The 2018 CASE District VI conference is officially off and running today in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. I’ve already reconnected with friends and acquaintances from past conference and from my work with them on the district board, and I look forward to making new connections with professionals in the world of advancement, alumni relations, and communications and marketing. Continue reading “A marketer’s guide to #CASEVI 2018”
The 2014 version of CASE’s Annual Conference on Marketing and Branding is now one for the books. It was a terrific experience for me, both as a presenter and as an attendee. I picked up a lot of great ideas and gleaned many insights from my co-presenters and from other attendees. I could share dozens of takeaways, but it’s Friday, and I’m sticking with the theme. So here are five takeaways from the conference:
- We’re all a work in progress. During Thursday afternoon’s faculty panel Q&A, one of the conference attendees said it seemed like we presenters were all “on the Starship Enterprise” from Star Trek while she was “driving the yabba dabba do car” from The Flintstones. That’s one of the challenges about attending these types of conferences: We hear about best practices in branding or major marketing successes, or we hear about an organizational structure that sounds more functional than our own, and we end up with some cognitive dissonance — inspired by what might be possible but also gripped by a sense of dread about the realities we face back on campus. What we don’t often hear from presenters are the challenges they faced to develop a mature marketing program or launch a brand refresh. Or the challenges they continue to face on those and a dozen other fronts. None of us has discovered the perfect approach, and we continue to face obstacles on our road to creating the Ultimate Higher Ed Brand. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that we’re all a work in progress.
- Strategy and story are both important. During the conference, we (presenters and attendees) talked a lot about taking a strategic approach to branding and marketing. And we talked a lot about the importance of storytelling to cut through the marketing clutter so that our brands stand out. But the critical takeaway for me is the idea of strategic storytelling. Developing a core brand is crucial. Presenter Jason Simon called it “the scaffold” on which we build all of the other elements that help us present our brand — the visual identity, the messaging, the PR effort, the storytelling. Without a strategy, storytelling can become fuzzy and non-cohesive. Without storytelling, a brand strategy can become cold and lifeless. We need both.
- Focus. Focus. Focus. The key to building a strong brand is focusing on what differentiates our institutions from the rest of the herd. It’s that simple. And that challenging. Related to focus is the ability to…
- Simplify. Understand the essence of your brand — or your story, your message, etc. — and simplify to the point that you can easily explain only what needs to be shared. As Charlie Melichar put it earlier today, “Don’t tell me how the clock works. Just tell me the time.” In other words, don’t bog the audience down in non-essential details.
- Don’t skimp on research — but realize you can do a lot in-house. We shared a lot of examples of market research that various institutions used to inform their marketing initiatives or to measure perceptions of their brand. If you’re short on budget, find ways to conduct research in-house with some of your constituent group. It might not be the best, most scientific research, but it beats no research at all. Armed with data, you will be better positioned to advocate for your branding and marketing to your institution’s leadership.
Who else has a takeaway to share? Please post it in the comments.
P.S. – Karine Joly is also looking for input from conference-goers at her conference site to give next year’s attendees a sense of what to expect.
The 2014 edition of the CASE Annual Conference on Marketing and Branding begins this afternoon and continues through Friday, May 2. We have a record turnout of 120 attendees, and it promises to be a terrific event. Thanks to the leadership of conference chair Rachel Reuben for pulling a solid program and some stellar faculty.
If you’re attending the event, please share what you’re learning and experiencing on Twitter by tagging your live or tape-delayed tweets with #caseacmb. For those who can’t join us in person, that’s the hashtag to follow. Either way, I hope you learn a lot about higher ed marketing, branding and leadership over these next few days. And I’m looking forward to meeting some new colleagues here in Baltimore.
Keep your eyes peeled for a postcard (like the one pictured) from CASE announcing this year’s CASE Annual Conference on Marketing and Branding. If you’re involved in marketing or branding for your institution, you won’t want to miss this conference.
Led by the illustrious Rachel Reuben (@RachelReuben), associate VP for marketing communications at Ithaca College, this conference promises to be a terrific opportunity for anyone wanting to learn from some great higher ed marketing and branding pros.
I’m fortunate to be a part of the faculty for this conference, which is scheduled for April 30-May 2 in Baltimore, Maryland. Joining Rachel and me are three more exceptional marketing and branding pros:
- Charlie Melichar, senior consultant in strategic communications at Marts & Lundy and formerly with Vanderbilt University and Colgate University. I’ve worked with this great presenter in the past, and look forward to working with him again.
- Jason Simon, who recently joined SimpsonScarborough as a VP and partner after serving as executive director of marketing communications for the University of California System. He previously held a similar position at North Carolina State University.
- Heather Swain, the VP for communication and brand strategy at Michigan State University. A member of Michigan State’s staff since 2006, she previously work in communications at Ball State University.
Check out the program. We’ll be covering a broad range of relevant topics — from launching a new brand identity, measuring success and using storytelling in your marketing to advertising strategies and keeping your brand vibrant beyond the launch, and more. So sign up for this great opportunity. I hope to see you there.
Power Up! is the theme for the 2014 CASE District VI conference, coming up next month (Jan. 12-14) in Kansas City, Mo. If you plan on going — and I hope you are — you have until Dec. 13 to register under the early bird discount rate.
As chair of the communications and marketing program for the conference, I’m excited about the group of presenters who will be joining us.
