How Purdue Leads With Content material

When R. Ethan Braden took the helm as chief advertising and communications officer for Purdue College and Purdue World, he had his work lower out for him.

“What I discovered in 2018 was a well-meaning however emaciated, antiquated, and dilapidated sort-of comms store of 55 people that have been usually pushed by the random and tactical advertising requests of the campus,” he explains.

Ethan’s first order of enterprise? To construct a world-class advertising group to inform the Purdue story not because the pushed however as the driving force of the model.

He took the helm of the 150-year-old iconic Purdue model, which has graduated 27 astronauts (essentially the most of any non-service academy, together with Neil Armstrong). Throw in a pandemic, shifting notions concerning the worth of a faculty training, and a number of goal audiences, and issues bought complicated.

Immediately, Purdue’s advertising workforce stands practically 100 robust. They’ve elevated the $3 billion Purdue model and its portfolio, which incorporates the flagship college and its Purdue College On-line, three polytechnic excessive colleges, Purdue World for working adults, a brand new city campus in Indianapolis, a analysis basis, and an alumni affiliation of 600,000.

And Purdue content material reaches an even bigger viewers than it ever has. Below Ethan’s management, the workforce has change into a content material juggernaut, culminating with this yr’s viral video, What Can You Think about at Purdue?” (The spot amassed over 28 million views in eleven months on YouTube and was named a Content material Advertising and marketing Undertaking of the 12 months finalist.) It’s certainly one of many the explanation why Ethan was named Content Marketer of the Year for the 2023 Content material Advertising and marketing Awards.

Check out Ethan’s content material strategy, how he will get his workforce into character to inform the emotional tales of Purdue, and the way he helped double Purdue’s advertising funding in 5 years. You’ll be able to hear a part of the story in his personal phrases on this transient video interview.

Instilling a campus-wide mission to enchant

Ethan loves the phrase “enchant” in defining his content material philosophy, and it has nothing to do with princesses or legendary creatures. “The definition of enchant is ‘to evoke and entice an ecstatic admiration and demand for.’ And after we take into consideration content material and its distribution with our goal audiences, that’s the purpose – to evoke and entice their ecstatic admiration and demand for Purdue in no matter which means at that second. Whether or not that’s to return to highschool right here, purchase season tickets, come to work for us, accomplice with us on analysis, and many others.,” Ethan explains.

Staying ‘in character’ as an alternative of ‘on model’

When Ethan arrived, the advertising at Purdue was usually centered on colours, logos, taglines, and fluff reasonably than deeply understanding its college students’ and alumni’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors – the emotional resonance that even manifests itself in tattoos of the school’s logo, name, and boilermaker mascot.

That led Ethan to ask (and reply): “How are you turning up that delight, the nostalgia, the love, the affect this place has on people?”

To remain in character, the workforce developed an unlimited, centralized database {of professional} property and instruments out there for schools and departments to localize reasonably than creating one thing on their very own or making particular person requests for advertising.

“There may be freedom inside this framework, so that you’ve bought some latitude to inform your target market what you stand for. However the tip of the spear is Purdue College, and we would like folks to say, ‘This feels synergistic. This all feels prefer it’s coming from the identical place,’” Ethan says.

Cross-functional groups attain totally different audiences

Purdue advertising should attain potential college students, mother and father, grownup learners, college, researchers, alumni, and others. To try this, Purdue’s advertising leaders broke the workforce into teams with deep experience and empathy for his or her goal audiences. “Our cross-functional groups are an X issue of nice advertising and nice storytelling,” he says.

For instance, when creating content material about an grownup learner, the marketer isn’t the one one who wants to grasp the goal particular person’s journey. The photographer, challenge supervisor, and author additionally have to know. “The richness of the collective output of the cross-functional groups is a lot larger,” Ethan says.

Advertising and marketing the advertising

Ethan is grateful that he obtained early buy-in from the college’s administration and Board to revamp Purdue’s strategy to advertising and its central workforce. However he didn’t cease garnering extra assist and assets. “We do a good quantity of selling the advertising to guarantee that the group understands what it has and appreciates it but additionally values it in a means that enables us to proceed to do our jobs to the very best of our skills and experience,” Ethan explains.

For instance, advertising promoted its phenomenal YouTube development on a channel {that a} yr in the past already garnered 2 million views, besting its 5 benchmark peer colleges mixed. In 2023, Purdue’s YouTube grew that efficiency to a whopping 55 million views.

“I would like the group to know that, and I would like them to really feel like there’s unimaginable competence right here, in order that they have such confidence within the folks which might be telling Purdue’s story and the assets we’re being afforded to do it,” Ethan says.

Ethan’s advertising of selling has labored. Purdue’s advertising funding has doubled within the final 5 years, permitting him to extend the scale, high quality, and skillsets of the workforce. “I might take (our expertise) to any Fortune 100 tomorrow and say we are able to do what they’re doing. We now have unimaginable entrepreneurs now, largely alumni, who love this place, and that’s the key sauce,” he says.

Past the practically 100 folks on the official advertising workforce, a campus group of about 300 different entrepreneurs and communicators collaborates and contributes, too. “When a number of folks have their fingerprints on one thing, they’ll personal it, implement it, and so they’ll endorse it with their deans and division heads,” Ethan says.

A 75-person scholar group known as The Boiler Ambassadors additionally acts like an company for the college. The concept manifested throughout COVID-19 after they wanted college students to assist disseminate the Shield Purdue marketing campaign.

Wanting forward

Ethan and his advertising workforce at Purdue aren’t resting on their success. “As true Purdue innovators and instigators of progress, we’re leaning in to see what’s potential [with AI], and we’re keen to make some errors alongside the best way,” he says.

However irrespective of how they get there, Ethan will keep true to his skilled philosophy: “I need to construct manufacturers and groups that individuals love and belief. We’ve been in a position to do this right here at Purdue over the past 5 years. That’s the place we’re going to proceed to go.”

Wish to hear extra from Ethan, plus get the newest traits, methods, and inspiration to take your video content material to the following stage? Be part of us on November 15-16 for the Masters of Advertising and marketing: Visible Storytelling free digital occasion. Register now.


Cowl picture by Joseph Kalinowski/Content material Advertising and marketing Institute