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.

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-10-53-38-am

 

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. 

 

insta story

 

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.

How to Write a Media Pitch (with Examples)

Pitching compelling story lines and sources are the crux of any PR strategy. In the higher education digital marketing space, we leverage the expertise of professors from the programs that we partner with to help increase the school’s visibility, student enrollment, thought leadership, and brand awareness. For us, this is primarily an SEO and link-building tactic to help boost program search engine rankings and visibility. Professors make excellent sources for stories through their unmatched level of expertise and experience in their respective fields, but without the correct messaging and communication strategy, this may never come across effectively to the media when pitching them. Regardless of the industry that you’re in or represent, knowing how to effectively craft a pitch for the media is the most critical step to success in PR and content marketing. Here are some tangible tips and examples that will help you become a PR pitching pro in no time and write a persuasive media pitch.

Create an Effective Subject Line 

Subject lines are the first and sometimes only thing that a media contact will see–often times determining whether they will even bother to open your email or not. Ensuring that your subject line is clear, concise, and enticing are some of the most important elements. While many would assume that shorter subject lines work best, especially considering the character restrictions of mobile devices, a report from Marketing Sherpa actually found that subject lines with 61 to 70 characters had the highest open rate. This proves that you shouldn’t spend too much time trying to cut down your subject line, as it can actually be beneficial to have a longer one. While creating a subject line that entices the media to want to open your email should always be the goal, make sure that you don’t use “click-bait” phrasing as a tactic to draw the recipient in as this may leave a bad taste in their mouth and hurt the chances of them opening your future pitches. The last thing you want to do is mislead them or appear spammy.

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Use Timely News Pegs or Research

Don’t do yourself the disservice of not using relevant news pegs or research as your hook for your pitch. It’s no secret that the media lives off of news pegs, trending topics, and new research to tell their stories. To increase the chances of someone showing interest in your pitch, it’s important to make their job as easy as possible; it’s a good idea to help to spell out the story for them so that your source or story fits in seamlessly with trending news topics and their target audience’s interests. Reporters and editors receive hundreds of pitches every day, so providing them with a story that their readers will be interested in and offering sources to help supplement that story will make them more compelled to move forward with the conversation. Along these same lines, always try to include hyperlinks to any research or statistics that you reference in your pitch. You don’t want them to shy away from expressing interest or continuing the conversation simply because they don’t have time to do the legwork to track down the sources themselves. When pitching a source for a story, I recommend abiding by this same rule of thumb and hyperlink to their bio page to provide more context and information on their specialities and background in case they’re interested.

Know the Reporter’s Beat

You can have the best pitch in the world, but if it doesn’t align with the reporter’s beat (the types of stories they cover), then it will provide no use or value to them. In fact, it will only blatantly show that you are sending out mass email distributions and aren’t doing the appropriate research and legwork before pitching them. While it’s not always realistic or feasible, personalize pitches whenever possible and mention any related articles that they recently wrote.

Keep it Concise & Know your Story

As I mentioned earlier, media contacts receive hundreds of pitches a day. If you’re lucky enough to get yours opened, the worst thing that someone with very little time can be confronted with is an unnecessarily long pitch. Find out how to say everything that you need to say in a paragraph or less (with rare exceptions). The more specific and focused you can be, the better. It’s also crucial to understand and communicate the story you’re trying to tell and how it aligns with the larger media trends yet provides a unique angle to the storyline. Here’s how our typical pitch is structured:

News peg (lead)

Introduce and tie in source you are pitching (faculty member in our case)

What unique value or insight can they provide to this story (angle of the story)

Thank them for their time and consideration

 

Following up is Key

Following up on initial email pitches is one of the most important pieces to the puzzle. This is where most of your interest and responses will come from, so ensuring that you schedule reminders to do so is vital. It’s good to wait around one week until you send follow-ups out; this will ensure that the media contact has sufficient time to get through their emails and respond if they are planning to. If the story is incredibly time-sensitive, it’s ok to follow-up a bit sooner. Similarly, if it is not a time-sensitive story at all, then waiting a little longer than a week is also fine. Include your original pitch at the bottom of your follow-up email to help jog the recipient’s memory and provide more context for them. To see more about how to follow up on a pitch, see my example below.

Pitch Examples:

Initial (cold) pitch:

Hi [NAME]

A recent report pointed to the frightening reality that hackers using ransomware on medical devices could pose the biggest–and most dangerous–cyber security threat in 2016, with insulin pumps and pacemakers being some of the devices most vulnerable to these risks. For this reason, I wanted to see if you were interested in speaking with [NAME], a leading encryption and cybersecurity expert, DARPA contractor, and a professor in NJIT’s Computer Science program. He has been conducting research on security and homomorphic encryption of embedded medical devices and can discuss the severity of this looming threat and the ways that we can leverage new protection techniques against this potentially fatal new cybercrime tactic.

