Higher Ed Rocks Confab: Engaging Content at Indiana University

On the first day of Confab, Indiana University’s Erika Knudson and Rebecca Salerno discussed their work creating a content strategy for the Indiana University Alumni Association geared around spurring engagement and building lasting relationships.

We interviewed Knudson and Salerno about their effort:

Below is our Storify of tweets from the session:


Creating Emotionally Relevant Content for Higher Education Audiences

Erika Knudson and Rebecca Salerno from Indiana University presented on this topic at Confab 2012 on May 15.

Storified by Meet Content · Tue, May 15 2012 14:56:18

We were excited to live-tweet one of the higher ed sessions at Confab.
Coming up at 11:20AM CDT, we’ll live-tweet @resalern & @BullyGrrl’s session "Creating Emotionally Relevant Content for #highered" #confab12Meet Content
Check out the session description:
undefinedContent strategy across the higher education spectrum is all about engaging audiences, from prospective students to potential donors. Wha…
Love seeing how Indiana University put to use tools they got from a @BrainTraffic workshop. I <3 them hard. @resalern @BullyGrrl #confab12meghscase
The presentation used the analogy of the student lifecycle to explain the process of content strategy.
#contentstrategy is a transformative experience, like summer after senior year of h.s., looking ahead to college life. #confab12Meet Content
As we make this new start, we need to start taking our choices seriously. How so? We go through an orientation process. #confab12Meet Content
An important task: get people into the project!
Indiana Univ. bought "Content Strategy for the Web" for everyone on their staff to get them excited and informed. And it worked! #confab12Meet Content
Content Strategy for the Web – Kristina Halvorson & Melissa RachThis second edition retains all that was wonderful in the first book, while yielding dazzling new insights into the hows and whys of cont…
The Indiana University Alumni Association had a big problem to solve.
IU lumni association (IUAA) said that students have a great experience, then it goes dark. We don’t hear from them for ten years. #confab12Meet Content
Indiana University Alumni AssociationIUAA is the home for more than 500,000 alumni from Indiana University’s campuses.
The goal? Engagement.
IUAA asked: How can we create meaning? Have we missed the boat? People connect on FB and Twitter. Are we relevant? #confab12Meet Content
People didn’t visit IUAA because there was no relevance, no story and no experience to bring them back home. Task: create this. #confab12Meet Content
Goals: engage alumni at higher level. Given the numbers of membership, goal is engagement, not increase in members yet. #highered #confab12Gigi Griffis
IU alumni association content strategy started with a goal not to grow membership but to start engaging the alumni. #confab12John Mohr
The brand strategy for IUAA realized that meaningful engagement through content needed to come BEFORE the ask. #confab12 #higheredMeet Content
Repeat after us: determine your core purpose!
Determine a core purpose not only for the entire site, but for every page. #highered #confab12 #contentstrategyBrendan Mayer
What was the core purpose for the page? Want people to share feelings about IU & pictures of IU-themed dogs, marriages and cakes. #confab12Meet Content
"Core purpose for every page was established for IUAA website. " Awesome! Content strategy is asking the "why" questions. #confab12Joel Dixon
To get where they wanted to go, the IU folks did a lot of research and learned a lot about their target audience. This informed their brand and content strategy. It came down to creating an emotionally meaningful experience.
The research showed that IU is really important to people’s lives. Task: show this online, but also make it a conversation. #confab12Meet Content
Team had to learn the culture of young alums. Thesis: they *did* want to remain involved. They talk about IU experience online. #confab12Meet Content
RT @mStonerblog: #Confab12: How do you make the "ember of love" for a university come to life on the web? #higheredMeet Content
Brand & content startegy pushed not: "What can YOU do to support your college? Instead: What can WE do to support you?" <3 this #confab12Tim Staney
IU team needed to rewire the alumni brain. People need to feel *felt* –> emotional connection, stoke "ember of love" w/relevance. #confab12Meet Content
Create emotionally relevant experiences for your alumni. #highred #confab12Justin Kropp
Because IU created an emotionally relevant experience, they feel they’ve primed their audience engage. #confab12 #higheredcinbair
Content strategy for IU Alumni Association asks: "What if the feeling of being in college never has to end?" #highered #confab12Rick Allen
The story? Shift the focus from the alumni association to the *alumni*. We love our alums! How can we support you? #confab12Meet Content
