Spring Cleaning: Tips to Make Your #highered Content Bloom

It’s that time of year, folks. Soon you’ll be at the top of the rollercoaster, looking at the oncoming rush to get your Fall 2017 class committed and in the door, deal with academic awards season, and celebrate Commencement. It’s the time of year where you’ll be trying to bend the space-time continuum to fit a month and a half into April, spreading yourself too thin, and trying to create great content to showcase a year of achievements without doing that same old graduation story.

It’s not quite the Ides of March or St. Patrick’s Day so you still have a tiny bit of breathing room to set yourself up for meeting your content goals without losing your mind or your patience. Here’s what you can do now:

Start crowdsourcing story ideas. Done well, a story about a great senior or recent graduate can serve you well during yield season and celebrate how your school helped someone overcome obstacles, identify a fantastic career opportunity, make the world a better place, or discover a new frontier. This is the time of year when you can go to faculty meetings, stop your colleagues in the halls, dawdle outside in the spring weather and eavesdrop on students celebrating that great job, grad school admission, or being the first in their family to graduate. Ask everyone you meet which students you should be showcasing and the stories will pop up like mushrooms after a big rain.

Open a dialogue between college, school and program communicators and your central team. Encourage content sharing and work with your extended group of colleagues to help package stories that highlight fun traditions, innovative ways to learn, and great educational outcomes. Giving yourself a little extra time also helps you package the story well, make sure you have a writer and photographer (or videographer, or both) at a crucial event, and package the story so it works well across print, web, media and social channels.

If you’re in a college or school, find the touch points with others who might have an interest in sharing your content. Recently I did a video and story on an interdisciplinary course and the unused clips, finished video and story have now been featured by three other units on campus just because I gave my colleagues a bit of a heads up and shared their students’ stories with them.

Capture the visuals. I know it’s still snowing in some parts of the country, but soon your campus will bloom. Give your visual communicators some time and freedom to be spontaneous and showcase the hard work that your facilities team will be putting in to make the place Commencement-ready — you’ll be glad you did. When it warms up, get out of the classrooms and labs and take your photo shoots outside. Planning ahead can also help you avoid hearing about events and traditions when it’s too late to get the right photo or footage to make your stories pop in a crowded marketplace.

Find new voices. Get your students to tell you about the faculty member who just won the teaching award or who changed their life. Get your faculty, mentors, and leaders to tell you about students who embody your brand. Ask a community member about a student volunteer. Ask a first year student what they’ve learned, and your seniors what’s left on their college bucket list. First-person voices are powerful and authentic — let others tell your story.

Don’t limit yourself to the two weeks around commencement. If you start using these tips now, you’ll likely have more stories than will fit into a traditional graduation package, so build out a robust editorial calendar for the rest of the semester and that rollercoaster ride will be less scary and more exhilarating.