6 Do’s and Do Not’s of Digital Public Relations

In the competitive field of digital public relations, it is a constant struggle to create pitches that stand out to your desired audience. Reporters and editors of high level publications are drowning in a sea of pitches and emails each day and don’t want to receive the same boring pitches every day. In order to succeed as a public relations specialist, it is imperative that your campaign stands out among the rest. There are several ways to ensure that you make your mark. Here are 3 do’s and 3 do not’s of higher education Public Relations.

Do: Have a unique voice while understanding what the publication wants 

To make an impression in the world of public relations, you have to offer something unique to your audience. If you are pitching clients to high level publications, odds are the editors and reporters have a lot of pitches coming through each day. If there are submission guidelines, look at them. These will help you determine what exactly the publication is looking for in a pitch. Once you get an understanding of how publications take pitches or articles, be sure to make yourself and your client stand out by offering a unique voice or stance on a topic. Emphasize the new angle or insight that your client has to offer in your pitch. Give the publication a new way to think about something that’s being talked about, and offer your client as an asset to this new angle.

Do: Leverage news and current events in your pitches

When crafting a pitch, use a topic that has buzz around it. Grab a story from the news, and see how your client can offer insight into the topic and provide a new angle that the publication is missing out on by not speaking to your client. This creates the opportunity for your client to be involved in a conversation of relevant, newsworthy story, while still offering their expertise. Using a relevant news peg also have a better chance of catching a publication’s attention if you have an interesting subject line that mentions a time sensitive topic.

Do: Follow up

This point cannot be stressed enough. If you miss a follow up, you’re missing a second chance to be seen by a publication that may have missed your first email, but would have otherwise been interested in your client. Most of our success in digital PR results from follow ups. Be sure to change your subject line to something along the lines of “Re: Just Following Up: [insert subject line]” to draw attention to the fact that that there has been prior correspondence. This little trick is a sure fire way to get more eyes on your follow up and original pitch.

Do Not: Put yourself in a box

It is easy to get stuck in the obvious within public relations. As a professional, it is your job to think outside of the box and find a new angles that can make your client stand out. Being able to look at news pegs through a fresh lens can help find new angles for all topics and clients you’re pitching. If you work in a PR team, don’t be afraid to ask for a brainstorming session to break you out of your box. Our digital PR team goes on walks and has regular PR brainstorming meetings to go over the news and find new angles to pitch our clients. These practices break us out of reading stories and taking them at face value. It also allows us to find different ways to pitch our clients’ expertise.

Do Not: Miss an email

Always be the last to respond in any situation. This seems pretty self explanatory, but if a pitch gets several “no thanks” responses, don’t just leave them in your inbox. I know it feels like a rejection and no one enjoys facing rejection, but your job is communicating. Respond, and thank them for their time, or even try to figure out why they said no. Who knows, you may even be creating relationships with these contacts just by responding to their “no’s”. People will have more respect for someone that takes the time to thank them, or tries to get a better understanding of what they want in the future, even after they turned down your pitch.

Do Not: Take a “maybe” as a final answer

Many responses to pitches are along the lines of “I don’t cover this exact topic”, or “I’ll keep this in mind for next time”. These aren’t explicitly “no’s”, and as a communicator, it is your job to figure out how you can use these “maybe’s” to your advantage. Here’s the perfect opportunity to be strategic in your communication skills. If they don’t cover the topic you pitched them, find out what they do cover. Find out what they are currently looking for, and see if you still have something to offer. This will help you tailor your pitches to that person in the future and create better relationships with your media contacts.

 

Using Online Calendars to Boost Recruitment

Higher education marketers often balance a number of responsibilities and objectives as they aim to continually attract more students to apply and attend their university. Despite the new technologies that can enhance their work, some marketers continue to spend precious time and resources on old school recruiting efforts, leaving them little time to experiment with new tactics. One of the easiest ways to boost your recruitment efforts is through online calendars. We don’t mean your traditional Outlook calendar that shows you a monthly view and makes you click on each day to see what events are taking place. We’re talking interactive event calendars, with a standalone page dedicated to each event, that incorporate lively event content, social sharing capabilities and deep analytics with little effort.

Your online event calendar

Event calendars are a great way to share a representative sample of the activity happening on campus. For current students wanting to know what’s happening on campus, they can simply check the online events calendar for times, dates and details. A well created event calendar will also allow them to leave comments, upload images of an event and interact on social media with fellow students, lending to the collaborative community feel that’s essential to campus life.

Prospective students will find a wealth of information at their fingertips when accessing a school’s online event calendar – they’ll be able to get a sense of on-campus activities, such as academic lectures, social and athletic life, volunteer opportunities and everything in between. Prospective students can see the events that have taken place throughout the year and pinpoint particular events that may pique their interest during their time at university. This holistic view showcases what is unique about the campus.

Why are calendars so useful for higher ed marketers?

These calendars highlight the events on campus and allow for both current and prospective students to look online and find information on upcoming events.

An efficient online calendar is filled with rich content, which can play a major role in SEO efforts. For instance, a 30-day grid view — which lists simple event information such as name, date and place — is meant to remind you when and where the event is taking place, not to sell you on the actual event itself.  An interactive calendar allows a school to showcase their brand and their investment in students by offering both overall event snapshots and individual event landing pages. This allows for more event content that visitors can click on for more information, providing the opportunity for a larger number of keywords and page views. Better visibility creates more, engaged visitors,  and thus increases the time visitors spend on your school’s website. The amount of time a visitor spends on a site plays a factor in how search engines use their ranking algorithms – so the longer students are engaging with your events and event content, the better it will be for your SEO.

When there is a considerable amount of social engagement around your events, search engines infer that your website offers valuable information because it’s popular and engaging with users online. Utilizing online calendar software that can provide immediate metric reports, specifically on the social media activity around a particular event, and having access to the real-time knowledge of this data will allow you to optimize your event marketing efforts, ultimately benefiting your SEO.

