Content marketing is the new rock ’n’ roll. Possibly. You’d probably have to speak to a marketing expert to confirm this.
What is certain is that creating engaging, compelling content about our students, our graduates, our researchers, our business partners, our university is hugely important. It consolidates and builds on our reputation, our profile.
This is why we are working on a series of case studies. We want these stories to be interesting to prospective students but also to current students, parents, business, the wider world. People who will share the story.
More than interesting
In fact, we want them to be more than interesting. We want to make it difficult for people not to read them. We are looking for a Gold Standard in our case studies.
This means giving them the best title, the best images, the best introduction. And we want to keep people on these pages so they can see all the great things we are doing, get to see all the links and promo blocks we have put in for them. But also so they get to know us, get to understand what we do, what we are good at. Get to like us, to respect us. And, if they do, they may well tell their friends about us. Share us. Spread the word.
Something I prepared earlier
We started this process by publishing a small handful of case studies. These case studies have a specific focus but also have a broad appeal.
For instance, our Business Studies case study is about a TV show that everybody watches or has at least heard of. And our Architecture students’ piece is about positive public reaction to their designs for Derby city centre and the Assembly Rooms. We also have a Forensic Science student working in a CSI unit – you know, like on the telly. And Paul Cummins’s poppies that marked the centenary of the First World War. Oh, and a Data Science case study about some research that could turn your laptop into a mini supercomputer. And we have links to these case studies from promo blocks on subject and course pages.
Joining in the fun
Since I first wrote this, our product teams have rolled their sleeves up and produced some excellent case studies. Some are finding it easier than others but there is no doubt that the stories are compelling, such as Gaming student lands dream job with Xbox, The student who redesigned our University and From the office to the ice wall: Dainora’s leap of faith.
And that is the crux of what we are trying to do. Compelling stories. You need an angle, a hook. Something you can pull out and say, in old Sun newspaper lingo: “Hey, Doris, look at this!” It needs to be a story worth telling. Because, if we produce great stories consistently and put them out there, people will keep coming back to us, sharing us. And so it builds
A how-to guide
If you haven’t got to grips with it yet, I have created a case study template. It is full of hints and tips.
These will help you get a handle on what is required for one of these case studies – and give you an idea on how to construct them. But also read the case studies other people have produced. If you rate them, let them know and ask them how they went about it.
Keep using your Q&A forms. Learn which questions work best and share these with your colleagues. Also remember that not every Q&A response will be worth a case study. Recognise that. If you’re not sure about it, try to sell it to the person sitting next to you. And also note that some of the case studies we have created are simply a repurposing of already-existing material from news articles and blogs. So keep your eyes peeled.
What Derby did for us
One thing that all these case studies need is for our students, graduates, business partners to tell us what we have done to help them become amazing. That’s the most important thing we can share, intertwined with the compelling story: how we at the University of Derby have added value to their lives by giving them skills, contacts, opportunities etc. We want people to see this and think: “That could be me.”
Remind me why we’re doing this?
We’re doing this because case studies, gold-standard case studies, are a great way to engage with our audience. Take a look at this lovely Twitter-related spike …
And here are some visitors to our Forensic Science course page who may not have got there without our case study …
The new approach is measurably better than the old approach. Here are some figures for our newest set of case studies:
Xbox: 100 page views and 4 min average view time (live for one month).
Student redesign: 130 page views and 4.5 min average view time (month and a half).
Ice wall: 16 page views and 3 min average view time (one week).
And here are some more figures which relate to case studies that were on the old site and have been reworked in the new format for the new site.
Ed Hollands: 370 page views, 5 min average view time (five months)
Forensic Science: 350 page views, 3.5 min average view time (four months)
Paul Cummins: 180 page views, 4 min average view time (two months)
I have taken a snapshot of these figures over a similar period that the case study has been live on the new site – and have also added the total number of page views they received.
Ed Hollands: 107 page views, 3.5 min (total 189)
Forensic Science: 80 page views, 2 min (total 96)
Paul Cummins: 17 page views, 3.5 min (total 71)
And, yes, that last one is why I put Dainora’s ice wall case study figure up. She received almost the same number of views in one week as Paul, the star of the First World War centenary, did in two months. It is clear the new approach to case studies and how they are being used and shared is getting our message out there so much better.