2017 Conference Content Creation

7 Habit(ats) of Successful Student Storytelling (#tie8)

Tim Nekrtiz of SUNY Oswego opened his 7 Habit(ats) of Successful Student Storytelling Session with a recent, successful video which paid tribute to the chicken patty.

Yes. The chicken patty.

This slice-of-student-life production was fun, showcased many personalities, and it illustrated how we can find new angles and ideas when we look at our institutions through our students’ eyes. What matters to them? What is life like on campus?

That’s the idea behind enlisting a team of student storytellers. Nekritz provided a road-map for success for others looking to build or boost their student storytelling efforts, and included plenty of examples. Here are just a few of the key takeaways from this session:

Approve bloggers. Not blog posts. Nekritz strongly suggests that you find students you trust and let them run with it, let them play. Coach and mentor; don’t manage. (Besides, approving all content when there’s a lot of it can slow down a process!)

Answer this question from Luke Sullivan: “Is what I’m creating adding something to someone’s life? Is it useful, entertaining, or beautiful?” – Nekritz’s strategy is guided by this; he and his students answer those questions by brainstorming content ideas (social, video, blog posts, etc.) that fit each. What will help students? What will entertain them? What is pretty/interesting visually?

“Passion above initial skill set” – Students who are passionate can be trained, he says. He looks for a variety of honest students, interesting students–athletes, performers, etc.–who can share in their own authentic voice. Nekritz is even OK with light complaints about campus eking their way into content because it shows these bloggers or student ambassadors are real people who love their school, but speak up when they’re upset about something, like parking woes.

Structure your program to have various different levels of commitment. He uses these three main types of staffing:

  • Casual/at-will (ex: one-time blog post)
  • Ever-changing (ex: weekly takeovers)
  • Regular team – stable team serves as the backbone (interns, student workers)

Nekritz also points out that it’s important to keep building and nurturing a team. After all, as he said, “The worst thing about students is that they tend to graduate.”

But, sometimes, when they do graduate, you get to see first-hand how their experience as student storytellers impacted their careers. For example, an enthusiastic student, Alyssa, once tweeted to her school that she’d be up for doing video blogs. “I’m your girl!” she said over social media. This turned into a successful video blogging series, “Alyssa Explains it All.” Now an alum, Alyssa is using those video skills professionally, and she even presented at ComicCon. This is a reminder that we cannot forget that, as marketers, we can also teach and mentor and inspire students, too.

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By Donna Talarico

Donna Talarico, a Red-Stapler-winning HighEdWeb presenter and volunteer editor for Link, is an independent writer and content strategist. She is the marketing columnist for Wiley's Recruiting and Retaining Adult Learners, and her work has also been published in CASE Currents, The Guardian Higher Education Network, and elsewhere. From 2010 to 2015, she told the Elizabethtown College story as part of an award-winning marketing and communications team. Always a storyteller, before higher ed she worked in print and broadcast media, and for a leading eCommerce company. She is the founder and publisher of Hippocampus Magazine, a bimonthly creative nonfiction journal and small press. She loves road trips, board games, greasy spoon diners, and words.