The access to data is also a benefit to marketers, since online calendar technology allows them to collect back-end analytics on their master calendar, including attendee geography, trends and social media activity. From decision-making (looking at trends to understand which types of events, times and locations work best for your school) to audience insights, collecting data on how your audience views and acts on an event listing can help you make smarter event decisions. Many calendars will integrate with your current marketing tools – like CRM and registration platforms — allowing you to get a better snapshot of your overall marketing ROI.

What about an online event calendar makes an impact on your school?

Event content – it’s the information that accompanies an event listing. This includes everything from the date and time to the event image, metadata and RSVPs. In the case of colleges and universities marketing themselves to prospective students, event content can showcase things like faculty, campus scenery and landmarks, famous alumni and student research.

Online event calendars promote university events to a wider student audience, attract additional traffic to the site and ultimately expand the reach of your recruitment marketing to anyone with online access – and that’s a win for both students and higher education marketers.

Myke-for-HEMJ

 

 

Mykel Nahorniak is the co-founder and CEO of Localist, an event technology company. In this role, Myke defines the vision and growth of the business and Localist products. Myke serves as a mentor at 1776, a DC-based incubator, is an angel investor with K Street Capital, and is an executive coach.

4 Ways Virtual Reality Could Change Higher Education Marketing

Every major development in technology has provided universities with new ways to tell their story, as well as attract and interact with potential students. Take the internet, for example, which provided colleges with the opportunity to broaden their reach and develop new education methods. Or consider Facebook, where higher education marketers are now able to advertise to potential students based on a variety of factors such as education, interests, jobs and behaviors.

Veteran higher education marketers have experienced just how much these technologies have alerted the industry over the past 20 years, yet recent changes may merely be the start of a monumental shift in the higher education paradigm. One of the driving forces of this shift could be virtual reality, which has the potential to modify numerous aspects of higher education, including how universities attract and educate students. To further highlight just how major of an impact that this developing technology could have, below I’ll examine 4 ways that virtual reality could alter higher education marketing.

A More Personal Brand Story

One of the essential components of effective marketing is a personal brand story. Within these stories, universities will need to answer questions such as: What makes the school unique? Why should I attend school here? What are the benefits of obtaining a degree? The more personal and unique that these brand stories are, the more the university will stand out from the competition.

Lately, universities have been leveraging online videos as a method for telling their brand story. Although these videos have been effective, the limitations of video as a medium can restrict universities from accurately portraying the whole spectrum of experiences that may come with studying at their school or being on campus. For example, consider a popular structure for brand stories where the video takes the viewer through a series of campus experiences, such as cheering at a sold-out athletic event or spending time in the library. Now, consider that story again, but instead of simply staring at a screen, you’re actually at the sporting event hearing the roar of the crowd and sensing the energy in the arena or exploring through the many floors of the prestigious library. With virtual reality, these type of sensual experiences are potentially possible, which would then provide colleges with the ability to leverage all of their resources to develop a brand story that is truly personal and unique to the university. Virtual reality could also personalize the student experience as well, for a brand story could end with a direct welcome from the University’s President in her or his office, along with a quick Q&A session.

Improved Student Testimonials

Program testimonials are a chance for higher education marketers to showcase the value of obtaining a degree from their university, with popular strategies including videos, essays or snippets of comments that highlight the student experience. These testimonials should offer potential students insight on what a program or school may be like, yet most tend to feel extremely generic and scripted, especially considering that these are testimonials for what could end up being a $30,000+ investment.

Virtual reality could assist higher education marketers in improving student testimonials to provide a more honest and accurate representation of the value of a degree. An example of this could be taking a potential student through an intimate story via virtual reality where the observer could directly experience and feel what a former student’s life was before, during and after obtaining a degree (ex. a story that highlights the growth of an individual from working a minimum wage job to becoming an award-winning scientist). These stories will obviously differ for each former student, but the goal here is to provide potential students with palpable content that is not only personal (ex. matches their interests and personality), but also exemplifies how a degree from the university can change and improve one’s life. The more that this change is able to be felt and experienced, the better the individual can infer the value of a degree from the given university.

Virtual Tour

Virtual tours can be a great way for students to develop better insight on the university, as well as the academic experience as a whole. Although similar to the brand story example noted above, virtual tours will be different in that the student will be the one dictating the experience, as opposed to a university attempting to tell a story. Once fully implemented, virtual tours should be able to allow students to explore the university campus, programs and curriculum alongside a personal virtual assistant.

Being a modern take on the concept within “choose-your-own-adventure” novels, each and every virtual tour will be personalized based upon any question or concern that a potential student may have. This is where the personal virtual assistant will be key, as they can converse with the potential student and quickly adjust the tour so that it fits the contour of the viewer’s psyche. This approach may also have the chance to alter the communication process between university marketing departments and potential students, as the virtual assistant, due to it being personal in nature, should be able to increase the volume and quality of information provided by the student (as opposed to bothering students via phone calls or emails). Virtual tours could also make the experience of the potential student more personal due to questions or concerns being answered not via words, but actual experience.

Virtual Classrooms

With virtual reality, the line between an on-campus and online student could become remarkably fuzzy if virtual classrooms are implemented. Within these virtual classrooms, the environment should be so similar that the experience between being in the classroom on campus vs. being in the classroom virtually will be unidentifiable until the off-campus student takes off their virtual reality headset. This means that an online student will be able to fully experience an on-campus class from hundreds, even thousands of miles away. This can greatly improve the online education experience where online students may feel isolated from their peers, instructors or even universities. With virtual classrooms, potential students would also be able to sit in on a class to get a sense of what their higher education experience may be like.

From a marketing perspective, virtual classrooms would provide higher education marketers with the opportunity to market their university’s prestigious campus and award-winning faculty to online students. Additionally, with virtual classrooms, universities would be better equipped to assist with the educational needs of their community, or even showcase sold out lectures and on-campus events to a broader audience with little effort on part of the university.

