Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

November 2013 Archives

Higher education marketing: 5 Takeaway Points from the 2013 AMA Symposium

Last week's 2013 Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education was the best attended one yet, at over 1,000 people. That's a tribute to all the program planners, starting with the chair Terry Flannery. After my Digital Marketing Strategy tutorial on Sunday, I had a chance to visit several presentations, many good, some great, and a few not so good or great.

Let me share 5 takeaway points that stand out a week later:

  • Going mobile: Options exist for how to take your "traditional" big screen website to the mobile world. Jon Brousseau at Boston University did an excellent job of presenting three options that included responsive design but were not limited to that approach. The takeaway: responsive design may often be the best technique but consider all options before a final decision. Different parts of your website may work best in different formats. Special kudos to Jon for using some of the best, most legible-from-the-rear-of-the-room slides of anyone I saw present. 
  • Killing View books: The title was "Will Video Kill the Viewbook?," a strong session with Jim Walls and Tammo Walter from the 160over90 agency and Joyce Lantz from University of Notre Dame. Jim answered the question up front as "No." That's the conventional answer that everyone seems compelled to give but after this session it was hard to believe that not long from now the answer will be "Yes." The reason is simple: view books exist to tell a story that is better told in video. That was my takeaway point after watching the examples.
  • Price, Discounting, and Public Universities: A session with Terri Harfst and Abbey Fischer from Southern Illinois University and Tom Abrahamson from Lipman Hearn took me way back to the mid-1990s. To boost enrollment at the upper end of its academic profile, SIU has started tuition discounting with merit scholarships. As a result, enrollment conversions from this pool have increased as has the ACT level of the freshman class. Not a big surprise. The takeaway: If enrollment pressure is forcing public sector schools into merit scholarships and tuition discounting, the transition is slow.
  • Content Strategy "Story Champions": Jamie Ceman and Mandy Potts from University of Wisconsin Oshkosh did a fabulous job recounting how they created and support a corps of "Story Champions" across the university to create content that tells a coordinated university brand story. Story champions come from just about every area from admissions to faculty to fundraising and more. The key to success: champions meet weekly, with 10 to 15 people attending. The takeaway: a great way to circumvent silos without having to destroy them.
Is Integrated Marketing Possible at a Large University?

All the keynotes this year were good but I found one especially interesting. Mary Baglivo is the newly appointed Vice President for Global Marketing and Chief Marketing Officer at Northwestern University. That's a most distinguished title for a person who, as she told her story, is essentially a consultant to the president. No direct budget or staff control here over the many other areas at Northwestern that "do" marketing. 

Mary talked about "Love Stories that Sell" with examples from outside higher education. I'd love to hear her again next year talking about lessons learned from her first year experience. Just how integrated can marketing become at an organization like Northwestern?

Next Year in Austin

Plan now to attend the marketing symposium's 25th anniversary meeting in Austin next November.

Next year's co-chairs are Deb Maue at mStoner and Jason Simon at University of California, both members of the program committee this year. Good luck to them both.

That's all for now.

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Marketing Strength: Career Outcomes Reported by Academic Division

If you're a potential student wondering how graduates of a particular university are faring in their initial career opportunities after graduation, it is a safe bet that you are most interested in the outcomes for graduates in the same academic areas that interest you.

The DePaul University "Career Outcomes 2012" page makes outcomes by academic area easy to locate in a quick scan of a page that highlights each of 7 major areas after starting with an "Overall" report.

Click on the relevant image and you'll see a readable PDF in these areas:
  • College of Communication
  • College of Computing and Digital Media
  • College of Education
  • College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
  • College of Science and Health
  • Driehaus College of Business
  • School for New Learning
Note that there is a single format used for presentation of the outcomes information. That's a blessing for visitors who do want to explore outcomes of more than one school.

To experience an easy-to-use career outcomes page that passes the 5-second scan rule and creates an important marketing element for student recruitment, visit the Career Outcomes 2012 page at DePaul University.

The Original Link of the Week Page

Regular readers of course notice that we are again posting a Link of the Week selection within the blog. An unexpected transfer of my regular website to a new server has disabled the web editing software for the moment. That should be fixed this week.

To review selections for 2013 and earlier, visit the usual Link of the Week page.

As many of you read the November newsletter, I am still on my way to the J.Boye Web and Intranet conference in Aarhus, Denmark. Fine conference in a fine city. But it does take a fair while to get from Detroit to destination.

Next week I hope to meet many of you at the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education in Boston. More than 700 people are attending for a great line-up of keynote speakers, session topics, networking and more. I am especially looking forward to meeting the 35+ people who registered for my Digital Marketing Strategy tutorial on Sunday.

Whether or not you plan to be at the AMA meeting, follow the link below to the online version of the NYT Education Life supplement that is just out if you do not have the print version. This is the most interesting collection of articles this year.

