Today’s INDI 2090 Promotional Communications class discussed how we could reach our “buyers” with news of our social media plan.
Again, this was a hypothetical discussion using our university as the tool to facilitate my students’ mastery of one of their text books, The New Rules of Marketing and PR. From a teaching and learning perspective, it’s much easier to apply a new idea to something you already know well. For my students and me, our common knowledge base is St. Catherine University.
But first, I should define what I mean by “buyer.” From a marketing point of view, a buyer is anyone whose problems are solved by your product or service. That problem, in our case, could be anything from just wanting to catch up with your alma mater (alumnae), checking in what’s happening on campus (current students, faculty, and staff), or trying to decide on which college to attend (potential students and their families).
When you try to solve a buyer’s problem, you need to speak like your buyer — use their language, their phrasing, their style. We ran into this last week in class when searching for St. Kate’s in various social media.
The problem is that most people — all of my students, in any case — refer to our school as “St. Kate’s.” Our official name is Saint Catherine University. Our former name is the College of St. Catherine. On June 1, 2009 the school changed names to better ‘reflect its comprehensive nature.’ It makes complete sense to me. However, being known by multiple names to multiple buyers means people seek information differently.
Last week we couldn’t find the Flickr stream because we searched for “St. Kate’s.” This week we had trouble finding the YouTube channel because it’s listed as “StCatherineU.” However, when we searched for St. Kate’s on YouTube, we found some great videos, although many had nothing to do with us. When we searched for “St. Catherine University” having learned with our Flickr error, we found some really interesting videos from random Katies and university departments.
Our favorite is a rap from the Nursing Department.
It’s funny. It’s real. It’s unprofessional. It’s about patient safety — another interest of mine. It’s the kind of media that would make someone want to be a nurse and study at St. Kate’s. But it’s nowhere on the official St. Kate’s website (that we could find).
Our discussion today began as a way to get people talking and seeing our (hypothetical) work from last week. How could we use news releases — frequently, with content all our buyers wanted, on our website, and distributed through a newswire service — to tell people what we were doing if our work didn’t naturally go viral?
Our first step was to focus our website for our buyers vs. by categories (athletics, student life, outreach, admissions etc.) Our buyers are probably interested in all those things, but maybe not every part of each category. What if, instead, we had a prominent section labeled “Potential Students?” But, oops that’s probably not the best wording, it’s what a marketing instructor would call current high schools students. We’d be better off asking them what they look for on a website. Or at the very least, we could scout around (secondary research) other college websites to see if they are buyer or category focused.
A site I really like is Duke University’s. It’s photography vs. text heavy. The main picture changes every 2 to 3 seconds. In the large blue box in the bottom right hand corner is the tagline “Watch the videos. Read the stories.” The topic featured in that blue box changes along with the main photo, from things like “Outrageous Ambitions” to “Research Changes Lives.” Click on one of those and you jump to a brief, professional slideshow narrated by a current student obviously passionate about their subject. It’s brilliant–the students tell and show you why they are there.
Another great example of reaching out to “potential students” is Macalester College’s “Life at Mac” section of their website. Like Duke’s, it relies heavily on video and student voices. It’s very current as well, with photos of snowball fights from 3 days ago.
This week, my students will blog about marketing St. Kate’s. I can’t wait to see and hear what they have to say.