Although currently in development, virtual reality has a chance to make monumental changes to higher education marketing, as well as the education paradigm as a whole. And as the advancement of technology continues to accelerate, look for the implementation of virtual reality within higher education to come quicker than one may assume.

Tyler Putz of Circa Interactive Tyler is a retired division two college basketball player and a recent graduate from the University of Iowa. His creativity, as well as passion for entrepreneurship and the expansion of technology and communication, helps Circa to continue to stay on the cusp of new technologies and trends influencing future generations of students.

Increasing Web Traffic: Content Strategies to Achieve Marketing Goals

For the past decade, digital marketing agencies and experts around the world have emphasized the phrase “Content is King,” but even to this day, a majority of marketers still do not understand how to increase website traffic to the content they’ve generated. For this reason, I have decided to tackle the intricate subject of content development and discuss how this can help to drive traffic to your site.

Every website on the Internet creates content that serves a specific purpose related to the site’s marketing objectives. An online content strategy should provide transparency about daily operations, share relevant industry news and allow the company to share their unique story. As we all know, a strategy that incorporates content marketing and link-building can bolster content SERP rankings which in return will increase the amount of organic traffic. My analysis shows that there are four primary types of content marketing objectives a website can optimize for, but the best equation for any website is to use a multifaceted content approach by utilizing each of the following content marketing objectives.

 

Lead Generation:

To reach this objective, content is created based specifically on user-intent searches or an audience that is actively searching the web for information on any given subject. Since the content is built to be extremely relevant to the user’s search, the end goal for this type of content is to collect a lead which usually consists of a visitor’s name and email address.

  • Example search: What is the best car insurance for teenagers?
  • Example content for search: The Best Car Insurance for New Drivers

 

Advertising:

When building a site using a business model based on advertising, content is created for a niche audience with an entertainment purpose. Most of these advertising-based sites implement Google Adsense or native advertising, which pays the web owner through three different methods: cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-impressions (CPM) and cost-per-engagement (CPE). In order to generate as much advertising revenue as possible, it is imperative that these sites drive high amounts of traffic through their shocking, entertainment articles to increase ad impressions and clicks.

  • Example search: What did Kanye West Talk to Michael Jordan About?
  • Example content for search: Jordan and West Speak on Upcoming Shoe Collaboration

 

Informational:

This type of content objective is used to drive traffic based on informational, educational and newsworthy articles that provide value to the reader. Some of these sites may generate minor income from advertising but that is not their sole purpose. An informative site’s core mission is to bring together a like-minded community of individuals with similar demographics. Once the strong niche community is established, the site can promote new jobs, national events and sponsored posts to this audience.

  • Example search: How do I find a civil engineering job?
  • Example content for search: 10 Civil Engineering Job Hunting Tips

 

Awareness:

To meet this objective, websites create content that provides a behind-the-scenes perspective on daily operations, showcases business transparency and creates a community for social good. Unfortunately, there are very few sites that are created for pure awareness and transparency purposes.

  • Example search: How much pollution do Nike factories create annually?
  • Example content for search: Nike Reduces Pollution by 25% Thanks to Volunteers

 

The Sites We Analyzed:

Through countless web searches and backlink analyses, I found the four best sites that provide unique insights on content marketing and highlight the different SEO and ranking metrics that prove each content strategy works.

Lead Generation: Bankrate

Advertising: Only in Your State

Informational: Education Week

Awareness: Coca-Cola Unbottled

 

Bankrate

bankrate

Bankrate has a major emphasis on lead generation within the automotive loans, mortgage loans and credit card industry. When taking a quick glance at their homepage, you’ll notice topics like “10 Best Tips for Buying a Car” or “Anxious about the mortgage process? Start Here.” As you can tell, each of these topics is built around a user’s intent, and in this case, they are topics that emphasize a purchase that would require a loan. Throughout Bankrate’s articles, their team will include call-to-actions (CTAs) which ask the visitor to conduct a loan or credit card rate search. These CTAs link back to their loan, mortgage or credit card rate calculators. When a visitor fills out the rate calculator form, their information is collected as a lead and then usually sold to a number of loan companies. With Bankrate, creating content that precisely matches the user’s intent, whether it is tips on buying a car or mortgage refinancing, provides the user value with their easy-to-use calculators, which then generates a lead for them.

Site Statistics:

ahrefs-bankrate

13.9 million backlinks

76,200 referring domains

6.7 million monthly organic traffic

1.4 million organic keywords ranking

Top Organic Keyword: “Mortgage calculator” generates 372,110 visits per month

Top Content by Traffic: Bankrate Auto Loan Calculator – 614,400 monthly traffic

Top Content by Backlinks: Bankrate Mortgage Calculator – 95,926 backlinks

 

Only In Your State

only in your state - sedalia, mo

This website was created for entertainment and advertising purposes. Only in Your State has a unique approach on how they create content, but it is apparent that their end-goals for the website was to become an advertising revenue platform. Right when you enter the page, you’ll see a number of banner ads displayed at the top of the page and off to the right-hand side. Only in Your State isn’t focused on advertising a particular product or service, their goal is instead to give the ad position to the highest bidder. But you may be interested in knowing how they drive nearly a million organic visitors a month. Here’s how: their blog is focused on geo-based or localized content within each state, so not only do they produce content related to specific residents within each state, but they utilize “near me” searches as content opportunities. For instance, Only in Your State has created numerous articles on “fireworks displays” you must see in each state.

fireworks

Anytime someone types in the phrase “fireworks near me,” Only in Your State generates a large amount of traffic because they have localized content with high SERPs for searches in every state. Additionally, many residents are passionate about their state and where they live, so they are more inclined to share content that reflects who they are. This is another reason why they are able to generate high amounts of organic traffic and backlinks. Overtime, the more backlinks they receive the higher their domain authority gets and this will increase the number of organic keywords they rank for. As you can see, when developing a site based on the advertising objective, traffic is your best friend. To learn from Only in Your State’s strategy on generating traffic, be sure to create content that is localized to an audience, relates to people’s personalities, provides a laugh and easy to read.

