Sunday, May 15, 2011

What Works for Web Content

Part two on Josh Keller's story in The Chronicle about colleges rehabing their home pages. I actually found the last parts of the story more significant that the opening 2/3rds, and wondered if two stories got mashed up into one longer feature.

Keller talks at length about James Madison University's use of "shareability index" to prove to the internal stakeholders what works in a university press release. Andrew Perrine has some pretty blunt things to say about what gets media and more important audience attention.

Colleges naturally like to promote news of their successes: a high ranking for a chemistry program, or a program that helps high-school students. But those stories tend to get little attention. "It's always about: The world is beautiful and it's because of us, and there's no reason to read that," he says.

And Perrine gets a lot more to the point: if you keep writing drivel that was designed to make someone (and usually, high emphasis on the "one" in someone) happy, it is both a waste of time and blocking the chance to get real attention for the school. Again, from the story:

For instance, a writer re­cently turned in a story about nursing students doing community service in rural areas. "I was bored within the first paragraph," Mr. Perrine says. But he edited the piece to highlight a buried fact that roughly half of the homeless people in the surrounding county were children. "Bingo, there's your lead," he says. "And then our nurses are the ones trying to solve the issue."

Oh my, taking a news approach to press releases. Creating good storytelling. Using drama and human interest -- why we wrung that out of most you during college and certainly shortly there after with a good dose of corporate-ism.

So Perrine uses Vocus to help track how the more dramatic -- his word -- stories can have four to five times more likes, forwards, reach. That is critical, especially when Perrine opts to not do some piece of "here's my great research" PR blandness.

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