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September 9

Transition, Reaction, & Tapping Student Expertise w/ Mary Barr


How do you handle organizational and career transitions? How can you leverage broader marketing trends? We tackle those questions in our podcast conversation with Mary Barr.

After being in higher education marketing for so many years, I tend to value long-term relationships more and more.

For anyone in higher ed marketing, transitions are par for the course. In your career, you’re likely to make a transition to another post in another school or make a vertical move up in your own institution.

Sometimes leadership and institutional direction changes. Sometimes it changes drastically.

That’s why I’ve always wanted to position Caylor Solutions as a partner, rather than simply a vendor.

I’m interested in cultivating relationships over the long haul.

Being Proactive… Even When You’re Reacting

My co-host, Troy Singer, and I began our conversation with Mary Barr, Chief Marketing Officer at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, on this topic.

She has had her fair share of transitions during her career.

I’m no stranger to transition! Of course, it’s easier to talk about transition years later in hindsight. But like anything, I feel transition is an education. We can learn from it, especially as marketers. There is some comfort in routine and following, for example, a brand style guide, but we can always count on transition [occurring sometime]. I look at it as a good thing.

Besides keeping a positive outlook on the inevitability of transition in our careers and institutions, Mary encouraged us to be as proactive as we can, even when we’re reacting as a marketing team to the changes.

There is reactive and proactive work that’s always being done. [There are times when] you have to react to things and make it the best you can. But then also [you need to be] proactive in moving forward by following longer term strategies. 

When you have this inside feeling that something’s not quite hitting the mark, always go back to those brand messages, to that brand core, to that brand strategy, and that can usually get you back on track. 

Then, she went on to show us how to walk out this apparent contradiction.

Be open minded when a transition comes or maybe a sudden new initiative or a new plank is being added [to your messaging]. See it as an opportunity, seeing how it can help, maybe fill some gaps, and do some things you wanted to do before. 

Being reactive comes with the territory. This past year [with the COVID pandemic], we have had to be reactive in many ways – and everyone has! But also keep an eye on the strategic plan, having that helps you stay the course.

Ball State University's Mary Barr shows us how to transition well in our careers and marketing messaging.

Source: bsu.edu

Leveraging Greater Marketing Trends in Higher Ed Marketing

Education marketing is definitely a world all its own.

However, there are plenty of ways in which the work we do correlates with the larger world of marketing in general.

We asked Mary for her insights on how to leverage marketing trends from the larger marketing world in higher ed marketing.

The first thing that came to mind was how brands in the greater marketing world have been experimenting with marketing collaborations.

I love to follow the greater marketing industries, keeping an eye on music, fashion, and the arts. There’s been a lot of collaborations by some celebrities and consumer brands. And it’s kind of fun! They’re not just cool, but they also elevate both brands by introducing both to new markets, new audiences.

As in nonprofit marketing, there’s a hesitancy for higher ed marketers to think in these terms, but we do have our competitors in the other schools that students can choose.

Even so, perhaps it would be interesting to see what marketing collaborations – especially among “celebrity” faculty – could do.

Julie Balog from the University of Kentucky expressed a similar desire in our conversation with her and her colleague Christine Harper. (This quote is right around the 9:00 mark in the podcast.)

We’re the University for Kentucky, not just the University of Kentucky. At the end of the day, we just want the students to understand that going to college can be transformational for them. And if they don’t come to UK, that’s okay. They just need to find a place where they can get that transformational experience.

I think a lot of education marketers feel this way, and maybe someone will find an innovative and mutually beneficial way to leverage two brands and their distinctive audiences.

It’s crazy ideas like that that we might be able to learn from as higher education marketers.

Of course, both Mary and I would be the first to say that not everything in consumer marketing will work for higher ed.

But, as Mary said in our talk, we’ve got to look for ideas that could help us move the needle forward in the greater consumer marketing world.

[Although we’re marketers], we’re consumers as well. So as consumers, we have to keep our eyes open for the things that attract us.

Discover more when you listen to the podcast!

You know, one thing I love about the podcast is how much information we can pack into a small amount of time.

I’ve already reached the end of this post – and there is so much more in our conversation with Mary Barr!

So please, do yourself a favor… 😊

Listen to our interview with Mary Barr to get even more insights into:

  • What higher ed can learn from consumer brand
  • Tapping student expertise from a branding perspective
  • The benefits of a two-student research group
  • Promoting recycling in branding (a really cool story about billboard vinyl)

Looking for Enrollment Marketing Content that Works?

You’re in luck! We’ve curated 25 awesome ideas inspired by top higher ed institutions across the country and put them in one handy guide: 25 Ideas for Great Admissions Content.

25 Ideas for Great Admissions Content In this popular resource from Caylor Solutions, you’ll get…

    • 25 enrollment marketing content ideas you might never have considered before
    • Guidance on how to use each one for best results
    • Brief discussion on why they work to help you sell these ideas to your team

Get inspired.
Get enrollment results.
Get 25 Ideas for Great Admissions Content.
Download your copy today!

Featured image via bsu.edu

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Fill out the following form to get instant access to our ebook, Marketing on a Shoestring Budget.

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Subscribe to The Higher Ed Marketer podcast today!

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