How University Vice President of Communications And Marketing Strategy Leadership Roles Are Likely To Change (Guest Blog)

The following is a guest blog post by David Dalka. He was scheduled to speak at the 2009 Educational Marketing Group (EMG) Brand Manager’s Summit, but that speech will have to wait until the conference is rescheduled. David is presently a web analytics and online marketing strategy management consultant available to create effective content strategies and yearly marketing budget planning and restructuring.

Over the past decade the traditional role of VP of Communications and Marketing Strategy has remained relatively unchanged while the world of content and media has changed dramatically, including:

User Generated Content – Organizations and individuals can now create content online with written content in blogs (like this one), videos on sites like Youtube, photo sharing sites like Flickr and social networking sites like Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter.

Search Engines Have Changed Content Distribution – Opportunities for high rankings in organic listings in search engines like Google have created opportunities to transform regional universities into internationally known brands. To achieve this, VP of Communications leaders must possess both search engine optimization, content strategy and technology and data strategy skills and have a clear understanding of the significant transformational elements that these changes can enable.

Ever Increasing Content Volume is Lowering the Relevance of Legacy Channels – Television and radio are competing with the explosion in content on the web and mobile phones. As such, they are becoming less effective advertising mediums over time. Owning your own search engine optimized content on your .edu domain can now compete directly with these legacy media organizations.

Journalists Quantity and Quality at Major News Outlets is Shrinking Rapidly – The implications of this are starting to become clear — most existing news outlets are understaffed and unable to digest traditional press pitches. Many journalists are simply unable to read most of their email due to the volume of irrelevant messages. As layoffs mount, decades of relationships with media relations professionals are adversely impacted. The relevancy of traditional media is rapidly dwindling and getting placement in that media is becoming harder due to the shortage of dedicated journalists. On June 7th, 2009, Jeff Jarvis of the blog Buzzmachine put together a thoughtful piece that I think is important to understand about how most news starts in the blogosphere and then migrates to the mainstream media.

Newspapers Are Slowly Fading In Both Importance and Quantity – According to some estimates, up to 25% of the nations newspapers may go out of business in the next few years. This will crimp what has historically been a primary advertising medium for universities. Demographic shifts indicate that the younger generation does not read magazines and newspapers the way their parents did so this shift is healthy in the long run.

Press Releases Are Directly For The Target Reader As Well As Journalists – Well written press releases now rank in search engines and Internet news aggregators as well as mainstream media content. Acquaintance David Meerman Scott pointed out the following primary themes in his recent book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, he states the following clearly starting on page 25:

  • Marketing is more than just advertising.
  • PR is for more than just a mainstream media audience.
  • You are what you publish.
  • People want authenticity, not spin.
  • People want participation, not propaganda.
  • Instead of causing one-way interruption, marketing is about delivering content at just the precise moment your audience needs it.
  • Marketers must shift their thinking from mainstream marketing to the masses to a strategy of reaching vast numbers of underserved audiences via the web.
  • PR is not about your boss seeing your company on TV. It’s about your buyers seeing your company on the Web.
  • Marketing is not about your agency winning awards. It’s about your organization winning business.
  • The Internet has made public relation public again, after years of almost exclusive focus on media.
  • Companies must drive people into the purchasing process with great online content
  • Blogs, podcasts, e-books, news releases, and other forms of online content let organizations communicate directly with buyers in a form they appreciate.
  • On the web, the lines between marketing and PR have blurred.

Recent economic trends also play a role in the potential for disruption of the competitive landscape:

  • Iconic Universities Endowments Have Shrunk Dramatically – Universities like Harvard depend on their endowments for up to 40% of their budget traditionally, many of these types of schools will be in a retrenchment mode rather than aggressively changing media mix to content strategy. Sources have told me that the University of Chicago get 14% of its budget from endowments. Upstart universities that get almost none of its budget from endowments will be able to be more aggressive in this environment.
  • Family Budgets Are Stretched Thin, This Change Might Be Permanent – An ING Direct Study released in June of 2009 which indicates that families are stretched thin, with one in every five families now dipping into savings that were intended to pay college tuition. This ultimately will increase financial aid demand or reduce demand for college education overall which will put a priority on being the top notch experience and generating student leads at a lower cost than competitors while at the same time raising the profile of the institution.

