Here are a few examples of work we have completed recently.
Campus growth, 0:15 (voice over by me)
The University Marketing and Communications (UMC) team structure is set up as a strategic communications agency serving our internal clients. With a client-facing level around our core tactical services, we operate as an integrated marketing team for the University. Our services include strategy development, web strategy, interactive media, graphic design, publication and copywriting, media relations, advertising development, market research, event management, social media integration, email marketing, photography, video production, and more. Our team leaders are empowered as relationship managers, serving as a liaison for various internal clients, helping them clarify their marketing objectives and formulating strategies to meet the objectives. I presented this poster at the AASCU Strategic Communicators conference in Washington, D.C., April 2013.
I recently participated in the a conference for commencement planning officers, the North American Association of Commencement Officers (NAACO). A session that particularly stood out for me was “building an emotional connection: the influence of high touch event communication on donor support.”
At the beginning of the session, the discussion revolved around how a poorly run event can lead the donor to assume the institutional leadership is not strong. Wow! I am pretty sure that most leaders of an institution must either not understand this, or underestimate the amount of time and attention a high end event can require. Otherwise more time and resources would surely be put towards events! Research was displayed showing there is a direct correlation between the donors perceived quality of the event and the perceived quality of the institutional leadership. Powerful stuff! And a new way to think about events and the way I position them to the leadership of an organization.
We also discussed event branding, things like using the same typeface for ALL events and event pieces down to the name tags. Makes complete sense–we have such a challenge convincing folks why consistent font usage is important in general; I can’t wait to start rolling that out with all campus events!
And I know I had not yet thought to brand the dessert! It’s one of the last things consumed that evening/event, take advantage of the opportunity to reinforce the message!
Great stuff- I am so glad that I found a worthwhile session.
Forbes recently released their annual rankings of colleges. The rankings were calculated in partnership with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. My institution was conspicuously absent, and I was asked to investigate why. (The responsibility for responding to external credibility surveys lies within my unit.) What I have subsequently found is that the rankings are based on existing, publicly available data (IE no surveys were sent to each institution requesting data, information.) Which in and of itself would not trouble me, except that the data points used, to me and others, are questionable at best. Additionally, information like the infamous “other cost” category institutions report as an allowable cost at the discretion of the student to cover expenses like mileage to clinicals, internships, etc. in their financial aid package, are treated as actual billed charges, therefore increasing the “cost of attendance” and subsequently this elusive “net price” calculation and the debt load calculation (predicted, I might add).
I have several excerpts from articles, blog posts, and even their own methodology posted below giving a glimpse of the, in my humble opinion, “sketchiness” of this ranking. I can only hope that Joe and Jane Sixpack are able to sort through the variables…oh wait, they likely can’t. So now we have another “think tank” with a clear agenda (political or otherwise) leveraging a brand like Forbes to advance their cause.
How important are rankings like this and U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges? Only the audiences we are trying to attract will tell. And believe me, I intend to ask them just that, so we can tailor our approach accordingly to these surveys.
By the Staff of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity
Ranking Factors and Weights
The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP), in conjunction with Forbes , compiled its college rankings using five general categories, with several components within each general category. The weightings are listed in parentheses:
1. Student Satisfaction (27.5%)
- Student Evaluations from RateMyProfessor.com (17.5%)
- Actual Freshman-to-Sophomore Retention Rates (5%)
- Predicted vs. Actual Freshman-to-Sophomore Retention Rates (5%)
2. Post-Graduate Success (30%)
- Listings of Alumni in Who’s Who in America (10%)
- Salary of Alumni from Payscale.com (15%)
- Alumni in Forbes/CCAP Corporate Officers List (5%)
3. Student Debt (17.5%)
- Average Federal Student Loan Debt Load (10%)
- Student Loan Default Rates (5%)
- Predicted vs. Actual Percent of Students Taking Federal Loans (2.5%)
4. Four-year Graduation Rate (17.5%)
- Actual Four-year Graduation Rate (8.75%)
- Predicted vs. Actual Four-year Graduation Rate(8.75%)
5. Competitive Awards (7.5%)
- Student Nationally Competitive Awards (7.5%)
The 650 institutions of higher education in this ranking are schools which award undergraduate degrees or certificates requiring ―4 or more years‖ of study, according to the U.S. Department of Education, and only those schools categorized by The Carnegie Foundation as Doctorate-granting Universities, Master‘s Colleges and Universities, or Baccalaureate Colleges are included in this sample of schools.
