EDgage Magazine Q1, 2020

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EDgage WINTER 2020

THE PULSE How to Listen to Your Audience


Virginia Tech Research Center in Arlington

APTech, publisher of June 3, 2020 EDgage magazine, brings Virginia Tech Research Center together the leaders in higher EDgage Live is a summit of some the brightest education marketing to minds in higher education marketing and discuss how to matter more enrollment. If you are a higher ed professional to prospective students and involved in the planning and implementation of marketing and programming directed at drive enrollment success. traditional and non-traditional students, you need to be here!

Learn more and register at EDgagemag.com/EDgageLive


EDgage • WINTER 2020



The Pulse 12 Growing Influence Why marketing’s role must increase POP QUIZ

16 Terry Flannery, Policy Fellow, Center for University Excellence at American University INFOGRAPHIC

18 Your. Name. Here. NACAC study reveals what matters to schools in admissions process




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raditional marketing, in essence, has been about doing something today in the hope that your school will reap the rewards tomorrow. With your eyes firmly fixed on increasing enrollment, you ask, “What do I need to do to get us from here to there?” And yet the best marketing happens in the moment, when the higher education marketer takes the time to quietly practice empathy. We are always at our very best when we see the world through the eyes of the prospective students we are engaging. Schools are dealing with the bigger question of higher education ROI. And while the entire industry is trying to determine how to validate the investment, individual schools are eager to simply matter more to their target audience. The key to mattering to others is to actually care about them just as much as, if not more than, you do about the success of your school. So we must ask ourselves what we can do to help others achieve their dreams. As we develop the overall personality of our schools, we tend to work the most on the things that are replaceable, believing that our advantage is in the tangible value we provide and can demonstrate. We grew up receiving accolades when we answered correctly and we had our tests pinned up on the refrigerator as our parents’ pride soared. But in this day and age, having the specific answer is not much of an edge to the higher education marketer because there is no one right answer. If there were a “how to” guide, everyone would have the recipe and nothing we created would be unique. Your school values are unique and determining how they connect with prospective students is not easy. Figuring out your final objective is diffi-

publisher EDgage is published quarterly by Association for PRINT Technologies, copyright 2020. All rights reserved. For more information contact info@edgagemag.com edgagemag.com

cult—but recognizing it is more critical than knowing the exact way to achieve it. Until you do the important work of understanding your overall destination and who you stand for, every tactical decision could steer you in the wrong direction. A good decision is to take some time and read our latest issue of EDgage. Our cover article, “In Tune—How to Stay Engaged with Your Audience,” includes some great ideas and perspectives on how to have the pulse of the market and adjust tactics in order to be in tune. In our second feature, “Grow-

managing editor

editorial and creative

Julie Shaffer

Conduit, Inc. www.conduit-inc.com

contributors Michael Pallerino Ray Glier Jennifer Morrell

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THE KEY TO MATTERING TO OTHERS IS TO ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT THEM JUST AS MUCH AS, IF NOT MORE THAN, YOU DO ABOUT THE SUCCESS OF YOUR SCHOOL. ing Influence — Why Marketing’s Role Must Increase,” we tackle the changing dynamics of higher education and the challenges of becoming a customer-centric platform, which demands that marketing’s role be bigger. I hope you enjoy the read and would like to invite you to join us at our first ever EDgage Live event in Washington D.C. on June 3. We are super excited about putting together progressive marketing minds for a day of education and inspiration. Visit EDgagemag.com/ EDgageLive to learn more. Warmest wishes,

Thayer Long Publisher


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“We put great emphasis on feedback from our audiences to inform how we communicate. As marketers, we’re constantly inundated with directives of using data to make decisions, and we certainly do that at South Carolina.”


