Higher Ed Content Strategy: The Plot Twist

content strategy is all about asking the right questions

Detective Spooner: Is there a problem with the Three Laws?
Dr. Lanning: The Three Laws are perfect.
Detective Spooner: Then why would you build a robot that could function without them?
Dr. Lanning: The Three Laws will lead to only one logical outcome.
Detective Spooner: What? What outcome?
Dr. Lanning: Revolution.
Detective Spooner: Whose revolution?
Dr. Lanning: *That*, Detective, is the right question.
from I, Robot

I love movies with a plot twist, especially one I didn’t see coming. In the movie I, Robot Detective Spooner suspects a robot is behind the murder of someone close to him. As it turns out, the murder was committed by a robot, but not the one the detective thought it was. The detective could have solved the murder sooner had he asked the right question first. Higher ed content is much like a movie with a plot twist. Most schools have a lot of great content written to tell their story. The problem is the story they tell is written to answer the wrong questions.

Most higher ed content is written tell the prospect:

  • Who the institution is
  • What they do
  • What they offer to would-be students
  • What makes them the best or better choice

The content is valid but it answers the wrong questions from a prospects point of view. This content is all about the school and designed to sell their degrees. The resulting story is dry as toast and that’s not the story the prospect wants. Prospects want a story they can see themselves in which means a story that includes a hero’s journey and resolves to include their end goal. Schools should answer the three fundamental questions each prospect is asking themselves:

  • Who do I want to be after college?
  • Does this school offer a degree that will get me there?
  • What can they do to help me achieve my goal?

The difference may appear subtle but it’s not. It’s huge and all about shifting the focus of the story. This is part of what content strategy is designed to address, telling a story the user can see themselves in. More in the next installment of Higher Ed Content Strategy.


Digital strategist and marketer prone to fits of curiosity. Solver of digital puzzles. Architect of digital solutions.

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