According to Wikipedia, every 4th Monday in January is recognized as Community Manager Appreciation Day. I determined this day was legit after my go-to social media source, Mashable CEO, Peter Cashmore, tweeted about it. Then I gave a shout out to my community management comrades at readMedia.
readMedia devotes the lion’s share of its time and brain power to 1) developing a useful product and improving it, 2) ensuring a great user experience, and 3) client success. We have an entire team dedicated to client success, and it’s perhaps the most rewarding part of working at readMedia. Community managers engage audiences online, on a business’s behalf, and provide client support. By proxy, community managers become the voice of the customer inside your organization.
Community management vs. customer service is still being fleshed out in the business world, but higher ed thought leaders have decided to put this idea to work instead of debating the strategy and its scalability to death. Marketing and public relations offices in higher ed are being charged with creating human connections between the institution and their target audiences. This is positive and potentially powerful shift in higher ed communications. We’re seeing campus communicators go beyond personalizing content to getting personal.
Southern New Hampshire University’s Director of Interactive Marketing, Seth Odell hostsed and moderated a Higher Ed Live roundtable, “Looking Ahead: Marketing & Web Predictions for 2013,” with Oberlin’s Ma’ayan Plaut, Harvard’s Mike Petroff and Bravery Transmedia’s Joel Goodman. The hour-long discussion deserves a dedicated blog post, but for the purpose of this post, I want to narrow my focus to minutes 00:51:00 – 00:54:00, where Seth talks about getting back to basics and moving away from what we say, to what we actually do.
Seth calls attention to a new social CRM initiative he’s heading up with the team at SNHU. They are tracking and purposefully interacting with a handful of SNHU students on Twitter. SNHU is making a conscious effort to know what programs these students are enrolled in, what classes they’re taking, and even how they’re performing. They’re cultivating relationships on a more personal level. Seth provided a great anecdote about how this new initiative is being received by students:
“We got a direct message from a student we’ve been checking-in with on Twitter. The student wrote, ‘…I told my children I would try, I wasn’t sure I could do it, but to know I can, and I’m not alone has meant a lot to me.’ We’ve been reaching out and maybe this effort doesn’t scale, but it still kicks ass.” – Seth Odell
Higher ed is experimenting with taking time to focus less on technology and more on, as Ma’ayan put it, “being a human.”
readMedia is proud to be supporting the community management efforts at more than 450 higher ed institutions. Recognizing students with personalized stories, strengthens an institution’s connection with current and prospective students. Giving students a platform to share their good news, achievements, and praise for your institution is evidence of your commitment to your students. Acknowledging your students as unique individuals, and personalizing the way you communicate with them, further supports your community management strategy.
Here are some great examples of students reacting, sharing, and praising their institutions for recognizing them as people not numbers. When students share positive comments about their school with friends and family by tweeting, posting, or emailing, they’re personally endorsing your institution and building brand affinity with new audiences. The personal connections higher ed communicators are making with students, on behalf of their institution, is a sign that community management is worth it and is scalable – thanks to social media.
Has your institution made community management a priority in 2013? If so, share some of the strategies your using to be more human with target audiences.
“Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and
thinking what nobody has thought.” – Albert von Szent-Gyorgy
In early January we started to pull together a “trends in higher ed 2013” article. It’s a perennial no brainer. From Forbes and food to mom blogs, everyone with a communication channel is a soothsayer in January, the month of predictions and trend reports. Then it hit us. We shouldn’t rely on the current standard, we should wait, read, and identify the trends that nobody is writing about.
First reason higher ed marketers should not follow trends in 2013
Doing what everyone is doing isn’t relevant, it’s easy.
2013 should not be about following trends, it is about pushing ourselves to “think about what nobody has thought.”
Innovators and early adopters have spoken. We now know what the minimum standard is for marketing success. How do we know? Higher ed conference organizers report record breaking attendance in 2012. Campus communicators hit the conference circuit hard last year, and they came equipped with tablets and iPhones. Backchannels boomed with #tweets about keynote stats and inspirational quotes. You might have even used your tech-savvy know how to curate and Storify these big ideas. Social media has made trends more accessible. This transparency makes it easy to determine what’s new and what’s been talked to death.
Second reason higher ed marketers should not follow trends in 2013
As it relates to innovative thinking (and doing): If you know it and it’s been done with some success, it’s not a trend anymore, it’s a new standard.
So what have we seen, what do we know? Many 2013 trends and predictions are rooted in old strategies that have honed. Here is a selection of higher ed standards disguised as trends for 2013.
