Ideas, insights and inspirations.

Communicating before, during and after a capital campaign requires the kind of symphonic thinking that author Daniel Pink explores in A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. Strategic visions and campaign priorities can quickly deconstruct into campaign inventory and itemization — losing all connection to a larger and more compelling story about why a college matters and to the invitation for how donors might connect their singular sense of purpose to something larger. It’s not a matter of longer versus shorter content, but a question of what Pink calls the “relationship between relationships.” Pink talks of the three types of people that thrive when asked to overlay little and big pictures. Boundary Crossers: comfortable with abstraction, they understand how a concept like regulation can inspire donors to support the training of future financial accountants who will police insider trading and osteopathic doctors equipped to ease an epidemic of diabetes. Inventors: able to project new … Continue reading

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A familiar Chinese proverb instructs: “To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.” The current situation in higher education defies that enduring wisdom. Change arrived suddenly, with little regard for institutional history or might. In this respect, all colleges stand on relatively common ground. All college presidents, to a degree, have become new college presidents. It might be tempting in this moment of great uncertainty to think that successful colleges/presidents will be those that summon deeper reserves of managerial will or command with greater “corporate turnaround” intensity. More likely, how you and your college navigates this public health crisis and its aftermath will come down to something as fundamental — albeit elusive — as how effectively and artfully you communicate. Every college has crisis communications plans in place, and these plans have served everyone — especially students — well through the initial weeks and months of this crisis. We know that eventually, the urgency of this moment will give way … Continue reading

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As a newly selected college president, you may view your pending move in traditional terms — relocating to a new city, occupying a new office or executive residence and joining a new campus culture. You’re also inheriting a .edu web address that can help accelerate or impede your best laid presidential plans. Here’s a field guide for new or aspiring presidents that’s designed to help you read between the lines — code and content — and better understand the power and perils of your new .edu. Revenue Your college or university website should have one unquestioned priority — generating reliable and repeatable revenue. KPI: Is the website converting right-fit enrollment prospects, engaging alumni, attracting strategic partners and inspiring donors? Quick Check: How quickly does the site experience connect diverse enrollment audiences with the academic program, admissions and financial aid essentials? Can prospective full-time undergraduates, doctoral students, international applicants and non-traditional military prospects all easily find their lane? Are calls to … Continue reading

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Not a week goes by that we don’t see the news of a college closing, merging or downsizing. Unfavorable demographics and remote locations are purported to be the primary reasons for their troubles. We disagree. Having served numerous colleges over the past two decades, and observing the evolving collegiate scene, we believe that the following reasons are the key drivers that put colleges in distress: Marketing Imagination Many colleges in distress lack marketing imagination. They fail to invest in creating a distinctive brand based on their one strong-to-impenetrable differentiation, learning to speak with their one true brand voice, nurturing the brand with thoughtful communications, or protecting the brand from being fractured by the forces of efficiency. They fail to shift their overall communications perspective from one that is centered around what the institution offers to one focused on projects, ideas and stories of their students, faculty and alumni (the real “heroes” of the story). Enrollment Management Practices The enrollment practices … Continue reading

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Well-capitalized, community banks often grow new customer relationships by acquiring other banks. However, as their geographic footprints expand, many find it challenging to also grow new customer relationships organically. As their DMAs widen, their marketing budgets are spread thinner and thinner. The idea of spending money on television, radio and outdoor grows more untenable, and digital becomes more important than ever. If this is where you find yourself, your digital marketing strategy should take the following realities into consideration. Focus on Fundamentals 1. Relationships are everything. The lifetime value of a customer whose financial needs evolve through many stages of life is worth far more to your bank than the interest earned on a one-time transaction. It’s interesting when you ask people “Who is your bank?” Invariably, their bank is where they keep their checking and savings accounts. The same is true with business customers. This is where long-term banking relationships begin. 2. You sell more loans to existing customers … Continue reading

