Elizabeth Keserauskis

Building relationships and making connections

Event Quality as a Reflection of Leadership

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.

Advertisements

February 7, 2012 Posted by | communication, connecting, events, leadership, resources | , , , , | Leave a comment

Knowledge is Power

You might think this post title indicates prose on the importance of continually educating yourself on changing technology, your customer behavior and trends, and other marketing speak. On the contrary, this post is about the importance of institutional climate and culture, and specifically the importance of internal communication at an organization.

Have you ever been in a workplace where people flaunt the fact that they have knowledge about a topic, new process, upcoming change, etc? Rather than taking the opportunity to educate others, build consensus for the direction of the company, and overall support the mission, people tend to “collect” knowledge as people in medieval times collected property, slaves, etc to show their wealth, position and power. While my life experience is relatively average, I believe this is more rampant in higher education than in any other sector. I also believe that higher education places less emphasis on the importance of an internal communication strategy than other companies. Perhaps the decentralized nature of the typical higher education structure fosters this.

While I spent a good two days stewing over my recent specific experiences with this “knowledge is power” phenomenon, my take-away (or “aha” moment or life lesson or silver lining, blah blah blah) from this is that I need to circle my communication wagons and rejuvenate my push for a more robust, comprehensive internal communication strategy for the institution. I am going to stop wishing that people would just “get it” and stop collecting knowledge as power. Since I obviously have no control over that, I’ll focus on that which I can control (and happen to be good at)–communication.

Any suggestions for how other institutions help proportionately allocate/expend resources on internal communications?? Any help is welcome!!!

February 10, 2011 Posted by | communication, connecting, higher education | , , , | 2 Comments

The Rationale for Centralized Marketing Structure in Universities

I recently drafted a memo internally discussing proposed organizational changes. Though targeted toward higher education, the points are well made for any industry:

The rules have changed for marketing and communications professionals both in general, but especially at the university level. We are challenged to keep up with constantly evolving technology and consumer behavior patterns, even more so with the advent of the Internet and the explosion of social media marketing tools. The good news is that we have greater and more direct access to our customers, reducing the reliance on the traditional news media to communicate with our audiences.

The field of traditional public relations has evolved such that greater skills than just crafting the attention-grabbing press release are critical to job success.  Public relations materials are now for more than just mainstream media audiences. Our audiences do not just want to see our organization on TV or in the newspaper; they want to see us on the web. Marketers are now challenged with helping customers move through the decision-making process with great online content; providing authenticity, not spin; and encouraging participation, not generating propaganda.

Communicating in the 21st century requires us to consider the following factors:

  • We are in a competitive, global marketplace
  • This is a 24/7 media environment—not just the traditional 9a-5p
  • The marketplace is extremely consumer-centric
  • Consumers have an expectation of governance and fiscal responsibility

Challenges we must overcome include providing context and perspective, demonstrating our competitive advantage, and ensuring our customers have a consistent message and experience.

In the traditional PR environment, organizations or units at a university could effectively function with a single individual generating press releases and responding in a reactive media environment. Today, teams of professionals are better suited to proactively tell the stories of success, and distribute those stories via all appropriate channels: through the website, video, publications, social media outlets, traditional media outlets, direct-to-consumer communication, and so much more.

All of these advances in the marketing and communications field present opportunities, but also the challenge of remaining professionally current in the field. Being part of a larger team or unit allows an individual to participate in more non-traditional professional development by learning from their teammates.

Given the fiscal challenges of both the federal and state governments (especially my home state of Illinois) and the tough budget times we face ahead, we must find ways to be more efficient and take advantage of existing resources—now more than ever before. We no longer have the luxury of separate marketing teams for various areas of the University. In addition to meeting the new challenges in the marketing field, it is fiscally more responsible to have one consolidated group that can address the marketing needs of various areas and the University as a whole.

July 27, 2010 Posted by | higher education, leadership, marketing, public relations | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There’s No Crying in Volleyball…or Marketing

volleyball as analogy for marketing strategyMy team and I experienced substantial frustration this weekend as we played in a grass triples volleyball tournament, the US Open of Grass Volleyball, or the Waupaca Boatride tournament in WI. Our fatal error causing the frustration: assuming. Yes, I admit our frustration was largely our doing thanks to assuming that the rules would be what we were used to, and assuming that our fellow players would have the same integrity and honesty that we did.