Content Management Systems: It’s proven to be the best way to manage and maintain campus content. The structure and flexibility make it possible for colleges to accomplish more in less time with less people. CMS talk and evaluation is a trend from 2010 that is still trending now, three years later. CMS adoption isn’t a trend, it’s a new standard.
Collect data + report results: The echo chamber of descriptive analysis. The plethora of free and paid analytics tools to track campaign performance has been presented on for years. Let’s get real, maybe the channels we’re using have increased in complexity, but collecting data and reporting results to show evidence of progress and increased engagement is a standard practice that’s been around for years. Move onto reporting real ROI.
Storytelling & content quality: The art of leveraging online and social media networks to tell stories, connect with audiences, and cultivate conversations. This 2010 blog post, more specifically the two comments at the end of this post, pretty much sum up the storytelling trend. You should already be creating quality content. You should know what you’re going to saying, how you’re going to say it, curate it, brand it, and refine the distribution channels you use to get that content out. Storytelling and content quality should be a standard that fuels your everyday marketing communications and supports your institutional strategy. Which brings us to another “trend.”
Support institutional goals: Many higher ed institutions have implemented an integrated marketing plan to support institutional goals around enrollment, retention, and advancement. Concepts and strategies that support institutional goals are standards, evidence of tangible ROI is the next trend.
A majority of higher ed institutions, 85%, are using social media as a viable tool to build brand affinity. And more than half of campus marketers have a communications and content strategy in place for using social media to engage target audiences. These are facts not trends.
Third reason higher ed marketers should not follow trends in 2013
What conference topics, industry research, or blog posts inspired you in 2012? Are they the same topics and trends for 2013, just repackaged?
If it’s predictable, if it’s been thought of, if it’s been done and done successfully, chances are it’s a new standard not a trend.
Some campus communicators aren’t in a position to put everything they have into being an innovator. In many cases budget and manpower inhibit innovation in higher ed. Campus communicators are often trying to play catch up to the standard, making standards seem like trends. But if you’re a lucky marketer in higher ed, in, there is still a lot of ground to cover. Moving away from talking about standards to demonstrating outcomes related to performance and investment in efficiency is still in its early stages.
There is an art to granting student achievements. Writing another article about “creating an achievement calendar” would be beating a dead horse. For this best practices article, we’ll go over ideas for getting the most out of readMedia before, during, and after the winter break mass exodus.
The end-of-semester crunch puts pressure on campus communicators to push a ton of content out to the media, students, parents, and other stakeholders before higher ed hibernation sets in.
Marketing communications offices have two weeks to get content into the periphery of target audiences before the four week holiday hiatus. Of course, there are a handful of spirited students that take advantage of the short winter course session, but typically, around the third week of December through the second week of January, you can hear a pin drop on campus.
Readership, online, and social media engagement takes a nose dive over the winter break. Studies claim winter break is the high season for drop outs. Even content from the Chronicle of Higher Education slows down.
No one is really checking their college’s Facebook page or Twitter feed and student newspapers skip or combo an issue. The solution for keeping your brand in the minds of target audiences has everything to do with timing.
Let’s segment winter break into three tiers communication:
- Pre-break: Weeks one and two of December
- Hibernation: Post-final exodus. When students, faculty, and administrators take some time off to enjoy the holidays.
- Re-entry: When students restart the academic engine, usually the week (or weekend) before school.
Check your academic calendar, when do exams conclude, when do students leave campus? Timing is everything. Here are some examples of achievements you can get out in early December:
- Dean’s list (example)
- Fall commencement (example)
- Honor society (example)
- Greek life (example)
- Fall sports wrap-up or athletic honors (example)
readMedia clients have the greatest success when they grant these achievements over weeks one and two of December. If you’re feeling the crunch, you can hold off, but timing is critical.
One week after exams through the final week of winter break – NOT the right time to send dean’s list and commencement announcement – period! You do not want to grant achievements out during the first half of winter break. Students and parents unplug from .edu emails and social media posts and focus more on travel, friends, family, work, and relaxation. As move-in day draws near and students start making their way back to campus, your audience will expect contact from you, this is the ideal time to send December news.
Grant achievements that focus on the handful of student still on campus or those who continued their academic activities over winter break, this includes:
- International students that didn’t travel home
- Winter-sports athletes
- Work-study students
- Alternative winter break or civic engagement achievements like this one from Saginaw Valley State University (my vote for Best Custom Badge Set).
