Your Chief Academic Officer is Really Your Chief Marketing Officer in Disguise

Becky Morehouse

Becky Morehouse

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We have long made the case that a differentiated and valued curriculum is your single most important marketing asset. In other words, while there are four Ps in play, one P—program—is the alpha among betas.  

While this trend is not new, it is gaining even more momentum because of COVID. Though students are still attracted to great facilities in wonderful locations, concerns about distance and safety have caused them to adjust the calculus. The big driver in the college-choice process is the student’s specific academic program of interest. 

With this in mind, your chief academic officer is really your chief marketing officer in disguise.  

To be successful in this new role, your chief academic officer must have three key qualities.  

1. Know number of programs in demand

Your chief academic officer must understand that it is not the number of academic programs you offer, but the number of programs you offer that are in demand. It is not about being unique, but being compelling.  

2. Chief academic officer – chief marketing officer (CAO-CMO) looks forward

It has been my experience that there are generally two types of chief academic officers. One group sees their role as apologists for a system that is increasingly out of step with the marketplace. Their view is rearward. 

The CAO-CMO, on the other hand, looks ahead. They respect the past, but are not beholden to it. Rather than focusing on how to protect the academy from the marketplace, they look for ways to serve the marketplace, and in turn, your students.  

3. CAO-CMO looks at the curriculum as a portfolio

The CAO-CMO looks at the curriculum as a portfolio that must be managed just as they manage the financial portfolio.  

Managing your academic portfolio is more than a simple academic assessment. The goal is to align what you offer with what marketplace demands. 

For years, we have conducted comprehensive assessments that helped our clients manage their academic portfolios. Using external demand data, we portray how your academic program is performing in relation to national, state, or even local competitors in the same disciplines. After determining your institution’s performance, we take it a step further with competitor reviews of delivery, cost, marketing tactics, tracks of study, and outcomes to offer suggestions for how you may grow the attractiveness of an existing program.  

If you’re interested in a conversation about academic assessment, or are interested in identifying new in-demand academic programs, please contact me at:  [email protected] 

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