39: Brand Journalism at University of Notre Dame w/ Andy Fuller

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Andy Fuller, Director of Strategic Content at University of Notre Dame, talks about their long-form journalism unit, the highly-engaging online experiences they’re building, and how they team up with media relations to get additional press from their efforts.

And the ultimate goal, I think, was to go beyond kind of the news release that we were always doingand to really try to deliver an experience online. You're listening to enrollment growthuniversity from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders lookingto grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growthtechniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place.Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, aproud member of the connect e Tou podcast network. I'm Eric Olson, AVPof marketing at Helix Education, and we're here today with Andy Fuller, directorof strategic content at the University of Notre Dame. Andy, welcome to theshow, Eric. Great to be here. Andy. I first connected in reallife at content marketing world this past fall and I could have been moreimpressed with what his team is building from a long form journalism perspective and can'twait to chat with you all about it.

But before we dig too deep intothat, and you can give the listeners a little bit better understanding ofboth the University of Notre Dame and your role there. Yeah, sure,thing. So strategic content is located in the Office of Public Affairs and Communications, so we are media relations, we are issues management and we're also marketingcommunications for the university. And strategic content is the long form brand journalism unitwithin OPAK. Awesome. So first question. While many media organizations are cutting staff, they're hedging their bets on short form content, you're going the exactopposite way, spending more time and larger budgets on long form content. Explainwhy that is? Yeah, so it's really kind of came out of areorganization we did and we identified storytelling as a real gap in our output asa communications unit. So we had the marketing thing down, we were doingsome other things well, but we were...

...inspired by some of the more cuttingedge work being done out there in the media at large, especially places likethe New York Times, and the ultimate goal, I think, was togo beyond kind of the news release that we were always doing and to reallytry to deliver and experience online. And we try to do it as sortof an add on within the existing org structure. But we thought if wewere really serious about it and we believed in the power of storytelling to lifta brand, the way to do it was to create a team whose chargeit was just to do long form stories, or at least that's their main charge. So that's that's how strategic content came about, really an effort todeliver an experience online. Talk US through what your story selection process looks like. What kinds of stories is your unit looking to tell and how connected doesa Notre Dame student or a lum need to be to it for to beyour story to tell? Yeah, you know, interestingly, we don't doan awful lot of alumni stories. We...

...have done some some more student stories, but really we're trying to focus on strategic priorities for the university and thoseare mostly the growing research enterprise, it's growing and established international presence and then, of course, the fact that that we're faith based institution. So that'sreally our story selection process begins there. Can we check boxes under one ofthose three really broad umbrellas? And Our al and I are doing great,great work in the world, but you know, we have an alumni unitwho that. That's kind of taken care of that. But we're trying todo is we're trying to look for that faculty member that's doing research that canreally give people a different understanding of Notre Dame than maybe they had before.You recently published a story called we built this city, which you all needto check out. It's ridiculous, which highlights Notre Dame students engaging in differentareas of New York City, and the story uses very sophisticated visual design andbeautiful web development. Help me understand your team structure in terms of what's allrequired to produce a story like this and...

...when are you relying on resources fromyour mark on team to make this level of web production happen? So youknow that that thought process. Again, it's about delivering the experience, andthe experience of going to New York City should feel a little bit different onlinethan just text on a page. So these students were going to different spotsin the city and we thought, well, the way to show that, ofcourse, is just a map. That's where you could what did theydo here in this spot? What did they do over here, you know, at the lower end of Manhattan? So that was really kind of ourthought was, let's make this thing as interactive as possible while giving folks asense of kind of the breadth of the trip. And what they were doing. So on my team I have a couple of web designers, I havea couple of writers, I do some writing from time to time, andso we have that part of it kind of covered. What we rely onMarcom for is the web development piece and then the photo and video as well. Now they serve the entire university as...

...well, so when I come inand need something done, I'm basically like a client for them. So that'show we rely on on Marcom. The relationship in the past three years hasbeen outstanding. You know, I think everyone really kind of buys into towhat we're doing and we do some fun stuff as well. So I thinkeveryone's really on board with it. It's incredibly fun and incredibly impressive it.Talk to me about the integration between your department in your media relations team.You put so much work into these stories. Is your endgame always to get thesestories pitched to larger national publications to make the effort worth it? Ordo you see, you know, your own platforms as your own media channeland then you're seeing that as as the first landing spot? Yeah, definitelythe ladder. So yeah, our our main thing is let's provide dynamic accountantfor indeed add to you and our social channels, whatever channels that were producingand that we maintain ourselves. You mentioned the media relations thing. That's that'sbeen a value at and it's been really...