Have you had success or challenges with campus communications over winter break? If so, share them with our readers by adding a comment below. In closing, our client service and success team is here to help you get the most out of your readMedia subscription, call us anytime! 1.800.522.2194.
More than 450 colleges and universities are turning student achievements into a powerful brand communications strategy that successfully targets, tracks, and measures audience engagement in local, online, and social media networks.
The customer service and strategy team at readMedia works with higher ed institutions all year long to ensure their success. We’re constantly monitoring usage, stats, and audience engagement. When we see great results, we grab a screenshot and shoot the good news around the entire office. Everyone feels fantastic about delivering on our promise to give higher ed communicators a platform to transform content and social media marketing into a measurable strategy that gets results.
Around November we dive into the archives and sift through piles of great results. Now it’s time for you to see how your institution stacks up against your peers. readMedia is pleased to bring you the “Best of readMedia 2012.”
No. 1 Best admissions initiative
Two institutions are augmenting admissions marketing by using readMedia to create an early connection with prospective students.
Harding University granted high school junior Lorenzo Sukhdeo an achievement for attending a summer pharmacy camp.
Ashland University sent an “Accepted” achievement to prospective students and as you can see in the post below, one commenter posted, “They are going to make it hard not to attend AU…“
No. 2 Best alumni Achievement
Many higher ed institutions use readMedia to shine the light on alumni accomplishments.
The University of Toledo granted Chinonso Agubosim an achievement for being featured in an Ad Campaign.
No. 3 Favorite custom badge design
We have had so many colleges and universities create amazing badge sets, it was hard to choose a victor. To make it fair, we sent an email with screenshots around the office and the team casted a vote for their favorite best badge set. The judging criteria included: detail, aesthetic appeal, and brand consistency. Here are the results:
Greensboro College and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette tied for first!
No. 4 Tear jerker award
When students post their achievements in their personal online networks, friends and family respond. We see achievement shares draw out some really sincere heartfelt comments. Here are three encouraging interactions:
Columbia State Community College
Shawnee State University
No. 5 Top student profiles
These students use readabout.me to create a robust and positive online identity; adding activities, work experience, and personal information to their readabout.me profile.
- Rachelle Washington, a sophomore at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
- Michael Mifflin, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
- Andrew Koskela, senior at the Berklee College of Music.
No. 6 Most unique achievements
We often talk about getting creative and using achievements to advertise some of the unique programs and activities going on at your school. Here are some of the more unique achievements we’ve seen this year:
Butler University granted 152 achievements to the “Newest generation of legacies.”
How about granting an achievement to your institution’s mascot? We’ve has a few universities do this. This year, Randolph College takes the silver by granting an achievement to Wanda WildCat.
No. 7 Favorite landing page 2012
Many colleges and universities do a great job customizing their readabout.me landing pages. We put this year’s landing pages to a vote. Similar to the custom badge category, we had everyone in the office cast a vote with this criteria in mind: detail, aesthetic appeal, and brand consistency.
- First place goes to Ithaca College.
- Tied for second are Mississippi State University and Columbia State Community College.
No. 8 Best of getting the word out to students
One of the strategies critical to an institution’s success with readMedia and readabout.me is getting your students to use it! You can turn students into your most valuable marketing asset by giving your students personalize content that they want to share in their personal online and social networks. You can achieve this by marketing readMedia to your students. By communicating the benefits of having a positive online identity, your students will see “what’s in it for them.”
Here are some of our favorite examples of institution’s going the extra mile to get the word out about readabout.me – and these schools are seeing 119% more engagement from their students than other readMedia users.
Saint Louis College of Pharmacy $50 iTunes card
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette positioned readabout.me as a new student recognition program and they made this great video available to students.
University of Wisconsin-River Falls created an informative, how it works, video.
No. 9 Achievements with the most comments and
No. 10 Achievements with the most “likes“
Reading great comments and seeing “likes” from family members and friends is one of the more rewarding experiences at readMedia. When we see positive engagement, like what you see below, we know readMedia is helping connect students to their school and community. We’re also helping institutions build brand affinity in target markets that they would otherwise never be able to reach.
Christy Smith a 2012 RIT graduate posted her achievement to Facebook, garnering 156 “likes” from friends and family.
Angela Key Woolridge of Northern Illinois University received 69 ‘likes’ and 24 comments from family and friends for posting her son’s scholarship achievement on Facebook.
Finally, Christine Smitt posted her Berklee College of Music dean’s list achievement to Facebook, which prompted 65 “likes” and 12 comments.
