Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

June 2011 Archives

eduWeb2011: Expert panels will discuss marketing & web design

Marketing and web design are the topics of 2 panel discussions planned for the upcoming eduWeb2011 conference in San Antonio in August.

Earlier this week conference chair Shelley Wetzel asked her advisory board members to share their thoughts with her on the most important elements for each panel. With just a bit of refinement, I'm also sharing with blog readers what I sent along. To add your thoughts, email Shelley at

Marketing Communications and Social Media: Panel Discussion 1
  • If we are talking about the recruitment cycle, we need first to define when and how in the cycle social media is most important in the marketing communications mix. For traditional students, this is from about the mid-point on, let's say after a person has visited campus and certainly after they have been admitted. 
  • We need to focus first on how to use 2 related elements: video as per YouTube and conversation as per Facebook.
  • Some people place inordinate emphasis on ROI. I'm not one of those. We do need to monitor and measure what's happening so we can adapt how we use social media, but there is no doubt in my mind that it is a mandatory element, similar today to the way people once used the telephone. (And the telephone of course remains important.) Fact is, few people in the past 25 years have had very precise ROI measures for things like view books and high school visit programs.
Design and Development and Information Architecture: Panel Discussion 2
  • We need more emphasis on first identifying the "top tasks" that people want to complete on a website and then designing the IA to help them get those tasks done. 
  • The tasks of course will vary with individual audiences and that will complicate the "design and development" process. The top tasks define the "content strategy." If something is not a top task for someone using a website, then why should it be content on a website? (Reasons might exist, but the design should not place mandatory content that is little used in a place that hinders task completion for people in your most important audiences.)
  • The "top task" approach is also useful in deciding what content to remove from a website. In the "design for mobile" era, content culling becomes important as mobile design must be more straight forward and direct than design has so far been for most traditional websites.
Examples of Site Design for Task Completion: 2 Favorites in Higher Education
Join us at eduWeb2011 in San Antonio

Review the program and register after you visit the conference website. Don't miss my Monday morning workshop: "Mobile Marketing in Higher Education: Challenges and Strategies.

New "Writing Right for the Web" Event
That's all for now.
A higher education marketing challenge: creating a real SUNY brand

You live outside New York and hear or read the term "SUNY"... what comes to mind? For one student at a university in Ohio, it was a reference to a Sunni religious university.

The State University of New York has a serious brand challenge, both within the state and without.

That was my impression before and after traveling to the 2011 SUNYCUAD conference in Saratoga Springs to give presentations on mobile marketing and a top-rated university website.

Nancy Zimpher and the Quest for "Systemness"

The conference featured an excellent presentation by SUNY chancellor Nancy Zimpher. Before moving to SUNY, Zimpher helped guide a remarkable brand campaign at the University of Cincinnati. If she is half as successful at SUNY, she will have achieved an equally remarkable transformation. But the challenge is quite different.

University of Cincinnati had a position in Ohio higher education independent of other large universities within the state. It was not part of a "system" that included, say, Ohio State University, University of Toledo, Wright State University, and every other public institution within Ohio.

Autonomy vs. Partnership

Here in New York, her challenge is much different. Dozens of SUNY schools from 4 research universities to 4-year colleges, community colleges and specialized institutions jockey for varying degrees of autonomy under the SUNY umbrella. And so the Chancellor has invented a new word, "systemness" to help convey the advantages of collectively working together within the SUNY framework on various initiatives around the state. 

Will she succeed where others have failed? We'll know that 3 to 5 years from now. 

SUNY Outside New York State

Outside the state, the "SUNY" label itself presents a problem. Few people who read or hear the term will have a clue what it refers to. Stronger use of the full "State University of New York" will help define the term. But what, of course, is the "State University of New York"? It isn't yet a "system" at all by most definitions of what "system" means. Perhaps in time "systemness" will help create more coherence. In the meantime, one suspects that Binghamton University, University of Buffalo, University at Albany, and Stony Brook University will remain the major way of identifying the 4 research universities in New York.