Without going into excruciating volleyball detail, essentially our competition was not holding themselves to the same high quality play standards we have grown accustomed to in outdoor play. Additionally, since the rules were essentially “police yourself”, there were a few dishonest folks who did not call their own net fouls.

So we lost more than we should have. However, that is no excuse for us not playing at minimum to our potential to overcome that. OR, changing our strategy to adapt to the “new” rules.

Yes, I am about to turn a volleyball tournament scenario into an analogy for marketing. I can’t help it- it’s what I do.

All too often the rules change at some point throughout our execution of our carefully planned marketing strategy. What defines us as marketing strategists is whether we can see that the rules have changed, and adapt our strategy and course accordingly. So many factors can change: the economy, a natural disaster, a product failure, a PR crisis, etc. We cannot possibly predict all of the options. We can however have a system in place to help detect the change in rules and help us adapt to a new direction. To me, that is a sign of a top notch marketing strategist.

Clearly we did not identify the changing landscape during our volleyball tournament and adapt our strategy accordingly. So for a few days I will just complain about the unfairness of the situation to anyone willing to listen. But then, I will be sure that the next time I play, I am ready to meet that challenge.

July 12, 2010 Posted by | leadership, marketing | , , , , | 2 Comments

Convincing the Curmudgeon

What happens when someone in your organization, particularly someone who has decision making authority or budget control, is not convinced that the rules of marketing and public relations indeed have changed, especially with the advent of the internet and social media tools available to you?  What do you do, especially when they adamantly argue that if the process isn’t broken, why would you fix it?  How could you convince that type of curmudgeon to start employing some of the new techniques that will allow you to reach a greater audience, in a more authentic fashion, resulting in a greater return on your investments?

It is indeed a challenge and one that I recommend you tackle by starting with small victories and small samples of success.  For example, if your organization has never attempted to deploy a Google AdWords campaign or other search engine marketing strategies, perhaps you’d start with one small product or program, build that case and work then to show that there is value and a return on investment with a Google AdWords strategy. It doesn’t mean that you have to stop doing everything else that they’ve always been doing to promote that particular product or program, but you do this in conjunction with it so that you can compare the results of both strategies.

Interestingly though, if you’re embarking on a new strategy like Google AdWords, you’re often going to find that there are some other key pieces of your communications program that are not up to snuff in this case.  For example, when you’re starting a Google AdWords strategy or an SEO campaign, your website has to be written such that humans actually want to read it, but also contain the key phrases that are relevant to your particular search strategy. You’re going to have to start creating several variations of landing pages to test effectiveness of copy, call to action, and other parts of the sales process.

Almost equally important is whether your website or that particular micro-site or section of your website is doing a good job of moving people through the sales process. Traditionally, especially in higher education, people have been resistant to consider the recruitment and enrollment process as a sales cycle.

The reason it is important for everyone to understand that your website is a part of the sales conversation is that if you’re suddenly driving all of this great traffic to your website – potential customers, potential students, whoever it might be – but your website does not do a good job of converting them into true leads for your business or, ultimately, purchasers of your product or service, then you might as well burn a pile of dollar bills . If, when they get to your website, they are not converting, it’s like opening the doors to your business and allowing a bunch of people to come in the door but then telling them that we don’t want you to buy anything.

So, you really need to pay full attention to your web content before you embark on the search engine marketing strategy or search engine optimization strategy. Not only are there practical implications of your Google AdWords quality score getting slapped if the key phase is not on the page, etc., but also now that you have the great inquiry coming to your site, potential customers want to make sure that you’re converting them and leading them into, ultimately, sales – however you might define that.

It is mission critical to be sure and convince that program or service area of your website that it needs to a well oiled sales conversation machine and moving people though that great content. In a later blog post I will discuss how to develop the best content to move people through that great sales conversation.

In the meantime, be sure to create a few small victory opportunities to convince the curmudgeons in your company!

April 8, 2010 Posted by | higher education, leadership, marketing, sales | , , , | Leave a comment

Most productive CEOs

I recently read an article in Inc. magazine that featured several CEOs talking about work habits that have contributed to their success, or helped them be more efficient, in their particular business environment. The first CEO that caught my attention was Caterina Fake of Hunch who talked about keeping her schedule completely free-form, and working on what she wants to work on, whenever she wants to work on it—whatever seems right at the time. That approach would be great if you only had to work on certain things and could delegate everything else to a person below you. But for me, her approach doesn’t provide a good suggestion of how to help prioritize my day, or do a better job of delegating, so that I can sit and focus or work on the things that I want to work on at that particular time. After testing that strategy for a few days, I would up with a lot of work that didn’t get done during the week, waiting for me to do over the weekend. That isn’t helping me achieve work-life balance. Perhaps I am not delegating well enough.