Wondering how the 2011 winners compare to this year? Check out the results from 2011.
From all of us at readMedia – have a most enjoyable holiday season.
The readMedia blog, strictly speaking, is committed to higher ed topics that further campus communicators’ ability to do their jobs strategically. We’ve never blogged about anything “off-topic,” but I was inspired by The Chronicle of Higher Education’s “ProfHacker 2012 Holiday Gift Guide.“ It is an opportune time to break away from tradition by contributing to the perennial tradition of gift giving.
For families that place good food high on their list of priorities, a set of Amy Wilson Sanger books are a perfect gift. $11.95 each.
This unbelievably awesome pacifier ($13.96) will put a smile on your face every time your wee one uses it. Where were these six years ago?
Colorful Sevilla building blocks by Haba, $69.99.
Architectural blocks by Haba, $44.99.
For tweens & teens
Get tickets to see your child’s favorite band. A road trip and overnight would make the experience even more memorable. How do you spring it on them? Whether you have the tickets in hand or write an I owe you for when the tix go on sale, throw it in this ticket stub diary ($11) and watch your child’s jaw drop when they finger through and find the surprise.
Norwegians know how to stay warm. You can’t go wrong with a weatherproof Dale of Norway sweater. They run $300 – $600, and last forever.
An old school straight razor shave makes a great stocking stuffer for “him.” It’s an inexpensive luxury. I’ve been purchasing gift certificates from a respectable hole-in-the-wall for years. It’s $17 for the full treatment, from hot towel to after shave application. Joe’s been doing it right for decades. Grab a coffee and go on a hunt to find the Ritmo’s in your town.
One gift to rule them all: Wantful!
It’s a site I came across last year and I’ve been in love with it ever since. Wantful helps gift givers assemble a custom catalog, of up to 16 different items, that fall within a pre-defined price point, $30, $50, $75, etc… Once you choose from a number of boutique items ranging from bow ties and champagne to scarves and non-profit donations, Wantful delivers the book — electronically or as a gorgeous physical copy — to the recipient of the present; then ships the gift recipient the product he or she chooses. Trust me, visit the site: https://wantful.com/
For the party host
Pottery Barn sells one of my favorite candles, Mission Fig. It has a long lasting musky fragrance. $19.50
If you like eBay, search for “brass legs nutcracker” and you’ll find a spin on the traditional, wooden soldier nutcracker. There are many, cheaper, modern day knock-offs, but the authentic 1920s nutcrackers make a great bar/conversation piece.
For many readMedia champions, granting Achievements and distributing news is a primary focus and critical part of the marketing mix. For users looking to take their communications strategy to the next level, this post is for you.
readMedia has an entire team dedicated to customer service and client success. Three, and only three, items are on the weekly agenda:
Item 1: Report on readmedia usage
Item 2: How are our users performing, are we helping them achieve their goals?
Item 3: What can we do better to ensure their success?
That’s it. We’re not salespeople, we’re success people. When we conduct your 90 and 180-day review, we look to see how you’re doing and want to understand any roadblocks you’re facing with readMedia.
This month, we’ve heard a lot about content strategy, creation, and management. A handful of readMedia users have asked about tips on where to start and how to be more successful with readMedia.
We’re bringing you #12 from the readMedia Best Practices Playbook. It’s all about using readMedia to develop a measurable content strategy that ties your efforts to institutional goals. In other words, low-risk, high-reward. Here’s the play-by-play on how to make readMedia work for you, your students, and your institution.
1. Choosing Achievements
Take a look at your institution’s mission statement, value proposition, boilerplate, and strategic plan.
- Are you positioning your students as leaders?
- Is diversity and a multicultural environment something you promote?
- Have you started to focus on research and science-based programs?
- Do athletic or community service programs attract prospective students?
Choosing Achievements is a piece of cake; simply align your Achievements with your institution’s strengths. You should grant achievements to students whose scholarly accomplishments and academic activities match your marketing plan and current content strategy.
If you want to position your students as leaders, focus on achievements like student government, distinguished scholars, and orientation leaders. Institutions that successfully brand their students as leaders, provide evidence, in the form of an Achievement, on how their institution helps their students become leaders.
2. Creating an Achievement Calendar
Successful clients, like James Madison University and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, are reaching thousands of students and parents in target markets because they sync their Achievements to their marketing and communications academic calendar. By forecasting the granting and distribution of Achievements, you can create templates in advance and save them in your account, so they are there when you need them. These templates can be reused semester after semester.
