So you want to start a blog for your admissions office…

By Karlyn Morissette - Thu, Mar 19, 2009

Blogging, General

The other day on DoJo’s blog, I reprimanded staff members who are charged with maintaining blogs on their institutional websites that leave them for months at a time without an update.  Since posts on DoJo are extremely short by design, I wanted to elaborate further.  We’ve identified a problem, now let’s talk about how to avoid it.  Simply put, you need to come up with a plan - blogging is a marathon, not a sprint and if you don’t have a plan, you will probably burn yourself out quickly. 

  1. Come up with a calendar: The admissions process is cyclical and fairly predictable - different times of year call for different topics.  In the fall, you want to write about application tips, the spring financial aid and how to make that final decision, and over the summer about all the things that enrolling students need to know about.  Use the calendar to plan out posts based on important deadlines and events, then fill in the gaps with more timely human interest stories. 
  2. Get a camera:  Admissions events will give you good material for posts.  Take a few minutes at open house or a college fair to take pictures of students (be sure to tell them what it’s for so they aren’t surprised if they see themselves online later!).  After the event, the pictures will give you an excuse to write about it but your ulterior motive is to post valuable info for your applications (talk about some of the questions you were asked and answer them in the blog for the whole class). 
  3. Keep a journal:  I live and die by my blogging journal, which I carry with me at all times to jott down ideas.  If I didn’t have it, I couldn’t possibly keep up with posting frequently - it’s my bank of ideas when I’ve got complete writers block.  You never know when a great idea will hit you.  For admissions officers, you have a treasure trove of ideas available to you based on your every day interactions with prospects.  Take notes and refer to them when you’re looking for inspiration. 
  4. Come up with a routine: Just as important as having a schedule is forcing yourself into a routine - it’s like working out or being on a diet.  Sometimes the routine is all that gets you from day to day.  For example, Sunday night is my blogging night - I plan out my posts for the week and work on them all until they are mostly complete.  That way, all I have to do during the week is a quick edit and schedule them.  It takes the pressure off and ensures that timely content is always ready to go.  Pick out a time that is good for you during the week, shut your office door and get to work. 
  5. Create a backlog of posts: Over the Christmas break, when no one was really online anyway, I took advantage of the opportunity to create a nice big backlog of posts that were almost ready to go. Since I was launching my business right after the holidays, I knew I was going to be busy but still wanted to be able to keep up with the blogs - the backlog allowed me to focus on the business without worrying about coming up with content all the time.  You can do the same thing for times of year that you know are going to be really busy.  For example, when you’re on the road, take advantage of your free time to work on some posts.  You’ll be glad you did later on down the road. 

Blogging can be a lot of fun and really worthwhile…but it’s also a crapton of work!  Admissions blogs can be extremely valuable for applicants and their family, but only if they are consistently updated.  Coming up with a plan and sticking to it is the only way to keep your blog going for the long haul.

This post was written by:

Karlyn Morissette

Karlyn Morissette - who has written 45 posts on .eduGuru

Karlyn Morissette is a thought leader and innovator in higher education. With over 12 years of web experience (half spent working exclusively on higher education web marketing initiatives), she helped pioneer many of the web strategies considered best practice today.

Today as the Director of Marketing Communications at Fire Engine RED, Karlyn works with colleges around the world to execute integrated marketing campaigns as a part of student search. She also teaches courses on Internet marketing and strategy at Champlain College as adjunct faculty. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication from Boston University and a Master of Business Administration from Norwich University.

To quote a friend of hers: "Karlyn is a super rad ninja marketing genius who will make your target demographic submit to your every whim through sheer willpower. Oh, and she's smarter than you."  We're not sure about the smarter part, but "super rad ninja" is true enough.

Compulsory disclaimer: The views expressed in Karlyn's posts are hers and hers alone, and do not represent those of any company she's affiliated with. Yes, it's true - the girl has a mind of her own. 

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11 Responses to “So you want to start a blog for your admissions office…”

  1. Avatar image
    Cort Says:

    I think you offer a lot of good points on how to write a blog but what about teaching the why side?