Site Statistics:

ahrefs-onlyinyourstate

131,000 backlinks

5,410 referring domains

875,000 monthly organic traffic

835,000 organic keywords ranking

Top Organic Keyword: “Fireworks near me” generates 2,250 visits per month

Top Content by Traffic: Texas Amazing Beaches – 7,822 monthly traffic

Top Content by Backlinks: The Ultimate Georgia Waterfalls Road Trip – 341 backlinks

 

Education Week

education week

Education Week was created as an informative central hub for all K-12 educational news. EdWeek emphasizes that they are the leading news community for American educators and administrators. Since they are targeting a specific niche, they are able to create personalized high-quality content pieces for the sole purpose of informing this demographic. As they continue to create trust and loyalty as a leading education news source, there will an uptick in the number of repeat visitors and the community will only get stronger. Once established, they are able to start to promoting career fairs, job boards and educational events which is one of their revenue streams. With EdWeek being viewed as a leader in education, they receive higher engagement rates and generate more backlinks from other education and news sites.

Site Statistics:

ahrefs-edweek

6.68 million backlinks

25,300 referring domains

127,000 organic keywords ranking

119,000 monthly organic traffic

Top Organic Keyword Phrase: “No child left behind” generates 14,204 visits per month

Top Content by Traffic: No Child Left Behind Overview – 35,634 monthly traffic

Top Content by Backlinks: Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’ – 892 backlinks

 

Coca-Cola Unbottled

Coke-Unbottled

This blog was created by Coca-Cola with the purpose of transparency in addition to creating a community for the millions of worldwide Coke fans. Coca-Cola wants to create awareness on their social responsibility and provide behind-the-scenes access to their products. Their top organic search term is “Coca-Cola Life” which is one of their newest products that uses cane sugar and stevia, so when users search this term, they will find the product information and ingredients. As you can see from the other types of top content by traffic and backlinks, Coca-Cola focuses on highlighting community initiatives such as “Share a Coke” and conservation partnerships that impact the world. When implementing awareness as your main content objective, use the Coca-Cola Unbottled Blog as an example and be sure create content that provides insights your brand’s values and overall mission.

Site Statistics:

ahrefs-unbottled

31,600 backlinks

2,630 referring domains

16,000 organic keywords ranking

24,000 monthly organic traffic

Top Organic Keyword Phrase: “Coca-Cola Life” generates 1,261 visits per month

Top Content by Traffic: Is Your Name on a Coke Bottle? – 6,874 monthly traffic

Top Content by Backlinks: Happy Anniversary: Coke, WWF Celebrate Progress for the Planet – 536 backlinks

 

Conclusion:

As you continue to plan your future content and fill your editorial calendar, remember to first decide what content marketing objective you want to achieve. From there, the subject matter of your content is all based on what industry or niche you reside in. As I mentioned, your website may have one main objective, such as advertising, but that doesn’t mean every post should be created for entertainment purposes. It is smart to diversify the type of content your site produces in order to attract new audiences, generate more traffic and reach the business’s overall goals. Now that you’ve finished reading this article (thanks again!), it shouldn’t take you very long to formulate your next post and start generating traffic.

 

andersonideaAustin Anderson is a forward-thinking, motivated growth marketing specialist. Before joining Circa, Austin built an e-commerce business and managed online marketing for startups in San Diego. Austin strives to be a future influencer in the world of digital marketing and e-commerce. Connect with Austin on LinkedIn and Twitter @andersonidea.

3 Things Higher Education Marketers Should Consider in 2017

Whether it’s the increasing use of mobile devices or Facebook’s unveiling of lead ads, there have been a number of changes to the digital marketing landscape over the past few years. Some of these changes have had substantial impact, and many digital marketers have been scrambling to adjust and align their initiatives in order to remain competitive within the industry. While quick adjustments are often essential, it’s also important for higher education digital marketers to take a step back and conduct a full assessment of the current marketing strategy. With the new year soon approaching, now is a great time for digital marketers to reassess their current initiatives and test out new strategies for 2017. Below, I’ll offer some questions to consider during the review process and highlight a few new strategies to consider for 2017.

Review & Fine Tune

When reassessing your current higher education marketing strategy, you’ll want to consider two key elements: goals and data. If you’re a larger university with a number of initiatives, be sure to keep it simple at first. Perhaps start with the question: Did we reach all of our lead goals that we set for 2016? If no, this is where you’ll want to examine data to uncover where lead goals were missed and why. Outside of lead goals, you’ll also want to consider goals relating to your online presence, such as site visits, followers on social platforms and user engagement. When considering these metrics, examine the data to see if you can identify any trends or patterns to give you an idea where your audience may heading in 2017. For example, a major Q4 increase in traffic to social platforms along with a decrease in site visits could signal that potential students are more interested in reviewing a school’s social identity than they are the traditional web page.

After the review process, be sure to prioritize your goals for 2017 (example: “We’re more concerned with user engagement on social platforms than we are on site visits”), then fine tune your strategy to fit. Questions to consider while fine tuning include:

  • Do we want to reallocate our budget in any areas?
  • Should we remove any marketing initiatives?
  • What social and blog posts were most successful this past year?
  • What sources are most of our leads coming from?
  • Are there new social platforms that we should test?
  • What initiatives are we going to implement to get X number of followers?

When in the assessment and fine-tuning process, you’ll also want to consider recent changes within the industry. Below, I’ll highlight a few of the major changes over the past few years that you’ll want to consider.

