Engaging Alumni
Through Content Marketing
THE PROBLEM
• Reconnect with Illinois State
alumni in an age when:
– Television is watched through a
DVR or online
– Pop-u...
THE SOLUTION
• Content marketing
– Attracts and re-establish
alumni connections
– Creates and curates
relevant and valuabl...
STORIES.ILLINOISSTATE.EDU
HOW DID WE GO ABOUT THIS?
• Step 1: We isolated a
core group of content
generators on campus.
– Alumni
– Colleges
– Depart...
HOW DID WE GO ABOUT THIS?
• Step 2: We created a
website where content
can be submitted by
multiple authors using
a pre-bu...
HOW DID WE GO ABOUT THIS?
• Then we were ready to launch the site (but we didn’t
tell anyone).
– Continually refined our p...
HOW DID WE GO ABOUT THIS?
• After a year, we worked
with ISU’s web
department to develop
the XML to convert the
RSS feeds ...
HOW DID WE GO ABOUT THIS?
HOW DID WE GO ABOUT THIS?
• For the next 6 months:
– Continued to bring on
more authors
– Continued, through ISU’s
web dep...
HOW DID WE GO ABOUT THIS?
• Then, using the data, we introduced Version 2
– Newsletter traffic  Mobile responsive design
...
HOW DID WE GO ABOUT THIS?
HOW DID WE GO ABOUT THIS?
FILLING A NEED

Magazine: 150,000+ readers
Published 4x/year
Reader surveys: Love every
issue, but want more!
Inspired by ...
THE GOALS
• To engage alumni between magazine
publication dates

• Tell timely campus stories that alumni
want to read: Pu...
THE LAUNCH
IllinoisState.edu/STATEside

• Launched Aug. 13, 2012
on Stories.IllinoisState.edu
• One new story every
weekda...
OUR STORIES
Content mix:
Student stories →
Photo galleries
Videos
Alumni profiles
Top 10 lists
Timely stories
Social media...
MOST POPULAR
Most-read stories (Aug. 2012 to date)
1. Professor talks Breaking Bad fact
vs. fiction (19,500+ views)
2. Lay...
PHOTO AND VIDEO
SOCIAL MEDIA
Storify recaps of big events
Curate a coherent story

Filter out all the social noise
Auto-notifications  st...
BY THE NUMBERS

Today

Launch (Aug. ’12)

Real-time reader data via Google Analytics
Year 1 (August 2012-13): 205,997 page...
OUR READERS
How do they find STATEside?

10.1%

23.1%

13.2%

Google
Facebook

Direct
Search.IllinoisState.edu

15.9%

21....
DISTRIBUTION
Stories.IllinoisState.edu: One upload, multiple feeds
Admissions/parents page

Student Affairs/homepage
CHALLENGES
1. Awareness: Marketing ourselves
← Full-page ads in alumni magazine

2. Pace = 1 story/day, rain or shine
3. A...
MARKETING PLAN
What we’ve done
Social media
Facebook $$$
Alumni e-newsletters
ISU homepage
Print magazine
Video promo →
In...
SUCCESS STORIES
Be timely. →
← Have fun
Team up
Ride social media
Watch the #s
SOPHOMORE YEAR
#1 goal: More readers
and better stories

More student stories
More Athletics
More pop culture
More multime...
TEAM EFFORT
STATEside partners
Athletics
Media Relations
College marketers
Other campus units
Office Hours Q&A
Re-using co...
CASE V: Engaging Alumni Through Content Marketing
CASE V: Engaging Alumni Through Content Marketing
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CASE V: Engaging Alumni Through Content Marketing

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In August 2013, University Marketing and Communications launched Stories.IllinoisState.edu, a website that collects news, stories, and event information from across the Illinois State University campus and redistributes that content across its web and social media presence.

The new STATEside blog, powered by Stories, serves as a daily companion piece to the quarterly Illinois State magazine.

Together, Stories and STATEside provide alumni, students, and community members with new opportunities to engage with Illinois State University, its people, its campus, and its culture.