— J.C. Huggins, University of South Carolina



CREATIVITY. PERSEVERANCE. HARD WORK. Humility. There are certain qualities that Abu Noaman believes are essential to fostering the kind of engagements that it takes for brands to connect with the audiences they seek. It starts with the understanding that a brand does not and cannot know everything about the community it serves. That is what listening is for. Surround yourself with a good team and make sure they stay connected to the pulse of the market, whatever that market is. That is the strategy that Noaman, founder and CEO of marketing firm Elliance, believes is critical in today’s everchanging higher education landscape—one that is continually saturated with myriad connection tools and channels designed to help marketers tell their institution’s stories. And here is the thing Noaman says you should know: Being able to stay connected and to listen to your target market appropriately is not easy. Getting your message through to the masses takes work—lots of it. There are three challenges that Noaman believes make it incred-

EDgage • WINTER 2020


EDgage • WINTER 2020


ibly hard for higher education marketers to stay connected with their communities. First, higher education marketing departments are under-resourced and under-staffed. Most nonprofit schools invest less than 5% of total revenue on marketing compared to nearly 20% by their for-profit counterparts. Second, it is difficult for schools to rise above the noise considering that every day there are 500 million tweets, 55 million Facebook updates, 95 million photos shared on Instagram and 87 million Snapchats. Third, since each platform has a distinctive personality, marketers must be able to communicate uniquely on each platform. Consequently, each school has to pick and choose the platforms where they will proactively cultivate relationships. As for the race to stay connected with an ever-changing student base, Noaman says higher ed marketers have no choice but to keep their foot on the pedal. “Money makes money and buys talent. Higher education marketers, like the rest of advertisers, are engaged in an arms race to grab the time, talent and treasure of their stakeholder communities. In an era of dwindling college-bound students and increasing college tuition, the higher the share of voice and share of mind, the higher the market share a college can expect to harvest.”

Noaman also says that in higher education’s epoch of growing mega-donors and dwindling small donors, marketing investments can be the determining factor in whether a college will grow its endowment (which funds the war chests for scholarships and student support services) to attract the most talented students/faculty or settle for mediocre students/faculty. With more than 35,000 students and 300,000-plus alumni, it is hard for

“In an era of dwindling college-bound students and increasing college tuition, the higher the share of voice and share of mind, the higher the market share a college can expect to harvest.” — Abu Noaman, Elliance

marketers at the University of South Carolina to keep up with the sheer volume of conversations taking place in its social and digital forums. As the university’s Director of Brand Strategy for Communications & Public Affairs, J.C. Huggins and his team are tasked with the challenge to monitor and participate where applicable. “We put great emphasis on feedback from our audiences to inform how we communicate,” Huggins says.

“As marketers, we’re constantly inundated with directives of using data to make decisions, and we certainly do that at South Carolina. It’s really easy to get caught up in the dashboards of metrics that change in real-time and to neglect the measurement of key performance indicators (KPIs) with longer time-horizons.” Both informally and formally, the University of South Carolina strives to have dialogues when possible on social media. The conversations help measure what types of content its community is engaged with and how they engage with it. Huggins and his team analyze the social and digital sentiment across all public platforms and conduct market research ranging from readership surveys for publications, to focus groups on their video storytelling and brand perception research. “To avoid getting caught up in those moment-in-time snapshots, we’ve been really successful taking the longer view with brand perception tracking research,” Huggins says. “Every three years since I arrived here in 2011, we have conducted research measuring our main constituencies’ perceptions toward the university brand, our values and our messages. The results allow us to see how successful we have been at shaping perceptions since the last research and, more importantly, help us spot opportunities for messaging in the years ahead.”

