Website content writing for schools & universities – getting staff to help
Posted by Richard Bradford
17th November 2016
Definition of website content writing:
Website content writing is the action of providing written articles, features, documents and other copy which will be placed on your website or other social media platforms to help provide your website’s users with the information they need. Website content extends to videos, audio, diagrams, infographics and photos plus other types of content such as quizzes, self-assessment tools, help & guidance tools and online calculators. All of these together constitute website content, and this content is extremely important in the development of any online brand.
Here we’re looking at the importance of website content writing for the education sector, which could include you if you’re in a school, college, university, or if you’re some form of corporate training and facilitation provider.
Why website content matters particularly in education
Decisions around education are some of the most important in people’s lives. Selecting which school or education provider to use therefore really matters. With strong international competition, increased mobility, more digital courses and more programmes being delivered in popular languages (particularly English), the task of providing transparent, discernible information becomes extremely important. And this is no longer just about listing the USPs of your educational establishment
Deciding which course, which location, which teachers, how we’ll be taught, how we’ll progress, which group of humans a learner wishes to spend time with are extremely important factors. Generation X,Y and Z are increasingly self-aware when it comes to knowing both what and how they would like to learn. Course content, the syllabus, the modularity of a course is at the fore, and it’s not enough for institutions to simply expect people to choose without having the details.
Whilst websites need to be lightweight, inspiring and intuitive to navigate at their entrance points, elsewhere there is an absolute need for depth and rich content. Institutions need to be increasingly able to bear all, to show the reality of what it is like to be in your place, taking one of your programmes. The user experience of navigating your site will be highly important to ensure you keep someone’s flitting attention. At the same time, Google needs a particular density and relevance of content, so that, as searches become more complex, the most appropriate content continues to rise to meet them. Take voice search, for example. By speaking to Siri, Cortana, Google or other voice search engines, you’re able to use longer, more specific phrases. Your hope and expectation is that these will deliver much more targeted results. That will only work if the information is out there. So as an educator, the more you match your website content writing to you target audiences informational needs, the higher you will appear on search engines. That can only be good for brand and for business.
Whose job is it to write website content?
Website content writing is all too often looked on as the job of the digital marketing department, if you place even have one. Sometimes the largest universities may have only a small handful of digital staff who tend to get drawn into bug fixes and network glitches more often than they are asked to share their brilliant thoughts on digital strategy.
And all too often when the digital marketing staff do turn their hand to creating website copy, the academic staff can feel distanced from the picture they paint,… that it doesn’t totally relate to their views of to the needs and expectations of the students that they know so well.
Both marketing people and academics are trying to do the best for their place of work, but unless these two functions are aligned around the website content writing strategy, the results risk pleasing neither party and certainly not the potential students.
Here are three points which can help education providers to get their website content writing right!
1. Current culture in the organisation
If no one has ever been told that it’s a part of their job to help promote your school, college, university through website content writing, they are not going to understand why the digital marketing department (with no authority over them) suddenly starts demanding content. My own experience of working with the loftiest of academics in universities, for example, is that they don’t really like being told what to do by anyone, and if they’re planning on writing anything, it’s going to be an academic paper, or at least an article for their private blog.
It is therefore useful if contentious that HR builds the role of content generation into job descriptions, recruitment processes, interview questions, KPIs (key performance indicators), annual reviews and meeting agendas. Ideally this will come as a message from the top.
At first, and for a while, the idea will not sit comfortably that busy academics should be expected to take up website content writing in addition to everything else.
This is all understandable, but creating content can and should join up round the back and rise to support teachers, trainers and academics. Digitally captured content can be reworked and recycled almost endlessly. What is being used today to promote your educational establishment online could be used tomorrow as flipped lesson content or tips and tricks for students. So finding the common benefit between academic and marketing requirements is a great way to move forward.
2. Time and workload
This is a tricky one, as no one seems to be getting less busy. From the marketing team’s perspective, a quick way forward will be to interview members of the academic team and write the articles for them. At least this way, the most pertinent content will make its way into the piece, which should keep all parties happy.
Another way to look at this is what could the creation of content help to streamline? One great example is the business critical role of answering enquiries, which also falls between a sales function in some sectors of education, and the academic team in others (commercial and private sector). Both teams can get sucked into answering almost the same enquiries many times per day. Spending time co-creating content which answers these questions in new and creative ways can cut down the daily workload as more clients find the answers to their own questions.
3. Confidence and vulnerability
In some educational circles, the desire to write an article, produce a piece of video for use in class or to share online may be there, but a lot of teachers and educators struggle to find the confidence to stand up and be evaluated.
Social media does bring with it the perils of LIKE or SHARE, but in the sphere of education more than possibly anywhere else, we all recognise the value of continual improvement. Maybe the filmed lesson you did as a teacher didn’t get shared for a reason. Maybe it wasn’t produced that well, the sound not too hot, or maybe it was the content and presentation that needs some work.
There is a generational divide to consider between digital natives (who are a lot more prone to simply seeing their peers undertaking often quite everyday activities through a digital medium – e.g. vlogging or Instagram – and the last of the analogue generation, where appearing in a video feels like they’re broadcasting on the BBC. Over time, sharing your content beyond the boundaries of the physical classroom will become more and more commonplace. There is considerable competitive advantage to be had though, by precipitating this natural evolution.
Clearly, website content writing is only one part of the whole strategy you’ll have as an education provider.
Disquiet Dog exists to challenge and support educational establishments in the field digital education provision, and also looks at how schools, colleges, universities and other private training providers use the content they can create in order to promote and market themselves and engage with their stakeholders.
Image Copyright: gustavofrazao / 123RF Stock Photo