That group includes two well-known and highly regarded visionaries in the higher ed communications and advancement world — web maven Mark Greenfield (@markgr) of the University at Buffalo and Andrew Gossen (@agossen) of Cornell’s alumni association. These guys will kick-start the conference on Sunday, Jan. 12, with back-to-back sessions offering us a glimpse into the future of digital disruption.
From there, we’ll have presenters on marketing, branding, PR, media relations and web design, among other things.
Also for this year’s conference, we’re tapping into Kansas City’s creative community to bring you some experts from beyond higher ed to give us a fresh look at graphic design and creativity. These include Tyler Galloway, chair of graphic design at the Kansas City Art Institute, and Clifton Alexander, the owner and “creative Chuck Norris” of KC’s REACTOR Design Studios.
We’re also fortunate to have two great keynote speakers lined up: Michael Uslan, who is best known as the originator of the Batman series of movies, and Dayton Moore, senior VP of baseball operations and general manager for the Kansas City Royals.
I’ve talked mostly about communications and marketing content, but there’s a lot to offer those interested in fundraising, alumni relations, leadership and other things related to institutional advancement. Take a look at the entire conference program for more background. And then remember to register before Dec. 13, if you want the best deal.
See you in KC next month!
P.S. – Don’t forget to follow @CASEVI on Twitter for updates leading to and during the conference.
The 2013 CASE Summit for leaders in advancement begins today (Sunday, July 14) and continues through Tuesday, July 16. I’m here in San Francisco for the Summit, but probably will do more tweeting than blogging during the event. (A post-summit blog post in this space is almost certain.) So if you want to know what topics, speakers and sessions are piquing the interest of Summit attendees, your best bet is to follow the Twitter feed: #CASESummit.
This promises to be a terrific conference. The lineup of speakers, presenters and panelists is amazing. (I get to introduce one of them: Francis Flynn, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford, who speaks twice on Monday on “Communication and the Art of Persuasion.”) And the conference’s overarching theme of disruption is more relevant now than when I wrote a preview of this conference back in May.
If you’re here in person, I hope we get to meet. I’ll be the guy tweeting on what appears to be an Etch-A-Sketch.
With the concepts of authenticity and transparency now solidly ingrained in the minds (or at least the lingo) of most higher ed marketers and administrators, it’s amazing that so many of us insist on doing our marketing the old-fashioned way. We tend to continue the pushy, intrusive approaches that we assumed worked well in the past. We tout generic attributes about small class sizes, caring faculty and cutting-edge research, focusing on puffing ourselves up instead of considering the needs of our audiences. We also tend to invest little time or money in thinking about approaches that would tell the real — and distinctive — stories about our institutions.
But as the title of a new book for higher ed marketers suggests, it’s time for campus marketers and leaders to embrace their schools’ true identities and create brands that reflect those identities.
The Real U, by Robert M. Moore, is a quick, insightful read that could serve as a template for just about any campus in search of a brand identity. Subtitled Building Brands That Resonate with Students, Faculty, Staff, and Donors, Moore’s book offers some pretty good counsel for a brand manager seeking to involve those constituents in creating a brand identity.
The Real U‘s mission is outlined at the end of the brief introduction. “In this book,” Moore writes, “you’ll learn how to understand your brand story; shape it to meet the interests, values, and needs of your stakeholders; and project it into the marketplace in powerful, compelling, and effective ways.”
Moore, a managing partner for the higher ed consulting firm Lipman Hearne (which has a very slick website), has more than 25 years of experience in higher ed and non-profit marketing. So he knows the business. But 25 years of experience can lead to some bad habits, such as peppering one’s prose with standard-order marketing adjectives like “powerful,” “compelling” and “effective.” That’s not so bad, I guess. Our minds tend to skip over that sort of writing anyway, right? That’s why ads no longer command our attention. Fortunately, there isn’t much of that BS lingo in the book. And what there is of it, most of us can easily brush aside to uncover some worthwhile information.
Moore also counterbalances those sins with some clever verbal zingers, like this one attributed to Bo Diddley, which captures the essence of authenticity: “Don’t let your mouth write no checks that your a** can’t cash.”
In The Real U, Moore casts branding — rightly, I think — as the embodiment of an organization’s story. Every institution has a story, even if it isn’t very well articulated. (The goal of this book is to help brand managers articulate it.) Whatever that story is, Moore maintains that it must be anchored in authenticity — “the guarantee that the institution is actually able to deliver on the promise that it makes.” From there, Moore makes that case for grounding your brand identity not in logos or taglines, but in crafting the stories that convey your institution’s true identity.
There’s nothing new in The Real U, but Moore does a nice job of weaving the ideas of other marketers into his story to present a cohesive approach for higher ed. He cites marketing legends like Harry Beckwith and Jack Trout but also includes sidebar commentaries from other higher ed practitioners (way to keep it real for the audience, Robert!).
Even if there’s nothing new here, The Real U is an expertly and concisely packaged narrative, and I suspect most higher ed marketers, regardless of their experience, will find some take-aways in this book. The section on building a brand platform contains valuable illustrations for a variety of archetype campuses, which should prove helpful for marketers who are just getting started (or those who are revisiting their brand identity). From a personal and work perspective, I found the section on brainstorming and the Brand Basics chapter’s sidebar about creating an integrated marketing committee (contributed by Sharon Jones Schweitzer of Trinity University) to be particularly helpful. And although at times Moore seems to try too hard to be clever with his words (don’t all copywriters?), the final product is a worthwhile how-to resource for higher ed marketers. I plan to share it widely with members of our branding and marketing team, and maybe even with some administrators.