2018 Q1 Benchmarks

Benchmarks

COMPARING WHAT YOU DO TO OTHERS IN THE FIELD

Marketing. Website management. Social media. Graphic design. Videography and photography. Writing and editing. Media and public relations. As a higher education marketer or enrollment specialist, you have to spend your time wisely—and then some. Your distribution of effort can have an important bearing on your results. As it turns out, marketing a higher education brand and message requires that you be a true jack of all trades.

What’s a typical day like for a higher education marketer or enrollment specialist?

In many cases, there really isn’t one. Take Valla Aguilar. For her, most days begin with a short meeting with the marketing team, where priorities are set and new projects are discussed. Then, it’s all about content strategy, collaboration with the web team and updates with admissions.

“Our office is responsible for managing the brand and finding strategic and creative ways to tell the North Central College story,” says Aguilar, Director of Marketing for The Office of Marketing and Communications at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois.

The North Central team’s responsibilities cover everything from marketing, graphic design, multimedia, writing and branding, and the list goes on. The key is to be able to “work on the business,” i.e., efficiently and effectively, rather than just “work in the business.”

For Aguilar, it’s about surrounding yourself with a highly talented team she can trust to move projects forward and exercise good judgment. Having a strong team allows her to focus more on strategy and less on the details of each project. “Establishing a clear barometer with which to measure priorities is key,” she says. “Our college just launched a new strategic plan, and the institutional priorities are very clear. That allows us to focus our efforts where it is most needed to help move the college forward.”

Amy Lowery, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana, knows this balancing act all too well. As a member of Valparaiso’s Integrated Marketing and Communication department (IMC), she has to be fully integrated with all other campus areas. That includes working closely with enrollment management, advancement, the five colleges and two schools that make up the university, executive communication and athletics.

IMC also manages the on-campus print shop. The department’s creative team produces all of the external print and digital collateral for the university, overseeing the university’s brand and messaging, and managing all Valpo.edu pages. In addition, IMC manages the official social media platforms of the university and its athletics.

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“Working with creative individuals who push the envelope and have a passion to create beautiful pieces and tell inspiring stories make any environment a fantastic place to be.”

— Amy Lowery, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications, Valparaiso University

IMC also manages the on-campus print shop. The department’s creative team produces all of the external print and digital collateral for the university, overseeing the university’s brand and messaging, and managing all Valpo.edu pages. In addition, IMC manages the official social media platforms of the university and its athletics.

Lowery’s staff does everything from drafting press releases, features, scripts and emails to overseeing all admission and athletics marketing and communication, including the fan experience at athletic events.

“In my role, I oversee the creative staff, print shop and marketing for athletics, manage the department’s budget, and serve on the IMC Leadership team,” Lowery says. “The IMC leadership team collaborates with campus leadership to develop effective engagement strategies for the various audiences we are trying to reach—prospective and current students, alumni, faculty, staff, parents and friends.”

THE DAY-TO-DAY
In the course of orchestrating and managing meetings, coordinating and prioritizing new projects, and setting the tone on every marketing and branding campaign, the attention to details and proficiency are critical.

Lowery says that projects must be tracked, while production workflow has to undergo a quality control process. That process ensures multiple eyes have reviewed any proof before it leaves her office. Because Lowery oversees the day-to-day operation of IMC, she must make an early morning skim of the university’s social media accounts as well as keep tabs on her own email for any “hot communication” her team may need to address.

“A portion of my time is spent reviewing new initiatives and ideas with various campus departments, often by email or in person, if a larger discovery conversation is warranted,” Lowery says. “After those meetings, I’ll assign hot projects right away in our project management system, or I’ll collect assignments to discuss and assign in our weekly project check-in.”

Another item on her checklist is checking the dashboards from her group’s various social platforms, which must be monitored daily to determine if the IMC team needs to make any changes or pull any data to share with colleagues to add to the CRM. Much of Valparaiso University’s marketing efforts are digital, so it’s critical to be able to review data and turn on a dime if necessary.

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“If you consider the number of communication channels that need to be managed today versus even five years ago, it’s not surprising that marketing and communications offices struggle to keep up.”

— Valla Aguilar, Director of Marketing, Office of Marketing and Communications, North Central College

The Right Stuff

A HEALTHY WORK ENVIRONMENT IS KEY TO ANY OCCUPATION, BUT PARTICULARLY FOR THOSE WHO ARE REGULARLY PROJECTING A POSITIVE BRAND FOR THEIR COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY. WHAT DOES THE IDEAL WORK ENVIRONMENT LOOK LIKE?

Lowery says it’s where people are open to new ideas. “Higher education is an industry notorious for slow action,” she says. “Working with creative individuals who push the envelope and have a passion to create beautiful pieces and tell inspiring stories makes any environment a fantastic place to be.”

For Aguilar, being able to be a strategic thinker and exercising sound judgment are essential to her role. Taking the time to develop the talents of those around her is another important step in creating an effi€cient and successful team.

And having the right people around you is important when you encounter never-ending challenges that every higher education institution is faced with. “If you consider the number of communication channels that need to be managed today versus even five years ago, it’s not surprising that marketing and communications o€ces struggle to keep up,” Aguilar says. “Every new technology, social channel or trend needs to be researched and evaluated for how it may be able to help us connect to our target audience.”

In addition, when resources get limited, the pressure to meet the ever-increasing demands on marketing and communications offi€ces is highlighted. “A lack of resources means more time needed to accomplish any given goal,” Lowery says. “We have many ideas we would like to execute, but allocating proper resources is often a barrier.”

In the end, every college and university push each other in the quest to attract prospective students. Lowery believes that this “healthy dose of competition” helps her university stay relevant with other institutions. Momentum within the institution must be shown without projecting a stagnant appearance to your audience.

Another necessary strength is an analytical viewpoint to boil large ideas down into action items. Lowery must have the ability to focus on Valparaiso’s overall goals while juggling multiple requests. “Simply carving out time to sit back and review case studies from other institutions can be challenging,” she says. “Learning what worked and didn’t work for someone else can be a time saver.”