How to create a good Ohio State story
You know the philosophy. Here are the action steps.
As marketers, it’s our job to know the difference between a good story and a good Ohio State story. The tricky part? Putting this philosophy into action.
Here are five “tricks of the trade” that we use within University Marketing to make sure we’re creating stories and marketing materials that meet our goals.
* Start with audience and takeaway. Before you pick up your tool — whether it’s a pencil, camera, or inDesign — think hard about who you’re trying to reach and what you want them to think and feel when they’re done consuming your content. For example, consider the recent alumni magazine cover feature on Eddie George. Before we assigned the story, we identified our audience — alumni who are engaged with Ohio State — and identified a takeaway.
"My fellow alum Eddie George thinks outside the box. His experiences have paid off in several ways beyond athletics, helping him become a successful business owner, launch a theater career and act as a mentor who pays forward."
1) Whether on the football field or Broadway stage, great things happen when Buckeyes put passion to purpose. 2) There’s immense personal satisfaction in staying connected to your alma mater and paying forward for the benefit of today’s students. 3) Alumni may think, “Hmmm. Maybe I’ll get tickets to see Eddie in my favorite city in February.”
Starting with the takeaway was crucial; it kept us on track at every step of the way. In my experience, the clearer your audience and takeaway, the easier the editing process will be. Whether you’re writing a magazine story, creating social posts or crafting a video, you will be able to focus on what matters and leave the rest on the cutting room floor.
* Consider the continuum. Where are your audiences in their decision-making process, and what are you trying to inspire them to do? As you tell a story, consider what you really want your audiences to do. Sometimes we are trying to get unaffiliated audiences to be aware that Ohio State is here, full of smart people doing smart things. Sometimes we want alumni to come back home to Ohio State, to volunteer or attend an event. And sometimes we want prospective students to come experience Ohio State. In each case, knowing where your audiences are in this journey is invaluable: It will guide your tone, dissemination methods and calls to action.
* Do your homework. What’s so special about Ohio State? Before you start a project, consider: Does this share the truly distinctive nature of Ohio State? What are your “firsts and onlys” and nowhere-but-Ohio-State proof points? Why would this story be hard to replicate at any other college? Go into interviews and writing projects prepared with these facts. Because if you don’t know them, your audiences won’t either.
* Know that every hero has his or her limits. At Ohio State, our strength is our people: brilliant faculty, dedicated staff, inspiring students, engaged alumni. As marketers, we rely on these people to help us tell our stories. What we can’t do? Ask our heroes to carry all the weight in sharing our points of distinction. This can be easy in a text-driven feature, where there is plenty of room to write between quotes. In more visual formats, it can be tricky. Some tips:
* In video, use text to add succinct “only at Ohio State” facts.
* Rely on supporting characters: In our PSA storytelling efforts, we supplemented our heroes’ profiles with other perspectives, including faculty mentors and impressive peers. Just like the Avengers, we are better when we acknowledge that heroes are better when they work together.
* Share your work. My colleague Randy Walk shares this test: When he’s almost done with a video, he takes it home and shows his wife. It’s pass/fail: If she asks him, “What was that supposed to be about?” he knows his work is not done. We do this informally in the office as well, frequently asking for another set of eyes on a Word doc, five minutes to discuss an idea, a quick double-check on a social post. The best work happens when we seek out others’ perspectives. Need a group of writing colleagues? Email me to join our writing community of practice.