9: Harvard University Seeks Authenticity Through Video w/ Mike Petroff

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Mike Petroff, Senior Associate Director of Content Strategy at Harvard University, discusses how video helps make Harvard as an institution appear more attainable, and Harvard students more accessible.

Attracting today's new post,traditional learners, means adopting new enrolmant strategies. Heelikseducations data driven enterprise, wide approach to enrollment growth isuniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this neweducation, landscape and Helox has just published the second edition of theirenrollment growth playbook, with fifty percent brand new content on howinstitutions can solve today's most pressing enromant growth challengesdownload ID today for free at Helocks, Educationcom, playbook, you're, listening to enrolment growth,university from helics education, the best professional development podcastfor higher education leaders looking to Growin Roman at their college oruniversity, whether you're looking for fresh andromant growth techniques andstrategies or tools and resources. You've come to the right place. Let'sget into the show, welcome back to anroman growth,university, Imaricolson, AVP of...

...marketing and healets education, andwere here today with Mike Petrof senior associate director of content strategyat Harvard University. My thanks so much for joining us today. Thanks forHavning me when I made the move from the AD agency world to hirher educationnearly eight years ago, Mike was incredibly influential to me. Tiss botha fought leader and friend, we're going to have a great conversation todayabout how Harvard seeks greater authenticity through video contect, butbefore we get into that Mike. Can you give the listeners a little bit betterunderstanding of both Harvard for the two listeners unfamiliar as well asyour role there sure so man? You said I work at Harvard University at schoollocated just outside of Boston. Some people like to say so. I work withinthe Harard Public Affairs and Communications Office, which managesthe main university channel. So That's the Harvard Didi Umane website Mi workclosely with the Harvard is at news office and then also our team runs themain Harvard social channels, sor things like at Harvard on twitter,instagram and also with a harvad university page on facebook, awesomevery early in your tenure harbard. I...

...remember you and your team launchedthis. Video called anything could happen at Harvard it's a tremendousvideo showing authentic experience at Harvard and has nearly a million vewsnow- and I remember at the time I reached out to you and said Boy Mike-you really made Harvard actually seem like a real place and you made Harvardstudents actually Looke, like real people, and you quickly replied yeah.That was the point. The talk about your goal in making harvared as aninstitution appear more accessible yesh. The first I have to I do have to giveall credit to our admissions, like the amazing, Harvard College admissionsteams for having the concept and publishing that video we got to Readhthe rewards of it by having a live within the Harvard unity, YoutubeChannel, O University Youtube Channel, but I think they did a really excellentjob of showing what it was like to be a student showing the diversity of theinterests of students what they can do on campus. But getting back to that,the idea of what Harvard is to perspective audiences. It's a challengebecause you know we. I sit within a team that works with news and mediarelations and handles things ipress...

...releases and inbown messaging and thechallenge there is, you know, you're, trying to battle against what you'reperceived as being versus what you know is true internally because of the greatstories that you see coming from all parts of the university. So I thinkwhat we try to do through social channels, through working with the newsteam is, is spotlight. The people spotlight the really interestingstories that people can emotionally connect to and see Harvard is not justthis. You know distant university that they can't really be part of, but youknow, people like them are here and Houknow the research that we're doinghere really impacts the entire world and the takes of programs that wererunning here, shaping the future of a lot of different avenues for people togrow into the world and have an impact. So I like to find those stories at theroot level and work with our teams on trying to find the best way to releasethat out to the public and engage their reactions to it. I think a whole lot ofthe videos that your team has been putting on the last two years haveabsolutely done that. Are there any concerns that being more authentic willactually kind of deflate any of the...

...prestige, the harbor brand, his earnedover time? Why? I think what we've learned is that audiences react tostories from other people right. So when you're trying to still tell astory as a brick building, it does really work when you're trying to tellthe story as a person or representing a person on campus, what we've noticed isthat the audience really connects with that and feels a connection whetherit's alumni or perspective students, or you know the global population thattemds to follow our accounts. So I think we know that authenticity willresolte in a stronger connection from the audience. So using that knowledge,I think we try to construct stories in the way in which people are connectingwith other people and learning. You know the the raw motion of that person,much more so than sort of the marketing message that needs to go along with it.Awesome awesome and out of all the digital channels, you and your teammanage. Why is video become such a priority for you in terms of Harvardseeking more authenticity? What's that...