Marketing for the fences After missing the first enrollment target by more than 80% in its first cohort, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh turned to Elliance to spark interest in its first-in-the-market Master of Science in Product Management degree. With the help of the Elliance team, Carnegie Mellon focused on key elements of the value proposition, which included high name recognition/reputation (Carnegie

Mellon’s top-rated Tepper School of Business + School of Computer Science); product manager earning power and job satisfaction; differentiating Master of Science in Product Management from MBA; and positive cost/benefit equation. Surgical campaigns awakened the ambitions of dormant and “junior wingman” product managers. Elliance created keyword-rich, shareable, high-fidelity content

to extend the awareness into key demographic, geographic and affinity-based prospect pools. “We anticipated prospects’ questions and positioned Carnegie Mellon as the go-to source by creating a Product Management Field Guide, infographics and posters,” Noaman says. “We executed micro-segmented paid campaigns with A/B testing, targeting key tech economy markets that drove home career ac-

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celeration. We leveraged Carnegie Mellon’s social channels and wrote blogs to amplify and complement paid campaigns, bringing in a number of expert voices.” In just two years, enrollment grew tenfold, as the campaign attracted an elite group of students—the Top 1%, based on GMAT scores. Graduates of the program have gone on to earn an average annual salary of $135,000 and are now gainfully

employed by blue chip clients like Facebook, Cisco, Home Depot, Uber, Expedia, and more. “Recognize that you become the story you choose to tell,” Noaman says. “The key is to bring that ‘content is destiny’ perspective to your school or university, and turn all publishing—academic, research, alumni, general audience—into a reputation-building, Google-dominating, social sharing cooperative enterprise

that can help power enrollment, reputation and fundraising.” Your playbook should include the following: Test fast, fail fast, and adapt fast. As Noaman tells his team, “Measure the impact of everything you create since you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” It is the kind of advice—which includes keeping your finger on the pulse—that higher education marketers can continue to build on.


The Quad 10



teenage girl who never played soccer lands a soccer scholarship to Yale. A high school boy with no known learning disability gets a proctor to help him take his standardized test. These were just two examples from Operation Varsity Blues, an FBI

sting that broke open a national college admissions cheating ring. Today, the impact lingers, as 60% of admissions officers say the scandal hurt the image “a fair amount” or “a great deal” of the colleges that admitted the students, according to the “2019 Survey of College and University Admissions Officers” by Inside Higher Ed and Gallup. In addition, 70% of public college admissions officials and private college directors (48 percent) admit it hurt their colleges’ image at least a “fair amount.” As for the power of a college education, the report shows that 51% of admissions directors say they are concerned people have lost faith in the fairness of the admissions process.

EDgage • WINTER 2020

Your guide to who goes where and why


GO WEST YOUNG STUDENT REPORT OUTLINES TUITION AND FEE PRICES FOR WESTERN SCHOOLS For prospective college students living in the west or thinking of making the trek, the “Tuition and Fees in Public Higher Education in the West: 2019-20” report provides a detailed look at all things admissions. The report, conducted by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), provides comprehensive data about the tuition and fee prices published by public higher education institutions in the WICHE region, which includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Here’s a look at some tuition stats for WICHE region public four-year institutions:



hen it comes to finding the perfect college, there are myriad factors that come into play. So, what exactly are today’s students looking for when they set out on their searches? Niche Resources surveyed 17,000 incoming college freshmen from the Class of 2019 to find out the current status of all things admissions. Here’s what Niche uncovered on what is important when choosing where to apply:



Student reviews

College Net Price Calculators




College rankings

College websites



College representatives

High school counselor


The regional average tuition & fees for resident undergraduates increased $205 (2.2%) from $9,519 in 2018-19 to $9,724 in 2019-20; adjusted for inflation, average tuition & fees increased $3 compared to 2018-19 rates Tuition & fees for non-resident undergraduates averaged $27,151 in 2019-20 and increased at a slightly higher rate (2.4%) between 2018-19 and 2019-20 Tuition & fees for graduate students increased at about the same rate as undergraduates in the past year (2.3%) and were $11,936 in 2019-20