On a personal note: Tom Hayes, founder of the higher education marketing symposium in 1989, has just announced his retirement from the SimpsonScarborough marketing firm he also helped launch. Read Tom's reflections on his higher education marketing adventure in an interview

When Tom first approached me about that 1989 meeting he told me it was because I was the only person in higher education he could find with a vice president of marketing title. How things have changed since then. And thanks to Tom I had the honor of chairing the AMA symposium for 10 years from the early 1990s. From 1989 until the present it has been the premier event for higher education marketers. 

Tom is not about to disappear. He will still be teaching at Xavier University and we will see him out and about on the speaking circuit. Good for us.

And now here are your marketing news and notes for November.
Social Media: Top University Brands in the U.S.

The top three brands on Facebook over the past month: University of Phoenix, Harvard, and Full Sail University.

The top three on Twitter: Harvard, Full Sail University, Stanford University. 

If details like this are of interest, visit the SocialBakers website at for monthly, weekly, and daily statistics under the Education category for each social media site. You can also check LinkedIn and YouTube and sort results by country.
NY Times Education Life for November 3

When I opened the print version of the latest quarterly Education Life issue I was looking for an article to highlight in today's newsletter. Unlike some previous issues, that was not easy to do.

Pretty much the entire issue covers changes underway in higher education, from basics like using parents to recruit at college admission events to reviews to strategy level coverage of the disruption underway in the traditional higher education delivery model. 

If you are a marketer thinking just a few years into the future, review what is available in the online version at 
Advertising Online: The Value of Retargeted Ads

From my personal experience, more and more colleges and universities are using retargeted ads. For those who might not know, that means chasing you around the web world after you make an initial visit to a higher education website.

To help your planning and set reasonable expectations, review the research that says 48 percent of people never notice the ads, but of those who do notice, many more (about 30 percent) like them then do not like them (about 11 percent.) I like those odds when compared with other forms of online advertising.

More on the results at 
Tuition Decrease Success Story: University of the South

The marketing value of decreasing tuition rates has long been a topic of debate. Advocates and skeptics are easy to find. Judged by what schools are actually doing, the skeptics so far are winning the discussion.

If the impact of reduced tuition is a topic on your campus, in public or in secret, explore the results at University of the South since a 10 percent reduction two years ago: increases in both applications and yield rates.

The university has also frozen tuition for new freshmen for four years after they start.

For more on the pricing mix at University of the South or Sewanee visit 
Social Media ROI: Using a PR-based Approach

How you can best measure the ROI of social media efforts is a popular topic where opinions, to say the least, vary. 

The "Marketing Equivalency" approach presented by Peter Friedman suggests using a PR-based system. Calculate the "reach" of your social media efforts and then compare the cost of that with the cost of paying to reach the same audiences in a communications campaign. The difference is your ROI.

Opinions will differ. The Friedman approach may work if "reach" or brand exposure is your goal. It will not work so well if leads and conversion to enrollment is your goal. Decide for yourself after you visit 
Canadian University Rankings: The New Maclean's Magazine Report

Ratings are in three categories: Primarily Undergraduate, Comprehensive, and Medical - Doctoral.

Most change this year is among Comprehensive universities, where Victoria University replaces Simon Fraser at the top. Scan the top 15 schools in each category and review the methodology when you visit 
World University Rankings: Times Higher Education Report from the U.K.

If world university rankings are of interest, you do not want to miss this 2013-2014 report. Harvard wins for reputation while California Institute of Technology is rated first overall.

Sort the results by either 6 regions or 6 subject areas when you visit 
Crafting a Better RFP Process: 8 Steps to Check and Improve

Reading an AdAge article last week reporting on why more advertising agencies were deciding to just toss RFPs without responding made me think about my own experiences over the past 10 to 12 years. 

Two special steps to get the best possible response from an agency: allow enough time to respond (at least four weeks) and state up front the amount you have to invest in the project so that agencies can control the scope of the response. 

More on those and 6 others in a new blog post at 
Google AdWords: 5 Tips for Tracking Conversions

If you are using Google AdWord advertising in your marketing mix then you want to read the update from Search Engine Land at to help you survive what the author calls an "ever-more complex big data problem."

My favorite: starting in November Google will count a phone call from a mobile device as a conversion. 
Mobile Marketing: 6 Myths 

The first myth in this article from UX magazine: most mobile device use takes place outside the home. In reality, 60 percent of smartphones and 79 percent of tablet use is within the home.

Another key myth: you can survive by offering reducing functionality on a mobile device.

Read about these and other important mythology details at 
Most Popular Topic in October Newsletter: Find the Value of Your College or University

Use this website as the public might: to find how the value of an investment in education at your college is rated and to compare with competitors or everyone in your state. Factors include graduation rate, salaries, loan levels and default rates and much more at 
New Conferences Presentations in 2013

November 5-7, Arhus, Denmark: "Writing Right for the Web" tutorial and "A Need for Speed: Responsive Design in a Mobile World" at J.Boye Web and Intranet Conference. Details 

November 10-13, Boston: "Digital Marketing Strategy: Building Brand Strength and Enrollment" tutorial at AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education at 

Plan a custom presentation on your campus. Host a workshop on any of my conference presentation topics. Contact me at or call me at 248.766.6425.

Bob Johnson
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