The average U.S. citizen consumes 100,500 digital words a day. With so many words and so little time (sometimes as few as 3 seconds on video ads), how you can you craft a message that will cause students to pause, engage and even share it among others? The key lies in storytelling.

More than 90 percent of consumers want brands to make advertising that feels like a story. Add to this that the continuously evolving landscape of education consumerization and your target audience (students and their sphere of influence) are tired of flashy, straight-up ads. They want emotion-evoking, relatable narratives.

In the education segment, this narrative must be geared toward the entire sphere of decision-makers and influencers, which presents a unique challenge as some decision-makers are 18-year-old students; some decision-makers are 50-year-old parents; and some are 35-year-old nontraditional students – all of different races and cultures.

That’s why at Gavin, when we think about storytelling in education that span different age groups, mindsets and priorities. We think about building our brand stories that are universally relatable and precisely targeted – the ones that encapsulate what it means to be human in relation to your school brand. Themes of inspiration, success, determination, perseverance, empowerment and hard work connect education to where any person may be on his or her journey.

It’s that single connection, that single spark, that can translate to an individual student or influencer taking action – asking for more information, attending an open house, taking a tour or filling out an application.

Develop your own school’s story

A good place to start is your message. Think on what’s most important to tell others about your educational institution, and how that message applies to all financial and emotional decision-makers. Use research, not just opinions, to back up why that message will work with those audiences. Then develop your narrative, and then your creative. It’s easy to get excited about creative and want to start with design or videography. But doing so will risk losing sight of your message, and therefore losing sight of your audiences and what drives their actions.

To build a great engaging brand story, take on the mindset of your students and their sphere of influence. Build out personas and settle into what motivates or inspires them. Their challenges and aspirations.

A good story – the one that stops people in their tracks as they’re scrolling on their device – takes time to develop and often doesn’t come to you in an overnight dream.

Not all narratives are alike. AdWeek describes seven persuasive plots that work for marketing, from quests to stories of triumphs. These plots can be applied to both video and/or imagery, which we strongly encourage. (We hear the brain processes images 60 times faster than words.)

Just a note of caution: Because the average attention span is fewer than 8 seconds, it’s critical to tell your story over a consistent series of images or videos. (Seriously, a “15-second video” is now considered the long version, and if you’re able to tell an effective narrative in 3 seconds or fewer, we tip our hat to you.)

Keep in mind storytelling is a means for connecting across all platforms, including social, video, advertising and personal interactions on campus.

Need help getting started on your storytelling marketing? That’s what we’re here for. Let’s talk.