ost and value. Changing and declining demographic numbers on traditional students. Public trust. Today’s colleges and universities are facing more challenges than ever before. While they are not for-profit businesses, the stakes are still high. The changing dynamics mean higher education marketers will continue to square up against some of the same issues consumer marketers deal with. That’s where the fun begins. A recent CMO study by higher education research, marketing, and branding agency Simpson Scarborough shows that 75% of marketers say that their departments do not have the budget and resources needed to meet expectations of senior leadership. The other 25% are simply in denial. While marketers have more than enough


work, the issue is that they do not have enough people, time, budget, space, autonomy, authority, consistency, trust, conviction and support to do that work correctly. To meet those demands, Jason Simon says marketers must find ways to get projects done, oftentimes sacrificing quality, skipping vital QA/QC checks, spending unnecessary money on temporary help or incurring rush printing and shipping charges, and so on. “You end up losing sleep at night because deep down you know you are settling for below-average work and allowing things to slip through the cracks,” says Simon, COO of Simpson Scarborough. “You and your department are capable of better work, but the current environment does not allow you to realize your potential.” With more than 15 years of experience leading marketing efforts in the higher education sector, Simon has had an inside look at how the whole process works. Over the years, his expertise in brand strategy and positioning has helped launch groundup efforts to build a case for marketing’s effectiveness in establishing brands and positioning strategies. In today’s highly competitive landscape, one dominated by the continual growth

in digital and social, Simon believes higher education marketers must up their games. “There is great competition among brands and everyone is competing by building strong customer experiences and loyalty,” Simon says. “It has never been a more exciting or challenging time to be a marketer.” That is an extremely important point when you look at how today’s marketers are angling for a seat at the C-Suite table. Jeffrey Hayzlett, founder and CEO of The Hayzlett Group, takes it one step further, saying the goal should be one every higher education marketer shoots for. “The best companies are doing just that,” says Hayzlett, who also is chairman of C-Suite Network, home of one of the world’s most trusted network of C-Suite leaders. “Marketers recognize that in order to succeed, organizations need a wide array of voices and opinions at the table, which ensures everyone’s voices and contributions are heard.” And while the final decision may fall to a university’s leadership team to make that decision, every department, especially marketing, must be empowered to take things to the edge of the table. “The role of the corner office is to make sure they don’t fall off the table or that things get too far,” Hayzlett says.


EDgage • WINTER 2020

“There is great competition among brands and everyone is competing by building strong customer experiences and loyalty.” —Jason Simon, Simpson Scarborough


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PULL UP A CHAIR Having marketing represented with a seat at the C-Suite table in every institution is something Marc Lyncheski believes in wholeheartedly. In fact, he says giving senior marketing leadership a much-needed voice on the executive level would be a real drop-the-mic moment. Why? Marketing must be a driving force behind the relentless pursuit of understanding when, where, why and how to communicate with the right audience, especially on the higher education level. “Now, more than ever, higher education institutions must lean

on their marketing teams to gain a better understanding of how the current economic, political, social and cultural environments are affecting how customers think, feel and behave,” says Lyncheski, director of marketing at Laguna College of Art & Design. Simply put: Accounting departments interpret the numbers, legal departments interpret the laws, and marketing departments interpret the people. “It is our specialty, and we need to be given the reins to do it,” he says. Lyncheski believes that building awareness, understanding, conviction, loyalty, and advocacy for their brands and institutions

rests squarely with a university’s marketing arm. “Without senior representation at the table, a marketing team runs the risk of simply becoming an internal production house that serves various captains instead of leading an integrated, strategic, long-term approach.” In the current and future higher education marketplace, there are certain trends that indicate that an already challenging environment is going to get even more challenging. The growing costs of education, the demands of repaying student loans, and the projected decrease of college-aged students down the road are going to make recruit-

EDgage • WINTER 2020

“Now, more than ever, higher education institutions must lean on their marketing teams to gain a better understanding of how the current economic, political, social and cultural environments are affecting how customers think, feel and behave.” —Marc Lyncheski, Laguna College of Art & Design


