Content Strategy Q&A with Cal Western’s Director of Marketing & Communications

Posted: December 19, 2013

Tara Clinton Strategic Partnerships Manager

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VisionPoint Marketing has worked with San Diego’s California Western School of Law over the last few months to help implement a new content strategy for the institution. Earlier this month, we sat down with Pam Hardy, the school’s director of marketing and communications, to check in on how the work is going and gauge how the new content strategy is already making a positive impact.

CWSL’s Current State

Q: Could you talk about the current state of content at California Western? What sort of challenges have you been faced with regarding content development and maintenance, etc.?

A: Our challenges are largely in maximizing the content we create. We have many great stories to tell but feel like we are shouting into the void when we post our stories to the web or social media. Without a strong content strategy, we chase stories and post them to the same places without a compelling reason for doing so. A content strategy will allow us to focus on who we are talking with (not to), where, and what we are talking about.

Q: What’s the overarching goal for California Western’s new content strategy? Why is having one important and what will it help to accomplish in the future?

A: We hope to focus our content generation efforts on the types of stories and content prospective students want to read. Bland news releases about a professor’s research will not be as meaningful as a story focused on someone like them, doing something interesting. We hope this will allow people to see themselves at California Western.

Q: A great content strategy ties together tightly with a brand. How will your content strategy achieve this?

A: Our content strategy is built with our brand in mind, as well as the types of prospective students we hope to engage. Our new planning spreadsheet, used by content creators when starting a project, will allow us to determine which elements of our brand identity are supported by a piece of content, and to which audience they appeal.

CWSL & Sitecore

Q: You’ve chosen to integrate California Western’s website with Sitecore’s Digital Marketing Logic. We know you’re likely still learning what it’s capable of, but how are you hoping it will improve your website’s content strategy?

A: We selected Sitecore for its digital marketing capability. We hope to identify visitors to our website and deliver specialized content to them, moving them through the admissions funnel from first awareness to first day of classes. We hope this will provide a web experience that parallels the warm, personal, and engaging feel of an in-person visit to our campus.

Audience Engagement

Q: How will the new content strategy change how CWSL thinks about its audience?

A: Traditionally, the Marketing & Communications office has focused on the media and legal profession, while Admissions has focused on prospective and admitted students. With the new content strategy, both departments will develop content for prospective and admitted students as the primary audience.

Q: How much do you estimate this will impact how content decisions are made?

A: I hope it will have a strong influence on how content decisions are made and keep our focus where it belongs, instead of on the myriad other things competing for our time and resources.

Tone and Voice

Q: Your new content strategy establishes tone and voice guidelines for content.  How do you see this impacting CWSL’s current content?

A: Much of our current web content is flat and academic. Our content strategy encourages us to use a more engaging tone in all of our web content, which I hope will make the pages come alive and cause content creators to think about who they are writing for, and what that reader wants to know.

Advice for Others

Q: What advice would you offer to others in higher education for getting started with a content strategy of their own?

A: Think about who you want to communicate with, and all of the departments in your institution that engage with that audience. It’s not enough for the Marketing and Communications department to live the content strategy. All of your content generators must sing from the same songbook, so to speak. This project allowed us to develop closer relationships with our colleagues in Admissions and remember that we are working with the same goal in mind.

We want to give a special thanks to Pam Hardy and the rest of the California Western team for continuing to be such great partners throughout this project. We can’t wait to see the dividends of the school’s hard work with the new content strategy in the months to come.

In the meantime, we love sitting down to talk with clients and other higher ed professionals. If you’d like to know more about content strategy and how it can impact your institution, or you want to tell us about your own experiences, reach out to us today.