...question of sort of the does the mediumdictate? The message of the message dictate the medium, so just followingtrends on what social platforms are doing, I think we all know that videois just over the past two to three years dominating the way in which theplatforms Wen people that interact with content. So you know facebook, twitter,instagram, stapat there all understanding that the more people canspend on the platform, the more valuable those user are. So we'velooked at that we looked at trends and how things appear on the news feet, howpeople interact with video- and I think our focus on video is left so much. Wewant to have video B, the main way in which we tell stories we're not sort ofmaking our office always output in video, but we see videos a reallyinteresting way to take key internal stories, campaigns, other initiativesand use that as just one avenue. So we've seen a lot of opportunity tospread certain messages and have a lot of reach with stories specifically onFacebook, when we're telling it through...

...a video style, but we've also seenchallenges Ond, you know, while the reachis huge one of the things that westruggle with is getting people to the end of the story where they're muchmore likely to you know, read through the end of an article than they are towatch sixty seconds video. So how do we balance the two and try to understandthat and create videos? People actually want to watch right, great point, greatpoint and so beg's a question about when you decide to create a video oryou know, content on a certain channel. What are your goals in general so forHarvard overall inroman growth isn't a primary concern for you. So is it moreabout raising the academic level of your incoming class, the diversity ofyour incoming class W? What's the goal of the message that you're putting outthere, I think you know we, you know Harvard loves, to share the stories ofwhat's going on at Harvard, but also we're just thinking through generallybrand awareness- and you know, shifping attitudes on you- know certain topicsor trying to relay the importance and impact of the work done at Harvor.We're sort of you know amplifying the message that happens just naturallywithin the university. So a lot of our...

...work is just taking the things thatalready exist and make sure more people know about the work that they're doing,and it's also you know developing good partnerships with researchers withfaculty with students with others around the institution, to know that ifthey have a larger story to tell they can come to us and we can help CRAFPthat message with them awesome recently, you did a facebook live video takeoverwith one of your undergraduates students taking viewers on an hour longcampus tour answering questions in real time. It's wracked up to eightythousand organic views with no other promotion. You've also recentlyexperimented with student takeovers of your instagram channel. thies, thepursuit of authenticity require, or even demand, that your centralizeddepartment loses control of the methoge just a little bit and gives the reinsto others like your students and is there in in here risk and doing thatyesh and yeah. But I think it's worth it's worth itright. So the way that we went into that was we had been doing lies for ayear two years and what we we started with sort of the straight reporterstyle, where we have a spokesperson...

...sitting with a researcher and tell meabout X. Tell me about why and it was very control. But then, when youstarted to see where facebook lie was moving, it seemed very inauthentic tosort of host a TV show on facebook live so the more we did them the more wesaid you know, we really just need to get closer to someone holding a phoneand walking around campus, and it didn't feel right for thatrepresentative of Harvard to be a staff member. You know someone from thesocial media team. It felt like people followed Harvard to see students to seeresearchers, so we worked with a student who we met through theadmissions team. His name was julies. I was absolutely wonderful and we justwork with him on like what are your interests? What do you like talkingabout and one of the things that he suggested to us was you don't be reallycool, parward sort of did a tour round the university, but talked about likethe historical angles of different buildings and other things on campus,and you know he was already doing that for a mission store. So we just tappedinto that and said you know. Would you be willing to talk to the audience? Asyou know, they're asking questions and...

...other things, so the production valueof it was much more low fy than what we would normally put into it, but I thinkwhat you saw as a much more authentic connection to the audience watching,because we saw the comments go up and the engagement really go up and Mithink that showed so. I think internally, we had to understand thathey. You know this is a pilot and you know how do we prepare for things thatcould go wrong? What if a bunch of people come to Harvard Yard becausethey saw him life shoming from there? How would we reacto? We talk throughsome of those risks, but I think the rewards you have to have something thathas you know. Moderate risks, t a have a really high reward, and I think wesaw that here. You mentioned a couple of really great points there. I think Ithink a lot of hired marketing units tend to create an ad for the universityand then say what should this ad look like if it's on facebook? What doesthis ad look like on twitter? Instead, you mentioned specifically figuring outwhat is the language of the channel itself, and how do I create contentthat speaks that language have some of the successes of facebook live andthese instagram takeovers made? You...