“It’s clear that parents are struggling with their expenses during these difficult times, but tapping money put aside for their kids will only exacerbate a family’s problems when it comes time to pay for college,” said Arkadi Kuhlmann, President of ING DIRECT USA, the nation’s largest direct bank.

  • Changes In Content Distribution Are Enabling Online Universities Success – For profit universities like Strayer and University of Phoenix are demonstrating net income around 20% of revenues. The University of Phoenix can afford luxuries such as financing a 20+ city book tour for Keith Ferrazzi’s new book which debuted at #1 on the New York Times best sellers list that will bring the school massive attention and web currency in the form of discussion and links. MIT is posting lectures and basic class materials on the web as well which may prove to be disruptive. Traditional universities will eventually have to reduce fixed costs to remain competitive.
  • Poor 2009 Student Job Placement Reports May Affect Future Enrollment – I discussed in a post several years ago my disappointment with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business for not having the level of career services and alumni network it advertises in its student acquisition brochures. In a transparent world, potential students will likely be more savvy by conducting their own research about overall alumni success than the previous superstar or two that traditionally were profiled will be ignored. Communication of alumni success stories via transparent content strategies will eventually become the most important form of university advertising. Strategic management reorganization of those content strategies will likely replace traditional media spending over the coming years.

The proper leadership individual to be the VP of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing Strategy will certainly have all of the following attributes:

  • Individual Will Have World Class Search Engine Optimization and Web Content Strategy Skills
  • Person Will Understand How to Create Unified Content Strategy
  • Individual Should Be Passionate About Enabling Student and Alumni Personal Branding
  • Person Will Be A Well Connected Networker With A Strong Online Presence
  • Individual Has Been Previously Quoted And Is Comfortable With Both Old and New Media
  • Person Should Be Focused on Individual and Group Stakeholder Success
  • Individual Understands The Impending Impacts of Marketing Change Management
  • Person Should Likely Be A Marketing Leadership Business Speaker
  • Individual Must Be Comfortable Delegating, Training and Transferring Skills
  • Person Has To Be Naturally Curious About How Complex Ecosystems Work
  • Individual Must “Get The Job Done Today”, Yet Be Visionary About Future Skills of the Gen X CMO
  • Person Should Be a Leader by Example And Have a Bottom Up Management Style
  • Individual Has Experience Driving Change in Data Models, Technology and Process Standardization
  • Person Should Be Able To Execute Well At The 3 Foot Level and 30,000 Foot Level
  • Individual Must Be A Team Player As Well As Able To Execute Individually
  • Must Have a Passion for Enabling Entrepreneurship And Positive Community Impact
  • Individual Has Vision On How Different Divisions Of The School Can Enable Each Others Success
  • Person Should Have Passion For Effective Spending and Budget Reform
  • Individual Should Desire to Make Education More Accessible To All
  • Person Should Embrace New Technologies Like Mobile and Digital Signage

This was a guest blog post by David Dalka who is presently a web analytics and online marketing strategy management consultant available to create effective content strategies and yearly marketing budget planning reallocations. (This post was originally guest content in June of 2009 on another website which has since ceased operations. Please redirect any links to this URL.)

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3 Comments

  1. How University Vice President of Communications And Marketing Strategy Leadership Roles Are Likely To Change (Guest Blog)

    Great post. I see a lot of university VPs hiring people to do the new media and social media jobs for them, rather than taking the time to learn about it themselves. They need to add to their skill set in order to keep up with the changing market.

  2. How University Vice President of Communications And Marketing Strategy Leadership Roles Are Likely To Change (Guest Blog)

    I think this is right on point, Sarah. When schools hire new media directors, there is a tendency to funnel all social networking responsibilities to that person. Yet every staff member – writers, designers, photogs, and administrators as well – need to get immersed in new media in order to create an effective presence and make good use of emerging technologies.

  3. How University Vice President of Communications And Marketing Strategy Leadership Roles Are Likely To Change (Guest Blog)

    Hi Sarah,

    I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. Technology has permanently changed the marketing/pr landscape. The core skill of effective, influential communication is not enough. Leaders must be comfortable with how technology enables information to flow in and out of the institution. Systems Thinking (Senge), technology and communication now intersect. The days of any division operating in a silo are over. The speed of data transfer does not support the historic hierarchy of information flow. As sarahnohr pointed out above, it’s just not good enough to delegate. All leaders must embrace the changes to be effective.

    Thanks for the post.

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