Thursday, March 25, 2010

Turning Corners

It has been an incredibly productive few weeks for the communications and marketing department here at LCC. It seems like every day we are doing new things better, faster, and easier.

Most of us have been involved in launching "Get a Skill, Get a Job"; tv ad, web site, radio spot, tv and radio segments, print ad, outdoor. The marketing campaign looks great and I believe has laid a strong foundation for success for the program. Though there is a lot of work in front of us, it is really outstanding to work in a department where good work can be done in a relative short time frame. Our next big marketing goal is communicating with employers around the State who may hire the people who complete the program.

CRM is starting to gain a foothold, here in marketing and college-wide. The work that Jane Kreha has done with the Early LCC program is exceptional. We'll be replicating this model with many other programs and initiatives, like the West Campus Open House.

We are making great progress, IMO, with social media. We've passed 2000 Facebook fans and I believe we can be the first community college in Michigan with over 3000 fans. We're starting to get some buy-in from the programs regarding social media, which is essential to our long-term success. Also, good things will be happening soon with Flickr.

Both the radio and tv stations are doing all kinds of exciting new things. If you haven't listened to LCC Radio lately, I'll bet you'll like it. You can listen online at The new radio ads are, I think, outstanding. I've taped a few episodes of a new show called "Desert Island Playlist". It's a combination of music and conversation about LCC. We'll be doing a lot more videostreaming and audiostreaming in the near future.

We are developing a marketing culture that plans, and that uses research and information to support the materials we develop. This is absolutely outstanding.

The goal is pretty straightforward - to use all the tools in our marketing tool kit to make LCC the strongest community college "brand" in the country. Every day we're moving a little closer to making that a reality. Turning corners is a lot of fun.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Is Community College Branding Important?

I am hoping to complete my Ph.D. in the next several months. It deals with community college branding and IMC. Here's an excerpt:

Very little research has been completed with respect to the branding of American community colleges. To assume that higher education branding research in general would sufficiently explain what is going on in the community college segment would imply little understanding of the distinctive attributes of community colleges in this country. One of the driving forces behind university branding is the desire to improve the academic profile of incoming freshmen. Given the community college commitment to open access, why is having a positive brand relevant or important? Aren’t community colleges the educational equivalent of generic products, or the “store brand”? I would argue that the answer is no. We live in an era of hyper communication and marketing. If community colleges do not work more intentionally to establish and communicate a strong, positive brand identity, then many individuals who may have benefited from a community college education will not pursue that education as actively as they may have. They will continue to assume that a college education is just not possible for them. A large segment of the population that needs higher education won’t pursue it. The rest of the developed and developing world will continue educating larger percentages of their populations. The change that needs to happen in this state and country will not. The implications of not adapting to a rapidly changing global environment are profound.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Good branding - a reflection of the student's experience

Sometimes, we can think of brand-building as being fundamentally a marketing exercise - clear, consistent messaging, strong visual identity, etc. In fact, the essense of a strong brand is the culture we create and the experience of our students. Strong branding initiatives are simply communicating that which is essentially true.

“Historically, brands have been thought to have been the result of the mass marketplace communication investments and approaches. That is, the brands were created through massive amounts of media advertising through clever and creative messages, icons and packages. Today, we are beginning to understand that brands are instead based on customer experiences. It is the value the brand provides the customer over time, not the short-term creative that builds customer loyalty. Thus, managing brands is really about managing customers and that is what Integrated Marketing Communications is all about.” (Iacobucci & Calder, 2003, p. xix).

So, as we work to build the LCC brand, let's make sure we are engaging our students as much as possible. When they see an LCC billboard on the highway or an on-line ad on their favorite web site, we want them to be nodding their heads in agreement, not snickering at us, as they think "yeah, right; who do they think they're kidding".

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Race to 5K

As of 11:00 a.m. on March 3rd, the college's Facebook page has 1885 fans. As far as community colleges go, that isn't bad. There are only a few community colleges in Michigan with more. From what we've seen nationally, there are no community colleges with over 2500. What is interesting to note is that even small, private colleges seem to have bases that are half the size of the student population. The last time I checked, UofM had over 80,000 fans. There is clearly a difference in how students at four-year institutions and their alumni stay connected.

