4 Things I Still Remember From The 2016 AMA Higher Ed Symposium

In less than two months I’ll be in Atlanta for the American Marketing Association’s 2017 Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education (AMA Higher Ed for short). This is the first time I’ll be attending in back-to-back years, and today I’m looking back on highlights from the 2016 conference, ten months later.

Memorable Meetings

The AMA Higher Ed Conference brings together over 1,000 higher ed marketers from both campuses and agencies, making it an excellent place to meet old and new friends and colleagues. Among the most memorable meetings were folks I had known for awhile but was meeting in person for the first time.

  • Meg Bernier Keniston – Meg was one of the first people to take the Social Media Measurement for Higher Ed course that I created for Higher Ed Experts. She’s a rockstar, and I’ve kept in touch with her ever since. After many years of knowing her online, we got to meet in person! Meg brought one of her student employees to the conference as a co-presenter, which is pretty amazing.
  • Mike Horn – Mike and I co-presented a session about social listening, but it was also the first time we’d ever met in person. Some people are surprised by this, but it wasn’t the first time I found a co-presenter and planned a presentation on the internet, and it won’t be the last. We had such a good time presenting to a standing-room only room that we reprised our presentation at the Carnegie Conference, and have a journal article on social listening for higher education coming out in November!
  • Joshua Dodson & Liz Gross 2016 AMA Higher EdJoshua Dodson – I’ve taken a course from Joshua and worked with him for 2.5 years at Higher Ed Experts, but AMA Higher Ed was our first in-real-life meeting. In the picture it looks like light shined down from the heavens when we finally ran into each other! I’m lucky that we got to meet again at the 2017 eduWeb Digital Summit.
  • Gil Rogers – I’ve seen Gil around…on Twitter. Earlier in the year we were actually at the same conference at the same time but didn’t get a chance to chat. I finally got to catch up with him in the exhibit hall at AMA Higher Ed, and we’ve had lots of great conversations since then. I’ve found a fellow lover of data and strategy!
  • Andrew Careaga – I think I’ve been communicating with Andrew via Twitter, Facebook, and blog comments for no less than five years. It was such a pleasure to meet him in person. This is the type of meeting where you hug someone you’ve technically never met. As my friend TJ Logan once said, “It’s nice to meet someone you already know.”

That Keynote Tho

I generally reserve curse words for emphasis, and felt they were appropriate in this context. The keynote was that good.

Don’t just take my word for it. You can read his speech in its entirety: The Rise of the Fifth Estate. This was the first speaker I ever heard clearly articulate what has now become a common theme in higher education: the importance of the crowd and public perception.

Higher Ed Marketing Career Advice

Not all sessions at AMA Higher Ed are the same. There are 45 minute sessions, 90 minute advanced sessions, a 9×5 that features nine five-minute talks, and roundtable discussions. One of the sessions that I still remember from 2016 is 5 Ways to Build A More Rewarding Marketing Career, an advanced session that featured a six-person panel of professionals at various stages of their career and leaders from search firms.

Three points from that session still resonate with me today.

  1. Update my LinkedIn summary to be less of a bio or resume summary and more of a story about me, what drives me, and what I’m looking for next.
  2. I need to know my five core strengths that are “hard skills,” rather than soft skills.
  3. There are three skills ever marketing leader needs to have to lead a modern marketing team:
    • How to manage a remote workforce
    • How to use data to make better decisions
    • How to align the marketing team with the “sales” department (admissions, development, etc.)

How Market Research Drives Strategic Success

Another strong contender for most memorable session was also an advanced session: Informed Action: Using Market Research to Align Campus Stakeholders and Drive Strategic Success. Obviously, it was full of brilliant content because the title is very long and includes a colon. 😀

This session focused on putting market research into action with real-world case studies from Butler University, NC State University and Missouri S&T. There were two big takeaways for me:

6 Reasons Market Research is Important

I already know market research is important, but these folks gave me a handy list.

  1. Allows insights to move beyond anecdotes
  2. Clarifies your marketing strategy and objectives
  3. Uncovers better understanding of target audiences
  4. Generates buy-in and mitigates risk
  5. Helps buffer against the big reveal (and the bad idea)
  6. Gathers key performance indicators like brand equity and visibility

Diving Into Brand Equity

This session also revealed a key resource I still need to look into – David Aaker’s thinking on brand equity.

My AMA Higher Ed Thoughts on Twitter

While these were the high points, I tend to power tweet when I’m at a conference, and AMA Higher Ed 2016 was a prime example of that. You can see everything I’ve ever said about AMA Higher Ed (even going back to the 2012 conference) on Twitter.

How About You?2017 AMA Higher Ed

If you went to AMA Higher Ed 2016, what do you remember? Will I see you in Atlanta in November for the 2017 edition?


Note: AMA asked me if I would be interested in taking part in a trial influencer program for this year’s conference. I accepted, because I was talking about the conference all the time anyway. All the thoughts shared in this post are authentically mine – they’re based on my actual notes from the conference. In exchange for participating in the influencer program, AMA is providing me with one free year of membership.

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