Increase in Mobile

Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, the use of mobile has steadily increased, largely due to the ease of apps and mobile platforms. Yet up till this past year, desktop was always considered the primary source for reaching potential students. According to a comScore report, that now has changed as users are trading desktop for the convenience of mobile. This change has occurred for a number of reasons, but one of the main driving factors is the refinement of apps. For example, when Facebook Mobile was first released, the platform was congested and difficult to use compared to the desktop website. Yet over the past few years, Facebook and other leading tech companies have placed a major emphasis on attracting the millennial audience who tend to rely heavily on mobile. With this switch in focus, companies upgraded their mobile apps and platforms to enhance the mobile experience with improved configuration and additional perks, such as being able to order a pizza without having to leave the Facebook platform. These improvements have resulted in a 394 percent increase in mobile usage, a number that is only projected to increase in the coming years.  

As a higher education marketer, it’s important to know how the aggregate are leaning in their use of digital media, but it’s equally essential not to confuse the aggregate for your own audience. Be sure to dig through your data to see if you can identify a similar shift to mobile amongst your audience. If so, be sure to evaluate paid search strategies, as well as the content on your blog and social platforms to see if there are any adjustments that can be made so content is more mobile friendly.

Facebook Lead Ads

Mark Zuckerberg has turned Facebook into one of the premier advertising platforms, so it’s no surprise that they are leading the transition to mobile advertising with their introduction of leads ads. Within Facebook’s older advertising platform, clicking on an ad would send users outside of Facebook, which proved to be inconvenient for Facebook and its users. Lead ads changed all of this, making it so users can express interest in a school without ever leaving the Facebook platform.

Here’s how lead ads work: when users click on an ad, a lead form opens up within the Facebook platform that’s already automatically filled out based on what kind of information they share with their Facebook audience. So, for most, clicking on a lead ad would open a lead form with their name, phone number and email, and all the user would have to do is click submit to complete the lead form process. So far, the convenience of lead ad forms have proven to be very successful, dropping the aggregate CPL of one of our programs by about $15, all the while boosting lead volume in the process.

If you’re looking to have a strong start to 2017, now is the time to begin auditing your current strategy and implementing new initiatives where they seem fit. Remember to ensure that your current plan aligns with your overall goals, and don’t forget to examine analytics data to get a better understanding of where your audience may be heading in the new year.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comment box below!

 

Tyler Putz of Circa Interactive Tyler is a retired division two college basketball player and a recent graduate from the University of Iowa. His creativity, as well as passion for entrepreneurship and the expansion of technology and communication, helps Circa to continue to stay on the cusp of new technologies and trends influencing future generations of students.

A Guide To Leveraging Reddit For Higher Education Marketers

It’s no secret that social media has become a staple for modern digital marketing, but many marketers often forget to add Reddit to the mix. For those still unaware of this platform, allow me to introduce you to the internet’s most influential users. Although some might wish to write the site off as “just another youth media fad,” it’s not. In fact, since June of 2005, just two years after the origin of MySpace and one year after Zuckerberg’s Facebook, Reddit has become known by its users as “the front page of the internet,” housing over 234 million unique visitors in 2015 alone and nearly 900,000 ever-increasing mini communities or “subreddits.” This isn’t your average social media platform. While Facebook is known for integrating its news with updates from your family and friends, Reddit is a world where originality, wit, and timeliness reign supreme. The tricky part here, however, is that if a Redditor can sense even the slightest hint of click-baiting or cheap sales tactics, they will make sure you know your mistake. In an effort to help higher ed marketers avoid such an awful fate while simultaneously and successfully marketing on a site that hates marketing, here is a quick guide to leveraging the tastemakers of the internet.  

Who exactly are “Redditors?”

Before we get started, as with any marketing effort, you must first understand who it is your marketing to. According to pew research center, the majority these mysterious users are U.S. adults with at least some college education. While 47 percent of the audience is, in fact, international, the remaining 54 percent of breaks down as follows:

  • 67 percent of U.S. adults are male
  • 33 percent of U.S. adults are female
  • 64 percent are 18-29 years old
  • 42 percent have a college degree (compared to 28 percent national average)
  • 40 percent some college (compared to 31 percent national average)

As a result, it doesn’t take much to see that this audience is the perfect demographic for marketers in the Higher Education industry, especially for graduate degrees.

How Reddit Works

Finding the right subreddits to follow

Once you create an account, if you haven’t yet already, the first thing you’ll be prompted to do is to find and follow subreddits. Think of subreddits as the sections of the newspaper. Of course there is always the front page with the most important content, but everything is organized into subcategories like money, entertainment, and world news. The only difference here is that Reddit, again, has nearly 900,000 of these subcategories ranging from “Shower Thoughts” and “Explain Like I’m Five” to “World News” and “Politics.” While it’s nearly impossible to sort through each and every subreddit to find your most important content, Reddit is arguably the best way for content marketers to keep track of all of the most important news without having to read through 50 different news publications.

Pro tip: One way to discover what subreddits are trending over time is to take a quick look at MetaReddit. This site will show you to know precisely which subreddits are trending now and which have had the most growth in the last week and have been trending for the month. Although this will only give you a snapshot view, it’s a much more digestible way to stay on track with trends.

Upvotes, Downvotes, and the Ever-Coveted Karma Points

Unlike Facebook’s reactions or Twitter’s retweets and favorites, Reddit is a system entirely rooted in active voting participation. As you can see below, every post and every comment displays two grayed out arrows to the left of the text.

 

screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-3-48-03-pm

While it’s obvious the top arrow is the upvote and the bottom is the downvote, they do not correspond with how the content is displayed. Rather the user is prompted to vote whether or not the content adds or takes away from a larger conversation. According to proper “reddiquette,” the official guidelines to participation and conduct dictates that a user’s vote should not be based off an emotional reaction but should rather be based on the importance or relevancy of the a piece of content. Clearly, voting is by no means a clear-cut science, but how you vote is important because upvotes and downvote can give or take away Karma points. Why does that matter? Because karma points determine how frequently, if at all, any given user is allowed to post within a subreddit–or how likely it is that your content or post will be view by others. So for content marketers, consider karma points your new gold.

