A New Content Strategy for Higher Ed

Gen Z has no tolerance for websites without personalization.

Content strategy from a student lens.

Just as institutions figured out how to relate to their mobile-friendly, social media-savvy older siblings, Gen Z arrives. The generation that grew up with smartphones in hand, no memory of Myspace, and little tolerance for a generic website without personalization.

You’ve heard how important it is to create an omnichannel strategy. How crucial it is to have a mobile-friendly site. You’ve heard countless tips for content that will surely resonate with incoming students.

You’ve taken these suggestions to heart, only to feel as though your recruitment strategy is somehow still falling flat.

Too many steps.

Though older generations may envy the streamlined admissions process increasingly common today, modern students demand an excellent user experience. And they report that applying to college is not easy.

In fact, the multi-step application process is an anomaly against the immediacy of the one-click purchasing to which they are accustomed. Factor in academic, social, and economic stressors, and the application process becomes easily one of the most difficult tasks they have faced online.

Due to custom as much as necessity, institutions are going to ask prospects to do most of the work. Click here, apply here, write this essay, fill out this form, download this, pay this application fee, read this email, come for a visit, fill out another form, send us a check. (Oh, and pay tuition).

The information and application process is long and arduous for students. And they come with the knowledge that they have options. Tens and maybe hundreds of higher education institutions will be promoting a similar message and competing aggressively for their application.

Walk a mile in your student's sneakers.

Take a step back from content strategy, omnichannel consumption theories and fighting with your recruitment director. Step into the sneakers (and you know they’re sneakers) of a prospective student.

What does a good content strategy look like? Most students would tell you: it’s personal. (After all, 88% of customers and prospects expect a personalized experience.) source

Most of us know we already have the data to better understand these students.  They are clicking, typing, asking, and emailing faster than you can keep up. Yet, amidst the chaos, we still don’t hear them. We build our websites and our strategies based on other institutions, not on the messages students transmit every day.

Know your students. (Know your analytics.)

From their first interaction with the university, your prospects are giving you valuable data. Is your organization optimized to turn data into insights?

Building clean, user-friendly dashboards is easier said than done. But your team must know at least the basics. What pages are students looking for? What pages are they having trouble finding? What pages need to be retired, and what pages need to be promoted?

Retrieval is king.

One of the key shifts in thinking from Gen Z is the high priority given to information retrieval. Prospects and students assume that the answer exists, they just have to find it.

They are master “Googlers”, relying on search to give them directions, help them with their homework, shop online, find their friends, and decide where to eat tonight. They are immediately, and understandably, upset when Alexa doesn’t know the answer to a simple query or a movie is not currently on Netflix. They know the content is out there, but the platform is not optimized to give them what they want at this minute.

Your site must not fall in the same category. Luckily, they are trained to use the search function to find information. When your site’s search results are optimized for a higher education audience, it presents a painless process that makes information retrieval a breeze for prospects, students and alumni of all ages.

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