44: Blogging at Hope College w/ Jennifer Fellinger

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Jennifer Fellinger, Vice President of Public Affairs and Marketing at Hope College, talks about all the reasons institutions should take blogging seriously and about how to move from blogging at a small scale to managing a network of blogs.

...ourgoal was jis really strategicallycreate our own opportunity to share those success stories, and then I sayof secondary goal has been to engage more of our campus community members.In our efforts we were developing the stories of hope, blog and reallythinking more about a network, a robust network. We were also, at the same timedeveloping or rethinking our media relation strategy, you're listening to enrolment growth,university from helics education, the best professional development podcastfor higher education leaders looking to grow in Roman at their college oruniversity, whether you're looking for fresh and Roman growth techniques andstrategies or tools and resources. You've come to the right place. Let'sget into the show, welcome back to anroman growthuniversity, a proud member of the connect Du podcast network, Imar,Goalson AVP of marketing at helics education and were here today withJennifer Fellinger, vice president of Public Affairs in marketing at hope,College Jennifer welcomed to the show thanks. So much really excitedttolgaphy today about all the reasons institutions should take bloggingseriously, but before we dig into that Jennifer, can you get the listeners alittle bit better understanding of both Hope College and your rule? There surehope college is a private, liberal arts, Undergraduate College in HollandMichigan. We are academically, excellent and vibrantly andecuminically Christian, and my role at hope is public affairs, an marketing inour office. We have creative services, web communications, media relationsports information and then also events and conferences falls under ourdivision. Awesome. Let's kick this off Jennifer. What are the high level goalsbehind your hope, college blog network Yeahi'll step back and give you kind ofan overview of how we got to the network when I started at hope. Fouryears ago, public offairs an marketing was a brand new division, so it was anopportunity to really rethink how we were doing things so three years ago.This was the situation at hope and...

...specifically in our office, we had justushered in a strategic plan as a college, and so there was a goal inthere specifically about or there is agoal and they're specifically aboutstature and reputation and building that for hope, college. We were alsothinking about our storytelling strategy, so we had a. We have a mediarelations manager and he was getting a lot of requests from faculty and staffwho had great stories, but they weren't really pressed release kinds of stories,so we really needed to tell them, but in a better, more effective, moreintegrated kind of way. We also had made a decision to shake up our alumnimagazine, so we just understood that people are consuming their informationdifferently. So we cut back on the number of alumni magazines from five tothree. We wanted to increase the quality, even as thou we as we werereducing e the frequency. So we lost two issues, but we didn't want to losethe opportunity to share two issues worth of content and then finally, wewere developing a new strategy for email, communications for perspective,students and families, and so this new strategy. With this new strategy, weaim to be more coordinated, more frequent, more segmented and how wewere communicating with our pespective students, and we knew we would needcontent for the level of frequency that we had in mind for the email. So we hadblogs in place, but not a strong blog network. So we knew it was anopportunity to build an invest on a foundation that already existed. So westarted with a really manageable scale, a meaning kind of small and focused.First, we launched what we call stories of hope, which is a blog that focuseson scholarship and academic innovation, so really focusing on faculty andstudents. We didn't have a writer on staff. We don't have a writ er on staff,so we decided to invest in a freelancer that we knew and trusted to kind of own.The blog and work closely with us and...

...write the post. Frequently and thenfrom there, we really have expanded into building a network of blog, so weidentified Kama power users who we knew could blog. So we went from stories ofhope to building a network that today includes a lot of blogs but kind of he.The ones that are the most AC active are admissions history, department,canusiology department, English Department, our Career DevelopmentCenter alumni off campus study, our office, Public Affairs and marketing,and then we have some programs that are connected to our academic majors inminors that have their own blogs as well. So so that's kind of the overviewof where how it started, and the goals I mean simply put the goal is to sharethe hope story. We know that students and their families are interested inoutcomes. Of course, we all know that, but often the success stories aboutspecific students and families are really resonate more deeply thanpercentages, even though those percentages are can be really powerful.It's the stories that bring those kind of success percentages in the data tolife, so we knew that we have. We had a lot of great stories to tell we know ifwe relied on print pieces. There wouldn't be enough opportunity if werelied on email and socialsocial media. There wouldn't be enough space and ifwe relied on media coverage there just wouldn't be enough frequency. So ourgoal was just really strategically create our own opportunity to sharethose success stories, and then I say: Af Secondary Goal has been to engagemore of our campus community members in our efforts, so have more peoplehelping to build our visibility by telling their own STORI. So it's kindof like a crowd sourcing approach. In a way, and more specifically, we've had agoal to br to provide new and better content for our webbased communications,so emails to perspective students, but also newsletters to our constituents,alumni trustees, parents and families,...

