Last week, in part 1 of this series, we heard from five higher ed pros who shared their perspectives on why colleges and universities should embrace blogging. This week, in part 2 of our series, we hear from eight more representatives of the higher ed blogosphere. Yes, you heard right: advice from eight bloggers. It takes a lot for me to break my Friday Five rule, but there’s just too much good advice from too many great higher ed bloggers to limit the discussion to a mere five voices per week.
This week’s group differs from last week’s in that not all of these bloggers work for an institution of higher learning. Some are consultants and educators in their own right. But all of them have worthwhile things to say about blogging and social media, and they do so from a perspective informed by their connections to higher education. Let’s hear what they have to say.
Five reasons why colleges and universities should blog:
1. Give legs to your school’s content
A blog can act as a great hub for social media activities by nature. It is interactive and allows 2-way communication through comments. It provides legs to your institutional content (news, projects, etc.) via its RSS feeds. This is the perfect online communication platform with your institutional domain name. It will always be around. So, this is definitely the right place for your social media basecamp.
2. A conduit for your institution’s unique voice
I think the key to creating a blog is remembering that your unique institution has a unique voice. One of the advantages of my career as a coach and working at camps is dealing with hundreds of kids who are actively searching for schools, visiting them and so forth. I hear this theme repeatedly in different ways. From my own experiences, we’ve always tried to strike a balance between communicating “the message” and ensuring that we reach our audience with the differentiators that made our school unique and different. A blog is your conduit in a way that a static web site is not to your audience. It can build on that brand, on all of that key messaging by finding ways to deploy it into the way you communicate, the ways you interact and essentially what makes you all who you are.
Ron Bronson, an instructor at Community College of Aurora (Colo.) and former higher ed marketing person. Ron also posts on a variety of marketing topics, mainly with a higher ed slant, at his blog, edustir.
3. Hubs for excellent communicators
Blogs are terrific communications platforms. Creating opportunities for new content and social media embeds, blogs are critical as communications hubs. Content creates community. Every functional area in higher education can quickly improve their communications strategy via the addition of a blog. The only caveat is that there needs to be an excellent communicator “behind” the blog. The tools help your strategy. They are only as good as the people who create your content, multimedia, and engage with your audience.
— Eric Stoller, independent higher education consultant specializing in student affairs communications. He blogs about student affairs and technology for InsideHigherEd.com. Eric also maintains a personal blog at ericstoller.com.
4. You control the horizontal. You control the vertical.
A blog is a channel that you control, so you’re able to offer your perspective on an issue or event. A blog can offer the point of view or voice of an individual — the president or another senior leader — and because a blog is less formal than a website, it provides an institution with the ability to offer a wider, more nuanced perspective on issues or events than a website which is more formal.
Michael Stoner, president of mStoner Inc. and one of the pioneers of higher ed blogging. He’s also one of the few higher ed bloggers old enough to appreciate the reference in the subhead above. Michael continues to crank out great content at mStonerblog.com.
5. A simple, reliable publishing platform
Universities should incorporate blogging only if they wish to foster better communication between constituencies. Want to keep people in the dark? Feel free to ignore blogging. Most blogging platforms today are well developed and provide an increased functionality easy enough for most people to use. It’s the greatest gift to higher ed — a web-based publishing platform that is simple and reliable.
At Webster University, we utilize a WordPress multisite installation to foster communication mainly among internal audiences. The response has been incredible. We are now able to host and foster discussions through blogs that previously did not occur.
— Patrick Powers, interactive media manager for Webster University. Patrick blogs about higher ed and social media matters at patrickpowers.net.
Bonus: Three (actually four) more reasons:
6. Authenticity and oh, the humanity
Just one reason? Authenticity. Student bloggers can give prospective students a completely authentic and unvarnished look at what life is like being a student on campus. (Of course, this can only be truly authentic if bloggers are given the creative freedom to write whatever they like. There is certainly a difference between authentic and inappropriate content, but that is why we offer them constant training and support.) Prospectives are savvy enough to see the difference between “marketing speak” and “real opinions.” Bloggers offer the latter, especially if they are forthcoming and honest with both the positives and negatives. Our college fair handouts won’t tell you that housing lottery can be a drag, but the bloggers will.
If I could pick 2 reasons, the second would be that it can humanize the institution. This especially pertains to faculty bloggers. I think that prospective students want to learn what their future faculty are like as people. Prospectives are just as curious about what a professor’s favorite food is as they are curious about what their teaching style is like. Faculty-authored blogs can give prospective students a glimpse under the curtain, so to say, and shows that faculty are real people too. Bonus: If you have an admission counselor who blogs this same concept can be applied! The admission process is very scary and not well understood by many 17-year-olds. An admission counselor’s blog can help humanize the process.
— Mallory Wood, assistant director of marketing for Saint Michael’s College. Saint Mike’s blogs are at www.smcblogs.com and Mallory posts her thoughts on higher ed marketing at Marketing With Mallory.
7. Learning channels
I think learning is contagious, and it is fun. Not only do blogs from academia increase an awareness of the importance of learning, but they can create an engagement level for our institutions that isn’t possible with straight news and traditional marketing. Blogs are a form of marketing, both personally for the writer, and for our institutions. Shared and open knowledge encourages others to be a part of the process. Blogging also puts a human face on our institutions and creates an openness that draws people to what we are doing. As head of the College Sports Information Directors of America New Media and Technology Committee, my personal blog keeps me in touch with all the members and helps me bring issues of importance to the forefront of our work. I also use guest bloggers, which is a great way to showcase the ideas and talents of those people in our industry that are doing great work.
— Chris Syme, principal of CKSyme.org and former director of new media for Montana State University athletics.
8. Good blogs don’t feel like marketing
Blogging is about authenticity. It’s the voice of an unmoderated individual (or at least should appear to be). Well produced blogs won’t feel like marketing to readers. Readers inherently distrust marketing, but trust their networks. Blogs help build the personal association required to view someone as a trusted part of that network.
— Michael Fienen, director of web marketing for Pittsburg State University and a .eduGuru contributor.
Next Friday: The series concludes with advice for higher ed marketers and administrators who want to get started in the blogging world.