...want to go even more all in I'm givingup the rains moving forward yeah, I think so. I think we're looking at thenext moment to have. You know to reduce the amount of layers. AF story goesthrough before it hits published right. So when you have a story, that's comingfrom a student typically, it would maybe exist as an interview that thenexists. As you know, it gets published in you know a news article, that'shightly edited and the photos are very crafted and there's a lot of time andenergy that goes into that, and I'm not saying that's not valuable, there'ssome stories that need that to really shine. But what we're trying to workwith is how do you balance those types of stories with you know, meeting thepeople and coming inside Harvard and being able to see spaces that you wouldnever see before, and sometimes it works as a gorgeous photo gallery thatexists on the website and other times it exists. As someone kitding, you know,publish on a facebook live and then talking to the oudence directly, so Ithink we're not trying to go all in on one or the other, but we're trying tostrike the right balance and going back to the idea of like we're trying totell a story. What makes the most sense...

...this was a story about what it's liketo be a student at Harvard, and then you know within that, give you a brief,tourof the institution and what better way than just let the student do thatand get out of his way and that's whete. We decided to do it this one love it.What will you say to other institutions who who love this idea of seekinggreater authenticity through video but nervously? Just don't have HarvardStory to tell or Julius to tell it yeah, that's a good question, so I you know achallenge that life face at Harvard unique challenges. This Harvard is soincredibly decentralized, but that also means that there's stories coming fromevery angle, I mean I'm like waiting through a river of interesting storiesto tell and news that we can, you know, relate to certain Harvard research orways in which we can talk about an interesting student story in context owhatever the flavor of the day is online right. So we have that. But ontop of that we have to balance. You know telling these short stories thatthe turn around is two hours versus creating content that lives on and hismore evergreen and has a long tail that...

...can really boost the value of a certaincampaign or initiative from Marbard. But I feel, like you know, I came fromEmerson College before Harvard and Emerson is a much smaller school. So areally tight nict group of students producing a lot of great stuff filmsand scripts, and you know acting in movies and writing novels, but out thechallenge there was. You know you had to try to find the right student andtell that story so are tracking down a lot of stories the benefit there was.You know you can really go deep on a story and the expectation is not. Ishould have something tedday every minute. Every moment online. I canreally take my time with really deep stories that have meeting an impact,but then last for three four months. So what I would try to do at Emerson isfind those stories that had a long tale, find the stories a really represented,what film making meant to students and then find ways to increase that dyea onthat or find ways to put that on Youtube to make that something thatpeople always revisited to open up a little bit of time. For me to look forthose everal other opportunities, so you know there's a challenge to havingtoo many stories, but I think it also...

...presents some opportunity for you tolike really identify the stories that have the most impact and spend a lot oftime on those and don't worry about trying to just like feed the beast andfill the new feed every single day. I love that you said, find the storiesabout four times there, because boy isn't that really the secret? After all,any any final suggestions for institutions who are looking to rollback the curtain and just be more authentic with their communicationsoverall, I think it requires a more a deeper connection between differentaudiences. So you know clearly that the cliche breaking down silors TATinstitution still holds true, so I'm noticing that even internally, whereyou know originally, my role is closer to the hitting publish on the platformand Somanage and social and then working with the groups when they weredone with whatever they were done with. I tried to figure out a way to tailorit for the platform. So what I'm noticing is you know the authenticitycomes from understanding the audience and bringing back that information overto the editors or the writers of the content creator. So the the more deeplyyou can understand what the audience...

...expects that I think you can writestories that really tap into those emotions and what they're looking forso we're trying to use information. We gather from the performance of storiesfrom surveys hermanticdotes we hear and feed that back in so it doesn't feellike they're publishing into avoid it feel like they're publishing directlyto people that they they know and understand, and can you know, do theirbest to try to find ways to relate to them from you know the Harvardperspective awesome awesome such great stuff, Mike thanks so much for joiningus today. What is the best place for listeners to connect with you if theyhave any followed questions? Sure you can follow me on twitter, I'm at MikePetroff and then also you can look for me on linked in. I think, there's onlyone or two other Mike petdropt out there just find the one that t workswith Arbard and you'll fuind. The right one awesome he's a great follow friendsthanks again so much for joining us today, Mike Thank so much you've been listening to enromantgrowth university from helicks education to ensure that you never missan episode subscribe to the show in...

Itunes or your favorite podcast player.Thank you so much for listening until next time.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (217)