9 WAYS TO UP YOUR MARKETING GAME Become a data machine Data has always been the language that higher education leaders understand. There is pressure now to come with a plan. By being the voice of the customer and having strong market research, marketers can really inform their leadership and boards to action. Lead with strategy, not with tactics There is no magical website, email campaign or brochure that is going to directly affect the issues that are of concern to your leadership. Elevate the marketing conversation. Build bridges, not walls Effective marketing leaders identify the areas of most importance to their schools and worry less about where the staff or resources lie and are able to become experts that are a magnet to others.

ment and retention efforts more difficult. It is here that marketers can step up and fill in the gaps. That is why Simon recommends that higher education marketers start elevating their game plans now (See “9 Ways to Up Your Marketing Game”). “Get an early win,” he says. “Whether that’s a piece of insight or an innovative idea. It gives you the rope needed to be effective. Don’t hesitate to ask for what you need to do the job. Expectations of marketing are big, but budgets are not. Spending a little only to lose that investment in the future because of incremental impact is a waste.”

Be both innovative and critical It is important to try new things and take risks. But it is equally important to recognize when something is not working and move on. Be a Zen Master The most influential tactics require patience, discipline, and the perfect balance of assertion and diplomacy. Dress the part To be part of the C-suite, you will

need to demonstrate that you represent the university’s ideals on every level, not just job performance.

15 Exude confidence In your communications with the C-Suite executives, stay focused on high-level messaging and do not get bogged down in the minutiae, unless it is absolutely necessary. Show them you can make efficient, strategic decisions and that you are thinking long-term. Be a problem-solver Do not wait for others to initiate a project, and do not wait for permission. Coming to a manager or C-level exec with a solution instead of a problem makes their world easier and shows them that you can operate as a peer. Play nice Build connections one conversation, one smile, one accomplishment at a time. This approach takes time and patience, but it can gradually convert that topdown structure into a peer-to-peer dynamic with mutual levels of respect.

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s one of the leading university marketing professionals in the world, when Terry Flannery speaks, higher education administrators listen. It is a role she earned honestly. Over the years, Flannery has led some of the most successful brand campaigns in all of higher education, including the last 11 years as VP for Communication and a member of the executive team at American University (AU). While there, she was deeply involved in the development of two strategic plans, co-led the design phase of an initiative to Reimagine the Student Experience (RiSE), and co-led the development of the institution’s comprehensive Plan for Inclusive Excellence. Flannery was also instrumental in the development of AU’s first brand strategy, creating a cross-unit team that produced a groundbreaking, searchable, interactive website to demonstrate the value of an AU degree. Her tenures have been rendered in large, medium and small institutions, both public and private, and serving in roles such as advancement admissions, enrollment management and student affairs. These days, Flannery spends her time working in myriad capacities, including author, consultant and Policy Fellow at the Center for University Excellence at American University. EDgage caught up to Flannery to get her insights on the state of the higher education marketing world today and what institutions can expect moving forward. Give us a snapshot of today’s higher education landscape. If you cannot see what is ahead on the higher education landscape, that is for two reasons. First, visibility is limited by the gloomy fog of declining public trust in higher education and the perception of its value. Collectively, our institutions are perceived as untrustworthy and greedy organizations that perpetuate inequity, ones that build wealth while their graduates build unsustainable personal debt, and are too slow to respond as institutions to the great challenges we face. We need to reframe and recommit to our foundational values


and reclaim our public value to shed a bright light and burn off that dense fog. We’ll need to work cooperatively with other institutions to make that case successfully. Second, and not too far off, the road ahead seems to drop precipitously, as if headed off a cliff—in fact, a demographic cliff. From the middle to the end of the decade, it is projected that the pipeline of college-age and college-bound students will decline by as much as 15 percent— primarily as a result of the “birth dearth” that happened during the Great Recession. All sectors and regions will be affected, some more than others. Competition will be fierce

and attitudes must shift. The good news for higher education marketers is that there has never been more incentive to truly differentiate from other institutions and to demonstrate how we transform lives and societies. It may seem like a paradox—to work together with other institutions to collectively improve the perception of our value, while simultaneously working to differentiate from others to attract students, employees, donors and funders for our singular

