Take a little trip with me. Don’t worry; you don’t need to pack any bags and your passport can remain safely stowed away. We’re just going to take a step back in time to when we were college students. Reflect for a moment on the months leading up to your graduation. What thoughts were weighing most heavily on your mind at that time? Aside from your immediate concerns of making it to every big party that week (without missing any classes the day after), you probably had some big questions about your next step. What would life in the real world be like? And how would you find a job that you were overjoyed about — or at the very least, a company that would hire you?
University recruiters have the opportunity to help provide some answers to those tricky questions that plague 20-somethings.
And content marketing is a practice that allows you to tell stories that young job-seekers can relate to and establish yourself as an employer of choice. (Side note: This also applies to those who recruit experienced hires. Check out this recent Harvard Business Review blog post, “Your Content Strategy Is Also a Recruiting Strategy,” to see how.)
What’s Content Marketing?
“Content” is any asset you create to help inform your customers or potential customers. Some common types of content include blog posts, videos, infographics, ebooks, webinars, and podcasts. The basic concept of content marketing is to use these things to solve a problem or address a pain point your prospective customer is facing. In a university recruiting context, that means helping students figure out what they’d like to do when they graduate and whether your company would be a good fit. The primary goals of any content you create should be to educate and entertain. Educating is important to establish trust in your brand, and entertaining is essential because no one is required to consume any of your content; you need to earn people’s attention.
Remember our little time travel exercise from a minute ago? As a university recruiter/content marketer, you want to constantly put yourself in the shoes of the college student or recent grad job-seeker. What kinds of questions does he or she have about applying to or working for your company? How can you be a part of the answer when they go to find out? And how can you make your answer compelling enough that they want to stick around and learn more?
Content marketing is not an immediate sales pitch and not just a vehicle for you to blatantly self-promote. In a recruiting context, you should use content marketing to tell a story about your interns, new hires, or employees. You want this to be something that students and recent grads can relate to; something that will help them visualize themselves at your organization.
Let’s look at some specific examples of how employers are using content marketing as part of their university recruiting strategy.
You can access the “Microsoft Jobsblog” through its Careers page or directly at microsoftjobsblog.com. It’s updated every few days and features stories about current interns and employees told in their own voices. It also includes occasional updates about new Microsoft products or releases and advice for job-seekers, but always told from the perspective of a real Microsoft employee.
A blog is probably one of the easiest ways to experiment with content marketing. It doesn’t require too much technical expertise and it’s a great project for interns to get involved with. It has the added benefit of giving your interns something visible to work on and letting the rest of your company know what they’re up to. Interns might also be excited and willing to share their guest posts with their friends and classmates, which can boost visibility among your target audience.
Google Students YouTube Channel
It’s not too surprising that Google excels at content marketing. It dominates the search engine space (Google is most Gen Y job-seekers’ first port of call when looking for answers), but it also owns several platforms that are used to create and share content: Blogspot (for blogging), YouTube (for video), and Google+ (social media).
The videos on the Google Students YouTube channel are excellent examples of storytelling. You really get to know each intern who’s featured, their background, and their time at Google from their perspective. Even though these videos are essentially commercials for Google, they don’t feel that way because of their laser-sharp focus on each individual intern.
To create this type of content, make the intern or employee the primary character and your company a supporting character in the arc of the story. Think of it this way: people care about other people much more than they care about some impersonal corporation.
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Videos are another excellent way to engage in content marketing. They require a little more initial investment than blogging, but they can pay off in a big way. YouTube is actually the second largest search engine out there. It receives 3 billion searches in a month, which is more than Bing, Yahoo, Ask, and AOL combined.
EY’s ExceptionalEY Site
EY (2014 ERE Recruiting Excellence Award winner in the “best employer brand category”) has created an entire site, exceptionaley.com, to educate potential applicants about the work experience there.
One of the standout features is the “choose your own adventure” type game where you start with your major, indicate your interests and preferred working environment, and you’ll automatically receive a list of job types and fields that best match your interests. This is especially useful because it helps students get to the bottom of that problem of “What do I want to be when I grow up?” and could potentially be applied outside the context of EY.
Developing an entire site like this is probably a little too ambitious if you’re just launching a content marketing program, but you could take any one of these single elements as a starting point.
Now that we’ve taken a look at how some companies are successfully using content marketing to get their university recruiting message out there, it’s your turn to decide how to implement these ideas in your organization.
Start by thinking about the common questions and concerns students have about working for your company and in your industry. University recruiters have a huge advantage because you’re able to talk to your target audience on a regular basis at career fairs and on-campus events. Pay attention to what students tell you. And then begin to think about what type of content you can create to help answer those questions.
They’ll probably never stop thinking about their cute lab partner or worrying about the group project that’s due this Friday, but students will stop to think about the big picture and where they’ll start their careers — if you can make your content compelling enough to capture their attention.