Building Benign Autocracy in Higher Education Marketing

In conversations with prospective clients about higher education marketing, I often hear this: “We know it makes sense, but.” And you can probably guess what comes after the “but.” But our faculty doesn’t support it. But our budget is split into a million pieces. But my team reports to two different VPs who disagree. But I have to make everyone happy.

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to make everyone happy and still achieve the results that are going to, well, make everyone happy. The truth is that, as much as we all prefer collaborative decision making, there are certain times when we counsel our clients to give up on democracy and create a benign autocracy.

Sometimes as communicators, it falls to you to make the tough decision. Which program will receive the bulk of the marketing budget? Where will your efforts do the most good for the institution as a whole, even if it means that not every department is equally represented? How can you best support the institution’s missions and priorities, even if you’re facing faculty or staff pushback?

All you can do is examine the options, weigh your priorities, make a smart decision, and move forward.

For better or worse, sometimes it helps to have an outside perspective. Using data and projections to support our arguments, we work with our clients to build a strong case for a clear strategy, even when it doesn’t make everyone happy. And in the end, nothing helps smooth ruffled feathers more than a successful outcome.