• Marketing the Career Center: Storytelling and Calls-to-Action

    by Gary Alan Miller
    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
    October 16, 2013

    Gary Alan Miller

    In the first article of this series, I focused on segmentation and differentiation, which help speak to the varying needs of your audiences. In this article, I want to extend that concept from the "who" to the "now what." More directly, I want to talk about writing your messages in a more compelling fashion and inciting action from your readers.

    A little over a year ago, I penned a blog post titled, "You're Just Not That Interesting" about how most higher education offices will naturally struggle with social media because we're competing against memes and funny cats and viral videos. Given the environment, it's no wonder it's difficult to get our students to engage with us. The same is true in our marketing messages sent through other channels. One solution to this deficit is to use more storytelling in our marketing.

    Consider these two narratives:

    • On Thursday, September 26, career services will host a career fair. The event will be attended by more than 100 companies from a variety of fields. Students are encouraged to attend in professional attire and bring plenty of resumes.
    • Last year, John Smith's life was changed. He was nervous as he walked through the large, glass doors into the ballroom. But, by the end of that day, John had met someone who impacted his life by offering him his first job. On September 26, the career fair could do the same for you.

    Which of these prompts you to want to read more? Which of these looks more like the messages you send out about your events?

    Of course, not every message has to read like a Stephen King thriller or a Shakespeare sonnet. But, by leveraging stories that exist naturally in our space, we can be a little more compelling to our audiences. You can tell your own stories, or those of employers and students or other stakeholders. You can consider plot, drama, characters, and humor. These are all available to you as a means of grabbing attention.

    Now, let's assume you have written some compelling content to get the word out about an upcoming event or service. Another important consideration for your marketing efforts is to use a call-to-action in your messages. Calls-to-action are exactly as they sound-it is your effort to move your audience to act. Your call-to-action might lead them to read part of your website; like your Facebook page; RSVP for an event; or take some other appropriate step.

    Unfortunately, we often think our job is done when we make an announcement about an event. But, getting your audience to take some additional step will not only help them remember it, but also give you something to measure to help you know if your efforts are being received.

    For example, you could distribute the e-mail about John Smith's life-changing experience with a few compelling paragraphs interlaced with some details of this year's fair. You could end the e-mail with the following statement, "Read more about John and how your life could be changed." By linking the "read more" text with a service that allows you to count how many people clicked in from the e-mail, you now have one metric of how successful the message was.

    Over time, you will be able to see what types of storytelling elicit reactions. For example, a few years back I found that UNC students responded in large numbers to blog posts titled, "Guess who is coming to the career fair." I was able to duplicate that success-through-intrigue over a few different fairs with similar approaches, resulting in tenfold increases in post traffic.

    By using storytelling to be more engaging and calls-to-action to motivate your audience to take actions that deepen their knowledge and give a measurement, you can improve your marketing efforts. Here are a few useful links to spark more thinking on these subjects:

    Gary Alan Miller is co-founder of the Innovation Forum for Career Services, is director of external relations and communication for SoACE, and currently serves as senior assistant dean at UNC Chapel Hill. Find him on twitter@garyalanmiller