In her talk, the chancellor mentioned the recent, and so far unsuccessful, effort by the University of Wisconsin to achieve new independence from the system in that state. She hopes to take SUNY in a different direction.

This is a fascinating brand exercise that Chancellor Zimpher is about. Everyone interested in higher education marketing should watch what happens over the next few years.

New "Writing Right for the Web" Event
That's all for now.

Are you ready for the summer conference season? 

Mine starts with SUNYCUAD this week and ends with eduWeb2011 in August. Check the program details at the end of this newsletter and pick the one that best helps your marketing goals. I am hoping to meet many of you in person sometime in these next three months.

Writing Right for the Web is an especially favorite topic of mine. That is why I am excited about the new two-day web writing conference this July. Webinars are fine, but in-person conferences allow for much better exercises and overall interaction. Check the details at

Wednesday will be a fun day at SUNYCUAD. We four "core faculty" folk are opening with a panel discussion on how many of today's individual SUNY institutions will exist in 2025. Roll that challenge around in your mind. Will your school exist in 15 years? If so, just how different will it be from what you know today?

And now here are your marketing news and notes for June. 
Georgetown Report on Earnings by 171 Academic Majors

The Economic Value of College Majors report from Georgetown University is one of the more buzz-creating reports of this year.

No room to even attempt a summary here. You can select from 5 different approaches to the data, including downloading the nearly 200 page full report. My favorite was an easy-to-use interactive table to check the programs of most importance to your marketing goals.

Select from the options at 
Marketing for Hispanics: 10 "Required Living" Tips

How can you best understand what will work in marketing to Hispanics?

That question motivated Rochelle Newman-Carrasco to prepare a list of 10 ways to understand how to best do marketing communications with Hispanics.

The unconventional list starts with paying attention to Hispanic theatre productions and ends with thinking like a kindergarten student. 

See the 8 points in between those at 
Tuition Discounting Hits All-Time High in 2010

Many private non-profit sector schools have been plagued with a nasty dilemma since the financial crash: increase tuition discounting or accept lower enrollment. Often, the response has been to increase discounting and live with lower net tuition revenue.

A new NACUBO report shows the average tuition discount rate at the highest ever: 42.4 percent in 2010. I will bet that is higher for 2011.

Read a detailed review of the report, based on responses from 381 schools, at
International Student Growth: New Challenges and Solutions

How are different campuses coping with surges in international students at the undergraduate level? How do the challenges differ from country to country?

Those questions are reviewed in a detailed Chronicle of Higher Education article that notes, for instance, differences between students from India (used to only one exam at the end of a course) and students from China (used to never sharing a room as only children.) 

Read the article and the comments that follow at
Is Brand Advertising Dead?

Al Ries warns that brand advertising is close to death, replaced by promotion of specific products produced by the brand organization. 

This isn't completely new. Think Proctor and Gamble vs. Crest. But it focused my attention back to an old but still current discussion: will student recruitment benefit more from higher attention to specific academic programs or to the whole university that offers them.

The answer, of course, varies. Revisit an important issue after you read the Ries column
Is Your University President Too Complacent re the Future?

Daniel Yankelovich reviews how the higher education world has changed since 2008 and asks if enough higher education presidents truly grasp the changes needed in the future. Most especially he points to stagnant or declining middle-class income levels that will not allow annual increases in tuition levels to continue.

Decide if your president is complacent or not after you read the Yankelovich Chronicle of Higher Education article at
Twitter Grows: New Pew Internet Survey Report

The Pew Internet people have just reported strong growth in Twitter use among adults 25-34, with special strength among African-Americans and Hispanics. About half of Twitter use is from mobile devices.

It is not yet strong enough to play an essential role in recruitment communication programs, but plan to continue tracking Twitter use and reassess how you might use it in 2012 if the upward trend continues.