One interesting, great thing she mentioned in the article is that when she conducts her staff meetings, everyone is standing during the entire meeting.  Also, everyone drinks 16 oz. of water before the meeting starts, and the meeting is over when the first person has to go to the restroom. To me, that seems like an incentive to keep your meetings short, to the point, brief, and not waste your time meeting for the sake of meeting, but rather get out there and get something done for your company. Go build a relationship. Go check an item off your to-do list. I brought that suggestion to the next regular staff meeting I have to attend. Everyone seemed to agree–let’s see if it gets implemented.

The other CEO that caught my attention in this article was Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks, who claims that he only conducts business and correspondence through email. He does not utilize voicemail or meetings. If you do require his attention in a meeting or by voicemail, it better be something very good and important…likely conducting millions of dollars of business.

Now, there’s something lost for me when you communicate only exclusively through email. First of all, you assume, and insist, that everyone you deal with also operates through email. To me, a sign of a good manager of people is that you adapt your communication style to fit the needs of those working for you. My job is to bring out the best in people and help them achieve their potential. So if, for example, someone’s personality or style is not conducive to business via email exclusively, are you isolating them? Are you potentially surrounding yourself with people who are like you, rather than surrounding yourself with a rich, diverse mix of people who bring different trades, ideas, thoughts, and processes to the table?

I think an emphasis on diversity brings a richer mix of ideas and innovations to the table. But then again, Mark Cuban has made quite a bit of money and is quite successful at what he does. I guess, once you get to that point, you can tell everyone around you how you prefer to do business. But in the meantime, those of us who are still stuck in the middle and trying to work our way up will need to continue to adapt to the communication styles of those who are reporting to us. Also, you can’t tell inflection, personality, or emotion through written, email correspondence.  There’s something to be said for working either via the phone or in person, being able to get to know someone just a little bit better.

I also ask, how do these ‘unique’ work styles affect relationships with the customer? If you will only communicate with them via email, or you won’t commit to a schedule or timeline, is that helping further the relationship or to begin a new relationship? Unless you are in a business where your customers have no choice but to do business with you, I would suggest that you be willing to meet your customers where they are comfortable conducting business and communnicating with you. That will likely lead to a multi-layered communication strategy to address the varying needs.

March 17, 2010 Posted by | connecting, leadership, relationships | , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s really not about getting credit

Gold StarI had a very disheartening experience recently, that I managed to turn into an opportunity to improve my own skills as a manager and leader. In the interest of privacy, the general scenario is that a group of people were discussing an issue. I suggested a plan of action, which the group agreed with and ultimately the situation worked out based on that suggested path. Several days later I discover that certain individuals were claiming credit for my idea—I can only assume because it was successful and made us look good.

So my first reaction was anger and indignation. How dare they claim credit for my idea? Then I realized I don’t really care about getting credit if the overall group moves forward as a result. But I certainly lost a lot of faith in my fellow group members—how could they possibly have the best interest of the whole at heart when they were so willing to claim credit at the expense of others?

So my take away from this situation is first to manage my expectations for this group and stop expecting something I am never going to receive. Second, I realized that to be a better manager of my staff and a leader of our group, I needed to make sure that my staff feels empowered to make great suggestions knowing that I will praise them and give them credit for their great ideas and hard work. To me, that will inspire loyalty and maybe even inspire folks to achieve even greater things than they or I imagined possible.

Then I think about how an organization is managing its relationships with people—are we elevating our coworkers, target audiences, customers, etc? Or are we belittling their thoughts and opinions? Are we engaging in an honest, thoughtful, genuine dialogue? Or are we paying them lip service to better ourselves?

To me it’s clear which path will win in the long run.

October 31, 2009 Posted by | leadership, marketing, relationships | , , | Leave a comment

Finally!

Ah, the official foray into the blogging world. I never thought I would have the time to maintain a blog that people would actually want to consistently read. But that is my new commitment to myself–to walk the walk. Thanks to many encouragements from friends, coworkers and nudges from industry leaders I am finally here.

How can I be a good reputation/relationship/brand manager for a company if I am not leading by example and establishing my own brand, managing my own reputation and creating relationships of my own in the online space?? And so it shall begin!

October 29, 2009 Posted by | leadership, relationships, reputation management | , , | Leave a comment