It’s a familiar feeling for everyone whose jobs occasionally land them at professional development conferences: “I’m back at the office. The conference was great. I learned a lot about what we should be doing differently. Now, where the heck do I begin?”

If you attended the Stamats Intensive last week in Chicago, you came home understanding…

  • For colleges and universities, competition has never been more fierce and the stakes have never been higher.
  • We live in an era of snap judgments; consumers are quick to make definitive decisions.
  • Successful higher education marketing for brand-building, recruitment and fundraising begins with listening, not telling.
  • Contemporary communication channels are specifically designed for conversations rather than presentations.
  • Audiences don’t tolerate channel misuse or abuse; you’ve simply got to know how to use communication platforms correctly.
  • Audience-specific market research is essential if you hope to connect with them through their preferred languages, channels and concerns.
  • The attention span of a college-bound teen is measured in seconds, not minutes or hours.
  • In very important ways, great college and university brands are no different than great consumer brands: they tell their stories in ways that delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, challenge and prompt action.

So where to begin, now that you’re home from another inspiring conference? I suggest you burrow down to the foundation rather than tickle what our Chegg pal Gil Rogers described as “the BSO’s” (big shiny objects).

Take a tough-love look at your institutional brand story and how you’re telling it. Are you delighting, enchanting, touching, teaching, recalling, inspiring, motivating, and challenging your audiences with stories and images of what’s authentically special about your school? Are you showing and telling your brand story in ways that resonate with your target audiences in emotionally compelling and memorable ways? Does your brand story stand up and stand out among your fiercest competitors?

Or are you just “Frankenstein-ing” worn-out copy, recycling a few decent photos, laying out the facts, providing links for more information, and hoping for transactions?

Return-on-marketing investment (mROI) is significantly higher for schools whose marketing strategies and tactics are built on the shoulders of a clear, compelling and competitively advantaged brand story. That’s where you begin.

Then, use the handy tool below to divide and conquer the rest. And let me know if you need any help. I’m always up for a chat (, no cost and no obligation. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together.impact_chart

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  1. Full credit goes to Michael Stoner for the “BSO” term … He and Mallory Wood coined it. I just borrowed it.

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