The good news for higher education marketers is that there has never been more incentive to truly differentiate from other institutions and to demonstrate how we transform lives and societies. institution’s benefit. But it is possible. Our missions represent the common ground. They are remarkably similar—while the ways that we seek to achieve our mission should be as different as our institutional cultures, strengths, founding values and personalities. Cooperation and differentiation will be the keys to the future of our industry, and the data and skills marketers possess to help their institutions survive and thrive as they address these challenges will be more valuable than ever. What are some of the trends (and challenges) today’s university marketers


and enrollment professionals are looking to embrace? The trends include differentiated, data-driven, digital and driven by martech. Differentiated: It will no longer suffice for our institutions and leaders to frame their institution’s qualities in terms of others they aspire to be like, nor will it be sufficient to hold on to academic excellence and personal attention as primary messages. Those who embrace strategic integrated marketing as a means to build value will stand out, differentiating by their distinctive mix of programs and services, their price, their means of educational access and delivery, and their distinctive communications. Data-driven: Institutions will depend on marketing and enrollment professionals to use data to understand and improve the experiences of their students, alumni and employees, as well as to identify new markets where their institutions have the chance to compete successfully. Marketers will need to ramp up their data-driven decision-making about marketing investments to demonstrate return on investment. Digital: While there are good reasons to hold on to a few print communications and traditional advertising for important stakeholder audiences, a lot of what we do will be done through digital means. Staff with skills for social listening, digital marketing, content strategy and data analysis will be more important than ever. Getting our teams to understand, collaborate and work toward measures

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of success in the digital realm will be job one. Driven by martech: Institutions that let go of their siloed tech approaches and move to integrated, enterprise tools, including CRM, marketing automation and ERP, will be in a better position to understand their student and employee experiences and their institution’s abilities to deliver on their brand promises. What is the one thing that every university must learn to deal with in 2020 and beyond? The opportunity to innovate and improve. This decade is filled with looming challenges, but I refuse to avert my gaze in


denial, gripped with fear or paralyzed by impending austerity. Why not embrace the inherent opportunities to innovate? Embedded in every challenge is opportunity, and the demographic challenges ahead, the digital transformation that is underway—all of it—give us the opportunity to differentiate, to clearly articulate our value, and to innovate for the benefit of our students, employees, alumni and communities.

Those who build institutional strategies to stand out and offer demonstrated value, those who are willing to innovate to address the needs of the students who are different than those we have attracted in the past, are the ones that are going to thrive in this decade. Time is wasting. If this conversation isn’t happening on your campus, it’s time for marketing and enrollment professionals to raise it and show their worth.

What is the biggest piece of advice you can offer? Think like a strategist and help your institutional leaders realize that the time is now to plan for the challenging years ahead.

Where does the state of higher education stand today? Higher education is not immune from the cultural influences that impact other sectors, and so it



might feel like a time of impending austerity, conflict and disruption. But the academy is a very resilient enterprise—it has existed for two millennia. We have always served as a symbol of hope, optimism, and the promise of future potential. I would encourage professionals working in higher education marketing and enrollment to embrace the challenges ahead as opportunities for their institutions to improve, for their students to be better served, and for their faculty and staff to find renewal in our mission and purpose. It has never been more important, and we have skills and knowledge to help our institutions succeed.

YOUR. NAME. HERE. NACAC study reveals what matters to schools in admissions process


There are any number of factors that go into how a college or university reviews the applications of a prospective student to determine who gets in and who does not. According to the “2018–19 Admission Trends Survey,” the most time-tested metric is grades, with nearly 81% saying that is the leading criteria. Here’s a look at what factors mattered in admission decisions for first-time freshmen in fall 2017:














10.8 9.3



















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