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A new generation of talent recruitment is upon us. Recruitment 1.0: Run classified ads in the Help Wanted section of newspapers. Recruitment 2.0: Run job postings on third party sites like Monster, Indeed and Recruitment 3.0: Take control of your own destiny. Manufacturers are increasingly challenged by a national talent shortage for the new jobs they’re creating. Instead of relying on tired old ways, Recruitment 3.0 demands a better digital strategy. One that doesn’t commoditize businesses by constantly putting them side by side with everybody else looking to fill seemingly look-alike roles. After all, the best person for your opening isn’t just looking for a job, they’re looking for a better career. The answer begins with an overlooked part of many manufacturing websites—the Careers and Job Listing pages. Look at yours through the lens of smart SEO practices like optimizing your code, “baking” keywords into your job listing pages, and spreading them with social media share buttons. Every job … Continue reading

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In our 20+ year history of building websites, almost all our clients were initially skeptical about the return on investment from a website redesign; they underestimated the impact the new website would have on their business. After a year or two of relaunch, almost all the clients became believers. They shared comments with us that had three recurring themes. Here they are: 1. A great website creates a strategic inflection point, whereby a business starts experiencing a major change due to clarity realized during the website strategy development process. 2. A great website changes organizational trajectory, when a business sheds an old skin and puts on a new skin which re-energizes the prospects, customers and internal stakeholders. 3. A great website realizes a new organizational destiny, whereby the organization musters the courage to unapologetically pursue its vision. We often hear stories from skeptical prospects about their previous website redesigns not liberating prosperity. What’s the difference between their past experiences and … Continue reading

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Come January 20th hate will have a new home. It’s called the White House. Not every person or even the majority of people who voted for Donald Trump is hateful, but haters do love him. They see a guy who is now leader of the free world, and they believe that deep down he’s just like them. They feel empowered. They’re emboldened. And they’re starting to act out. At a lunch counter a few days ago, I met a priest who told me that spray-painted swastikas are already springing up on churches near his home of Carlisle, PA. Just over a week ago, student demonstrators at a high school in York, PA could be seen and heard shouting “White power!” The moment was captured on You Tube and prompted our Governor to convene Pennsylvania’s public school’s leadership for a special strategy session. It’s not even Christmas yet, and haters are overjoyed. They’ve been busy on the brand front too. Last … Continue reading

Organizations, like people, create their own destiny. After serving hundreds of clients over twenty years, reading over one thousand autobiographies of entrepreneurs and successful businesses, here is what I’ve come to understand about destiny in the lives of organizations. Organizations are Authors of Their Own Destiny: Instead of drifting aimlessly, successful organizations embrace a clear and cogent strategy. Inch-wide-mile-deep, hit-them-where-they-aren’t, be-a-contrarian, build-on-strengths, and let-stars-pull-the-ordinary-along are just a few of the strategies they pick from. Talent Unlocks Organizational Destiny: Instead of accepting mediocrity, successful organizations amass the talent that can deliver brilliance. They realize that engaged talent, not capital, will lead them to the Promised Land. Destiny Demands Being True to Yourself: Instead of imitating others, successful organizations reveal their authentic selves. They celebrate their strengths, legacies, and heroes. They claim what’s rightfully theirs. Destiny Takes Courage: Instead of hiring survivors, successful organizations carefully recruit champions who have the courage to make the tough choices to create destiny-shaping inflection points. They … Continue reading

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With Super Bowl weekend upon us, our eyes will take to the screen to watch with great anticipation…the commercials. This year, at a time when a lot of people are saying traditional advertising is dead, advertisers are ponying up $4,500,000 for 30 seconds of your attention. I guess it’s worth it – when else do they get a dedicated time when consumers are actually looking forward to seeing their ads? When else do consumers get a chance to marvel at what can be done for a mere $150,000 per second? Each year, we expect to be “bowled” over but year after year, by and large, we’re not. Why? Why, with so much at stake, do all but a few spots become forgotten elements of Super Bowl Sunday? Be honest, two weeks from now, how many will you remember? More important, how many will have influenced you? And this is on a day when we wait for them, want to see … Continue reading