I recently talked with a colleague who anticipated experiencing fear of missing out next week because they cannot attend this year’s American Marketing Association’s Symposium for the Advancement of Higher Education conference. Their college trimmed operational budgets for the current year, and funding for professional development was one of the line items struck from the budget. A quick read of Inside Higher Ed, The Chronicle of Higher Education or any local paper suggests they are not alone in this higher education budget reality.
As one of the planning committee members, I thought it might be helpful to provide a list of resources to create your own follow-along-at-home guide for those unable to join us in person. Like a conference schedule, I’m offering wide-ranging options for those who cannot attend and various ways to experience the content so that you can pick and choose based on your own interests. And despite its length and many hyperlinks, this is just a starter list of possibilities.
Read a book. If you are interested in long-form reading, consider the most recent books from our keynote speakers. These include (in order of their presentations): Tia Brown McNair’s From Equity Talk to Equity Walk, Marcus Collins’s For the Culture and Brad Stulberg’s Master of Change. In addition, some of our presenters have written books that would be great additions to your book collection: Ken Carter’s Buzz! Inside the Minds of Thrill-Seekers, Daredevils, and Adrenaline Junkies; Josie Ahlquist’s Digital Leadership in Higher Education; and Rob Zinkan’s What Makes a Strategic Plan?
Read a “Call to Action” post. Several presenters have written pieces for this blog in just the past six months. These include a two-part series from Carrie Phillips on preparing the next generation of CMOs and Ardis Kadiu discussing how to use AI to connect with students. I wrote about misleading stereotypes of our profession, Eddie Francis shared his thoughts on employer branding, Alastair Hayes wrote about using athletics to drive brand and Rob Zinkan talked about CMO position descriptions and roles. And these days, everyone should be reading and sharing Melissa Richards’s piece on when to issue a statement (or not) from just over a year and a half ago.
Listen to a podcast. If you want to really feel like you are at AMA, listen to this episode of The EdUp Experience featuring conference co-chairs Myla Edmond and Stephen Jendraszak on what’s hot in higher education marketing. Several speakers have podcasts that cover topics related to higher education marketing and communications. Consider listening and subscribing to the podcasts hosted by Josie Ahlquist (Josie and the Podcast), Eddie Francis (I Wanna Work There), Jaimie Hunt (Confessions of a Higher Ed CMO, with an episode featuring committee member and speaker Alonda Thomas), Robert Li (The Word on Campus), Dayana Kibilds (Talking Tactics), Jenny Petty (The Servant Marketer), Allison Turcio (The Application), Kevin Tyler (Higher Voltage) and me (Trusted Voices, co-hosted with Erin Hennessy).
Some of our speakers have also been featured on podcasts about their topical area for the conference: Cayce Myers spoke on the legal considerations for AI, Jenny Fowler shared how MIT thinks about social media and Bill Campbell talked about being a chief experience officer. This year some podcasters are also recording content on-site, so keep your eyes peeled for episodes like one from Higher Ed Demand Gen featuring guest Myla Edmonds, which should make you feel a bit closer to the conference’s hallway conversations.
View a webinar and access online resources. While you may not have the budget to travel to AMA or other conferences at this time, consider blocking time on your calendar during the dates of AMA to view a webinar or two. If you have an AMA, CASE or Public Relations Society of America membership, log into their membership portals and view content that is sometimes available at no cost or a reduced price. And consider other free webinars on a variety of platforms. As an example, the 2022 marketer of the year, an AMA committee member, Kate Ledger, has a free webinar available on the Carnegie website on assessing marketing essentials, and CASE’s Terry Flannery has a session on the power of collegiality for marketing and communications roles. I recently explored some LinkedIn certificates that can be completed inexpensively or for free, and Coursera has plenty of courses on marketing and communications topics for those with campus email addresses and credentials.
Engage with content for current and aspiring chief marketing officers, chief communications or vice presidents for marketing and communications. If you are looking for data, the SimpsonScarborough CMO study is always a great resource, and I would be remiss if I didn’t include something from Seth Odell on storytelling. I also wrote a “Call to Action” post immediately prior to the pandemic for those new to the roles or aspiring to be a vice president. I reread it when compiling these resources, and the practical and personal pieces of advice are still spot on for today’s senior leaders.
Use social media and personal outreach to feel like you are there. The lists above provide plenty of options for content and resources, which are just one part of a conference experience. From my perspective, FOMO kicks in because I’m not there in person to share the conversations, ask a question or be a part of the energy in a room—or ballroom—filled with people who are working on similar projects and initiatives. To fill that bucket, I highly encourage following along on social media with this year’s hashtag, #AMAHigherEd. As a speaker, I never mind when someone reaches out and asks for highlights of what I covered in my presentation, so consider connecting on social media or through email with someone who piqued your interest with their expertise or conference content.
If you suspect budgets will be tight again next year (and some may be even tighter), consider volunteering for the planning committee for AMA or for your favorite conference. Often you will receive free or reduced-cost registration as a thank-you for your effort, which may make the possibility of attending next year an option.
For those attending AMA or not, feel free to contact me directly and let me know what higher education marketing and communications resources you appreciate and want others to know about.