Pro tip: Upvotes on comments are just as important as link upvotes. Not only does this encourage active participation within each post, it prompts Redditors to actually contribute to the discussion in a meaningful way. This is a perfect way for markers, professors, students, and staff to add to educated discussions and lively debates.

How To Market To Redditors Who Hate Marketers

Now that you have a good idea of who your audience is and user basics, the next step is using the right tools to successfully participate in the sometimes-too-honest community that is Reddit.

Be a Redditor first, and a marketer second

While this may seem daunting and/or time consuming, it’s important to remember that Reddit is a community first and foremost. Because Redditors will not hesitate to call a user out if they sense any foul play, it can often be difficult for marketers to find the right balance between community participation and blatant self-promotion. The first step to finding that balance is to remember reddiquette rule number one: always remember to be human. Would you try to clickbait your friends? Didn’t think so. Your one and only mission should be to become a genuine, well-rounded expert in your field.

For content marketers, this means you’ll need to limit your on-brand content to one every ten posts. This sounds tedious, I know, but in the Redditing world you live and breathe by Karma points, and the easiest way to lose them is to spam, click-bait, or self-promote. Limit yourself to legitimize yourself. No one likes a used-car salesman.

For professors or university staff, this should be quite simple to maintain. Ideally, a user profile should represent the ideas of an individual, so for professors with a wide range of research and expertise in their arsenal, Reddit is the perfect space to create and build discussions as I discuss in the last section.  

The trick to Reddit is understanding the Karma system

Especially if your account is brand new, your lack of karma points is like a college student applying to an entry-level job requiring three to five years experience, and in order to get more karma points, you need to share content. It can be a frustrating system, but it’s not impossible. What’s the secret? Reach out to your subreddit’s moderators. If you go to the front page of any given subreddit, you’ll notice that there are a set of rules for subscribers to follow and just below those rules you’ll find a box listing the moderators. These wonderful people are the creators and/or controllers of that particular subreddit. By messaging each or all of these superstar Redditors, you’ll have an opportunity to demonstrate the value of your content and build a mutually beneficial relationship while avoiding your karma problem. For digital marketing experts in the higher ed field, this is far and away the easiest way to publish your content on relevant subreddits without any time restrictions.

Where to find the best ROI on Reddit

As I’m sure you’re well aware of at this point, Reddit is not the quick fix solution to your social media marketing slump. Instead, Reddit is a space for experts to demonstrate their value and educate the public. It’s also a place for internet trolls and endless cat memes, but for our purposes all of that is irrelevant.

To demonstrate thought leadership and expertise in any field with the Reddit community, content marketers, PR professionals, university professors, and university staff members alike can take advantage of subreddits like Ask Me Anything. Just as it sounds, you simply tell the Reddit community who you are and let the conversation flow from there. Additionally, higher ed marketers can hop over to Ask Reddit to ask users direct questions as a free way to gain insight to their core audience. However, the most important way to get the most return from Reddit is to become a part of the community. Without this, you will miss out on the endless possibilities Reddit has to offer.

For more information on leveraging social media, learn how to use Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter to reach more prospective students.

Tami Cruz of Circa Interactive Tami is one of our in-house social media gurus with a passion for content marketing and public relations. After earning her degree in communication and marketing from the University of California, San Diego, her dedication and multi-faceted skillset for creative marketing strategies has led her to become a crucial team member driven to expanding Circa Interactive’s digital marketing value.

The Anatomy of a PR Pitch – How to Structure & Standardize Pitching Across Your Team

As any PR or communications professional knows, pitching is the single most important skill to possess. While there are various approaches and styles to this, it’s important to find a structure and style for pitching that has had proven success within your industry and then standardize that formula across your team. So how can you streamline the process of pitching to make team members as successful and efficient as possible? First, it’s important to identify the key components that make up every well-rounded PR pitch. While each pitch can, and often will, look a little different, we have found that there are four primary components that should be included in every pitch. Here are the four core components and their definitions:

Lead

The lead is the angle into your story. Keep this as short and concise as possible. A lead should be comprised of one of the following:

    • A news peg is a trending story or topic in the news that relates to what you’re pitching. For example, leveraging the presidential debate or a new medical study that was just released. This allows you to hook the reader with a relevant and widespread story.
    • A time peg represents an upcoming date or event. For example, anniversaries of days like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, days or weeks dedicated to specific causes like “Health IT Week” or “Mental Health Awareness Day,” or even months like “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” These types of dates and events can be easily leveraged for PR purposes as media outlets will often shape content around significant or relevant time pegs. In order to keep track and take advantage of these dates, it’s helpful to create and consistently update an internal editorial calendar with your team.
Call to action (CTA)

This is the action that you want your audience to take. For instance, in our case this would often include speaking with a professor or publishing an infographic or blog on behalf of our clients.

Value proposition

This is where you allow yourself to stand out and differentiate yourself from the competition. Demonstrate the significance of what you’re pitching and why it’s important. What value would it provide to their publication and readership? How does it relate to the larger story? These are some of the questions you should address.

Conclusion

Quickly thank them for their time and reiterate what your goal or call to action (CTA) is. Keep this brief and to the point.

There are questions that you should always be asking yourself when writing a pitch. Here are a few of the important ones to keep in mind:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What is the larger story?
  • Why should they care about what you’re pitching?
  • What value does this provide them?
  • What story are you creating in your pitch?

To see how this formula looks in practice, I’ve included a pitch below which is color coded based on the four components I described above.

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Caroline-Black-and-White-tan-3-4Caroline brings a wealth of knowledge in communications, marketing, and account management to the Circa Interactive team, and she has worked with partners such as HP, Cisco, and Adobe. Graduating with honors in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Oregon in 2011, Caroline now plays a key role in Circa Interactive’s digital PR strategy by building long term relationships with internationally recognized media outlets on behalf of our clients.