Download the full report or read it online after you visit the Overview page at 
Demographics of Social Media Users

AdAge offers graphics on who uses the most popular social media sites in the U.S. and around the world. 

Sites included: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the ever shrinking MySpace. Missing but should be included: YouTube

Check the charts and the comments at
Writing Right for the Web: Questions, Answers

Check the answers to two questions (FAQ links, use of numbers) from my May "Writing Right for the Web" events on my blog at 
Print and Electronics in Higher Education

A new survey of college students reports that while most do not yet have tablet devices like the iPad, 73 percent of those who do prefer reading text books on the tablet over the print versions.

That obviously is a huge majority. And we can expect use of tablets to increase quickly over the next few years. Ponder that in your next discussion of "Yes, but print is not dead or going away soon." Help yourself define "soon" as you explore further at
Gainful Employment Rule

Did the for-profit sector win or lose with the long-awaited "gainful employment" ruling from the Department of Education released last week? On balance, I say they won and demonstrated the power of well-funded lobbying.

Explore the implications for higher education funding for everyone when you read the report
My Upcoming Conferences and Webinars in 2011

Attend an upcoming conference to share questions and answers with people like you who are building a competitive edge in higher education marketing. Join me at these events.

June 8-10, SUNY CUAD Annual Conference, Saratoga Springs, NY: "Mobile Marketing in Higher Education: Challenges & Opportunities" and "Future Students and Their Parents: Exploring a 90% Positive Website Rating." Visit 

June 14, Customer Carewords Webinar: "Recruiting International Students: 10 Top Website Features." Register for this free webinar at

July 20-22, ACT Enrollment Planners Conference, Chicago, IL: Pre-conference workshop: "Mobile Marketing and Student Recruitment: What's Hot and What's Not in 2011" and regular conference session, "Explore a 90% Positive Website Rating by Future Students & Parents." Register at 

July 26-27, Academic Impressions Conference, San Diego, CA: "Writing Right for the Web: Improving Your Institution's Web Content." Program at 

July 28-29, Education Dynamics - Carol Aslanian Conference Marketing Graduate Programs to Working Professionals, New York, NY: Sessions on mobile marketing and best website practices for graduate recruiting. Details at 

August 1-3, eduWeb2011, San Antonio, TX: Pre-conference workshop: "Mobile Marketing in Higher Education: Challenges and Strategies for 2011." Visit 

Improve your online marketing. Expand the writing, editing, and search marketing skills of people on your campus. Host a campus workshop on online marketing.

Contact me at
That's All for Now 

Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D. ( 
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Increase your online marketing success with these 6 services. 
• Customer Carewords Research with Gerry McGovern
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• Marketing Communications Website Reviews 
• Competitive Website Reviews 
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Writing Right for the Web... improving your web content one question at a time

During each Writing Right for the Web webinar with Academic Impressions, people participating send in questions that I answer in writing. We had several question from the May sessions and I'll include some of those here that seem of most general interest.

"Is it now okay to use numerals for 0-9 instead of spelling them out?"
  • That would very much depend on who you ask. Direct marketers would say yes (as they have done for years), while many if not most others would say no.
  • This isn't an issue I'd recommend going to war over in an academic environment.
  • In areas such as Twitter and texting, you're much more likely to see this happening. In regular websites, not so much.
  • I would try for it in headlines and primary page headings and sub-headings. "Top 5 Reasons to Visit Us" will always be more effective than "Top Five Reasons to Visit Us" and you may find that cases like that are easier for people to accept than in regular text writing.
  • You can also check the AP Style Book. After all, they recently approved "website" over "Web site" as proper use. Miracles can happen. 
"Are there any guidelines for using anchor tags for long, scrollable pages such as FAQs?"
I'll have more questions and answers here soon.

New "Writing Right for the Web" Event

That's all for now.

Bob Johnson
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