written in collaboration with Colleen Wood
Across the country, colleges and universities are faced with the winter break campus dead zone, as students and faculty return to their homes to celebrate with family.
But smart content and marketing strategists know that this time of year isn’t a “break,” it’s an opportunity to join their university community in a global holiday celebration on the web—by creating a shared experience through digital content that garners likes, shares and retweets.
One critical way that colleges and universities cut through the barrage of yuletide messaging to reach their audiences, is by putting a modern spin on the traditional holiday card.
The presidential fireplace portrait just won’t cut it anymore, so innovative universities are creating novel multimedia holiday messages, from videos to interactive digital experiences. These holiday messages feature the faces and voices of their students, the visual beauty of their campus and the meaningful values of their institution.
But why invest the time and money to create a unique, university holiday message?
It comes down to content strategy.
The classic content strategy model encourages you to “attract, convert, and delight,” and it’s success is dependent on your ability to tells stories that continue to engage readers and create a shared experience over time.
Simply put, a successful content strategy is a long term view of how, when and why content is created. As such, it requires regular infusions of creativity to continue to delight audiences.
Holiday cards challenge your marketing team to send a message that tells the story of your institution in just a few minutes or even seconds. They also offer an opportunity to emotionally connect with your university community and celebrate the unique and diverse story of your institution.
A really successful holiday card works at nearly every point of the funnel, whether you are attempting to generate leads, nurture prospects or engage students, faculty and parents and alumni.
Now, that you are sold on the idea— (if you’ve read this far, I’m assuming you are)— you may be wondering how to create a holiday message that resonates.
To help you out, Converge has selected five outstanding #HigherEd holiday cards and offered insight into the strategy behind why they work.
1. Iowa State University “Color the Campus”
Design Success: Simple, beautiful imagery, engaging.
Iowa State University engages the viewer visually right from the start with a large “Click Here” in enclosed in an ornate gold frame. After that simple click the user is in control of their holiday card experience. The participation of the user unveils beautiful imagery of the School’s campus.
In “Color the Campus” the viewer engages with the content to uncover specific scenes of campus that are shareable on social media. This inbound content is great for engaging audiences at all points in the funnel and is anchored by a final institutional message about the university’s unique positioning as the “world’s 5th most beautiful campus.”
2. NYU Wagner “Seasons Greetings”
Design Success: Welcoming, easy to follow, clever illustrations.
NYU Wagner takes you on a subway ride “around the world” to spread their holiday wishes. This greeting is inclusive, fun, and the illustration style gives the viewer a light-hearted feel.
The NYU Wagner messaging emphasizes global impact and that is the main takeaway from this engaging holiday card. It uses a student perspective to tell the story of Wagner’s global presence. This card would serve to both inform new leads of the “Wagner story” and delight students who are a part of this diverse community
3. Michigan State University “Gingerbread Spartans”
Design Success: Classic, trendy, shows personality.
This holiday greeting uses familiarity to relate to the viewer with the well-known Gingerbread recipe and “quick recipe” style video. The video also adds a pinch of personality unique to Michigan State.
MSU takes a page from the Food Network to create a video in a format that has become a staple of the web. Prospects, current students and alumni will be drawn in by the recipe and the nod to MSU pride because it adds value, by providing a recipe they can make at home.
4. Virginia Commonwealth University “Happy Holidays”
Design Success: Personal, heartfelt, connected.
VCU brings out the feel-good emotions in the viewer by using real people, the season of giving theme, and shots from around campus. This creates multiple chances for the viewer to connect and relate to the holiday video.
The power of this video is that it puts the viewer in the shoes of members of the diverse VCU community. The message of giving carries through the video and encourages the viewer to become a part of VCU.
5. George Washington University “Share What Makes You Happy“
Design Success: Creative graphics, sense of “togetherness”, iconic.
This holiday greeting uses both real students and motion graphics to creatively convey a theme of togetherness. Recognizable icons from the George Washington University and Washington, D.C. will leave the user feeling like part of the this “togetherness” that will carry into 2017.
Content Strategy Success: Strategic messaging, student perspective, community
Reality and fantasy collide in this motion graphics representation of GW that emphasizes the diverse community and the university’s location—a staple of its messaging. The video communicates the school’s unique location in the nation’s capital and student access via metro, which will inform prospective students and delight current students.
Want more ideas to enhance your content strategy? Download Converge’s Content Strategy Starter Kit.