New position, new focus, new goals

November 30, 2010

I decided to write a blog post today since I felt like it had been a while since I had a chance to write. And it was. My last post was June 30, 2010. I think this gives you some insight into my summer and fall.

This spring we had two retirements in the Office of Communications & Public Relations, and saw an opportunity to restructure the office in a way that would support increased national visibility.  As part of that restructure in addition to my role with web communications I have also taken on the coordination of the College’s marketing efforts.

With any new position a person takes on a new focus and new goals. From July to now I have been working on what that new focus and those new goals should be. The last 6 months has been an amazing experience for me and I am looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead. It has been interesting for me to begin to more fully integrate with the communications team. The word marketing has so many meanings on a college campus. I have had conversations with staff and faculty that range from the color of the fire hydrants to the name and direction of programs and buildings.

The one thing that has been truly energizing in my new role is the opportunity to have an impact on the product. Product of course is one of the 4 P’s of marketing – and in many ways it is the hardest. Building collaborative team oriented relationships with programs is not an easy endeavor. Making recommendations to change the name of a program or tweak the way the program is offered to better meet the needs of the institution and the program is tough and offers a unique challenge. But, it is a challenge that is interesting and makes certain no two days are ever the same.

So what is the future of this blog?

I hope to continue to offer insights and a perspective that adds to the conversation around marketing in higher education. Hopefully I will be able to find the time to do so on a more regular basis as we approach 2011.




The Gambler

January 28, 2010

This year for Christmas I got an iHome system which allows me to play music on my iPhone through speakers at the house. Lately I have been listening to Kenny Rogers the Gambler quite often. (no comments on my musical tastes please) I was struck the other night how some of the lines are relevant to my everyday job.

You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.

Almost everyday as a marketing professional I make decisions about any number of items. How pages might look, where links will be placed, how to implement the College brand, which video projects to pursue, what goes on the homepage, and who to profile on the web. I find myself constantly thinking about trade-offs. What projects are worth the time? What pages are most relevant and need my help? Which areas and offices are most important to the strategic mission of the College? In a nut shell I need to know when to hold’em and when to fold’em.

Then there are times when I am just not going to “win” and it’s time to just walk away from the table and let the chips fall where they may. However in order to last I also need to know when I am in a situation or project above my pay grade and how to skillfully “run for the hills” or at least not get myself in too much trouble.

But as Kenny Rogers sings:

“every hand is a winner and every hand is a loser”

so it’s my job to make more winners than losers.

How do we educate campus on best practices for e-communications

November 13, 2009

When it comes to marketing one of my favorite lines is when someone says “lets get an email blast out!” How do we as web professionals educate, collaborate, and assist the rest of the institution with best practices in e-communications?

Over the last four years I have found this to be a difficult question because there are so many components to an e-communication:

  • delivery system
  • body content
  • subject line
  • photo or banner
  • call to action
  • unsubscribe

Each of these of course has their own intricacies as well, which professional marketers spend time perfecting. In tough economic times not only is there not an opportunity to expand staff but in most cases web offices are being asked to cut or at least hold the line on resources. But web offices are not the only opportunity for institutional savings and we are seeing an increased interest in utilizing web based technologies including e-communications to communicate across our campus which results in an increased “email blast” effect.

I think there are a number of things you can do to help your community understand that you need to integrate e-communications into an overall strategy and plan in advance.

You need a good email system. We have used in-house systems, quasi in house systems, and now a vendor supported solution. Without a doubt the vendor solution has been a savior and allowed us to focus on best practices more instead of making sure the right lists load quickly.

Find your largest users and partner with them. In higher ed chances are good that your highest volume users are in development/alumni relations or admissions. Spend some time understanding their sequence and their needs. Having a partner early on helps when you want to work with other segments of campus.

Chances are resources at your institution are tight and you might not be able to get money to help you outsource your e-communications efforts. Set up a meeting with your IT staff who are in charge of institutional email. Share with them some of the best practices that you are trying to communicate with campus and see if they have anything additional to add. These members of your community spend a lot of time trying to block spam and you can probably use this free in-house resource to help you “beat” the spam filters.

Bring the major players together once a semester and host an e-communications summit. Share best practices and have your users talk about what works and what they are struggling with. This will help you set priorities and allow for free knowledge transfer across departmental lines.


Social media icons on the homepage part II

October 8, 2009

Wow has it been an incredibly busy start to the school year. It seems like we never let our foot off the gas from commencement to convocation and we are speeding right through the first semester.

My last post on adding social media icons to the homepage received a number of comments asking me to elaborate on the negative comments I heard.  So I thought I would provide the community with some insight.

I think at lots of places there is probably  a reluctant acceptance of social media. What is this reluctant acceptance? The understanding that it is important to some audience but it can’t really be here to stay and it can’t really be worth the time that web guy puts into it. Of course maybe they said the same thing about that world wide web thing in the 90’s.

I think Nick was correct in his comment that the  introduction of new colors called attention to the icons instead of other elements on the page. Most of the comments had to do with the “look and feel” and I think people reacted to the blunt promotion of these sites. Every once in a while I still have to answer the question on campus – why are we spending time in facebook?

I did get some links showing me how other schools handle social media icons and a few people wanted us to move them to the bottom. But I think Travis makes a really good point in his comment that if we are going to put time, effort, money, and resources into social media we better be ready to promote them. But that promotion doesn’t just happen on the web. If you have a collaborative integrated marketing team cross promotion in the alumni magazine and other venues are equally important.

News school year = new opportunities

August 27, 2009

Like many institutions we are gearing up this week to welcome the Class of 2013. The new school year brings with it lots of new opportunities. Many schools are trying to figure out how to use social media and new technology to enhance their communications efforts. I encourage you to use the new school year as a way to try something new in your coverage of opening activities. Dive-in and give it a shot.

Are you wondering what to do with that institutional twitter account that just has your RSS feed? Tweet move in day. Use a hashtag and pull the search results to your site. Maybe some of your followers will be engaged and contribute to the hashtag with their own memories and recollections.

Are you wondering how in the world you can provide videos on your site? Go out and buy a flip video camera (they start at about $150). Go out and ask the incoming student and their parents why they chose your school? With Microsoft movie maker (which comes on our machines at my institution) you can quickly edit the video and load it right to YouTube.

Move-in day and convocation along with other opening day traditions schools have is a great opportunity to engage visitors to your website. You have a captive audience who will love to see photos, videos, and anything else you have to offer. This year make sure that you are not having a conversation with your boss after the fact about how “we’ll have to try those things next year.”