Indiana University at #confab12: Creating Emotionally Relevant Content for Higher Education Audiences
Two from Indiana University gave the first of only two higher ed presentations at Confab. Erika Knudson, director of marketing strategy, and Rebecca Salerno, creative director, led a session about how content can be “a spark that sets off a lifetime of engagement.”
Rebecca did an exceptional job defining the problem. In a nutshell: Students love their time on campus: they’re engaged with each other and with IU. Not only that, audience research and some Internet surfing demonstrated that their love for and pride about IU continued after graduation. So with more than 560,000 alums, why was the number of members of the IU Alumni Association flat?
There was a need to rewire the alumni brain, Knudson and Salerno realized as they began their audience research. They heard from alumni that the Alumni Association website felt like “an old boys club.” Some alumni described it as featuring “lots of golf outings.”
The director of the alumni association realized that a change was needed and was an important advocate for the project. After conducting substantial research with alumni, the project team realized that the problem was that the IUAA site was all about the Alumni Association–and not about alumni. They needed to shift the focus, asking alumni how the site could support them.
Additionally, there was no relevance, no story, no experience to bring them back home to the website. So they developed a core purpose for it:
From that vision flowed a well-developed brand strategy, with messaging focused on getting involved and helping to shape IU’s future. The IU team also made content choices to focus on alumni. They created a welcoming tone at every touchpoint on the website.
During the Confab presentation, Erika described how the IU team changed the language on the website to support the new brand and content strategy:
- The wording for the navigation on the new site supports the messages of belonging, spirit, pride and connection: “Get Together,” “Shape IU’s Future,” and “Be an IU Insider.”
- Instead of using “Do the math” to encourage membership, they use “Worth the investment.”
- Instead of “IUAA on Facebook” to promote a social channel, they use “Say hi on Facebook.”
Other nuggets from Erika and Rebecca:
- Messaging is key. Set up a core purpose for every level of the website. Tell a story.
- We have to explain the economics of content strategy and the common good. It can be challenging to convince campus clients that it is worth their investment. Explain the benefits.
- Be a good steward of resources and show measurable results.
- Conduct a content audit. IU was able to reduce the total number of pages on the site. The smaller site could be more easily managed by the Alumni Association’s small staff.
- Invest in training for web programmers so they can program social media integration elements.
During the session wrap up, Erika described content strategy, like education, as transformative. She said content strategy changed the life of the IU Alumni Association Website.
Kudos the talented team at Indiana University.