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College Marketing on the Edge

Bob Brock

I was recently interviewed for a magazine article about how higher ed marketing is changing. Here is some of that Q&A. I’ll leave it to you to rate my answers, and I welcome additional comments from the field.

Q: How has the strategy for print versus electronic communications changed?
A: We’re shifting from print to electronic…very, very fast. Bluntly, the percentage of your total output being produced electronically is a good measure of how close you are to the leading edge. A few leading universities use no recruitment publications at all. It’s incontestable that we’re heading toward “web-centric marketing.”

There’s still a role for high-impact print, now and in the future – more limited, for sure, and different. It’s more about personality and attitude than conveying information. More emotional impact, less data. Complex lists belong on the Web, which does a better job of it with search and customized sorting.

Q: What does that mean for university marketers?
A: Yesterday’s operations will be turned completely on their heads: New rules for new media. Web-centric envisions that all communications are produced for electronic format first. After communications have been produced for the Web they might be “converted” to print, only as needed. That’s a reversal of today’s practices. Some results:

  • Key messaging is shorter, more flexible, and transportable
  • Designs are conceived for the Web, adapted to print if needed
  • MarComm staff includes programmers, videographers, and designer/writers
  • Silos are out; cross-trained, multi-skilled utility players are in
  • Budgets are up with technology as a growing line item
  • Brands – the Web loves brands, and strong ones have an advantage
  • Brands are “Participatory” and audiences themselves advance them
  • Web 2.0, social networks, email, texting, multimedia, user generated content

Q: What role will technology play in communications effectiveness?
A: Running to catch technology is a fact of life for brand managers, with four huge realities:

  1. Apps programmers in the marketing unit
  2. Annual technology upgrades
  3. Ongoing staff training
  4. Support and maintenance

We’re all guilty of looking for glamour apps and turning away from techy concerns like server capacity, operating system compatibility, maintenance and redundancy, database applications. But the future is powered by capacity, speed, data manipulation, and cross-functional applications.

So get close to your new best friends in IT. Real close.

2 Replies to “College Marketing on the Edge”

  1. This is such an important idea in higher education. It goes without saying that some audiences will be resistant to an entirely Web-centric communications philosophy, so Bob’s point that there will still be a place for print communication is an important one. With the Web being the primary communication method though, print now has an opportunity to become more innovative, more creative. The Web will carry all of the essentials – print will be a supplementary piece. This is an exciting idea that will surely breathe new life into tired print communication models.

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