    Why should an admissions office write a blog? In conjunction with writing a blog what should the office do to make the blog ‘successful’. And the ultimate question… what is the purpose of the admissions blog?

    I find many offices attempt to write a blog trying to reach multiple audiences, i.e. students, parents, college counselors, etc. Those blogs to me tend to be super confusing and disengaging. Knowing the target audience of one’s blog and the objective for writing it is super important!

    Reply

    • Avatar image
      Kyle James Says:

      Cort,

      Those are some really good points. I talk to my clients all day about the importance of blogging from a brand building, link building, thought leadership, content creation, and yes even a SEO stance.

      At the end of the day creating content and sharing it with others is extremely valuable. Really need to think through a more formal response, but content creation as a marketing startegy is extremely effective. The easiest way to create new content is simply through a blog. It really just comes down to that.

      Reply

      • Avatar image
        Cort Says:

        I completely agree that content creation for the reasons you have suggested, SEO, thought leadership, etc. is super important. However it is important to share the basics of how all of these important factors work.

        For example, I find that I can tell people writing a blog will help to improve your SEO. But until I explain through basic story examples of things like spider food and the importance of keywords and show how that affects SEO, admissions offices never truly understand how effective a blog can be. How in reality it is more than just words on a page but a tool to improve one’s visibility and so much more.

        Plus once I explain these basic principles the office can apply them to other technologies that they learn about at conferences or in passing.

        So while it does come down to creating content, I truly believe that it is important to understand the, why do I need to create content and how creating content, in a strategic way can benefit one’s admissions office.

  2. Avatar image
    Ross Says:

    Regarding photos, you need to do more than just snap the shutter and tell the person what the photo is for. You need to get them to sign a photo release, approving that their image may be used on your Web site. Even if it is just for a blog.

    Yeah, you might lose some of the spontaneity, but you also are protecting yourself from possible lawsuits about misuse of a person’s image. (Even if the suit is frivolous, the time you waste replying to email, talking to legal counsel, tracking down the image and removing it from your Web site will make it all worthwhile).

    Reply

  3. Avatar image
    Karlyn Morissette (author) Says:

    @Cort - I think you make some good points.

    @Ross - Actually I’ve been advised by lawyers on numerous occasions that you do NOT need a formal release. If your school does it differently, then I would expect you to go by those standards.

    Reply

  4. Avatar image
    wilhb81 Says:

    Karyn, despite of the above five simple rules, we should also have the commitment and consistency, as these two factors will determine whether we can be a successful blogger or otherwise…

    Reply

  5. Avatar image
    Leland Creswell Says:

    Excellent post. I thought the bit about creating a routine was especially useful. It is absolutely true that if we get into a routine, we are MUCH more likely to continue doing something.

    However, I agree completely with Cort. Since this blog post may be read by many people in the position to get a blog for their administrative office going, you really should provide a “call to action” as well as answering the “why” question better.

    As a followup to Cort, a blog for any serious organization, such as an admissions office, should be first and foremost about establishing a dialog with the people who are using the office. It’s about putting a human face on an otherwise intimidating institution.

    I believe that through direct contact with prospective students and their parents, an admissions office can greatly improve the amount of applications to their office (if that is the goal) or to improve the overall effectiveness of the office.

    An excellent idea in all ways. :)

    Reply

  6. Avatar image
    Karlyn (author) Says:

    Cort, if people have already gotten to the point where they ARE creating content, or want to start creating content, then we don’t need to explain why to them any longer. That’s the audience this post was meant for. It’s like explaining why vegetables are good to people who already eat them regularly.

    Reply

  7. Avatar image
    Emil Says:

    Great article. I myself have been victim of abandoning blogs and/or not updating them for months. I like your step 4 and step 5 and one thing I would like to add which has helped me has been setting up a meeting with myself for blogging. I’d never think of being late to a customer meeting, leaving early from a customer meeting, or getting distracted (by facebook, twitter, etc) during a customer meeting. So what I ended up doing is treating myself as my customer and setting up a meeting to do blogging (and also set up a backlog of posts). Hope that is a helpful tip. Thanks for the post!

    Reply

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