The most common complaints I hear from higher ed professionals are not strategy issues; they are execution issues. The people I speak with are talented, bright and motivated, but, alas, he or she cannot seem to fling his or her initiative over the roadblocks put up by academic bureaucracy.
Does this sound familiar?
When I hear about these issues, I always ask the same question: How often do you train your stakeholders, and how often do you promote your successes?
The answer, surprisingly, is invariably “almost never.”
“We are too busy to even think about training.”
Here’s the truth: You’re too busy not to train your campus partners.
Our higher ed marketing offices are like cobbler shops: They work tirelessly for everyone else, and yet their children have no shoes of their own.
We would never use this approach with an external audience. Consider your public relations strategy. You know that if you take a reactive approach, you’ll spend more time putting out fires than talking about what makes your university different.
The same is true for your marketing office. If you are not actively educating your campus partners on how to work with your office, how to use your brand or any other key issues facing your office, then you are losing ground and missing key opportunities to build political capital for your initiatives. And, quite frankly, you're wasting you and your team's time.
Trying to figure out if this is you or not? Here is the symptom of an untrained campus: How much of your day do you spend babysitting helpless campus partners or fixing problems that just seem to keep popping up?
Marketing training is a proven, proactive strategy for developing campus buy-in. It usually happens during lunch (lunch-and-learn, anyone?) and covers a topic that is relevant to your stakeholders, like “How to Work with Our Office," “Updating Your Content on the Web” or “How to Use the University’s Logo.”
You should train anyone who interacts with your office, anyone you would like to interact with your office and anyone who is willing to attend.
Training shouldn’t just be relegated to the chief marketing officer. In fact, you should focus most of your energy on training the executive staff.
So, who else should be training? How about art directors, marketing managers and creative services managers? Almost everyone in your office should have term training goals.
Marketing training should occur regularly, and as much or as little as needed. I recommend having about one training session a month to start out. I know, I know … that sounds like a lot. But it really isn’t. And I promise you this: No session will be as stressful to schedule and create as the first one. After that, you will both be able to plan your sessions more quickly and your problem-children campus partners will (slowly) start to behave. I'll say it again: You're too busy not to train your campus partners.
Training doesn’t require any more or less time than any other worthwhile project. It just takes planning and commitment. Start by making it part of your term goals. Then schedule your initial sessions a few months away so you have time to prepare without stressing yourself out.
I recommend you plan out a course of several sessions – maybe three. Make outlines for them and build your supporting materials, like handouts, a web resource and your slide deck. Then plan your budget for lunches or sweet treats (these will draw a crowd even when your content doesn’t). Next, promote your session in person, in your school newsletters, website and anywhere else your audience will see it.
Start with in-person sessions, where you’ll get to hear your stakeholder’s feedback firsthand and where you can perfect your material. After you’ve got a tight, effective session, think about filming it like a webinar and uploading it to YouTube and linking back to a place where your stakeholders and new employees can access it.
Oh, and D. White & Company can help you design a campus training curriculum, provide feedback and even create content to promote your sessions. Work with us or don’t -- either way, you’re too busy not to train.
Darren White is the principal consultant at D. White & Company, a higher education marketing and management firm that helps institutions work effectively. DWCo. helps campus partners build marketing office structure and training curriculum. Want to get started? Let's talk.