Marketing & Communication in Student Affairs: What We Didn’t Get To On Student Affairs Live

Student Affairs Live ScreenshotLast week I had the pleasure of participating in my first Google on-air hangout to join the Student Affairs Live conversation about marketing and communication in student affairs. I had a blast chatting with James McHaley and Kat Shanahan. Although I haven’t been working on a campus in over four months, I was immediately vaulted back in time, drawing mainly on my experience at UW-Milwaukee.

If you haven’t seen the show, I encourage you to check out the archive. We were able to cover some high-level strategy as well as nuts and bolts information within the hour. If you have any interest in marketing & communication and you work in student affairs (or collaborate with student affairs), you’ve gotta check it out. You’ll watch us discuss the following topics:

  • Professional background and journey to become involved in marketing & communication within student affairs
  • Our staffing structure
  • A look into our day-to-day work
  • Our role with student organizations
  • Common challenges our student affairs colleagues face regarding marketing & communication
  • Suggestions for improvement
  • How we approach the maintenance of a consistent brand voice across multiple campaigns and communication channels, especially when multiple staff are involved
  • Should there be a dedicated marketing & communication position within the Division of Student Affairs?
  • If such an office existed, what are the essential needs (equipment, budget, staffing) to make it successful?
  • Resources we use to learn how to do our job better, faster and smarter

Before the show, Ed Cabellon, our esteemed host, sent out a great list of questions. Between the great discussion and the added questions from the back channel, we didn’t get to them all. So, I figured I’d give you my answers to the questions that weren’t asked. Consider this your behind the scenes DVD feature (wait, are DVDs old tech?).

Who are you most closely connected with across campus to get your work advanced and shown on a larger scale?

When I was in a campus department, my closest connections were with recruitment & outreach, the first year center, orientation staff, IT, and the university relations team. It took a good 3-4 years to get all of those relationships to the level where they were mutually beneficial. Together, this set of relationships allowed me to best leverage in-person, online, print, and earned media to get my message to the campus at large. I learned a lot about campus politics and tricks of the trade from each of these departments. Strong relationships in these areas allowed me to do my job better, and hopefully it was a reciprocal relationship.

How do you promote innovation in your work?

I send out unsolicited, thought-provoking articles to my co-workers and supervisors. When they respond positively, I geek out.

I have a white board and I take time away from my computer to think, or read a related book to get my head out of the day-to-day. My whiteboard is a reflection of the ideas that come out of those sessions. It’s my in-between space, where I can consider an idea before it’s officially put forward, or erase it into oblivion if it’s completely crazy.

Similar to my time on campus, I try to form relationships with coworkers in different departments so I can begin to understand our organization holistically in order to contribute in a way that’s valuable to everyone.

What’s your favorite gadget, app, and software?

  • Gadget: my iPhone. I’m boring. And I’m never going Android.
  • App: Zite—sometimes I like to let other people curate content for me.
  • Software: At work I finally have access to enterprise-level social listening software. I’m in love with it.

Liz, what has been the biggest change for you in your new position outside of higher ed?

Before the show I told Ed that if he asked me this I’d have to respectfully disagree that I left higher ed. True, I no longer work on a campus, but I work for an organization that provides service to an absolutely needed aspect of higher education: funding through student loans. Semantics aside, here’s what I was prepared to say:

I’ve had to let go of my all hands on deck mentality. I work for a large company where people tend to specialize. I’m used to getting involved in projects and committees that were way outside my job description (and pay grade) just to get more experience. Now, I’m asked to focus on what I’m uniquely qualified to do, and let the folks who’ve been tasked with unrelated duties (like survey research or determining our conference booth design, for example) handle their own business. I still am occasionally asked for my opinion or point of view, but I’m expected to continually excel in my speciality area and allow others to do so as well.

Also, things move faster. When I’m working on a project that requires multiple drafts, the turnaround time is usually a week or less, not next month or next semester.

Truth be told, although this question was likely the least relevant to our conversation (and likely why it wasn’t asked), it’s had me thinking about it for a week. Look for more on this in a separate post. If you have specific questions related to this topic, feel free to add them in the comments and I’ll try to address them.

Did you watch the show? What did you think? Is the marketing and communication function in student affairs given enough attention?

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2 Comments on “Marketing & Communication in Student Affairs: What We Didn’t Get To On Student Affairs Live

  1. I will watch the interview. I am curious about your thoughts on the level of marketing expertise of vice presidents or deans of student affairs. How much do they have? How much should they have? Perhaps you covered it during the interview or would elaborate on it further here.

    • Thanks for reading (and watching), Shawn. We didn’t directly answer this question during the show. We did talk about how to improve marketing & communication in student affairs, and how to start to build a marketing office within the division.

      I think that’s where the answer lies: hiring experts (either within a division marketing office or within the university marketing & communication office) to focus on student affairs marketing. When I think of the vice presidents and deans of students I know, very few of them would consider marketing as an area of expertise. Frankly, I think that’s ok. Their skills in leadership, conflict management, strategic planning, supervision, and vision are much more important than marketing. I think they can best use their position to advocate for the hiring of experts to handle marketing tasks.

      I’d love to know what you think after watching the show!

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