Creating an Achievement Calendar 1) saves you time, 2) helps you support office and institutional goals, and 3) makes it easy to coordinate content across multiple channels of communication.
In an attempt to make your job easier, here is a link to a sample Achievement Calendar with over 30 activities that take place on campus during the academic year. Copy and paste our templates into your readMedia account, add a couple of unique sentences, slap your boilerplate on the bottom, and call it a day.
3. Obtaining student information
We hear that getting buy-in from other departments can be a real challenge. But act early and act fast. Reach out to the appropriate activity coordinators, department heads, and the registrar. Give them an overview, here’s a deck you can use. Provide them with a sample spreadsheet, so they know what data to pull. Inform your colleagues that the information they are providing is FERPA compliant. Once you have a workflow in place for obtaining student data, you’re well on your way!
SUNY Adirondack has mastered the art of distributed workflow and data collection. The Marketing and Community Relations Department, led by Mark Parfitt, reached out to IT to develop an online application that allows the campus community submit a “readMedia Success Story.” This includes everything from writing the content for the story to uploading their own spreadsheet. This project deserves its own dedicated feature, look for it in 2013.
In the meantime, feel free to peruse SUNY Adirondacks readMedia submission pages: http://www.sunyacc.edu/search/node/readmedia
If uploading a spreadsheets, creating templates, and editing mistakes after an Achievement has been granted, are child’s play, there’s only one feature I’d like to bring to your attention: sending a web-only Achievement. readMedia gives you the capability to grant your students an achievement that they can share in their social networks without inundating the media with content that’s not “newsworthy.” Here’s how. >>
For readMedia users that blow the dust off of our platform twice a year, we encourage you, and any new readMedia users to take advantage of our weekly online trainings. They’re free and they happen twice a week. Register today.
When it comes down to it, execution is about building brand affinity with prospects in target markets by getting relevant content into the hands of students, and the media, so it can be shared with thousands of people.
5. Report on Results
After you grant an Achievement, we recommend logging into your readMedia account to view your Web Stats and Delivery reports. readMedia has robust analytics built right in, making it easy to demonstrate, to leadership, how you united a content and social media strategy that is effective AND measurable.
readMedia gives you the capability to monitor and measure outcomes, tying your efforts back to institutional goals like: enrollment, retention, brand affection, and engagement. For more on how to access and interpret your readMedia Web Stats and Delivery Reports, visit our Online Resource Guide.
Our number one priority at readMedia, is to prove your value and showcase what a cutting-edge innovator you are. This is accomplished by offering you a few key strategies that will help you to be exalted and modeled by the higher ed community.
If you have a question, hit a roadblock, or just want to bounce an idea off us, don’t hesitate – contact us!
Wish we could have hit them all, but here’s the abridged version of two AMA Higher Ed sessions we attended – with links to AMA Higher Ed recaps from around the blogosphere.
An Integrated Marketing Revolution at Ithaca College
In a short 45 minutes, Rachel Reuben, associate vice president, marketing communications at Ithaca College, gave attendees a high-level overview of Ithaca College’s brand building roadmap. From reason and plan through research and buy-in, Reuben, addressed a number of challenges and topics that higher ed communicators are all too familiar with.
Challenge: Inconsistent brand identity
Solution: Market research
Ithaca College relied heavily on focus groups and market research to create a brand awareness advertising campaign, one of many vehicles used to communicate the institution’s new identity. Ithaca College starting their brand identity development journey with a positioning statement and RFP. After finding the right partner, Ithaca College began testing creative concepts. Refining these concept was crucial to evaluating messaging execution and effectiveness.
A “Perception Study” was conducted. Ithaca College collected feedback from current stakeholders, 15,000 prospective students, 10,000 higher ed peers, and results from a 2009 alumni study. The March 2011 concept test helped Ithaca College further evolved their brand identity system in-house prior to the August 31, 2011 launch and they’ve stuck with the same messages and visual identity since then.
Challenge: Identity standards
Solution: Licensing and trademark enforcement programs
Ithaca College developed identity standards to address their core visual identity elements for publication, digital design, multimedia, and social media use and presence. They also focused on developing a licensing standards program for merchandise. Ithaca relies on a licensing partner to help structure and enforce these standards. The institution’s licensing program is a single component in their overall identity to support the brand merchandise.
