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How can university faculties work together to strengthen their messaging?

Getting all faculties to speak with a single, cohesive voice is a challenge for universities worldwide.

Getting all departments and faculties speaking with a single, cohesive voice is a challenge for universities worldwide. But collaborating on content is more than just efficient – it makes your message louder and more easily heard.

Universities are (most often) complex, recalcitrant, sprawling beasts. Once they get settled in on their haunches, it can take an extraordinary amount of effort to shift them. Comprised of scores and scores of different departments and faculties with various interests, projects and campaigns, the only thing that seems to unite them it just how incredibly busy they all are. Trying to achieve uniformity across university messaging is exceptionally hard – especially when your market isn’t just prospective students, but a host of other stakeholders too – from governments and alumni, to future employees and business partners.

It’s a scenario ripe for schisms. As incoherency threatens, the brand values that the institution worked so hard to develop can grow muddy. The university’s very idea of itself begins to drift apart. Visiting the array of different web pages, social media accounts and channels, individuals can sometimes be hard-pressed to know whether they can be traced back to the same brand.

Simply put, when you have different faculties speaking in different tones with different messages, it is confusing, inefficient and counterproductive. It hurts the student number one; and it hurts you.

Getting your messaging back into shape

The key word here, for want of a less-boring one, is governance. Step one is to assemble a crack central content team, who will lay down the law around tone of voice, content pillars and editorial pillars. In other words, this centralised command unit will be in charge of strategising and enforcing how the university tells its many stories, and how these stories will reach different audiences via different platforms. Ideally, everything will be coordinated through a central editorial calendar which all the departments feed into. Here, topics of coverage can be negotiated – whether they’re told through video, blog posts or podcasts.

This is not only important for messaging. It’s about achieving efficiencies as well. Say, for instance, there are two faculties covering the same topic but from different perspectives. The content team can see about whether it’d be better to pool their resources to produce just one, higher-quality piece of content, while saving each other time.

The one-system approach also makes it easier to identify if one audience persona (eg postgraduate research students) is being neglected or overlooked. If and when they do, they can coordinate a piece of content from a relevant, time-ready department to lavish the neglected persona with content love.

Talk to people

Although the content team leads the initiative, it’s not as though they’re commissariats, issuing orders and demanding compliance. After all, when you try to shoehorn a content strategy down from above you’re going to get resistance. For buy-in from all individuals impacted, consultation is key.

Number one, get everyone on-board with brand values: what they are, what they represent, what their targets are and how they want to talk to them. Involve them in a conversation about why it’s better to join forces than to potter along alone, dropping the odd crumb of disparate content if and when they have the time. Invite them to understand that doing so, what’s more, will very likely save them time and effort. Who in academia doesn’t want that?

If you can get departments talking organically, outside of the content team, count it as a blessing. Regardless, it’s important that lines of communication are kept open at all times, with scheduled regulatory meetings to make sure everyone’s still on the same page.

Higher education content marketing done right

This. Pursuit is the University of Melbourne’s swanky, dynamic, elegantly designed content hub, launched in September 2015. It takes on the look and style of a professional publishing site, with engaging tiled images, catchy headlines, and intuitive navigation, where readers are able to tap into “cutting-edge research and expert commentary by world-leading experts”.

There are no media releases masquerading as thoughtful insights. No stickler-led differentiators between faculties or departments, or privileging of one over the other. No faculty jargon demanding a specialist’s knowledge to crack. Instead, there are simply curiosity-driven and well-crafted articles like: ‘Sex and ping pong’, ‘Jellyfish: where art meets science’ and ‘Getting tomato sauce out of the bottle – minus the mess’ – all told from the perspective of some of the finest minds Australia can boast about. And because podcasts are everything right now, they have no less than three different podcast channels to keep students interested on the bus too.

Top marks for UniMelb.

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