Higher Ed Marketers Answer “What keeps you up at night?”

Posted: November 19, 2014

Diane Kuehn Founder & Chairman


Last week in Austin, VisionPoint Marketing decided to take the opportunity to listen rather than present or sell. We wanted to hear from you. And boy, did we! Over 150 AMA Higher Ed Marketing Symposium attendees shared their greatest marketing challenges.

We thought you’d be interested in hearing what we learned.

We attempted to group your answers into different categories, although many of them could be applied to multiple areas. And the winners (or losers) for biggest marketing challenge are:

1. Culture, Organization and Governance

We heard challenges ranging from “changing the culture of the organization to embrace and support strategic marketing” to “Herding cats– centralizing a decentralized system of marketing communications” and “Faculty participation in telling stories”. And we agree these challenges can be show stoppers — even with the best marketing strategy with ample resources to execute, if you don’t have the understanding and support of leadership, the engagement and participation of faculty, and the guidance and rules to govern the execution of your marketing and content strategy, you probably won’t be hugely successful (and surely won’t be efficient).

2. Brand and Messaging

The brand and messaging comments varied from the need to figure out the brand to determining the best way to deliver that message consistently: “Rebranding to stand out in a very crowded marketplace” and “Branding a system of 13 colleges – each with their own name, logo, history + culture” and “Communicating a cohesive message across widely varied audiences.” Branding a college or university has the especially fun challenge of getting hundreds if not thousands of people to agree upon a small focused set of concepts and ensuring those concepts maintain consistency, meet the needs of your audience, are real and authentic, and flexible enough to be applied for each of the various units, departments, programs and services. No wonder it’s one of the top two challenges!

3. Marketing and Content Strategy

As one would expect, big goals here include driving enrollment and engaging alumni and many “loss of sleep” challenges were surrounding figuring out the best way to accomplish those goals efficiently: “Lots of content creators, with the challenge of remaining strategic….and focused” and “Creating and deploying an integrated content strategy at an institution with too many silos and Aligning the marketing strategy with the enrollment strategy”. Building an integrated marketing plan with a corresponding content strategy can be a daunting task…and implementing it typically involves lots of governance especially if you have a decentralized content community.

4. Resources

Although there was a large stack of cards with notes about a lack of resources, they can easily be divided into two piles: Too many priorities and too few resources. So many great stories–so little time & resources to tell them. Unless you can find a way to convince leadership to invest into more people, you are left with figuring out ways to drive efficiencies and build consensus on strategic priorities–which takes us right back to challenge #3 Marketing and Content Strategy.

5. Social Media

Ah, social media continues to be a top challenge for many whether that’s “Getting Social Media away from the IT department” or simply “Figuring out Twitter”.

*Authors of comments have been redacted to protect the innocent.

You’ve inspired us. We want to help where we can and have adjusted our publishing calendar to address your most common marketing challenges in priority order. Each month we’ll include resources, tips and processes that will help you address each group of challenges in our EduInsights newsletter. Of course, you can always unsubscribe, but hey, you’d miss out on content that may make your 2015 a much less challenging year.