Are these storytelling mistakes letting your education brand down?
Marketers have used story to sell for centuries – from miracle cleaners that will make your house spotless to hair-regrowth formulas that make you irresistible – the ability to see yourself in the story is essential to marketing.
With the boom of social media and mass marketing – it’s easy to not only share your story, but gain an audience in seconds.
The flip side of this easy access is that your story is usually easy to verify, follow up and critique in seconds too.
When using story as a marketing strategy, it’s essential that the full story gets told – and you take the time to make sure it’s the right approach for your organisation.
Here are a few things to be cautious of before you dive right into storytelling for your education brand.
1. Your stories are boring
Harsh? but could it be true? Like a long and involved story about a random work colleague that no one knows at a dinner party, your stories need some spice and flavour to make them interesting.
It sounds straightforward and logical, but far too many stories focus on the facts and figures and not the emotions behind them. Compare the difference between a University giving out a scholarship to an undergraduate nursing student.
Jenny Black is the lucky recipient of the Howard Curtain Nursing Excellence Scholarship. Jenny is studying a Bachelor of Nursing and is currently undertaking her placement at Smithtown Hospital in the Pediatric Ward.
Jenny Black has always dreamed of making a difference to the lives of children with cancer and their families. As a single mother of two, she learned firsthand the impact that nursing staff can have on families when her youngest had to spend a long time in hospital. Determined to make a difference, she enrolled in the Bachelor of Nursing last year. When we told Jenny that she was being awarded the Howard Curtain Nursing Excellence Scholarship, she couldn’t believe it. ‘This is so fantastic,’ she said. ‘With this money, I’ll be able to focus on my nursing placement without having to work a second job.’
Focus on the impact that your story has on the person – a scholarship will mean they no longer have to work nights to support their family while they study. Maybe a scholarship to a rural student means they’ll be able to afford a rental property closer to Uni without a long commute.
Making it personal automatically makes it emotional. And emotion is more likely to get that important engagement and shareable factor that gets it found online.
Take the time to tap into emotions such as anger, excitement, happiness, or sadness that will trigger your audience to share your content. The best story should be more than just an explanation piece and evoke the emotions that align with the current situation and the message you are passing.
2. You aren’t being consistent
The old ‘rule of 7’ – that a customer needs to interact with your brand at least 7 times before buying is now believed to be around 13 interactions. With social media, retargeting and personalised marketing – this means you need to be providing a consistent story and branding across every possible touchpoint.
It’s important to consider how your story translates across different visuals and mediums – from the visual image, video, SMS, emails, blogs, and your in-person marketing and paper based/traditional marketing.
Keeping a consistent message starts with the message being genuine and true – if you say you value equality and access – how do you demonstrate this when you meet potential students in real life?
If you value accessibility – what does this look like when you offer online courses? Do you have materials in a range of formats? Do you give consideration to visual and hearing difficulties?
Your words and actions should align with your messages – and your story should highlight how you live those messages.
3. Making it all about you – not your customers
If you’ve ever skimmed through the news – you know straight away that some stories just aren’t aimed at you. Whether you jump straight to the celebrity gossip, and skim over the sport articles, or get deep in to the latest overseas news – you know what interests you and what you want to read.
In the same way, your ideal students know what they want to read about and what interests them. It’s important to think like your customers and write FOR them. Take a step back from pushing your own agenda and write more of the stories that they connect with.
4. Trying to cram too much in
Great brand stories drill down to a moment in time, capturing the benefits, interests and desires of the customer in one story.
The story offers clients a solution to their immediate problems, and what the customer will get out of your service.
Making the switch from selling the features of your course to selling the life-changing benefits of your courses will help them see themselves in the picture and relate to your story.
You don’t need to tell your audience every little detail of your life. It’s perfectly fine to set boundaries around what you do and don’t share – this might look like sharing pictures of your office and behind the scenes at work is fine, but sharing pictures of your kids or house is not.
Take the time to think about where your boundaries are and why these are important. It can be a useful exercise to share with your audience too – explaining why you don’t share pictures of your family online, or how much money you make, or stories from your childhood helps your audience see the real people behind your brand and relate to your story.
Having a clear concept about your brand’s story makes your marketing quite easy and achievable. Education brands can easily leverage their storytelling to create more engagement with their students. If you’ve been making any of these mistakes – don’t worry – it’s really common as you find your feet and build your audience.
Got storytelling paralysis? It’s easy to freeze up and not tell your brand stories because you’re worried about getting it wrong.
The reality is – you probably will get it wrong sometimes and not every story will resonate with your students. But the only way you’ll find out which stories they love is to start and get busy sharing stories. Check-in with your audience and see what they’re loving – and tell more of those stories.
Want to know more about how you can use stories to help build connections and engagement with your audience? Download 12 Story Prompts for Engagement – and get ideas tailored to the education industry, as well as loads of tips for telling your stories authentically.