...even employees, and on the topic ofgoals. I'd also say the most effective blogs that we have in our network arethe ones that really own their own goals. For the blog and I'll. Give youthe example of our history department blogs, like so many humanities programs.They face this challenge of students and families asking well. What can youactually do with a history? Degree Yeah- and you know, like I feel, like thoseprograms are loften put on the defensive a little bit and our historydepartment has taken a different kind of approach. Their goal with their blogis to illustrate really the value and the versatility of a hope degree, andthey do this by sharing faculty scholarship, but also a lot of alumnistories. So our office really doesn't even need to provide guidance. Theyjust have a rock star Chair and a rock star faculty who are really focused indisciplined and creative, and so our office really just needs to share theirpost op social media. It's awesome, love it, and I really love thatbackground and specifically that history department example, because I'mcurious from a content. focuse are you tasking these faculty in thesedepartment contributors with certain plvs or you know, subject matterguidelines or d, You give them kind of free rain. We give them pretty freerain and, and most often the block post happen organically. Sometimes we willeither develop a blocg post out of our office stories of hopelog or will asksomebody develop a blog post for specific purpose. So if, for example,we know we're going to send an email to perspective students about theresidential life experience on campus, we might ask a red life staff member towork with us on a blog post. So sometimes they are really specific andwill work with the Department or we'll just ask the department to writesomething and they will but really often they're organically. They justhappen organically and they're great, but we do want the content to bedistinctive to hope. So you know.

Ultimately, we want to share contentthat highlights what is distinctive about the hope experience. Sometimesit's a little more aspirational than realistic, but we do ask ourselves thequestion: could any student at any school or could any faculty member atany school have written this post and if the answers? Yes, we may be missingthe mark. So we try to kind of hold ourselves accountable to that. There isan exception to that. Our admissions folks have a blog, a mostly studentwritten, but some of our best performing blog posts were written byone of our academic counselors, who just we just happen to discover. She isinterested in this and she's a great writer, especially great block writer,so she wrote topics like or post that had topics like ten tips for writing.An unforgettable college application essay six questions to ask on yourcollege tour: Five things to know about the FAFSA, so those are a little lessspecific to hope, but a little broader in kind of their higher educationrelevance and so what we're trying to do with that is kind of enter into ahigher education conversation and gain some visibility by offering perspectiveon common topics. So there's a little bit, you know when we do go broad,there's a strategy for doing so. I really like that advice of only tellingthe story when it's hopes a specific story to tell that. That's really goodJenver. Let's talk about the search engine, benefits of getting regularcontent creation from all of these folks outside of your own market andcoms department, yeah sure. So I would preface this by saying we didn't dothis for better Seo. That's not what we set out to achieve, but it's animportant outcome. So we don't. While it's not priority, to make sure thatwe're getting that SEO. It certainly is something that we're seeing effectsfrom. So I think three things you probably could have a whole a wholepodcast just on this topic, but one is...

...a blocg post. Just creates more indexpages. So when you think about each post is a new page on your website.It's fresh content and Google is going to give preference to fresh contentcontent, that's more recent or that's updated regularly, and if you get asolid network of blocgers you're going to get that fresh, updated, regularly,updated kind of content in your blogs. Also, you can create your own backlinksto your schools. Website pages and Google assumes that the more backlinked the more useful a website is so, therefore, it uses backlinking as afactor in its ranking. So if you get those links in your block posts, it'sgoing to register with Google and then ID also say a lot of people when youthink about people doing searches on Google, there often do searching forhow to kind of information and those are more likely to turn up blog poststhan just website. So blogging kind of allows your content to turn up in moresearch, queries or inquiries, which can mean more clicks, for you awesomeawesome, Jennifer. How has your blog network helpd from a PR stand point interms of positioning your faculty as thought, leaders and repurposing? Youknow that content for media facing pitches yeah so at the same time thatwe were developing the stories of hopeblog and really thinking more abouta network, a robust network. We were also at the same time developing orrethinking our media relation strategy. So we had relied really on one person,our media relations manager to respond to to media requests. So we went inanother direction which I'm sure a lot of your listenersre and so there's about five of us. Wemeet every other week for about an hour and we discuss potential stories andpotential pitches for the media, so in other words, we're just trying to bemore proactive and also more integrated. So it's not just one person writingpress releases, but it's a group of us that have connections in the campuscommunity that are coming together and...

