Shaping Tomorrow’s Leaders One Story At a Time

Addressing marketing challenges with diminishing resources may tempt your team to hunker down and pound out the work. But today, impressionable young leaders need the very best performance you and your crew can muster.

July 2, 2019

The tone and attitude of our world’s discourse feels more than a little toxic these days. This certainly isn’t the forum to discuss the who’s and why's that have led us here. The brutal truth is that we’ve probably all played a role in one way or another.

One of my greatest fears is that as today’s increasingly caustic global conversations becomes normalized over time, it’s being unwittingly absorbed by tomorrow’s leaders — many of them on your campus right now — as the accepted and standard language of living and working with one another in the future.

That’s worrying.

I’d like to challenge you to explore how you and your marketing teammates can take meaningful steps to counterbalance this noxious phenomenon by drawing on your special talents as professional communicators and creators in ways that build and nourish a culture of Marketing for Good on, and for your campus. You might think of this as a first-cousin to Purpose-Driven Marketing which, if you’ve not already studied it, should remind you every day that your work as a higher ed marketing pro is about as rewarding a career as one could hope for.

If you search “marketing for good” online, you’ll discover a host of firms, initiatives, and inspiration all focused on cause, or purpose-driven marketing. But I’m suggesting a narrower interpretation that’s all about creating — and demonstrating to your campus community — that good and civil communication, practiced effectively and efficiently, is far from antiquated.

Marketing for Good on your campus begins with attending to the culture of your department. Happy, healthy, energized marketers communicate better. Are you working every day in purposeful ways to nourish the positive spirit of your team, one teammate at a time?

Are you tuned in to the working styles and professional preferences of each person in your office who contributes to the success of your marketing enterprise? Are you listening for, and acting on clues and cues that demonstrate unrest or discontent? Are you making sure to direct all assignments to those who can make the best and highest use of their talents to execute them?

Marketing for Good on your campus depends on the consistency and quality of your team’s work product. Do you all share an understanding of your institutional brand foundation in such a way that every asset you create is a clear and compelling expression of the same institutional ecosystem? Does all of your work, no matter how rote or mundane, ladder up to your school’s inspired and inspiring brand platform in ways that make audiences proud of their association with your school?

Are you going the extra mile to build and work your many marketing plans with the greatest efficiency and maximum return-on-marketing-investment? Have you fully embraced the strategic content philosophy of “create-once-publish-everywhere” (COPE) to squeeze every last drop of goodie out of your team’s hard work and your school’s great stories?

Finally, Marketing for Good on your campus means getting out in front of negative news by frontloading your institutional messaging strategy with stories of, and causes for, institutional joy. I don’t need to remind your (but I will) that celebrating, complimenting and championing the achievements of your students, administrators, faculty, alumni and donors usually costs very little, and nearly always delivers ROI of some significance.

Negative news will always find its way into public consciousness; humans seem to love the stuff. Which is all the more reason to embrace an intentional-yet-reasonable positive news orientation when choosing stories to tell about your institution and the people who make it great.

The world is forever changing, and perhaps we’re simply living through a temporarily negative phase of some sort. But rather than shaking your head and moving forward with a business-as-usual attitude, be proactive about creating a Marketing for Good culture at your desk, across your department, and throughout your college or university.

Tomorrow’s leaders are paying closer attention to your team’s work than you might think.

Eric Sickler has helped the nation's college and universities conduct market research and elevate their brands for more than three decades. You can reach him at The Thorburn Group, a Stamats company.​


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