...kind of an almost unexpected benefit.You know, as we're developing these stories, because we cover the university like ajournalism unit, would you know what makes a good story out there inthe external media is that we use kind of the same criteria when we're lookingfor stories internally. When we do that, you know we're developing these assets allthe time. You know we're developing this map, we're getting these photos, these videos, and what that's allowed is it's allowed our media relations teamthe ability to really beef up their pitches. So when they're going to these externalmedia outlets, they're using our materials and saying, Hey, here's thiscool video, here's some photos. You're welcome to any or none of it. Just wanted to let you know that we're working on this story. It'llpublish at a given date. So it's really kind of added some strength toour media relations efforts as well and we've seen some good results as a partof that. Let's talk about the results, because I'm so curious about how youcontinue to get buy in for this kind of effort. And so yeah, let's talk about results or or biggest...

...wins with any individual stories. Sowe had one that comes to mind. We have researchers up in retrofitted GoldMine in South Dakota and they're a mile underground and they are studying reactions thatcreate stars. So we went up there and we developed the story to publishon our site and a little while later it gets picked up in some sciencepublications. There was a pitch to NBC that we're resulted in that. Wehad another one that landed and huff Po. We've been in some other kind ofniche physics publications as well. So we've seen some some good results inthe media relations and placement side. And then also we've seen really positive resultson our main university website. Indeed at Eedu, where overall page views candidly, have kind of declined over the past several years. Now, we startedto reverse that trend. We've seen that level off and maybe tick up alittle bit as a result of kind of this commitment to creating an experience anddynamic content on the site. That's awesome.

That's so awesome. Each of thelast two years it looks like you've produced about forty four long form contentpieces. Is that the quantity quality, kind of ratio that you're shooting foreachier? Yeah, you know, I think you know when you and Italked before, I said, you know, hey, we want to get toa month. Well, that gets like twenty four and we've really surpassedwhere I thought would be a good output for our team. So yeah,I think there's no mandate from our vice president or anything like that that wehave to do a certain number. We're just trying to cover the university inthe best way we know how and sometimes that has meant reacting almost in realtime and getting a story up on the website with some really good visuals andsome nice design elements, you know, within twelve hours. So that's reallywhy that number has kind of ticked up beyond that to a month mark.So yeah, you know, my thing is I want to do as manystories as we can do well and you...

...know, I've been very fortunate that, you know, my bosses have bought into that approach and and you know, let me do that as part of what I do you mentioned kind ofthe support for your unit comes from this higher level strategic goal for, youknow, world class storytelling for Notre Dame at any next steps? Advice forother institutions who love the idea of having this kind of brand journalism department campus? Where should they start first and trying to win over their higher level leaderson this kind of strategy? Well, I think they should do their researchon kind of what's popular and why it's popular out there. I wouldn't gointo this thinking that I'm going to get my vice present to buy in becauseI really want to do this and it looks cool. You know, there'stons of research out there that talk about engagement at talks about storytelling, timeon page, even among millennials, among you know, your future college students. They're spending more and more time online if you can give them something tospend time on. So there's a lot...

...of good case studies out there thattalk about, you know, delivering that that experience. I would start thereand then I would I would make sure you have access to good design talentand good writing. Sound sounds really simple, but you know, if I didnot have that. In fact, we added that on a little bitlater on as our team evolved. I wish I would have had that atday one, honestly, as having a designer right on my team that Icould could bounce ideas off of. So start with design. Do Your Homeworkon why this thing could work, and he's such good stuff. What isthe best place for listeners to connect with you they have any follow up questions? Yeah, hit me up on twitter. I'm at Andy A and Dy underscorefuller fuller and you get a lot of Portland trailblazers references, but beyondthat you'll I do talk shot from time to time there as well. Soyeah, hit me up. Auso again, thanks against so much for joining ustoday. And absolutely are attracting today's...

...new post traditional learners means adopting newenrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth isuniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix hasjust published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand newcontent on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges, downloaded todayfor free at Helix Educationcom slash playbook you've been listening to enrollment growth university fromHelix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to theshow on Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening.Until next time.

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