Trademarking was a separate, but necessary, process. Reuben provided a word of advice on creating new ID standards, “trademark everything,” logos, seal, nickname, sub-brands, and institution expressions. You can find a page dedicated to licensing on the institution’s website: ithaca.edu/licensing. Reuben also shared a funny anecdote about adding the word ”College” to little orphan Ithaca, having “Ithaca College,” two words, trademarked in 2010/11.
Challenge: Organizational & budget challenges
Solution: Restructure and form a traveling road show
Ithaca used current data and research to woo key stakeholders. They outlined the office’s goals and demonstrated how their goals align with the institutions strategic plan. In order to expand and restructure, the Office of Marketing Communications (OMC) went on the road. To keep campus stakeholders in the loop, the OMC conducted dozens of campus presentations.
Prior to Reuben’s arrival, the OMC had no in-house design services to support an integrated marketing effort across all schools and administrative units. Reuben championed an initiative to move the web design function out of the Information Technology Services department and into marketing communications. They relied on open positions, and reallocated existing operational budget resources to redefine and create new positions. In the end, Ithaca College had to request only one new position in the budget process through their overall reorganization plan. Now, the OMC covers all integrated marketing, brand management, and content development.
Goals and measuring results
While Ithaca College’s IMC just kicked-off, Ithaca College is comparing the pre-IMC perception study research to the data from the August 2011 launch. The office is using secondary indicators to identify positive trends. The OMC is currently looking for positive trends and impact in these categories: donations, application numbers, retention, employee searches, web analytics, email analytics, inquiries, and campus visits. Ithaca College had a record number of applications last year and plans to retest their IMC again in 2014.
A link to Reuben’s deck: http://slidesha.re/U7MqWH
Taming Your “Little Monsters” Using Students to Inform Practice
Robin Meeks, senior associate director, Megan Alfred, associate director, and Kyle Oman, graduate assistant in Student Affairs Marketing at the University of Arizona (UA), started their presentation out with a question, “Students. Does any other audience really matter?”
Their presentation focused on a growing trend in higher ed, using students to create and carry an institution’s brand and message to the masses. UA continues to have great success wrapping students into their marketing strategy through a Student Affairs Marketing offering called Professional Internship Program (PIP). Students participate for academic credit and experience.
UA and UA Student Symbiosis
Student Affairs Marketing strategically uses PIP to help students build robust resumes with real world experience. While other internship programs offer paper pushing and note taking opportunities, PIP promises a rich, hands on experience with long term application, visibility, and measurable outcomes for their portfolios.
Student Affairs Marketing talked about putting students to work doing everything from project management and graphic design to programming, video production, and content creation. PIP, makes it possible for UA to increase savings, increase revenue, provide career prep services to students, and create an authentic, real-world public facing brand, built on UA’s most valuable constituency – their students.
PIP is a success because UA implemented a rock solid strategy and set of standards to support the initiative. Students are given respect but not free reign. In a structured format, UA students contribute significantly to the look, feel, message, and success of the UA brand.
Students know students best
Student interns are expected to conduct a great deal of market research. They targeted millennials and Generation Zers to gain consumer insight. This data is used to fine tune UA’s messaging and services. Benefits include:
- Access to target markets
- Develop relevant messaging
- Create accessible and authentic models
- Tap into the existing talent on campus
From the data collected, UA was able to reorganize the student learning center. The student tailored learning center formed eight new branches of service, including the Think Tank. A place to go for math and science tutoring, the writing center, weekly course reviews, supplemental instruction, and more, provides both FREE and fee based services to meet the diverse needs of all UA students and is used by a number of high schools across the nation.
Student service resource started in 2008, has seen tremendous growth over the last three years. Increasing retention rates to 72.5% for all freshmen. With more than 25,000 visit, the Think Tank has served 4,844 students. Not only has the this initiative helped the Student Affairs Marketing increase retention rates, but their use of student talent serves as a revenue generator.
Students Say, “Stop the Staging.”
Students sent a message to UA… “enough with the staged images that project your classic view of campus life. Students want the “real UA experience.” UA took this feedback seriously and relied on their PIP students to replace cookie cutter images with real students, in real UA settings, engaging in real UA activities. The results brought UA national recognition.
Student Affairs marketing was able to avoid contracting marketing agencies by tapping into their own Visual Communications students, Student Affairs now holds contests to re/design brands for campus center food providers.
Trying this at home
Meeks, Alfred, and Oman, left AMA attendees with the four key pieces of advice for implementing a successful PIP program:
- Respect: Sometimes you have to just admit, the student is right. Give them wings, let them fly.
