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Two years ago, the University of North Dakota started the Leaders in Action series, stories of students and alumni that bring our brand to life. Stories like Michelle’s, a first-generation student who considered dropping out of college because of financial trouble. She won national scholarships and now plans to pursue a doctorate in economics. And Den, a father of three special needs children, who also teaches special education.

A lot of work goes into telling our stories -- there’s the written component, plus visually stunning photography and high-quality video. We built a custom immersive microsite to host up to 12 stories at any given time. Although the site was prominently linked on our website and the stories were featured on our homepage, we soon realized they weren’t getting the highest return on our investment. We got aggressive and brought the stories to our audience instead of expecting them to find us.

First, we chop up stories into pieces that work best on different mediums. Then we amplify our stories by making them part of every interaction and every touch point. Here are some tactics to consider:

  • Use all of your social media channels. Tag the academic department, college/school, person featured, relevant clubs, employer, etc. Don’t forget to include your hashtag and tailor the copy to fit the platform.
  • Share the story with the respective academic department and encourage them to reuse the story on their website, newsletters, publications and during campus visits.
  • Pitch the story to the student’s hometown media.
  • Feature the stories in your recruitment pieces; even if it’s just a quote.
  • Include stories in your internal and external communication channels.
  • Take out print and digital ads in newspapers to showcase the entire story.
  • Repurpose the stories at a later date whenever applicable. For example, our atmospheric sciences student story was reshared for National Weather Person Day.

Today, every single Leader in Action story is seen more than 60,000 times. Each story resonates differently on each channel, but generally, we’ve seen:

  • Facebook videos receive 637 percent more impressions and 480 percent more engagements than Facebook photo stories.
  • Instagram posts garner three times more impressions than Instagram stories.
  • Twitter videos and photos perform equally well.
  • Stories receive a similar volume of impressions on Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • Stories receive an average of 570 unique views/year on the UND microsite.
  • A story averages 431 views on YouTube.

Storytelling using multiple channels and multiple formats allows us to connect with various constituents in the right place and at the right time. That’s powerful storytelling. That's the real connection that makes a difference.

Tera Buckley is the director of web and multimedia marketing​, division of marketing and communications,​ at the University of North Dakota.

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