Please let me know if you’re interested. Thanks for your time.

Caroline Khalili
Circa Interactive
circaedu.com

Follow-up pitch:

Subject: Re: Just Following Up: Medical Device Ransom is Biggest Cyber Threat of 2016

Hi [NAME],

I just wanted to follow up and see if you were interested in speaking with [NAME] about the dangerous and inevitable threat of medical ransomware.

Thanks for your time. Any feedback is appreciated.

Caroline Khalili
Circa Interactive
circaedu.com

On Mon, Dec 21, 2015 at 6:38 PM, Caroline Khalili caroline@circaedu.com> wrote:

Hi [NAME],

A recent report pointed to the frightening reality that hackers using ransomware on medical devices could pose the biggest–and most dangerous–cyber security threat in 2016, with insulin pumps and pacemakers being some of the devices most vulnerable to these risks. For this reason, I wanted to see if you were interested in speaking with [NAME], a leading encryption and cybersecurity expert, DARPA contractor, and a professor in NJIT’s Computer Science program. He has been conducting research on security and homomorphic encryption of embedded medical devices and can discuss the severity of this looming threat and the ways that we can leverage new protection techniques against this potentially fatal new cybercrime tactic.

Please let me know if you’re interested. Thanks for your time and consideration.

Caroline Khalili
Circa Interactive
circaedu.com

Pitch for established contact/relationship:

I hope all is well. Thanks again for featuring [NAME] in your article on ICD-10. I wanted to reach out about a new story and source that I thought you might be interested in:

According to a new study, approximately one-third of radiology recommendations that need additional clinical action are not followed through on, and almost half of those orders are not even acknowledged. This is a deeply concerning finding that can have significant adverse effects on patient safety and outcome. This points to need for better communication with physicians and patients and more advanced IT systems and procedures in place to help ensure that important diagnoses or recommendations don’t get missed. For this reason, I wanted to see if you were interested in speaking with [NAME], a professor of Radiologic Technology at the University of Cincinnati and a member of the Board of Directors for The Association of Educators in Imaging and Radiologic Sciences. [NAME] can discuss the common missteps that lead to these errors and the ways that healthcare professionals can reduce the chances of this occurring.

Please let me know if you’re interested in speaking with [NAME]. Thanks for your time.

Caroline Khalili
Circa Interactive
circaedu.com

To learn more about our digital PR services, read here: Digital PR.

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.

5 Tips for Reaching Prospective Students On Twitter

With over 350,000 tweets sent per minute and 500 million tweets sent per day, Twitter is considered by many to be one of the best social networking platforms for delivering quick, instant content. Yet due to the increasing levels of content creation, many higher education marketers have found it difficult to navigate through the “clutter” of tweets in order to find who or what they are searching for. Below, we will look at five different methods that higher education marketers can use for finding and reaching prospective students on Twitter.

Using Search Queries

Although there are a variety of advanced methods for finding prospective students on Twitter, higher education marketers should always start simple before branching out. Twitter offers a solid built-in search platform that works great, yet most people don’t take the time to figure out how to properly use it.

For example, most twitter users have probably seen the search panel at the top of every twitter feed and know that this is a great search option when looking for popular hashtags, keywords or users. But did you know that you can narrow your search even further in order to find people that are talking about your program, school, or even one of your competitors? To do so, you will want to master these search query shortcuts:

  • Username queries – to: and from:
    • To:@circaedu “higher education”
    • From:@circaedu “higher education marketing journal”
  • Geolocation – searching with the parameters near: & within:
    • “digital marketing” near:San Diego within:5 miles
  • Exclusion Filter – place the minus symbol (-) before the keyword/user you want to excuse
    • “digital marketing” @circaedu

Also, if you are interested in automation, I recommend checking out automated Twitter listening services like Twilert, which you can program to send alerts anytime that specific keywords are mentioned.

Make Sure You Actively Use Your Account

As more millennials continue to shun traditional media formats and turn to social media for news and information, colleges and universities are finding it essential that they regularly check their Twitter accounts to answer questions or respond to comments or feedback. The importance of monitoring your Twitter account may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to check their Twitter account on a consistent basis, especially if they have an automated or pre-set tweeting schedule in place.

As a general rule of thumb, you will want to check your account a few times per day. Although there are many studies that highlight when Twitter is most active, I wouldn’t get too caught up on always checking your news feed at the same times each day. That said, some people enjoy making a routine out of checking Twitter – ex. Right before leaving for lunch – so feel free to do what works best for you.

Have a Call to Action (CTA) In Your Bio

Placing a call to action in your bio is an easy (and free) way to attract prospective students on Twitter. But in order to do so, you will want to make sure that you follow this guideline of do’s and don’ts so that your CTA is simple and effective.