- Hire properly: Choose wisely, do your students have a finger on the plus, do they have the fire inside, do they love your institution?
- Be prepared to work hard: You’re the expert, you still need to teach and mold your students workers, they can apply their skills and edgy lens, but you have to refine it and ensure they’re getting just as much out of their work as you are. They should walk away with new skills.
- You’re still the boss: Apply all three of the keys above, but remember, you’re as accountable for the poor outcomes just as much as the great ones, el hefe.
Other AMA Higher Ed themes
If you saw it once at #AMAHigherEd, you saw it one thousand times, we’re living in the age of savvy consumers. Parents and students are shopping around and they want hard evidence that if they choose your institution, they will, without a doubt, come out four years later better off than they came in. The end has to justify the means when college debt insects with a highly competitive job market.
One of the themes that emerged was the strategy of “telling a story.” It’s been said, time and time again by higher ed through leaders, that schools have to eliminate college to student communications and rely more heavily on student-to-student and more authentic communications.
AMA summaries from around the ‘net:
The Lawlor Group, “Making the connection in higher ed marketing“
Robert L. Mitchell, “Higher ed’s high-tech headache“
University of Wisconsin-Oshkosk, “A recap: american marketing association higher education symposium
Rachel Reuben, “AMA 2012 conference recap: Continuing to raise the bar personally, professionally and as a conference“
If you have any session summaries, share your thoughts with our readers, post a link in the comments section.
readMedia Senior Strategist, Danielle Valenti and I are back after attending the American Marketing Association Higher Ed 2012 Symposium. Sure I missed my flight back to NY, but all things happen for a reason, 1) I had 13 hours to reflect on what I learned at AMA and 2) I, unexpectedly, found shelter at a stranger’s house in the Garden District (long story).
This year’s conference theme, CONNECTED, fit the pre-conference hype, focusing on bringing together higher ed communicators and marketers from across the globe. While the most international flare we experienced came in the form of hand-passed spanakopita hors d’oeuvres, I’m happy to report that #AMAHigherEd delivered on its promise to bring attendees cutting-edge approaches, tools, and trends on the forefront of higher ed marketing.
In addition to the Advanced Marketing sessions taking place twice daily, AMA offered a series of breakout sessions, covering six tracks. The topics were timely, relevant, and ranged from brand strategy and marketing intelligence to digital marketing and enrollment. For three days, AMA was brimming with actionable strategies – that’s where it starts and, pretty much, where it ends.
Here’s a tweet that sums up AMA Higher Ed 2012, and let me skip to the punch: AMA provided a platform for showcasing ideas and integrated marketing strategies, but lacked examples of tangible ROI. The only gap in the program was in providing metrics-based evidence of outcomes outweighing investment.
It’s not enough to bring innovative strategies to the table, speakers have to “prove their value” by tying those strategies to end-to-end, data driven results. By end-to-end, I mean, from building brand affinity on target markets to post-grad job placement, and everything in between.
I firmly believe that AMA Higher Ed 2013 will combine the best ideas around integrated marketing initiatives that allow us to do more with less with a year full of data-driven results. Transforming qualitative tactics into measurable results distinguish thought leaders (action) from thought achievers (success). I predict a year’s worth of implementation will distill and reveal the most powerful standards and best practices for higher ed marketers.
Now let’s recap some of the finer moments at AMA. *Note: There were so many great session tracks, but only two of us on assignment, Danielle and I can only speak to and reflect on the sessions we attended, tweets we monitored, and conversation we had with other attendees. Let’s highlight some key strategies and insight that came from AMA Higher Ed 2012, starting with the Keynotes.
In his Monday morning keynote address, “The Value Gap,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, Editor at Large, Jeff Selingo reiterated that higher ed institutions need to help students compare the value and difference between college, starting with the admission process. Many prospective students don’t understand what the difference is between a grant and a loan. Selingo echoed a communication strategy we’ve heard a lot about over the last several year, formalizing your institution’s value proposition. Urging institutions to think like the corporate world and address the question, “how am I going to learn and what and I going to learn to ensure my success?”
Kimbrough. Need I say more?
If you didn’t know him before AMA, you knew him after. Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough, the self-proclaimed and brilliantly branded @HipHopPrez, of Dillard University made a Tuesday morning feel like a Friday night. Kimbrough was plain, simple, and effective. His ideas on doing something remarkable spurred a twitter frenzy. Attendees could not get enough of Kimbrough’s insight (see tweets below).
