Words Matter in Higher Ed Marketing

Presenting a polished, professional image is essential if you want your institution to stand out—or even stand up—in today’s crowded media. Most college marketing professionals, then, wouldn’t shortcut graphic design for a website or a printed promotional piece. But what about the substance under the visible brand? 

Sadly, many great-looking images fall flat without compelling words to hold them up. Images may attract prospective students and their families, but it’s the words that move them to action. If copywriting is an area where you’ve tried to cut corners, it may be time to reconsider. 

What makes good copy?
In short, good marketing copy gets a reader’s attention (and keeps it), communicates clearly, and prompts action. Excellent writing gives your school a competitive edge. Deborah Dumaine, founder of Better Communications and author of the bestselling book, Write to the Top, emphasizes this point, explaining, “. . . writing is a strategic advantage” that “can make or break your company’s brand.” 

Simple, right? Here are some basic steps to make your writing a more powerful tool.

Get perspective.
What is your intended reader interested in knowing? Even if you have something really important to say, your message is only going to be effective if the reader cares what you’re saying—and how you’re saying it. Consider the content from the reader’s perspective: What’s in it for me?

Make it compelling.
Effective writing will immediately get the intended reader’s attention. And once you’ve captured attention, good writing also keeps that attention. Your content must be relevant, engaging, and to the point. 

Be sure it’s accurate. 
Poor grammar, outdated information, or sloppy sentences will certainly make your writing stand out. But is this really how you want to stand out?

Convince your reader. 
Persuasive copy calls your reader to action. This may mean clicking on the next link, making a phone call to schedule a campus visit—or finally making the big “college decision,” in your favor. 

Finally, don’t miss this essential: How you choose your copywriter matters. Writing is a specialized skill, not a task to be left to just anyone. Stick with the excellent writers on your team, or hire a professional. Good copywriting requires talent, as well as an experienced understanding of the subject and the intended audience. And since your copywriter will also need time and attention to focus, you might consider adding a budget line for visits to Starbucks! 

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