Using Storytelling Marketing in Higher Education

The Power of the Story

Storytelling Marketing

The power of storytelling marketing is integral to the human experience. In its most primal form, storytelling served as a way for people to make meaning out of the world around them, and in turn, pass that meaning down between generations. Over the centuries, the power of the story has not diminished. It has grown into a central component of our humanity, a way to make connections with one another, and a celebration of our collective life experiences. 

Over the years, storytelling has played a range of roles. Sometimes it serves to educate, other times to entertain. Now, in 2021, the role of the story is once again evolving. Marketing professionals are beginning to discover —and embrace— the idea of storytelling in advertising.

According to a Neil Patel case study, brand storytelling comprises more than 65% of our day-to-day conversation. The question now is how do content marketing professionals leverage the power of the story to their benefit, specifically when it comes to higher education marketing strategies?

What is Storytelling Marketing?

We all know a good story when we hear it, but what do we mean by storytelling marketing?

Storytelling marketing employs the use of narrative to build a connection between the audience and the educational brand.  In turn, a narrative is a written, spoken, or visual technique that combines facts and real-world accounts with drama, embellishment, and artistic flair in order to communicate a point. 

Storytelling in advertising is to some degree the opposite of the interruptive school of marketing that’s ruled the roost for so long. Rather than breaking the engagement between your potential customers and their chosen media, storytelling marketing seeks to build trust and intimacy with the audience on their own terms by appealing to them on a personal level in an effort to build a captivating brand.

What Makes Storytelling in Advertising So Compelling?

Good stories speak to something essential in us. They represent a web of connections between the storyteller, the audience, and the world. Using storytelling to advertise your institution helps marketers connect with their intended audience on an emotional level.

More importantly, if your marketing content is intentionally crafted as a narrative, it can boost your conversion rates up to 30%.  But what exactly are the benefits of storytelling under the lens of higher ed marketing strategies?

Stories Trigger Memories and Build Associations

Narrative structure has a way of resonating with the audience. When we read or hear a story, our brains attempt to create a mental image from the resulting information. This complex dance accomplishes three things:

  • It uses past memories to help build a mental image 
  • If the story is well crafted, it helps the audience form new memories
  • It subconsciously builds associations between the narrative content and the service you provide

The bottom line? Through association and memory, storytelling marketing can make a sizable impact for your institution, especially when coupled with digital delivery methods.

Sharing Stories Fosters Audience Engagement

Interruptive advertising is passive in nature. The audience is essentially forced to listen to a message that may or may not have anything to do with them. Additionally, this type of marketing is short to the point of being bite-sized.

Content marketing, on the other hand, fosters the audience’s engagement with your message and your school. Instead of alienating potential students and their families, storytelling marketing bridges the gap, drawing them into your institution’s academic life in ways previously unimaginable.

Stories Build a Sense of Excitement Regarding Your School

Beyond audience engagement lies the excitement. If a story speaks to the human condition, reaching the audience on a personal level, then it has the potential to elicit a sense of excitement from them as well. Narrative delivery has the ability to draw potential students in, making them part of a shared experience while creating a sense of urgency and bolstering a strong call to action.

How Does Storytelling Marketing Relate to Higher Education?

Storytelling in advertising isn’t just some technique used in the ambiguous, nondescript world of inbound marketing. Content marketing has real-world implications for the college admissions industry. 

Think about college from the perspective of your students and their families. It’s more than just an educational opportunity; it’s a holistic life experience. From student life to extracurriculars, to involvement with student associations, and the lecture hall (whether traditional or online), colleges represent a microcosm of the world. In the current competitive college admissions climate, it’s not enough to employ short, interruptive advertising methods to entice potential students. 

They are looking to be part of something greater. The focus of your advertising efforts must give them a narrative taste of the entire college experience. Storytelling in advertising is a powerful content marketing tool, especially when it’s paired with digital and social media.

Stories include persuasion. They get under your skin and realign your worldview. At least the good ones do. The social media avenues available to us as recruitment professionals allow us to tell engaging stories details about life at our respective institutions while reaching a much wider audience. 

As an added benefit, the combination of digital marketing and narrative delivery has the potential to reach future applicants, members of Generation Z, like never before. 

Gen Z: Planning for the Future of Content Marketing

Students from demographics like Generation Z grew up with storytelling in advertising. As such, they possess an ability unique to their age group: the ability to fully digest a narrative, garnering an empathetic curiosity for both the content marketer and the subject of the story itself. In other words, they see things from all angles. 

They’ve also grown up hand-in-hand with digital media, specifically avenues like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Incidentally, each of those platforms has its own built-in story function which has emerged as a well-vetted strategy for building customer engagement. In fact, marketing content to Generation Z is heavily dependent on electronic word of mouth. Their ubiquitous use of social media is one of the best ways for recruitment professionals to garner free advertising, especially if their higher ed marketing strategies include well-crafted narratives.   

Edufficient specializes in lead generation services geared specifically for college recruitment professionals. Our platform can help you deliver high-quality pieces of content marketing via digital narratives to your core client demographics.


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