Engaging content drives your school’s marketing plan, and a content calendar is the key to engaging content.
Great content that’s unique to your school gets people talking and creates that all-important buzz and word-of-mouth. It’s also what you need to feed your digital and social media marketing plan and include on your website and school blog and in parent e-newsletters to showcase your school.
Creating content answers a lot of marketing goals, but it also creates plenty of questions:
- Just what makes great content?
- What’s not-so-great content?
- Where should you share content in today’s ever-increasing digital and social outlets?
- When is the best time to share it?
- Which voices should you be sharing?
- Just where are you supposed to be getting all this content?
- And, how do you manage all of this?
What Makes Great Content?
Before you schedule an interview with your director of college counseling for a great interview on college admissions trends, take a step back to better understand the value of developing great content. It’s just as much about why you are writing something as what you are writing.
Great digital and social content should be informative, engaging, and shareable. Here are some key elements that make for great digital and social content:
- Relevance: The content should be relevant to your target audience and their interests. It should address their needs and provide value in some way.
- Visual Appeal: The content should be visually appealing and easy to consume. This includes high-quality images, videos or infographics that are easy to read and understand.
- Authenticity: The content should be authentic and align with your brand’s voice and tone. This helps to build trust with your audience and establish your brand’s personality.
- Storytelling: Great content should tell a story that connects with the audience on an emotional level. This can be done through personal anecdotes, testimonials or case studies.
- Call to Action: The content should have a clear call to action (CTA) that prompts the audience to take a specific action. This can be signing up for a newsletter, visiting your school’s website or registering for an event.
- Engaging: Great content should be engaging and interactive. This includes asking questions, encouraging comments and responding to your audience.
- Shareable: Great content should be shareable, which means it should be easy for your audience to share on their own social media channels. This helps to expand your reach and grow your audience.
By focusing on these elements, you can create digital and social content that engages your audience, builds trust and encourages them to take action.
Aligning Your Strategic Marketing Goals With Your Content
You now know the why of content creation. Now it’s time to determine why your school needs great content. Knowing your marketing goals before you create great content and a great tracking system for that content (your content calendar) is essential.
What do you want and need your content to accomplish for your school? Content in a vacuum doesn’t move your school’s enrollment needle or build your brand awareness–whatever your goal is. It needs to be strategic, and it can be done by working through a few steps.
Step 1: Define your goals and objectives.
Determine what you want to achieve with your social media and blog content. Do you want to increase brand awareness, generate leads, or drive traffic to your website?
Step 2: Identify your target audience.
Understand who your ideal customer is and what type of content they would find valuable. This will help you create content that resonates with them and encourages engagement. Schools will have different, often overlapping audiences from current families, prospective students and alumni and friends.
Step 3: Conduct keyword research.
Use tools like Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, or SEMrush to find relevant keywords and phrases that your target audience is searching for. This will help you create content that is optimized for search engines.
Step 4: Brainstorm content ideas.
Create a list of content ideas based on your goals, target audience and keyword research. These can include blog posts, infographics, videos, social media posts, and more.
Where to Find Great Content
This is the “treasure hunt” part of the process, and there are several places at every school where the “x” is on the map. Considering each of the following will produce vibrant, authentic content that elicits an emotional response from your audiences.
Asking some strategic questions will lead you to the treasured content:
What are your school’s pain points? Your prospects and current families have them. These are the questions people have about your school. Answering them through your content is key.
Start with your admissions and enrollment management colleagues. Ask them to share the following with you:
- Exit interviews of students who have transferred to other schools: Why? What programs did they not find at your school?
- Interviews with ANCs (Accepted by Not Coming): Where are they going and why? Were there questions about your school that were not answered? What feedback do they have about your school’s program, culture and/or admissions process?
- Survey results from first-year families: Asking families who have finished their first year at your school yields great content ideas. What do they wish they knew when they applied? What were their top concerns when looking for a school? Why did they choose your school?
- Exit interviews with seniors: While your admission office may not conduct these, the information your soon-to-be-graduates tell you about your school can inspire lots of great content and point you in the right direction to answer pain points.
Content idea: Chances are, affording an independent school education is at the top of your prospects’ list of questions. Be proactive and create multiple forms of content on the subject of your school’s financial aid process:
- Create a downloadable PDF that covers the details and has a checklist to apply for financial aid.
- Record a Zoom of your Financial Aid Officer and CFO talking about the process and edit it into a video to post on social and on your website.