...talking about what the possibilitiesare. Since we've had the blogs in place and since the network has kind of takenoff, we well number one. We have more stories to pitch for sure we just havejust the quantity has increased, but also is just raised our own awarenessabout what's happening on campus, and so when I'm connecting with a reporterwhen our media relations managers connecting with the reporter, we havein the back of our mind a whole selection of stories that we can alwayssuggest or work into the story of possible. So it really has createdagain more integrated, but just a more robust approach to pitching content tothe media. I'd say the media interests and coverage that has come out of thebloks. That has been kind of been a direct result of the blogs, reallycomes from the Social Media Post that share the blog. So you know you don'tjust have a blog and then just let it sit idle. It's all about sharing atsharing the content note we do. You know mostly through suip social media,and so if we have reporters who are media who's following us on socialmedia, they'll see those posts, I'd say the admissions post I mentioned beforeabout college tours and college essays and Fasa. Those were shared, BIA socialmedia by by hope, and then they were shared by a lot of organizations andindividuals that we'd consider influencers in the college, selectionand application process. Awesome. You mentioned how you are sharing anddisseminating these blogs after they are created. How else are you able torepurpose the blood content itself for your other channels and publicationsyeah, so we would use, say a block post. We could use it on the website, so itcould turn into a homepage story. An admissions emails H, it's been, thenetwork has been just such a valuable resource, so we are sending emails, inda much more strategic, much more frequent way and segmented ways. Imentioned before two students, but also...

...to parents and families, and then youknow, hopefully we'll be doing a little more with counselors as well, and so tohave this content and to be able to frame a message and link to the contenthas just been tremendously helpful and successful too. We also have electronicnewsletters that we send to alumni and parents and families and trustees andeven employees, and so it provides content for those news, letters and weencourage departments to think about the blogs as an alternative to theprint and even some of their electronic news. Letters for a lot of them.Electronic just means a PDF, that's emailed out, so we're trying to getthem to think about a blog as serving the same purpose as a newsletter andbut actually serving that purpose more effectively. Of course, repurposing iton social media are sharing it through social media, and then I would say someof the block stories have turned into, or have led us to stories that we usefor our alumni magazine or other print pieces. I love it really really reallygreat stuff. Any next steps advice for institutions who are hearing thisinsane. What is really interesting, any next advice for them in terms of how doyou go about creating a formal blog strategy, unyeur campus yeah, you knowthe first thing I would say is it can be really overwhelming so approach itkind of invite sized pieces in ways that feel manageable to you, it'soverwhelming, especially to departments that that are really really busy. Idon't know I don't have any colleagues or counterparts in higher education whothink that they have all the you know the staff that they need. You alwaysfeel like you're kind of stretched beyond band with and asking people to,write or to launch a blog just feels like one more thing, so I think there'sa few reasons for that. Faculties sometimes feel like a blog post needsto be scholarly writing and I think when people understand it's more casual,the voice, the tone styles more casual feels a little more doable a littlemore accessible and we've also found that sometimes fat, cuting and staffare a little humble and they don't want...

...to put themselves in the spotlight, butthey're really eager to put their students in their lums in the FA in thespotlight, because those are their kind of points of pride. Blogs are a greatway to showcase the students and the alumni, and so people are eager tocontribute. In that sense, when you ask for ideas for stories, Thayre eiter tocontribute, we are really honest about the need to commit to a blog. It doestake time and you need to be consistent. We found that the departments that aremost successful are the ones who have several bloggers, and most often thatinclude students and also those who schedule out their block posts so andschedule them out kind of foreign advance and when you do that, encouragepeople to think about the calendar are there times of year. That would makecertain block posts more interesting or more relevant or more useful, soholidays and news events and admissions deadlines, academic cycle or academiccalendar. Sometimes those can prompt ideas and then sometimes theres canboost. Those particular times of the year can boost the blog activity. I'dalso say think holistically about the members of the campus community, whocan be champions so not just who are the potential bloggers, that's reallyimportant, but who are the idea, generators and who are also the socialmedia power users? Sometimes they're, not bloggers, but you might have staffmembers or students or faculty members who are just rock stars on social media.If you can get them sharing your content, I think you're going to seethe needle moving a little bit. We realized we weren't getting the postsinto or in front of the folks who are social media users, so we created likea daily digest of blog entres and then also a weekly digest of curated blogentries. Just so, people know what we're putting out and then they're morelikely to click on it and share it really good stuff jennifer. I can'tthink you nough for your time today. What is the best place for listeners toconnect with you if they have any followep questions yeah, I would loveto take fallowoup questions and talk to...

...people about this. My email isfellanger and that's fe ll Inger at Hopdot Adou, and then I'm also ontwitter at Gen, felly, Jen, fe, lli awesome thanks against so much forjoining us to the Jennifer thanks Eric I've loved it attracting today's newpost, traditional learners means adopting new enromant strategies.Keelics educations data driven enterprise, wide approach to enrolmentgrowth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this neweducation, landscape and telex has just published the second edition of theirenrolment growth playbook. With fifty percent brand new content on howinstitutions can solve today's most pressing and Roman growth challengesdownload it today for free at Helocks, Educationcom playbook you've been listening to Enroman GrowthUniversity from helicks education to ensure that you never miss an episodesubscribe to the show in Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you somuch for listening until next time.

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