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Five Ways Marketing Pros and Academics Should Work Together

Overcome these obstacles to ensure positive relationships and results

June 20, 2017
 
 

There’s no question that successful marketing is critical to meeting institutional goals. But the path to an effective marketing campaign isn’t always smooth, especially when interacting with other college professionals who may not have a marketing background.

Too often, enrollment and academic areas may be in the dark regarding the inner-workings of the marketing office; conversely, marketing departments may be unfamiliar with the drivers of enrollment or academics. Or perhaps it’s simply that different mindsets or philosophies present a hurdle. Regardless of their basis, such challenges can be overcome through a direct, open line of dialogue between academics, enrollment and marketing.

Below are five obstacles that must be worked through together to ensure marketing efforts have both the right message and the right tactics to convey that message.

Cookie cutters don’t work
Deans and department heads have a keen understanding of their programs’ unique strengths, the expectations of niche audiences, and the requirements of external agencies, such as accrediting bodies. At the same time, marketers know that a consistent message, look and feel are critical to establishing a brand that resonates in the hearts and minds of prospective students and other key audiences. These realities can lead to marketing trying to enforce consistency, while academics clamor for exceptions. This struggle can be avoided if marketers expect up front to tailor marketing tools to each school, rather than forcing a single formula across the entire campus. At the same time, academics need to be prepared to accept a minimal amount of standardization in order for a brand to gain traction at all.

Deadlines are suggestions
Let’s face it—marketing professionals and academics operate on very different timeframes. Marketers operate in a world where missed deadlines can mean lost revenue. To academics, a thorough review process is non-negotiable. Whether it is creating and approving a new program, or developing marketing materials for an existing program, the process cannot be rushed. Therefore, marketing deadlines can be seen as suggestions that can wait until all deliberations are exhausted. Without a mutual understanding of the other side, it can be easy to grow frustrated. Having conversations early about the timing of deadlines ensures that everyone is on the same page.

We can’t get ahead of ourselves
Since both academics and marketing are represented in the president’s cabinet, marketing will typically learn of new program proposals long before they come to fruition. This is important because marketing needs a realistic amount of time to prepare to promote a new program to the marketplace, but marketing also can’t assume that a proposal will pass. If faculty believe marketing is jumping the gun and the appropriate approval process is not being followed, it can breed an atmosphere of mistrust. Concerns can quickly arise that the provost is going to try to force changes without proper input. Knowing when significant milestones will happen, as well as when the message can be told, is key to ensure a smooth process.

Don’t play favorites
All academic programs and departments on campus are valuable and important. A marketing strategy that focuses heavily on one or two and ignores others can foster a highly competitive internal environment. To avoid unnecessarily ruffling feathers, marketing needs to know all that the college has to offer, and ensure that promoting one program doesn’t come at the expense of another. Having a “beat” system, which assigns every academic program a marketing liaison (who is responsible for getting to know and covering each of their programs throughout the year), is one way to make sure all programs have an equal chance for coverage.

Set and monitor goals together
Academics, enrollment and marketing should work together to ensure enrollment goals are on track. If momentary hiccups occur that require a change of strategy, having everyone plugged into the conversation is crucial to respond quickly before it becomes a serious issue. Sometimes, different departments can get stuck inside their own silos. But it’s important not to deflect blame or respond, “That’s not my problem.” Instead, marketing should be seen as an asset that is ready and willing to help, and able to provide possible solutions even before they’re asked.

By keeping these five things in mind, academics, enrollment and marketing can establish a strong and productive relationship that will serve the institution well.

Matthew Poslusny is senior vice president and provost of Meredith College, where he oversees academics and enrollment. Kristi Eaves-McLennan is the executive director of marketing at Meredith College.

 

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