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A Brand New Year

Deb Maue lists eight professional New Year’s resolutions for higher ed marketing leaders to consider.

January 24, 2017
 
 

If you’re like me, you’ve already broken most or all of your personal New Year’s resolutions.

Fear not, all is not lost. There’s still plenty of time to make, and stick to, your professional New Year’s resolutions. Here are mine:

1. Commit to the list of what we’ll accomplish. My team held a work session to identify the projects we want to accomplish in this upcoming calendar year. It’s a long list. Will we achieve everything on the list? No. But by making a commitment to the list of things we want to get done, we are forcing ourselves to take a longer view, vs. reacting to what’s in front of us at the moment. We’ll review the list monthly, and adjust as necessary. But we’ll always have that list.

2. Make a plan. After we committed to the list, we chose the most complicated projects, and had a work session to develop a project plan for each. The project plan included the detailed steps in the project, as well as a RACI matrix to determine the key roles, including the final decision-maker, for each project. As with the project list, we’ll review the progress of these key projects monthly.

3. Focus on the important. In an environment of too many projects and too few resources (and who isn’t in that kind of environment) it’s easy to confuse the urgent with the important. Another advantage of committing to the list of projects was that it forced us to identify the projects that we’d love to do, but just don’t have the resources for. I’m going to make sure we’re firm in our resolve.

4. Embrace change. 2016 was a good reminder for me that the only thing constant is change. Leaderships change. Rules change. Priorities change. People change their minds. And that priorities list? That will need to change too. So this year, I resolve to lose my expectation that things will stay the same.

5. Be the audience’s advocate. If you’re like me, you spend a lot of your time talking about what we want people to know about our college. But as marketers, we’re in a unique position to understand the behaviors, attitudes, and perspectives of the people we’re speaking to, be they prospective students, alumni, parents, or donors. We know what they’re interested in knowing about us. It’s our responsibility to represent those perspectives and to make sure we are giving them the information they need and want, not just what we want to tell them.

6. Simplify the message. We like to complain that Millennials won’t read long paragraphs. But unless I’m reading a book or a riveting article, I don’t like to read long paragraphs either. When it comes to communicating, simpler is better. My goal is to create shorter, simpler messages, and tell people how they can get more detail if they want it.

7. Be a higher ed advocate. Those of us in marketing spend a lot of time trying to communicate the specialness of our individual institutions – those things that make our college better than all the rest. But in an environment where many people question the value of a higher ed degree, we have a responsibility to elevate the perception of higher ed in general. The facts are that:

a. people with a college degree make substantially more than people without one. The typical college graduate earns 66% more over the course of their career than someone without a degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau;

b. the unemployment rate is much lower for people with a college degree than for people without one. Americans age 25-34 with a college degree have a 2.1% unemployment rate, vs. 7% for the general population, according to this study

It’s my responsibility to help educate people about the facts and help to elevate the perceptions of higher ed.

8. Be brave. I’m going to have the difficult conversation. I’m going to give my opinion, even if I think I’m the only one in the room that thinks the way I do. I’m going to break some rules.

Those are my resolutions. In December, I’ll let you know how I did.

Deborah Maue is the Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Communications at Columbia College Chicago, and is a leading voice in higher education marketing.

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