Ideas, insights and inspirations.

Welcome to your new adventure. You may have been invited into this crucial governance role as a steadying force, a change agent or a contributor of your expertise. No matter your role, get ready to play it by focusing on the 3 W’s of stewardship: Wisdom, Wealth and Work. Begin your journey by immersing yourself in the college. Review its mission, history, strategic plan, master plan, status of accreditations, SWOT analysis, competitive benchmarks, key operating plans, financial statements, budget, university magazines and organizational culture. Meet all the cabinet members and know their key priorities. Meet all other trustees and know the committees they serve. The 3 W’s of stewardship – wisdom, wealth and work – underpin the twelve things you’ll need to know to steer the college to health and prosperity: 1. Know Revenue Sources and Financials: What is our revenue breakdown? Are we a tuition-dependent college? Are we research funded? What is the extent of our corporate and foundation … Continue reading

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The goal of marketing is to win the hearts, minds and trust of people. If you win them over, you might win their business too. It has taken a lifetime of experiences to learn these timeless laws of marketing. Being the youngest of 11 kids, losing my Dad at 6, being raised primarily by women and becoming a bridge builder shaped my worldview towards human-centered marketing. I hope you find them beneficial. 1. The Law of Humanity Great brands always remember that prospects, customers, users, ambassadors and loyalists are real people, with real needs, wants, motivations and ambitions. They never forget that they are in the business of making the lives of their customers easier and helping them realize their ambitions. Be empathetic. Treat customers like human beings. Humanize your brand. 2.The Law of Findability If they can’t find you, they can’t buy you. If a prospect can’t find you on Google page 1, your product or service won’t be … 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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Like every market, the audience of college-bound high school seniors is responding to change and uncertainty with… more change and uncertainty. Very recent surveys show roughly a quarter of next year’s class feeling uncertain about whether they will attend their first choice college, attend a school closer to home, or delay college enrollment for a year. College enrollment marketing teams (already stressed by acceptance/deposit season) now have to scramble to reassure and to some degree, re-recruit the Class of 2024. Here are five content needs/priorities to consider. Liberal Arts as catalytic. How often and how well do you make the case for why complex times and challenges require agile thinkers? Do you routinely interview students who find the core curriculum applicable across a range of research, internship and other experiential learning opportunities? Do you trace that confidence back to encounters with specific faculty, courses, assignments and texts? Do you ask internship supervisors and employers why such learners outperform their peers? … Continue reading

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This manifesto for effective enrollment management is a distillation of our key learnings from our team serving more than 100 colleges and universities in the last 25 years.

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In the past 25 years, I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with more than fifty college chief marketing officers. Whether they are recruited as a change agent or a strategic visionary, they are increasingly expected to liberate new growth for college by focusing on the 3 R’s of prosperity: Revenue, Reputation and Rankings. These three currents flow under the fifteen practices for managing and running a successful college marketing operations in this manifesto: 1. You become the story you choose to tell.It’s how institutions make meaning from the arc of their history, and operate with a sense of destiny to create purpose that propels them into the future. This story is what students, parents, donors, funders and partners buy into. A brand rarely exceeds the size of its ambition and the story it chooses to tell about itself. 2. Students, not the institution, are the real heroes of your story.The best colleges and universities realize that students, alumni and faculty … Continue reading

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In working with over 100 colleges in the last 25 years, we have learned that website projects are a catalyst for transforming a college — stakeholders are aligned, power structures are reconsidered, the organization is energized, a new inflection point is created, and destiny becomes attainable. To realize the true promise of redesigning your website, five essentials are necessary: Wise Strategy Revenue Strategy, Communication Strategy and Search Engine Ranking Strategy are the three building blocks of a Website Strategy. In redesigning your website, these three components must be orchestrated, prioritized and baked into every aspect of development and design. Ultimately, you become the story you choose to tell, and that story begins with wise strategy. Beautiful Design Strategy is invisible. Good design makes it visible. Milton Glaser once said “There are only three reactions to a piece of design: no, yes or WOW! Wow is one to aim for.” We agree. Responsive, mobile first, and beautiful design deepens meaning, delights … Continue reading

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As I waited in the supermarket checkout lane the other day and took in the tabloid headlines, it occurred to me that fake news isn’t new at all. We’ve been inundated with it for decades. However, given our recent election, it appears that what’s new is that more and more of us are beginning to believe it. I grew up in the 60s and 70s. Many called it the age of skepticism, and given the era we had every right to not accept at face value everything we read, heard and were told. In high school “Skeptic” magazine supplemented my History classes and Social Studies discussions. We were taught how to read between the lines, look for bias, and understand how context and events shape points of view. Somewhere along the way our skepticism has devolved into a willingness to believe. How in the world did this happen? Things began to change in the 80s. Waiting nervously in the lobby … Continue reading

In our professional lives, we’re constantly in motion. We serve our clients by solving tough problems, meeting their needs through strategy and innovation, and often under shorter and shorter deadlines. Amidst all of that lies the research, experimentation, client collaboration, endless tweaking, and production – all leading to myriad deliverables that everyone can be very proud of. Intertwined in the demands of work life, is our life outside of work: our personal passions, our charities, our deepest held beliefs, and of course, our families. This is the life we lead – our visible, active life. And those of us, who haven chosen advertising and marketing as their life’s work, know it all too well. We thrive on it. After nearly 40 years, I still love what I do. But there is another, arguably more important, life – our invisible, contemplative life. It’s where our imagination lives and our creative thoughts are born. This life fuels our active life, and it does so expecting nothing from us … Continue reading

As the band Led Zeppelin aptly put it—way back in 1969: “Communication breakdown. It’s always the same.” Truer words may have never been spoken; or wailed. Just search the phrase “communication breakdown in an organization” and you’ll get over a million results. Given the amount that has been written on this subject, it clearly effects many organizations and people. The photo on the left is meant to illustrate one cause of communication breakdown in (or between) organizations: lack of transparency. This can happen for a number of reasons, both innocent and otherwise. One example of a seemingly innocuous situation is where an employee of Company ABC communicates directly with an employee of Company XYZ. Together, they begin to make decisions which allow them to complete their individual tasks. Unfortunately, these independent decisions are unknown to their respective organizations, so the effects go unheeded until they surface at a later time. The ramifications of these decisions can come in the form of sullied relationships, … Continue reading

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