  • Do make your CTA a clickable link
  • Don’t put the link in the section for your website URL (put it right in your bio)
  • Do make sure that your CTA is easy to understand
  • Don’t forget to be interesting and engaging
    • Make viewers eager to learn more

By implementing these simple adjustments, you can be sure to increase the efficiency of your CTA and Twitter profile. Also, keep in mind that you can use your Twitter account to log in to other social sites, so with a CTA in your bio, you’ll have the added bonus of attracting prospective students as you navigate other sites as well.

Post Engaging, Sharable Content

Nothing attracts attention more than great content. So to really catch the eye of potential students, make sure the content that you’re posting is something that they – your target audience – would find value in. Also, make sure to continuously test a variety of mediums and adjust to what is working and what isn’t. For example, a recent study by Buffer found that tweets that contained images received approximately 150% more retweets than those that had only text.

Another fairly new medium to try is Twitter Polls, which provide Twitter users the opportunity to garner public opinion on whatever they’d like. So whether looking for quick feedback on a new logo or potential program courses, Twitter Polls provide higher education marketing teams with unique opportunities to generate buzz while getting quality feedback as well.

  • Example:
    • Which course would you rather take: “An Introduction to Augmented Reality” or “The Science Behind Virtual Reality”?

Twitter Advertising  

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A recent Hootsuite study found that advertising on Twitter resulted in leads at one-third the price of other paid channels. Mix that stat with the fact that the social platform has over 320 million monthly active users and it becomes clear to see that Twitter provides higher education marketers with an invaluable opportunity to advertise to prospective students at a relatively cheap price. With Twitter Ads, marketers can boost tweets, promote accounts and even create Twitter Cards that drive traffic directly to your site or landing page.  With a click through rate 8-24 times higher than Facebook ads, advertising on Twitter is something that every higher education marketing expert should take seriously.

As you might have noticed, these tips are not very difficult, but they can produce consistent results. So if you take the time to implement these best-practices and combine your Twitter efforts with tricks for other social media platforms – like Instagram and Facebook – you can be sure to see an increase in your social media presence and performance.

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.

5 Reasons Why Digital Public Relations Should be a Part of Your Marketing Budget

Within higher education, digital marketers are lucky, because we have access to professors who are thought leaders on the cutting edge of their respective field. Clearly, professors are incredible resources for their students inside of the classroom, and outside of the classroom, professors function as brand ambassadors for their programs and the larger institution. Of course, marketing teams are aware of a professor’s value in order to attract students, and they build videos and web assets around them to create trust and illustrate value. But when it comes to student generation, are marketers effectively leveraging professors to accomplish larger organizational goals, such as increasing organic rankings, acquiring traffic to their website, and creating new touchpoint? What is clear about higher education digital marketing is that even in 2016, when changes in the SEO and social media industry have forced marketers to rely on the highest quality content, professors are not being leveraged effectively. Here is what they’re missing:

Marketing teams can utilize their professors to acquire more students by leveraging traditional public relations practices for a digital world. This is commonly referred to as digital public relations.

Digital public relations uses the larger media in order build brand awareness, increase the thought leadership for professors and university stakeholders, improve organic rankings, and, ultimately, generate more students. In order to illustrate the importance of digital public relations for higher education digital marketers, I created a list below that focuses on why all higher ed digital marketers should strongly consider incorporating digital public relations into their marketing strategy and budget.

 

1. Digital Public Relations Influences Search Rankings

Digital public relations is the best way to build the highest quality backlinks, which serve as indicators—or votes—that convince Google your site is relevant, trustworthy, and valuable. These indicators will in turn help to place your university program higher up in the search engine results page (SERP). When you land a backlink from a domain authority of a website that is strong, then that helps to strengthen your own website. (The higher domain authority of a website, the more value for Google.) The larger media landscape is one of the best avenues to land high quality backlinks, because they have incredibly strong websites, and they are constantly looking for content.

By leveraging faculty members, a skilled communications team can build stories around professors and pitch them to the mainstream media as sources. It’s very difficult to acquire a profile in the Wall Street Journal or CNN, but a digital public relations team can pitch professors to take part in a larger conversation. For instance, as the news broke on the controversy between the FBI and Apple over an encrypted phone, a digital public relations team can pitch their professors in criminal justice and computer science to provide expert commentary on the story. Reporters will include quotes from the professor, and the public relations team will ask for a link within the article. To see more about our successes, you can read the following article: Tracking digital public relations with SEO goals.

Byline articles are another way to leverage faculty members to create high quality backlinks. (It’s best to have a team who understands how to pitch articles to publications, and it takes someone with a background in journalism or public relations to land these types of opportunities.) In order to build backlinks at high quality publications, the team will pitch article ideas generated in collaboration with the professor to editors. By collaborating with the professor, the team will send an approved article to the editor, and in the bio information on the site, the professor can add the link. The best communication teams provide ghostwriting services.