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  • Reconnect with Illinois State University Alumni in an age wheretelevision is watch through a DVR or onlinePop up and banner advertising are blocked or ignoredAnd where traditional, static forms of advertising are no longer sufficient in today's technology and social media-driven societies
  • Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your alumni and prospects without overtly selling to them. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching who you are, you are delivering information that makes your alumni more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as a University, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to alumni, they ultimately reward us with their loyalty.
  • Our answer,Stories.IllinoisState.edu. Acomprehensive, one-stop news hub for Illinois State University. What this site allows us to do is: Collect news and stories from around campus, some of which, due to the compartmentalized nature of campus we never new was going on.And the same goes for alumni, we now have an insight into what stories departments are pushing out about their alumniWe can ensurethose articles conform to university editorial guidelines, giving us control over our brand voice.Publishing those stories to other University web properties for maximum visibilityReuse those stories in dynamically created newsletters and social media pagesFrom the user side, they can leave comments, share the stories on their own social networks, and let us know their stories. And finally, it allows us to see what alumni are reading and where they are discovering our stories.
  • In the beginning, we started with those properties we directly controlled, the alumni newsletter. This newsletter contained content from across campus already but but was a series of links sent out in a newsletter format. When an alumni would click on a link, they would be take to one of the many sites making up the university’s web presence.
  • To make it easier on our alumni’s user experience, we set up a Wordpress site to centrally house the content in the newsletter. Wordpress also allowed us to give access to a content creator in the College of Business and College of Education so that they can upload the content along side University Marketing.
  • Then we launched the site, but we didn’t tell anyone. With the alumni newsletter as the sole driver of traffic, we were able to examine in detail what articles were getting read and how we needed to tweak our search engine optimization process. It also allowed us to refine our content entry process by working with just two groups.
  • We ran with model for about a year, continuing to teak and re-tweak. Then in the summer of 2012, working with our WEB developers, we implemented the XML to transform the RSS feeds of Wordpress into a system that allowed us to place the articles on any website. This allowed for an article about our solar car to appear on the Department of Tecnology’s website along with the Physics website, the alumni website, the CAS and CAST website, and any others. In addition to the monthly newsletters
  • And with that, Stories.IllinosState.edu was born. As a self contained news hub that distributed articles to websites across our web presence,My.IllinoisState.edu (our portal), customized audience driven newsletters,On kiosks located throughout campus,Across our social media presenceAnd across the web from a site optimized for search engines, including Google News
  • Continued to bring on more authors and place it on more websites. And we analyzed the data. From it’s inception in August 2012 through July, 2013:Visits: 250,681 reading over 525,757 articlesWith the top traffic drivers (In this order)- Google- Illinois State University- Facebook- Emails And the top stories:An article about the Police arresting the ghost of Angie Milner, a university mythStudent who created a flavor for the Lays potatoes chip contentsAnd a student who is breaking the sorority stereo type
  • From those number and other, we started looking at version 2. One of the big trends we saw was the increasing amount of traffic from mobile phones and tablets. Especially when they were clicking through from emails. - To this we started research not a mobile site, but a responsive design. One that would reformat itself to be optimally viewed on any device. We saw that the related articles at the bottom of each post were being utilized - From this, we introduced a Most popular and editors pick section to encourage readership of other articles. The social sharing buttons located at the bottom of each post were getting clicked on - we placed a small set of the sharing icons at the top of the each post with the full set located belowPhotos and videos were becoming increasingly popular - created alternative layouts to optimize the page for these and other multimedia elements.
  • With these, and other concerns in mind, we introduced version two. In only 5 months, August to today, we have almost doubled our Visits: reaching 409, 146 and 962,644 articles read. Our top traffic drivers are Still GoogleBut Facebook is not secondIllinois State UniversityEmails.And our other social media channels are on the rise. And the top stories:Professor talking about meth and Breaking BadA 19 year old set to become the youngest graduateAnd a A redbird cheerleader getting engaged at homecoming
  • But this site is only a vehicle for the content being created around campus. Especially STATEside, a daily dose of everything Illinois State
  • CASE V: Engaging Alumni Through Content Marketing