So, we have a goal here at LCC. I would like to see us have over 5,000 fans on the college's Facebook page in the next couple of months. We are developing an implementing a plan to do this. I would like to see LCC as the first community college in the state (and possibly the country, but I need to do more research there) to hit that target. If you have suggestions regarding how we can do this, please feel free to post them here.

We'll also be doing some new things with Flickr, but I'll cover that in a separate post. Hopefully, we can heed Ghandi's advice here in marketing and "be the change you want to see in the world" (at least from a social media perspective).

Friday, February 26, 2010

Welcome To Stage 2!

In an earlier post, I discussed the stages of IMC, as defined by Donald Schultz. Here in the "new and improved" marketing department, we have spent most of the last year figuring out how to get our parts to work together (web, radio, tv, print, on-line, etc.). We've made really significant progress in this regard. Most of the time, we are talking to each other and figuring out how to effectively use all of the tools in our marketing and communications tool kit.

It looks like we have a major breakthrough with IER (Institutional Effectiveness and Research) as they have developed some reports in Argos which will allow us to easily run queries on the students in all of our programs. Without this information, we have been often guessing when it comes to understanding our student profiles. That is changing. Our marketing will be informed by data. We'll be able to understand the important segments within each market, and target everything we do accordingly. Welcome to Stage 2! We'll be doing a much more significant implementation of CRM in the next several weeks. We'll have the data we need so that our CRM launch will be supported by real intelligence. These are exciting times.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It's All About Relationships

There is a good book I'm reading called "Socialnomics" by Erik Qualman. Here's a quote from the introduction: ", we are in the early stages of yet another far-reaching revolution. This revolution is being driven by people and enabled by social media."

We are starting to transform how we think about communications and marketing in the age of social media. Sometimes we can focus on the technology, and that would be, I think, a mistake. Ultimately, it is not about the technology, it is about people and relationships. What is happening today is that the barrriers to communication are rapidly being dismantled. In the old days, if you wanted to communicate with large numbers of people, your options were limited and expensive (direct mail, radio, tv, print ads, etc.). Today, anyone with access to the internet can set up a Facebook and YouTube page and communicate with the world (or, more importantly, some well-defined segment of the world). Now, it is not about how deep your pocketbooks are; it's all about the relevance and creativity of the message. In the old days, the gatekeepers controlled the conversation; today, not so much. Here at LCC, for example, students are using our Facebook page to talk with other students about issues and concerns here on campus. That presents, of course, some challenges. Not everything they say will be accurate or positive. Our choice is simple - be a part of the conversation, or not. We no longer decide if they will or will not have a conversation.

If we do this well, the payoff is huge - better communication and stronger relationships. Let's do it well.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Convergence and Marketing at LCC

It is always interesting to watch words come in and out of popular use in management theory. “Paradigm” and “synergy” are two examples which immediately come to mind. A word I have been hearing lately is “convergence”. According to Wikipedia (the authoritative source on all things trendy) “Convergence is the approach toward a definite value, a definite point, a common view or opinion, or toward a fixed or equilibrium state. In mathematics, it describes limiting behavior, particularly of an infinite sequence or series.” Branding is a lot about convergence – getting all the disparate parts of our communications, marketing, public relations, and student experience to converge around some very essential core brand values.
And, here in marketing, we are working to integrate all the tools in our marketing tool kit to converge in ways that make sense. One of the best examples of this is how we are starting to use video in our marketing and communications. A good video can reside in multiple locations – the LCC web site / program pages, our YouTube channel, and on LCCTV. All of these can help to build traffic to the other (though this may be an example of synergy, I like convergence better, and I’m sure not going to call this post “synergy and marketing at LCC”). Once we tie CRM into this equation, the potential for really effective marketing and communications is amazing.
I’m looking forward to seeing how far we can converge and synergize in the next six months. We are going to do some big time paradigm-shifting; should be fun.