Storytelling in higher education

Leverage your voices!

There’s no better way to make an impact in higher ed recruiting and fundraising than through inspirational storytelling. At Tigermoth Creative, we’ve covered just about every kind of higher ed story. Students whose lives have been changed by a scholarship. Professors partnering with the community to conduct research or implement new ideas. Alumni changing the world in their own amazing ways. This kind of work never gets old for our team.

Ideally, a university has its narrative down pat, and every school and department speaks with that same narrative in mind — emphasis on ideally. More often than not, many different messages swirl around campus, leaving audiences wondering what exactly you stand for. In cases like these, Tigermoth works closely with faculty, staff and administration to conduct discovery interviews and research that results in the synthesis of many voices into one: a powerful message that everyone can own and take pride in, and most importantly, that inspires audiences to connect with you. We also develop the training workshops and brand guides that are critical to implementing consistent, effective and sustainable messaging. We take great pride in working with in-house staff to develop the tools you need to support your narrative.

Storytelling — the never-fail tactic that’s a must in recruiting and fundraising

Whether or not you have a strategic brand message, stories can keep you moving forward. Stats and points of pride have their place, but they rarely move humans like stories do. Tell a prospective student or donor what you do, and maybe you will make their consideration set. Show them why, and they will feel that they want to be a part of something greater than themselves. Therein lies the power of stories.

The fact is, there is never a wrong time to leverage the voices of those who know you best and who most powerfully demonstrate the impact you make. So whether or not your brand narrative is in play, don’t hesitate to flood your marketing and communications with stories; use them on your website, in emails, in social media, at events and to elevate your donor stewardship.

What kind of a story should you tell?

Sounds like a simple enough question, but it’s worth clarifying. Stories take all forms. Magazine features. Online narratives. A powerful photo with a caption. A documentary-style video, whether it’s one minute in length or seven. Stories make everything better — even the checklists, the annual report, the grant proposal and the presentation at campus visits. They belong just about anywhere, whether in the halls of classroom buildings or the folder that houses your donor proposal. We even had a client leverage advertising at the gas pump! (Where else will you capture the attention of so many teenage drivers with nothing else to do for three minutes?) Any format that allows you to showcase people, that tugs at the heartstrings, that opens eyes, that makes you pause is one you should consider. The pause during which a headline or picture grabs someone’s attention is the moment that your most coveted students and donors imagine being a chapter in your book.

Don’t forget the secret weapon!

Does it sound like a lot of work, to be in all of these places, all of the time? Don’t fret — you have a secret weapon, and it’s called repurposing content. Capture a handful of stories and then edit them for various placements and audiences. If you develop an annual budget for storytelling, you can add new stories to your arsenal year after year with ease.

Tigermoth case studies

We’ve compiled a few examples of our storytelling work for colleges and universities, below. (You can also check out our blog post, “Is your organization magazine-worthy?” to take a peek at the UNCG School of Education magazine.) If you want to talk higher ed marketing, fundraising, recruiting or storytelling with our team, reach out to Rebecca for a meeting.

Norfolk State University

For four years, Chris has photographed Norfolk State students on campus, in classrooms and outside of the university walls. With deep roots in photojournalism and extensive experience in marketing photography, Chris knows how to capture candid images that exude energy and passion. NSU wanted to emphasize student life, community and the unique opportunities available on and off campus: ROTC students training to become honorable officers in the US Army, a driven cybersecurity professor focused on teaching his students the importance of cyber defense, students and faculty pioneering nanotechnology research. Chris navigated his way through a variety of settings, making sure each student was featured and that the mood was light and comfortable so that people not only looked natural and relaxed but had a great time, too. Click through the slideshow below to view a handful of our favorite NSU images.


University of North Carolina School of the Arts

UNCSA needed an annual report that reflected as much creativity and character as the school itself. With a recent update to their brand identity, UNCSA was searching for a partner who understood how to bring a fresh perspective to design while still aligning with the brand. Tigermoth was it. Everyone on our team is a brand ambassador to the core; in addition to developing an evocative brand presence, we respect an established identity and know how to design and write within the bounds of your narrative.

Also — this piece featured an element often missing in annual reports: storytelling. Stories of scholarship students who are empowered to pursue their craft. Stories about students chasing down their dreams to make it big in opera and drama. Stories that showcase the commitment of UNCSA to provide a conservatory-level education to each and every student, all of which leads to donors who feel confident about their investment in the UNCSA experience.