Of the 650 schools included in the sample, 608 wereincluded in the 2010 college ranking. (A total of 610 schools were ranked in 2010, but two of them, Bryant University and Missouri University of Science and Technology are now classified as ―Special Focus‖ institutions by the Carnegie Foundation). We have accounted for any name changes that have occurred over the past year. The 42 schools added this year to the sample are all institutions classified by the Carnegie Foundation as Doctoral/Research Universities and were added based upon undergraduate enrollment size.
A Little History of the Forbes Rankings from 2008-present, excerpt from a commentary on methodology (full commentary can be found at: http://bestcollegerankings.org/popular-rankings/forbes-college-rankings/)
2008 marked the first year that Forbes entered the college ranking fray. They choose to use a methodology that included the following percentages: Listing of Alumni in the 2008 Who’s Who in America (25 percent); student evaluations of professors from Ratemyprofessors.com (25 percent); four-year graduation rates (16 2/3 percent); enrollment-adjusted numbers of students and faculty receiving nationally competitive awards (16 2/3 percent); average four year accumulated student debt of those borrowing money (16 2/3 percent). They did not break colleges down into different schools as U.S. News does, but instead choose to separate private and public colleges instead.
Methodology: In conjunction with Dr. Richard Vedder, an economist at Ohio University, and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP), Forbes inaugurated its first ranking of America’s Best Colleges in 2008. They based 25 percent of their rankings on seven million student evaluations of courses and instructors, as recorded on the Web site RateMyProfessors.com. Another 25 percent depended upon how many of the school’s alumni, adjusted for enrollment, are listed among the notable people in Who’s Who in America. The other half of the ranking was based equally on three factors: the average amount of student debt at graduation held by those who borrowed; the percentage of students graduating in four years; and the number of students or faculty, adjusted for enrollment, who have won nationally competitive awards like Rhodes Scholarships or Nobel Prizes. CCAP ranked only the top 15 percent or so of all undergraduate institutions.
Negative Commentary on the Methodology (Excerpt from Suite101.com: The Forbes Best College Rankings 2011: Are They Kidding?)
What Goes in Must Come Out
First of all, a quick review of the Forbes methodology. It is the goal of the rankings to evaluate college as a consumer or investor would evaluate a commercial product. The focus is on the return on investment–for what you pay, do you get a good “value”? The most important element in assessing this value is “Post-Graduate Success,” accounting for 30 percent of the total.
This “success” is measured by the salaries of graduates as reported by Payscale.com; membership in “Who’s Who”; and by alumni representation on a list of corporate officers chosen by Forbes and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP). CEOs and board members of leading companies are the only persons who are eligible, thereby narrowing the definition of “success” to achievement in the business world only.
It is interesting that Forbes would allow use of “Who’s Who” listings as a measure of college success. In a 1999 article for the magazine called “The Hall of Lame,” Tucker Carlson, a Fox News commentator, derisively showed how inclusion in Who’s Who publications did not require notable achievement.
Another 17.5 percent of the total is based on student evaluations of instructors, taken from the website Ratemyprofessors.com. While student evaluations are useful, they can also lead professors to emphasize popularity at the expense of scholastic rigor.
An additional 17.5 percent of the total comes from actual and anticipated four-year graduation rates. Using four-year rates rather than six-year rates clearly favors colleges that are wealthy enough to subsidize virtually all eligible students based on need or merit, or whose student body is made up of highly-prepared students with sufficient economic support. State universities, whose students often have to work part-time or even take a semester off from school, usually cannot match the four-year graduation rates of private colleges.
Likewise, the rankings penalize colleges whose students have higher student debt loads, and this also slants the rankings toward wealthy colleges and parents.
Academic Reputation—Forget It
The most glaring deficiency of the Forbes survey is that the only standard it uses to assess the intellectual credibility of a college is the data from Ratemyprofessor.com. Academic reputation and faculty achievement count for nothing, even though a recent UCLA study of more than 200,000 freshman across the country revealed that undergraduate academic reputation was the most important factor for these students when they were choosing a college. Forbes wants to change that perception, but does the magazine really believe that reputation counts for nothing in the business world as well?
