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Writing for Channels

Best practices for writing headlines constantly change now that marketing analytics can provide data on what’s effective. But here are a few guidelines.

Cut to the chase.

Most content is accessed on the web and via mobile phones, so the more informative the headline, the better. Don’t be terse, but try not to exceed 100 characters and/or a word count of eight.

Be authoritative.

We are a knowledge brand, so showing expertise will appeal to many audiences. If you have data to back up the story, try to include that in your headline, using terms like “study” or “report” or “poll.”

Zoom in.

The more personalized and targeted your message is, the more likely you are to reach your target market. Try specifically referencing the audience you want to reach.

SEO, or search engine optimization, increases visibility of your website for relevant searches. If content is relevant, rich (e.g., images, diagrams, bullet points), and connected to related content, search engines will find your site more easily. Think of what questions your content answers and what keywords people will associate with it. Use those keywords to optimize your titles, headlines, meta titles, and tags.

Include links to other content—both internal (within the Northeastern website) and external (to sites outside the university). But only do so if the links are truly relevant. In general, it’s best not to overpopulate your content with links.

 Here are some tips on how to effectively write for the web:

Create a sitemap.

Your sitemap will provide links to all pages so that the search engine doesn’t need to guess where things are.

Include useful headings.

Headings create a hierarchy of information on a webpage. If a visitor to your site can skim the page and locate what they need, then so can search engines.

Link to high-level pages.

Link to more top-level pages, such as the homepage, rather than other pages that are buried in a website. There are exceptions to this when using links as a citation.

Optimize your content for mobile.

Use concise and organized content to optimize the content for a mobile experience. Be sure that both the visual and text content are easy to digest on any device.

Avoid misleading keywords.

Steer clear of keywords that mislead audiences searching for specific content, so you don’t cause confusion or inadvertently steal traffic. Your content should have a purpose and deliver on it.

Ads

Advertising requires careful planning, clear goals, and a distinct point of view. Always keep in mind what you want your audience to feel, to think, and to do. Make sure your ad addresses all three objectives. 

 

Here are a few guidelines to help you get the most out of your ad copy. 

Who’s your audience? 

Prioritize and focus your work for key audiences. Make sure whatever message you come up with speaks with the right message and tone.

What’s your goal? 

Messaging should target a result, such as increased enrollment, more engagement, or better awareness. 

Where will your ad appear?

Consider where people will see the work, then write and design to embrace this context, whether it’s online, in print, or out in the world. 

Make the benefit clear.

The product or idea you’re advertising may be about Northeastern, but you need, first and foremost, to highlight the benefit to your audience.

Eliminate bias.

Marketing to diverse audiences goes beyond gender or race. Diversity includes age, geography, socioeconomic status, relatable jobs and academic paths, abilities, and sexuality. Avoid language and concepts that default to stereotypes.

Everything we create to tell Northeastern’s story is content: articles, videos, ad copy, web banners, program descriptions, letters, invitations. Here are a few tips for communicating in a way that says, “We are Northeastern.”

Highlight Northeastern’s unique strengths.

Showcase our areas of disctinction: global experience, use-inspired research, mobile opportunities, partnership, innovation, lifelong learning. Include details and examples that emphasize these strengths. Show don’t tell.

Consider which channel(s) you’re using.

Web writing, for example, has less of linear or sequenced narrative than print, so use best practices for UX to achieve a seamless experience.

Let the personalities of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni shine through.

People like to read about people. Tell authentic stories about people from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.

 

Leverage existing content.

Repurpose existing content (see the Content Resources section) by adapting it, updating it, or approaching it from a new perspective or theme.

Don’t bury your point.

Start with what’s going to resonate with your audience, and then provide the relevant backstory if needed.