Writing checks your A$$ can cash
It’s easy to be inspired by a flagrant branded persona. Kimbrough is remarkable because he has the outcomes to back up the brand. The debacle Kimbrough walked into on day one:
- Budget probz: A mountain of unpaid bills and $1.5M in accounts receivable
- Accreditation challenges: 14 audit findings from the student loan guarantee foundation of Arkansas, 10 internal audit findings, & potential $11M in Department of Ed findings
- Performance issues: Embarrassing retention and graduation rates, pitiful alumni engagement, and unimpressive new student statistics (HSGPA & ACT)
- Standards infringement: AAUP sanctions
What impressed me most is, as the inaugural President, Kimbrough inherited an overwhelming mess (sound familiar?), but he turned the entire ship around – in only two years!
2005 – 2007
Develop a cabinet “Philander-Unit” (P-Unit) and a plan that would cultivate and promote a unique identity with respect to HBCU status and UMC connection – Kimbrough talked about the Renaissance Plan that would bring strength and unity to a college on the endangered list. Kimbrough and his team created a brand that the entire school could relate to and support. The P-Unit moved forward under the auspice of creating a product worth talking about, so something “remarkable.” BlessTheMic, a Hip-Hop President’s Lecture Series was the brainchild, along with a well thought out IMC, that turned PSC around. Seriously remarkable.
What did you think about what keynotes were preaching? Have any favorites? Post your comments below. Also, want a short summary of the session we sat in on? Check out our AMA Higher Ed Session Synopsis post.
But what was missing at AMA Higher Ed? Here’s some “Table Talk.”
No doubt attendees left AMA with strategies and tactics that they can implement tomorrow. However, at less formal, meals and receptions, attendees were voicing their concern about benchmarking, data, and real ROI.
How do we tie effective qualitative tactics to demonstrable ROI? One attendee stated that she knew how to reach students, they’re seeing web visits increase, more engagement in social networks, and more direct inquiries, but still wanted to know, if what they’re spending on marketing, per student, is right. Of course, the variables range and are based on several factors, but this attendee wants to know what institutions spend/yield rates are. Is spending $5,000 per enrolled student appropriate or $2,000? How are schools calculating this and how have they changed their strategies to be more cost efficient?
Drum roll please…, as AMA Higher Ed 2012 kneels before me, I would like to dub thee, the “Now Prove It!” conference. After all the networking, presentations, and bourbon milk shakes one communicator can consume, I walk away from AMA with one thought, “don’t just say it, prove it.”
Sure we learned about how to do more with less, but I think AMA fell short providing examples of measurement models and outcomes that prove you can do more with less and here’s the higher-ROI to prove it worked.
Whether you’re a prospective student, parent, or higher ed administrator, campus communicators are responsible for executing effective campaigns that tie your efforts to institutional goals. You need hard numbers to back up your activities – full stop! Effective marketers rely on quantitative not qualitative data that support their decisions.
When it comes to the results section at the end of each presentation we saw a lot of great, very applicable, strategies with secondary indicators and qualitative data. I’m looking forward to AMA 2013, where I expect we’ll sit in on results and ROI based presentations that turn this year’s innovative strategies into hard numbers and higher-ROI.
- Increase social media engagement by 331%;
- Reach a Facebook audience of approximately 2 million;
- Improve engagement rates on Facebook more than 75%;
- Achieve an online readership of 33,667; and
- Implement a measurable social media strategy that demonstrably supports institutional goals around enrollment, retention, and development, and more!
Edward Osborn, director of university relations at Eastern Connecticut State University and Assistant Director of Marketing and Media Relations at Emporia State University, Gwendolynne Larson, talk about how they successfully united and implemented a content and social media strategy that delivers ROI.
Ed and Gwen will take it a step further by introducing AMA participants to the Attention Matrix, a simple framework that you can use to measure your marketing activities in terms of audience and engagement.
They will talk about getting to “the sweet spot,” the upper right hand corner of the Attention Matrix, by creating and distributing highly engaging content that reaches large audiences. The best part, it’s not rocket science, it’s a working model that you can take back to your institution and start using tomorrow!
Ed and Gwen are really excited about sharing what they’ve learned, so if you didn’t make it to AMA Higher Ed, you can check out the presentation with notes, right here:
Learn how to replace low-value spending with measurable, higher-ROI by leveraging your greatest marketing asset – your students!
Tuesday, November 13, 10:15 a.m. | Paper Presentation | Digital Marketing Track
Edward Osborn | osborne [at] easternct [dot] edu
Gwendolynne Larson | @GwenLarson1964