Empathy. It’s Why We Work in Higher Ed

Posted: April 20, 2012

College and University marketing folks have tough jobs.

They’re often visionaries for their institutions. They have solid goals founded by the best of intentions, but they often struggle to gain buy-in from campus leadership to actually carry out the steps to achieve those goals. For many institutions (both grad and undergrad), enrollment numbers are declining while competition for quality recruits is escalating.  While the budget gets smaller every year, “experts” are discovering new mediums and opportunities for allocating marketing dollars (social media, mobile, PPC, etc.)  Depending on your school or program’s location, you may have as many as 20 to 30 competing programs. Here in North Carolina, we host 27 MBA programs; the city of Chicago, Illinois has 32. Competing in such an aggressive field requires a marketing strategy and plan carefully crafted to differentiate your school and attract like-minded applicants. Where should you start? And not to mention…

Remember the budget you had last year? The one that was hardly enough to pay your salaries? Yeaahh, well, we had to cut that by X%.

Given the lack of opportunity (funding) higher ed marketers are forced to pick and choose what gets done, often sacrificing the grander, more strategic marketing initiatives (their visions) for the smaller, immediate, less budget-shattering tactics like a viewbook or something that’s “safe.”€

Marketing becomes an expense when it ought to be viewed as an investment.

We feel ya.

I have the privilege of working for a company that prides itself on having empathy for its clients. This is important because in order to do good work no, GREAT work you’ve really got to believe what you do makes a difference. Personally, I love that our niche is higher ed marketing. But there’s a ton of work that comes with having a niche. You’ve got to be in it.

So, how do we stay in it? And where does empathy come from?

  • We read a lot. And we practice those theories. We push the boundaries of modern best practice and innovation.
  • We go after work that makes a difference. Work that gets seen/heard/felt and internalized. We do this to make an impact on the future of higher education.
  • We collaborate. Not just with ourselves and for our clients but with our clients and for ourselves.
  • We build relationships. Our clients are partners. We do NOT view our work as a project with a start and finish. It’s a common goal we’re in pursuit of, not a product.
  • We have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Want to talk trends in design, information architecture, social media, content strategy, direct marketing, analytics, enrollment management, technology, usability? We’re all about it. Call us/follow us/Like us/write us/tweet us.*
  • We recognize that knowledge is given and received. We do both.
  • We speak the truth. We do what’s right, which is often different from what is asked. We like to think our work reflects a commitment to authenticity and we strive to partner with clients who appreciate that.

If your school views marketing as an expense, I’m really sorry. And no, I don’t feel your pain, but I do empathize and I’d love to listen.