    1. 1. Engaging Alumni Through Content Marketing
    2. 2. THE PROBLEM • Reconnect with Illinois State alumni in an age when: – Television is watched through a DVR or online – Pop-up and banner advertising is blocked or ignored – Traditional, static forms of advertising are no longer sufficient in today’s technology and social media-driven world
    3. 3. THE SOLUTION • Content marketing – Attracts and re-establish alumni connections – Creates and curates relevant and valuable content – An ongoing process that is best integrated into your overall marketing strategy – Focuses on owning media, not renting it
    4. 4. STORIES.ILLINOISSTATE.EDU
    5. 5. HOW DID WE GO ABOUT THIS? • Step 1: We isolated a core group of content generators on campus. – Alumni – Colleges – Departments
    6. 6. HOW DID WE GO ABOUT THIS? • Step 2: We created a website where content can be submitted by multiple authors using a pre-built theme.
    7. 7. HOW DID WE GO ABOUT THIS? • Then we were ready to launch the site (but we didn’t tell anyone). – Continually refined our post-submission process based upon user feedback • Introduced scheduling of post – Experimented with search engine optimization, including Google News – Looked at analytics: • See what as being read • Where where people coming from • What were they clicking on
    8. 8. HOW DID WE GO ABOUT THIS? • After a year, we worked with ISU’s web department to develop the XML to convert the RSS feeds to display on websites.
    9. 9. HOW DID WE GO ABOUT THIS?
    10. 10. HOW DID WE GO ABOUT THIS? • For the next 6 months: – Continued to bring on more authors – Continued, through ISU’s web department, to place the Stories feeds on more websites – Continued to analyze the reader data
    11. 11. HOW DID WE GO ABOUT THIS? • Then, using the data, we introduced Version 2 – Newsletter traffic  Mobile responsive design – Success of related articles  “Most popular” section and Editor’s Picks – Social sharing  Made it even easier to share – Popularity of photos  Custom pages for photos/videos
    12. 12. HOW DID WE GO ABOUT THIS?
    13. 13. HOW DID WE GO ABOUT THIS?
    14. 14. FILLING A NEED Magazine: 150,000+ readers Published 4x/year Reader surveys: Love every issue, but want more! Inspired by other magazine blogs 190,000 alums + 20,000 students = Not every story fits in the magazine
    15. 15. THE GOALS • To engage alumni between magazine publication dates • Tell timely campus stories that alumni want to read: Pull vs. push • Share stories, not press releases • Ride pop culture/news cycle • Managed by the magazine staff
    16. 16. THE LAUNCH IllinoisState.edu/STATEside • Launched Aug. 13, 2012 on Stories.IllinoisState.edu • One new story every weekday • Online-only stories, but “best of” in magazine • Target audience: Alumni • First year: 190+ stories, photo galleries, videos
    17. 17. OUR STORIES Content mix: Student stories → Photo galleries Videos Alumni profiles Top 10 lists Timely stories Social media recaps
    18. 18. MOST POPULAR Most-read stories (Aug. 2012 to date) 1. Professor talks Breaking Bad fact vs. fiction (19,500+ views) 2. Lay’s potato chip contest could win student $1 million prize 3. Meet the Redbird cheerleaders who got engaged at halftime 4. At 19, student set to become Illinois State’s youngest graduate 5. Student’s web project takes aim at sorority stereotypes
    19. 19. PHOTO AND VIDEO
    20. 20. SOCIAL MEDIA Storify recaps of big events Curate a coherent story Filter out all the social noise Auto-notifications  students SUPER EASY!
    21. 21. BY THE NUMBERS Today Launch (Aug. ’12) Real-time reader data via Google Analytics Year 1 (August 2012-13): 205,997 page views Strong performers: Student stories, pop culture, Athletics Weak links: Straight alum profiles, This Week in ISU History Other metrics: Alumni contact information updates
    22. 22. OUR READERS How do they find STATEside? 10.1% 23.1% 13.2% Google Facebook Direct Search.IllinoisState.edu 15.9% 21.5% Other Email Newsletter 16.2%
    23. 23. DISTRIBUTION Stories.IllinoisState.edu: One upload, multiple feeds Admissions/parents page Student Affairs/homepage
    24. 24. CHALLENGES 1. Awareness: Marketing ourselves ← Full-page ads in alumni magazine 2. Pace = 1 story/day, rain or shine 3. Adjusting time invested vs. return -- 280+ stories/posts since launch -- Is this going to be worth 100 views?
    25. 25. MARKETING PLAN What we’ve done Social media Facebook $$$ Alumni e-newsletters ISU homepage Print magazine Video promo → Intros to campus leaders Report email newsletter Panel cards Word-driven video promo/YouTube
    26. 26. SUCCESS STORIES Be timely. → ← Have fun Team up Ride social media Watch the #s
    27. 27. SOPHOMORE YEAR #1 goal: More readers and better stories More student stories More Athletics More pop culture More multimedia Page views August-October 2012: 23,575 August-October 2013: ↑ Most-read story to date 128,676
    28. 28. TEAM EFFORT STATEside partners Athletics Media Relations College marketers Other campus units Office Hours Q&A Re-using content CAST, for example →

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