No Costume Needed: Don't Scare Students With Inauthentic Content

By Josh Barrer | Published October 20, 2021 | Categories: Digital Marketing , Higher Education

waving ghostHalloween season: it's the best. For a lot of reasons. The perfect Fall weather. Spooky decorations. Scary movies on TV. Halloween candy. And of course, costumes.

No matter what age you are, getting dressed and pretending to be somebody else for a night can be a lot of fun. Especially if you go with a scary costume: it can be good fun to throw some frightful garb and get a scream.

Scaring people, though, isn't ideal for the content on your website. And one thing that's certain to send your audiences running is if your content feels fake or pandering.

child in skeleton costumeOk, inauthentic content may not cause screaming, but the fact is that people respond to and value authenticity. That's especially true when it comes to the content you deliver on your site. One study, for example, found that 86 percent of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support.

You don't need to take the word of any study though, just think about it from your own perspective: do you like being lied to? Pandered to? Sold a line?

Exactly. It isn't pleasant. And when you're creating content for higher education websites for web-savvy student audiences, they'll know in an instant if you're not being real. They will wonder—and worry about—what you're trying to hide.

But how can you deliver authentic content that still achieves its goals of engaging and inspiring students to take action? After all, authentic content still needs to function as marketing: it can't just be boring and matter-of-fact, right?

Here are some key practices to help you be genuine while still delivering messaging that inspires students to sign up for more info or apply to your school.

Use an authentic voice.

The voice you use to speak to students through your website is one of the most important aspects of creating effective content. However, it's a tough balance: you don't want to be stodgy or inaccessible, but trying too hard to be "fun" or loading it up with hip lingo can make it feel over the top.

Instead, speak to students in a manner that's clear, conversational, and respects them and their time. Avoid using an elevated, academic tone that speaks down or at your students. Address them directly, as people, and you'll be on your way to better content. They will recognize your sincerity.

Be optimistic but realistic about your value.

Your school has much to offer students. You know it. However, it's a real challenge to convey everything effectively in a way that convinces students that your school is the best choice. Remember, talking about your value only works if students believe it and trust you.

pexels-tima-miroshnichenko-5198239-1.jpgThe trick is to discuss your value in a way that feels realistic and optimistic. Share outcomes from particular programs using your best student case studies. But, don't oversell it. Will your program help a student find a job or obtain an internship? Will they get real and practical experience? You can probably answer yes so really think about how you want to talk about these benefits. Will your program be an instant life-changer that leads them down an exciting career path? That's a bigger promise, and probably shouldn't be said directly on your page, but that's something they should easily be able to envision by reading your content.

Bolster authenticity with real-world examples. Talk about the students who went from your program to a prestigious role. Share the story of a student who developed a valuable and essential skill. Even better, let your students tell the story: including pull quotes or blurbs from real students can go a long way toward making all of your content feel more real and believable.

Turn your flaws into values.

As much as you may love your school, you have to admit, it isn't perfect. You may be tempted to hide those imperfections, to cover them up so prospective students don't discover them and turn away. Sometimes that may be the best strategy. But in some cases, you might consider looking at your flaws from a different perspective and turn them into a value!

students on campusTake student life, for example. Maybe your school doesn't have a strong campus culture because too many students commute. One choice is to not even mention student life, assuming that your prospective students don't care about it. A better choice might be to emphasize that you offer a culture that works well for students with other responsibilities off-campus. Another option would be to find another angle that would make the "commuter culture" more appealing: Maybe it's simply the value of being in class together or maybe it's "after class get-togethers." To some students, some culture is better than no culture. Be positive!

Another example: your school may not be "Ivy League." In fact, it probably isn't. So don't pretend to be something your not. Emphasize what makes your school different and why that's important to prospective students. Smaller classes? Lower costs? More caring environment? Again, it's all about being authentic.

Admit your mistakes.

No matter how much you try and how hard you work, your content likely won't be perfect 100% of the time. Sometimes you'll make mistakes. That's ok!

Though in most cases, you'll be able to tweak or update your work, in some cases, if a big mistake is made, you may benefit from publicly calling out and admitting your error. For example, if you accidentally post something that some may view as offensive, you could simply remove the content and move on, but chances are someone has already seen (and likely screen captured) the misguided content. You're better off apologizing and discussing how what you learned will make you better in the future. After all, we are all always growing, learning, and changing. We're human and therefore, we make mistakes. There's no shame in admitting it, and your audience will appreciate the transparency—and authenticity.

Call in Some Back-Up.

The bottom line is that delivering GOOD content that communicates your value effectively is time-consuming and challenging. It's even more difficult because you have this task stacked on top of all the other duties that come with managing your school's website.

If you find yourself in the middle of this challenge, call in the pros for help, even if it's just to get you pointed in the right direction. With Beacon, you get expertly crafted content that's based on real data and research about your school and audience, carefully calibrated to meet your readers' needs. Even better, you'll collaborate closely with our team so while we focus on the messaging, you can make sure it resonates with you and your audience in a way that's real, moving, and authentic to the spirit and personality of your school.

Contact us today to get started!

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