Expert commentary and byline articles are essential strategies that digital public relations teams implement to reach the highest quality publications, and by landing a link on these sites, it will help build your site’s domain authority as well as send indicators to Google that your site should be higher in the search results. Students will then find your program organically for your targeted keywords, which creates leads without spending any money.

 

2. Increase Brand Awareness

Online education is more competitive than ever, and one way that your program can position themselves in front of your targeted audience is by creating media opportunities at publications with large reaches. By leveraging publications that are trusted, you’ll establish your program as being on the cutting edge of their industries. This will send signals to potential students that not only are the program’s professors actively engaged in the research they’re teaching, but show prospective students that they will be a part of the most relevant conversations and receive an education that will propel their careers. This type of publicity can serve as an opportunity for a prospective student to interact with your brand in a unique way.

While many online programs have marketing strategies that focus on creating interactions with potential students through landing pages, social media, and websites, those brand assets might not initially convert the student because of a lack of clout. Brand awareness and trust can be an issue. Digital public relations begins to create interactions with potential students by leveraging vetted organizations in order to build upon their brand. By interacting with prospective students in a natural way, the message will sink in easier, and the brand assets as well as the larger content marketing strategies will only be strengthened.

 

3. Create a Path for Students

As digital marketers, we’re always trying to imagine the research process of how prospective students come to make a decision about signing up for an online degree program. When a student searches for information about a degree program further along in their decision process, what will they find? Will they simply come across the program’s web assets—or will they find that their program is in the news and that their professors are not just engaging in an academic community, but that they are trying to tell their program’s story to a larger audience?

Digital public relations changes the way that a student researches a degree program by creating a new digital narrative. For instance, a prospective student will benefit by encountering a story about a professor who is quoted in a larger article at the Los Angeles Times, discussing the future of their profession. Perhaps they will remember a professor’s name in the Wired article on the future of 5G technologies. Perhaps students can also come across how a professor is a part of the evolution of digital education and dedicated to creating the optimal environment for students to grow. Or perhaps a prospective student will benefit from seeing a profile highlighting a professor’s advancement in their field based on a new grant. What digital public relations helps with is creating a path, an outline, for students to follow in their research, which illustrates the career options they will have when they graduate.

 

4. Build Relationships with Professors

One of the thoughts that many stakeholders consider when investing in digital public relations is whether or not a marketing team can handle the complex nature of the academic world. In order to have professors invest their time into a digital public relations strategy, they need to trust the team they are working with and know that they will represent their work in the highest regard. So a digital public relations team working in education must have the ability to understand and translate complex academic topics into something that would make sense for the mainstream media.

It’s essential that digital public relations professionals are experts in the art of turning complex academic jargon into something more informal and journalistic. Often, our team has found that professors have no idea how to change their style, so we help them learn to tell their stories in a way that can attract major media outlets. Our team accomplishes this by staying up-to-date on industry trends, interviewing professors the same way a journalist would engage with them, and doing our homework on a professor’s research and background so we can prove to professors that we can not only represent their university but their own personal brands.

But most importantly, we help professors shape their stories outside of academia, and this often creates great relationships with the team and the professor. They value our hard work and expertise, and when professors see their names or bylines in leading publications, they appreciate the value of a larger marketing strategy. Digital public relations benefits both the program and their professors by supporting their research and academic interests. This helps bridge the gap between the marketing team and the individual stakeholders that make up the program. The more a professor’s work is promoted, the more they become thought leaders in their industry, and they will be sought after by other journalists and editors, leading to the opportunity to create new backlinks and touchpoints.

 

5. A Long-term Investment

When it comes to deciding how to spend resources in a marketing budget, the fundamental question every stakeholder wants to know is: What is my ROI? With paid search, a stakeholder in an online program can see how their money is being spent in the short term and evaluate their cost-per-lead as well as their cost-per-acquisition and quickly understand whether or not their strategy is working. While this is an essential part of the larger strategy, a diversified marketing approach will take into account how to leverage all available tactics and try to think about ways to maximize the budget spent on paid ads.

Digital public relations is different than paid search in the sense that it is a long-term approach, and it is essentially free advertising. By building up the number of touchpoints potential students have with your brand as well as the number of backlinks from high quality publications, digital public relations helps online university programs increase their organic rankings, and students will naturally find the degree program without paying for keywords or social impressions. It’s a strategy that pays long-term dividends when it is a part of the larger digital strategy, and it’s an worthwhile investment in the long haul.

To learn more about our digital public relations strategy, see our process here: Circa digital public relations

 

JoeJoseph Lapin M.F.A. is an author, creative director, and journalist, and his writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Narratively, Salon, Slate, and more. He is a former adjunct professor at Florida International University, and he has worked on PR campaigns for Ernst & Young, Brentwood Associates, and more.