8 Ways to Get the Most out of Your Press Release

As I discussed in my previous article, press releases can be an extremely effective tool when you are looking to promote an event or news within higher education. The potential impact of a press release goes far beyond this though, and should be an essential part of your overall public relations strategy. As defined by Entrepreneur, a press release is “a public relations announcement issued to the news media and other targeted publications for the purpose of letting the public know of company developments.” These short, compelling documents give your university’s latest developments a platform to be seen and discussed within the larger media circuit. However, if you do not include key elements in your press release, it is unlikely to be picked up by your target audience and your reach will diminish. Here I will discuss some key tips for you to consider when writing and distributing your next press release.

1. Make sure your story is newsworthy

Is your press release going to excite those within the industry? Does your news provide value and relate to larger industry trends? These are questions that you should be thinking about before you distribute it to the media. Innovative, exciting developments and research within your university make ideal topics for press releases. One of our clients recently announced they are developing a virtual reality application with the aim of improving mental health care, an incredibly innovative idea that appeals to a several popular media topics. We immediately saw this as an ideal opportunity to help raise awareness about the institution and the cutting-edge work that they’re doing through a press release.

2. Grab attention with the headline

The headline of a press release, as with that of an article headline or subject line within a pitch, is pivotal if you are to successfully pull in journalists and editors. Of course, it is important for your headline to be accurate and give the reader a strong idea of what is to come, but you also want to ensure that it is engaging and makes them want to read on. There are three best practices to follow when writing your headline: 1) Be unique – you need to differentiate yourself from the competition. 2) Be specific – give the reader detailed information to ensure they understand what you are presenting them. 3) Be beneficial – the headline itself must provide a benefit to the reader and show that the information is useful.

3. Include quotes

To increase your validity and credibility, it’s critical to include quotes from at least one high level source who is directly involved in the story. These quotes should provide greater insight and perspective and can also lead to further media opportunities for the expert and institution.

4. Remain relatable

It is important that you do not confuse the reporter or reader with your press release. Therefore, the language used should not be overly complicated, as much of your audience will lack the specialist knowledge required to understand the finest details. If there are terminologies that are complex, then explain these as if you were speaking to somebody who does not work within your discipline. Make the content simple, straightforward, and easily consumable for a general audience. 

5. Stay Concise

A press release should not exceed more than a single page and should only include the most pertinent facts. If the press release leaves them wanting more information, then they can reach out using the contact information provided in the press release.

6. Include a pitch

When distributing your press release, be sure to write a media pitch as you would if you were looking to create a traditional PR opportunity. The pitch is where you can really sell the story and the relevance of it to the publication’s audience and interests. Make sure to paste the press release below your signature as a journalist may not have the time or want to open an attachment.

7. Customize to each target audience (when applicable)

In order to maximize your chance of press coverage, you should tailor the press release to fit each audience when there is more than one. For example, we recently distributed a press release on the topic of virtual reality and mental health for one of our clients. Clearly, there is a both a technology and health angle here. You should be targeting both audiences and should alter the pitch and press release to ensure it relates directly to the industry you are pitching.  

8. Capitalize on link building opportunities

A press release provides you with an excellent opportunity to gain greater brand awareness as well as positively influence SEO. By including a link within your press release that takes the reader to the corresponding homepage or landing page, you will increase the chances of media outlets linking back to your target site which will in turn help to boost rankings. 

 

George has recentGeorgely joined the Circa team in California following the completion of his master’s in marketing management and strategy degree, where he graduated with distinction from Plymouth University in England. George is a PR and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about creating high level opportunities for professors within national publications. 

How to Reach Prospective Students Through the New Instagram Stories Feature

Instagram has rapidly grown to nearly 500 million monthly users worldwide and is projected to continue its growth at a steady rate. With this many monthly users and roughly 55 percent of them being ages 18-29, Instagram is the platform that higher ed marketing experts should be targeting. The addition of Instagram’s new feature, Instagram stories, allows for more opportunity to engage with followers and prospective students. Much like the Snapchat story feature, users post content that will disappear after 24 hours. This 24 hour time frame provides the opportunity to post as much content for your program as you would like, without the worry of cluttering your Instagram profile. If you don’t know how to use the feature, there are easy step-by-step guides available. 

 

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The Difference Between Snapchat Stories and Instagram Stories

What sets these two seemingly identical features apart? Unlike Snapchat stories, Instagram stories can be watched regardless of whether or not an Instagram user is following an account. The explore page feature on Instagram uses an algorithm to show users content that they will be most likely to enjoy. It also suggests profiles that are similar to those that they are already interacting with. For example, based on my Instagram activity, it’s easy to see in the photo above that a lot of food accounts have made their way onto my explore page. This page also shows users which accounts the people who they are following are interacting with. Basically, if a user or their friends are engaging with higher education profiles, then it is more likely that your account will pop up on their explore feed. If your account is clicked on, the user can watch your Instagram story by clicking your profile photo. The explore page feature is beneficial to higher education marketers because it is easier to reach potential students. With Snapchat, there is no explore page, so discovering new profiles is more complicated and difficult if you do not know them personally.

Although people do not have to follow your Instagram account to view your stories, the goal is of course to make them want to.
If you’re looking to get more followers on Instagram, there are tricks that can help. The more followers you have, the more likely you are to show up on other users’ explore pages, and the more likely you are to get your story and brand seen. 

Capturing Potential Students’ Attention with Stories

Now, the real question: How can you make your program stand out by using this new Instagram feature? Of course, one must think about what the intended audience wants to see. As a higher education program, your audience is most likely a part of the Millennial Generation, which is a good thing considering millennials make up 55% of Instagram users. 

Authenticity is key when it comes to marketing to millennials.  A Cohn & Wolfe study found that 89% of people agreed that it is important that businesses act with integrity at all times. They don’t want advertisements, they want genuine content and a personalized brand. Millennials engage the most with brands that they feel are relatable and genuine.

Another way to appeal to this generation is by engaging with them on a personal level. According to Forbes, 62% of millennials prefer brands that have engaged with them on social media platforms, so Instagram stories are a great way to reach and engage with millennials. So how can you appear genuine and authentic while also making your audience feel as though you are engaging with them on a personal level? Simple: showcase your students.