The idea of alumni as customers also proved important.
In #highered we forget importance of customer service. Our alumni (or students) are customers. #confab12Brendan Mayer
In #highered we need to remember that our audiences are our customers and we need to serve these people. #confab12Amy Aasen
Alumni = customers. We must serve them if we want them to be invested. But really, we need to treat them as a member of the family #confab12Meet Content
The proof is in the pudding – IU folks in the room and following along on Twitter began to feel that ember of love burning inside them.
As Hoosier alum attending #confab12, I’m feeling the need to check out IU Alumni Assoc website.Nancy Neff
The IU team used several great tactics to support their brand and content strategy.
RT @Brendan_Mayer: The web gives us opportunity to turn class notes into conversations. #highered #confab12Meet Content
Brand voice and tone is huge. Don’t say, "Get Involved," say "Shape IU’s Future." Don’t say "Join now," say "You Belong Here." #confab12Meet Content
Tone touches everything. "How can we convey a welcoming tone at every touchpoint of the website?" #confab12 #higheredBrendan Mayer
Cool idea from Indiana Uni. alumni website: points for sharing social content, with points getting you merch. and membership #confab12Think Shift
IUAA’s social media channels were integrated into new website, knitted together with a content and brand strategy. #confab12Meet Content
Gamification at work: share on IU Spirit community, get points, win stuff. #highered #confab12Michael Stoner
IU alum website offers free 1-yr membership to IUAA with graduation. Nice engagement opp. #confab12Alison Sampson
#confab12 Fashion contest. 8-word story contest. Good ideas for #alumni social engagement. #higheredAmy Aasen
Engagement goes both ways. IUAA shared alumni stories, & alumni in turn shared IU’s stories, like NCAA tourney bid. Spirit of IU. #confab12Meet Content
Identify rhythms for engagement on your site. #highered #confab12benmcdcol
There were plenty of challenges the team had to address, including internal education and resources, and many lessons learned.
Think about the economics and common good in #contentstrategy. #highered #confab12Gigi Griffis
#confab12 Lessons learned: educate #highered leadership about relevance of content strategy.Amy Aasen
RT @gigigriffis: Real-world lessons: educate your leadership. #highered #confab12Gayle Haugen
Real-world lessons: creativity=crucial. It’s not abt "pretty campus" or "engaging faculty" – but abt your unique story. #highered #confab12Gigi Griffis
Knowing smiles as @BullyGrrl breaks down the real-world challenges of content strategy in a #highered environment. #confab12pam chozen
The need for education goes beyond your own institution.
Love @BullyGrrl & @resalern talking about the importance of sharing knowledge and experiences. It’s how we all grow! #highered #confab12Meet Content
Real-world lessons: band together. Learn from each others challenges, mistakes, and successes. #highered #confab12Gigi Griffis
At IU, posting case studies about how #contentstrategy has helped our projects. #highered #confab12Gigi Griffis
Another key point: technology is an essential component of our online storytelling. We cannot overlook this.
"The modern agency has two products: stories and software." – Iain Tait #confab12Tim Staney
So important – @BullyGrrl and @resalern talking about value of developers contributing to the storytelling process. #FTW #confab12 #higheredMeet Content
Big takeaway from Erika and Rebecca’s talk:
#contentstrategy is a lot like higher ed –> it has the capacity to transform lives (of online experiences, and people). #confab12Meet Content

P.S. Thanks, mStoner, for hosting the Higher Ed Lounge at Confab, where we conducted this video interview.

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About Rick Allen and Georgy Cohen

Rick Allen has worked in higher education for over twelve years, helping to shape web communications and content strategy. As principal of ePublish Media, a web publishing consultancy in Boston, Mass., Rick works with knowledge-centric organizations to create and sustain effective web content.

Georgy Cohen is director of online content at Suffolk University and principal of Crosstown Digital Communications LLC, a consultancy focused on helping higher education institutions tell their stories on the web. Previously, she worked at Tufts University as manager of web content and strategy.

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  1. [...] of the two higher ed-focused Confab presentations, including one on creating emotionally engaging content from Indiana University and one on implementing web governance at Normandale Community College, including exclusive video [...]

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