era of continuous partial attention. And if you only have one or two occasions a year to plan, design and deliver a great cover, all the more reason to be very intentional in your approach. Some university magazines approach the task with zeal and gusto. Findings from the University of Michigan School of Public Health comes to mind for its persistent good faith attempts to deliver a perfect summary of the cover story, magazine and school itself in one image/headline pairing. The team understands some overall gestalt, and consistently advances mission, reputation … Continue reading

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The primary goal of digital content marketing is to earn attention and grow brand reputation by providing valuable content – that informs, persuades, engages and delights prospects and customers. However, delivering on this goal has turned into an all-out arms race, with three distinct generations of content marketing.   First Generation: Core Content In the beginning, marketers equated content with website copy and photography. Copywriters and storytellers elevated the website copy – presenting the facts and persuading the prospects with engaging content; professional photographers were hired to lift the website experience with beautiful imagery that told visual stories. Core Content = Copy + Stories + Photographs + Press Releases.   Second Generation: Enhanced Content Once parity was achieved in basic content, marketers expanded the concept of content to include blogs and juiced up the copy, photographs and blog posts with keywords to secure page 1 rankings on Google. Enhanced Content = Core Content + Blog Posts + Social Media Posts … Continue reading

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  Today, there is a lot of advice around how to create high quality, student-centered content in the higher education space — from bringing student experiences to life through stories, photos and videos to creating content by involving passionate faculty, students and brand champions. However, far less is said regarding how to create an orchestrated effort around content publishing to ensure that your content receives the most visibility and positive engagement. Often, marketing teams get caught up in the demanding work of content creation and fall short when it comes to creating a well-thought-out content release plan. The result is limited exposure of a content piece that was incredibly time consuming to complete. At Elliance, for each piece of high-fidelity content — whether it’s an infographic, guide, video, blog post, story, etc. — we develop a content release plan to ensure maximum exposure among target audiences. While each piece of content demands unique considerations, here are a few recommendations that can … Continue reading

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