Your content should tell a story, hence the name Instagram stories. It should show the authentic side of your brand while striving to be creative and engaging. Displaying student life, campus life, or promoting upcoming events that your audience may be interested in are all great starting places. That way, a prospective student can get a better understanding of your program and whether it’s a good fit for them.

With the start of school coming up, showcasing orientations or new student convocations is a great way to give prospective students a taste of student life and show them what events are available to them. The University of Arizona, The University of Texas at Dallas, and Coastal Carolina University have posted a series of Instagram stories covering their new student convocations and first day of classes that effectively present unique aspects of their student life and campus.

Insta Stories

 

In addition to displaying what your student life has to offer, you can use the story feature as a way to make your academics stand out. Emphasize academics such as student research or academic achievement events on campus. Use the story feature to show what specific student clubs are up to and highlight upcoming campus events that students are attending. Stories allow you to display the daily activities that make your program or university unique, without the worry of posting perfect, edited content that will be on your Instagram for a long period of time.  

Instagram stories also allow you to draw on your story or add captions to your story which makes the story seem more fun, while also adding a personal and creative touch. Emojis can be added to captions to add some flare to the image?.  Remember, you are capturing the attention of a generation with notoriously short attention spans. In order to reel them in, you must present your brand with a unique and engaging twist. The Instagram story feature might be just what you need to stand out in the large pool of higher education programs.

Shannon black and white 2 Shannon is a senior at the University of San Diego studying communications and visual arts. Working as an intern with Circa Interactive, she has gained experience in higher education content marketing, digital public relations and creating content for various clients’ social media. Shannon’s creativity and passion for public relations and content marketing has contributed to Circa Interactive’s digital marketing value. 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Student Blogging

Student blogging is an excellent way to get your students involved with working behind the scenes as well as getting real life work experience in the digital marketing, journalism, and communications industry. Running a blog successfully is no easy feat, and student blogging can come with its own unique obstacles and challenges that other blogs of influencers and businesses might not experience. When you are running a student blog, you are not only responsible for creating and publishing content to boost readership; you are employing young adults who are looking to learn and have little experience working with blogs. The purpose of this article is to educate colleges, as well as the marketing directors of those colleges, on the best practices of running a student blog. Below is a helpful list of do’s and don’ts to give you some insight on different tactics or even things you may need to change in your current strategy.

The Do’s

  • Do have a discussion with your marketing team before you get started on any writing. It is entirely possible that your marketing team can even write up a few guidelines to follow.
  • Do find ways to create synergy between the students’ blogging and marketing efforts. One example of this could be to share the marketing content calendar with your students. Make sure that everyone on the blogging team is aware of important deadlines so they can work together successfully to keep processes running smoothly. Another suggestion would be to have weekly meetings where everyone on the blogging team – students and faculty – comes together to discuss the tasks that everyone is working on. Even if it is just a quick half hour meet up, it is good for everyone to be on the same page about what’s going on, so no one is left in the dark.
  • Do give your students an opportunity to provide their insights. This is something important to remember because these students may be able to help you reach future students of the school, as they were just one themselves. Also, providing them this opportunity will give them a sense of pride and authority, which will ultimately motivate them to be more productive and take pride in their work.
  • Do brainstorm different article ideas over a wide variety of topics: opinion pieces, school updates, extracurricular club activities, community news, student or faculty accomplishments, etc. You want to ensure you are not posting too much information on the same topic categories to attract the interest of different audiences within as well as outside of the school. Listen to the ideas of your students. Maybe they can come up with topics that are more out of the box while still being relevant to the school.

The Don’ts

  • Don’t allow bite-sized content similar to what you might see on Twitter or Instagram. That tactic may work for those networks, but keep in mind that a blog is something entirely different and should be treated as such. The blog content on the website should be more substantial with in-depth text and large, clear visuals. If you find that a student is struggling with this and feeling more comfortable with the social media type content, then you might want to consider giving them the opportunity to use their skills on other channels like Tumblr, Snapchat or medium.com to push your existing content.
  • Don’t allow content to be published without an editorial review, including the compliance department. This is a huge no-no. Each and every piece that gets published on the blog should have been edited thoroughly at least twice. This would provide an excellent opportunity to let a student do a preliminary edit before handing it off to the editor for a final check and review. If something gets published and has errors or incorrect information, this will reflect poorly on the school’s reputation.
  • Don’t hide the content too deeply inside the site’s URL structure. Unfortunately, many college websites become so large that sometimes it is easy for content to get buried. If you want blog content to perform successfully, it should be no more than two clicks deep, ideally one click if possible. The deeper your content is, the less important search engines will think it is, and it will become tough for your readers to find it. If you have weekly or monthly newsletters that you send out to an email subscription list, include recent blog posts to keep your readers up to date on new content.
  • Don’t use any images, graphics or videos that you do not have permission to use. It is important to learn and understand copyright laws so that you do not find yourself in any legal trouble. When in doubt, only use content that has a creative commons license with no restrictions or use your original content. Look to your students within the photography and digital design departments of your school to source out this kind of work.

Most importantly, it is key to find the healthy balance of giving your students responsibility as well as maintaining your level of authority over the blog’s entire operation. Always be willing to let them try certain tasks while monitoring their progress and checking over their performance. To be successful in maintaining your blog, you must be able to provide quick and honest feedback in a constructive fashion.

Make suggestions to your students so they can reach their full potential and always be willing to make necessary changes to the blog content when it is needed. Ultimately, the success of the blog will depend on the marketing director and editor in charge.

f91c64abc4dbaa8e6bf536759b968b9b-bpfullThis article is by guest author Chris Hornak, who has been developing digital marketing campaigns for over a decade. He is the CEO and Owner of Blog Hands a service that helps businesses and agencies develop content to tell their story. In his spare time, he loves to play video games and spend time with his friends and family.