- Post an interesting and informative infographic on your Facebook page about financial aid from information that already exists on your admissions website. This process could be used over and again for a variety of topics: Kindergarten readiness; STEM opportunities; how to balance academics and co-curriculars; college counseling steps by grades 9-12; etc.
Connect with your school’s college counseling office for more pain points to inspire content. What are your families’ biggest questions around college counseling? What are the trends in this all-important field that your experts can answer? Ask your college counseling office to share the documents and standard letters/hand-outs that they share with families. You can re-purpose this information into a blog post or downloadable PDF to demystify the process.
What are the key themes for the year? What themes (values) has your head of school and leadership team identified as crucial? Use these to frame content.
Content idea: It’s a no-brainer to have consistent content (interview, round-up of quotes, student achievement story, etc.) around your school’s core values. Choose a value each month and focus a blog post or social posts on it, then start again.
Consider a hashtag campaign around your core values. Check out our hashtag guide.
What are your school’s enrollment goals? Look no further for great content than your school’s leadership team meetings. What are the topics being discussed around enrollment? Need to boost middle school enrollment? Then focus content on middle school themes, topics and thought-leaders. Be sure to include a variety of adult and student voices in your content, too. Is your school singel-sex and experiencing a drop in retention from 8th to 9th grade? How well is your content sharing the benefits of your single-sex experience? Are you sharing testimonials of parents and students who value it?
What’s on the calendar? Great content is not a listing of what’s happening at your school (and by the way, your school calendar of events is not a blog). Sharing what’s behind those events is where the content magic lies.
Take out your school calendar and every division’s calendar to find ideas for content. Yes, report on various events, but think like an editor and dig deeper for the story. If the fall play had a talented student props master who deserved a standing ovation for his creativity, showcase him! Don’t just report on the Lower School Robotics team, highlight the faculty advisors behind it and their love of STEM education.
Content idea: Take one calendar item–the big game against your arch-rival–and spin it into overlapping content. Ghostwrite a blog post by the athletic director on the true value of playing sports. Do a series of Instagram posts of the parent sports boosters creating banners and spirit swag before the big game. Attend a practice before the game and record short video clips of players and coaches, asking them why they’re excited about the game. Re-edit past games on your YouTube channel into a Let’s Go, [MASCOT]!” video to get the home team psyched for the big game.And use the oldie-but-goodie, #ThrowbackThursday on Facebook to post archival pics from games past.
The time of day can make great content, too. If your head of school loves to shake hands at carpool, capture that one morning on video. Ask the students what they love about starting their day that way. It’s guaranteed that it will resonate with your current and prospective parents.
Go beyond your school’s calendar. What major holidays and some of the goofier ones like National Ice Cream Day can you use for content? There are great national STEM and arts days, months that celebrate diversity, equity and inclusion, etc. that can be easy and interesting ties to your school’s programs and people.
Content Idea: Have a little fun with national days. April 11 is National Pet Day. What about a photo round-up of your head of school, school nurse, art department, etc. with their pets and maybe a suggested reading list of classic pet books by your librarian? The Internet loves good dog photo.
Repurposing Existing Content
There aren’t enough hours in the day for you to constantly find new content. The good news is that great content is all around you.
- Take the graduation and start-of-school remarks by your division leaders and head of school and turn them into blog posts–same with any alumni speakers.
- Did your division heads talk about a top-of-mind parenting topic in their weekly e-news, e.g. mental health or school safety? Repurpose it into blog content or even engaging posts followed up by an open-ended question that viewers need to answer. Create a slide presentation to share..
- Mine school publications, such as your school magazine and student newspaper, for articles that you can post as PDFs or links. Did a particular article strike a nerve with your audiences? Then do an email interview with the original article’s subject for follow-up on the topic.
- Check out your school’s checklists. Create user-friendly checklists on back-to-school advice, study tips for finals, how to make the most of alumni reunion or starting 6th grade, for example. Use Canva to create good-looking, engaging checklists and post them. Think practically. Checklists and “advice” posts have universal appeal.
- Re-edit your existing videos into Reels for Instagram or TikTok.
- Did you do Zoom alumni panels during the pandemic? Go through them to find the career advice that was shared and create a “tips” blog post using the alumni quotes, names, graduation years and brief career profile. Try creating a visually engaging infographic. This is a great “outcomes” piece that will appeal to prospective parents, too.
