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Contently Case Story: How Cornell Tech Reveals Its Incredible Experiments to the World

By Erin Nelson November 4th, 2016

There’s a retainer out there that fits like a mouthguard and allows you to control everything from home appliances to video games to wheelchairs, all by shifting the position of your tongue. Although the invention sounds like something from Ray Bradbury’s imagination, it’s actually part of a student project at Cornell Tech. Five graduate students recently created Pallette, an ambitious device to help quadriplegics gain more control of their surroundings.

Innovations like this are commonplace at Cornell Tech, the graduate school that formed in 2011 when Cornell University partnered with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. The school is part of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s initiative to transform the city’s economy through applied sciences education. The graduate programs—which include MBA and computer science degrees—focus on education for digital pioneers, fusing technology with business and creative thinking.

As an organization, Cornell Tech is rethinking graduate tech education with programs that reflect the flexibility, technical depth, and cross-fertilization of ideas that the digital age demands. Over the course of the program, students work alongside industry partners and postdoc researchers to build startups and new products.

While students and faculty are busy tackling important societal problems, Cornell Tech’s marketing team faces its own challenge: how to translate these developments into stories that drive applications and position the campus as a leader in innovation.

Strategy makes a difference

To bolster its storytelling capabilities and scale its publishing efforts, Cornell Tech partnered with Contently to access content strategists, a network of creative professionals, and technology.

Creativity is at the heart of Cornell Tech’s educational goals, which is why its editorial calendar focuses on tech innovation. Cornell Tech has documented, among other successes, student working to make digital characters leap off the book page, and new research on how to detect emotions in digital content.

“We look at content creation through a journalistic and content marketing lens,” said Michele Hoos, assistant director of marketing and communications at Cornell Tech. “We want to unearth the story and package it into something that will be both entertaining and informative for our audiences.”

To start this process, Hoos conducted a content assessment with Contently, which analyzed audience profiles, valuable SEO keywords, traffic, and referral sources to build an audience persona. From there, the marketing team identified brand pillars that would guide the editorial calendar.

With a strategy in place, the content team looked to its students for inspiration. For example, this story about Uru, a startup that uses a computer-vision algorithm to assess where brands can place native ads, chronicles the launch of a company founded on campus.

Through a series of ongoing focus groups about student life, research, and university initiatives, Hoos and her team have unearthed a wealth of stories. Recently, Cornell Tech has also explored the idea of deputizing one of its Contently contributors as a “beat reporter” for Roosevelt Island, who would delve into local stories in advance of the opening of the school’s new campus.

Scaling production

Cornell Tech mines Contently’s talent network to source writers with a range of experience on core topics like science, healthcare, and technology. Hoos and her team use Contently’s platform to plan, create, edit, approve, and publish stories. Additionally, a managing editor edits articles and works with the team to provide strategic recommendations, communicate with writers, and make sure everyone stays on schedule. The new workflow has lead to an uptick in output and quality.

“With a managing editor and the Contently platform, we are able to create and publish content we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise,” Hoos said. “Our volume of content has increased significantly thanks to the Contently platform.”

However, even with great stories and supportive technology, Cornell Tech still faces a crucial marketing dilemma: It needs to reach the right people. To increase clicks and engagement, Cornell Tech turned to Contently for its distribution services.

With the help of a distribution specialist, the school drove over 24,000 people to its optimized articles in just four months. And those who came tended to stick around. For every dollar spent on distribution, readers engaged with the articles for an average of nearly two and half minutes.

Governed by precision and innovation, Cornell Tech is, unsurprisingly, as methodical about content production as it is scientific experimentation. The outcome? A publishing program that is equal parts strategic and creative—ready to use research and insight to share its stories with the world.

Image by Cornell Tech
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