It is ironic that a survey that is supposed to be student-centered disregards the one factor that students themselves cite as being most important to them: quality. Interestingly, the UCLA study also showed that prospective students are learning to be guarded in their use of college rankings, a healthy sign indeed.
After a particularly frustrating series of days working for a state institution, I was reflecting on the concept of agility and how important it is for an organization. More appropriately, I was ranting about how NOT agile a public higher education organization is. So I decided to Google “business agility”. And since Wikipedia is clearly the destination for accurate information (*sarcasm*) and you really should believe everything you read on the Internet (*more sarcasm*), it was only natural to include information from their entry (which, by the way, is cited as Dyer, L. and Ericksen, J. (2009). Complexity-based Agile Enterprises: Putting Self-Organizing Emergence to Work. In A. Wilkinson et al (eds.). The Sage Handbook of Human Resource Management. London: Sage: 436–457.)
Agility is a concept that incorporates the ideas of flexibility, balance, adaptability, and coordination under one umbrella. In a business context, agility typically refers to the ability of an organization to rapidly adapt to market and environmental changes in productive and cost-effective ways.
Where to begin pointing out the ways we are not agile? I often feel like each day I am trying to change the course of a cruise ship with a canoe paddle. All frustration with the business practices required by the State of Illinois aside, let’s focus on the communication side of a business.
We cannot craft messages and responses by committee anymore. The world is moving too fast and the situation will have changed and incorporated more information faster than the statement can be reviewed by 3 of the required 7 people. What about establishing the core values, mission, brand platform and promise, and overarching key messages, and then deputize people to be company ambassadors at all levels?
Also, if your entire communication/sales strategy is based largely on printed material and direct mail, how up-to-date do you think the information is that people will have in their hands? I am not advocating banishing all printed material, as they have a time and place. However I am suggesting that our customers are so much more savvy than ever before and will go to the places where they want to consume information (websites, blogs, social networks, friend networks, etc) rather than try to figure out how a business is trying to force them to consume the information. Meeting the customers where they are looking for information requires agility in a business, and specifically in the marketing and sales areas. It also requires the leaders of both areas to buy into the concept, versus continuing with “the way it has always been done”.
Going back to the Wikipedia entry,
There are several key distinctions between the agile enterprise and the traditional bureaucratic organization. The most notable is the agile enterprise’s use of fluid role definitions that allow for dynamic decision making structures. Unlike the rigid hierarchies characterizing traditional bureaucracies, organizational structures within agile enterprises are more likely to fluidly adapt to changing business conditions into structures that support the current direction and any emergent competitive advantage. (Dyer, L. & Ericksen, J. (2007). Dynamic Organizations: Achieving Marketplace Agility Through Workforce Scalability. In J. Storey (ed.). Human Resource Management: A Critical Text (3rd edition). London: Thomson Learning: 263–280.)
How can we change the state and structure of public higher education (Illinois specifically for my knowledge base) to become more agile? To me that is the new million dollar idea. Wish me luck finding it.
I have known for some time that if it bleeds, it leads. That’s how news is decided, primarily for TV, but also for the other mediums. I can sadly say that at least 75%, if not more, of the TV coverage we have had here at the university has been a tragedy/travesty: apartment fires, federal investigations for fraud, vandalism (twice), etc. This is certainly not for lack of pitching the good stories to the media. We even create the angle/hook/sensation for them. It doesn’t matter.
In addition to the bleeding leading, sports will always be covered. Collegiate box scores and game stories always make print, and are often mentioned on local TV. However, I was watching the local newscast Monday evening, right after Albert Pujols fractured a bone in his arm in a game and will be out for quite some time. The newscast started on the hour, and that was the ONLY topic covered until the 13th minute. Now there was a commercial series or two in there, but still! There are so many positive things happening in St. Louis right now, including Marine Week down on the riverfront. Instead, we get to hear the interview of the 10-yr-old at the stadium telling us that he would have punched the guy in the head if he broke his arm.
Now I kept watching this particular newscast because I was in awe of how much of the beginning segment was dedicated to this topic, and naturally it was to become fodder for my blog. But the fact that Joe and Jane Sixpack keep watching crap like this is the reason it continues to happen. And the reason why I don’t often watch the TV news.