What are the hot-button topics? School safety, student mental health and the pandemic learning gap are just a few of the issues that are on your audiences’ minds. Use your experts to address these topics. You can provide needed information and showcase the faculty, staff and alumni at your school.
Content idea: Schedule a meeting with your school’s counselors and ask them to address age-appropriate tips for parents and caregivers to focus on student mental health. Be sure to highlight what programs and services your school offers and include photos of each counselor with credentials and a pull-quote with their top tip.
Showcase student writing. Ask your college counselor if there are any standout college essays this year that you could republish with the approval of the student author, of course. You could include a short profile of the student.
What can be a regular feature in your content? Think about your favorite magazine. You probably have a favorite feature or “department” that you turn to right away. You can create those with your content.
Do a monthly “Meet Our [NAME OF YOUR MASCOT]” and highlight the adults on your campus (teachers, administrators, grounds crew, coaches, etc.). Create a standard social media thumbnail for this with a link to the larger profile on your blog. Create standard questions that they answer (no more than four) and keep the copy short, like:
- What do you love about [YOUR SCHOOL]?
- What’s your favorite school tradition and why?
- What’s your favorite campus spot (or lunch menu item, tradition)?
Email your faculty and staff monthly and ask what they are reading now/listening to (podcasts) and post it.
Create a “My Motto” focus and ask a wide variety of people from students and alumni to current staff and beloved retired faculty what your school’s motto means to them and how they live it. You’d be surprised at just how articulate people can be on the subject. As you get more of these, consider making it a unique page on your website–no greater way to show your school’s outcomes than a round-up of proud voices talking about how the mission shaped their lives.
The Final Step: Putting it all on a Content Calendar
You’ve created a great list of engaging content that will wow your audiences, meet your strategic goals and showcase your school’s uniqueness. Excellent! Next is putting it all on a content calendar.
A content calendar–or an editorial calendar–helps you keep it all straight: what to post, when to post and where to post. This way, you and your staff can see your entire plan in one place. And it’s a lot easier to manage posting frequency when you know what’s coming.
With a plan in place, it’s harder to forget to post. You should determine how far out you want to plan. Typically six months is fine, but you might want to schedule out the full year. (And don’t forget the summer!)
Step 1: Choose a format.
There are many different ways to create a content calendar, such as using a spreadsheet, a calendar app, or a project management tool. Choose the format that works best for you and your team.
Step 2: Determine the time frame.
Decide how far in advance you want to plan your content. A typical time frame is three months, but you may want to plan for a shorter or longer period depending on your needs.
Step 3: Decide on the frequency of posting.
Determine how often you want to post on each social media platform or publish a new blog post. This will help you allocate your content ideas over the time frame you’ve chosen.
Step 4: Create a table or grid.
Use a table or grid to organize your content ideas by date, platform, topic, and format. Include columns for the title or topic, the format (e.g. blog post, video, infographic), the due date, the publishing date and any relevant notes.
Step 5: Fill in the calendar.
Begin by adding any fixed events or dates that you know you’ll be posting content for, such as holidays, school events and traditions. Then, add in your content ideas, making sure to balance the topics and formats to keep your content fresh and engaging.
Step 6: Assign responsibilities.
Make sure that each piece of content has an assigned owner responsible for its creation and publication. This will help ensure that content is produced on time and meets your quality standards.
Step 7: Review and update your content calendar regularly.
Review your content calendar regularly to ensure that you’re on track and meeting your goals. Update it as needed to reflect changes in your business, audience, or industry trends.
Step 8: Review and optimize your content.
Monitor your social media and blog performance regularly to see what is working and what isn’t. Use analytics tools like Facebook Insights, Google Analytics, Hootsuite or Sprout Social to track engagement, traffic and conversions. Use this information to make changes to your content calendar and optimize your content strategy You need to understand how your audiences are engaging (or not engaging) with that content. This way, you will know what future content is best to serve up to your particular audiences.
Of course, all this content is critical to search engine optimization for your school. Check out our tips for best-practice SEO for your content.
Consider sharing your content calendar with your advancement and academic colleagues. Seeing your ideas will generate more ideas and more content.
Creating authentic, on-brand content will make all the difference in your marketing. And with your content calendar, you will be able to keep track of it and track its effectiveness.
There are lots more content ideas in our free e-book, Just My Type: Creating a Great School Magazine.
Need help planning your school’s content? We can help! Contact Kalix here.