Not every institution out there has the resources or the in-house talent to develop excellent, award-winning marketing campaigns. It’s what sets schools apart among many other things; but one of the things I’ve noticed is the disparities in the way that consulting companies who purport to specialize in higher education fail to take into consideration.
After spending tons of time and money on consults, it seems time and time again the marketing campaigns end up becoming pet projects that inspire and invigorate the designers, rather than the institution. I’m not sure if this is just a function of the fundamental problem or something else. What’s that fundamental problem?
Asking an outsider to help you define who your institution is.
Schools that have a good handle on who they are and just want a company to communicate that can isolate pretty quickly what they want, but I’ve seen time and time again situations where hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on marketing companies that completely miss the boat on spreading the core message of the constituents they’re trying to reach.
I’ve boiled it down the failure to a little something I’ve come to describe as The 3 Es. They are:
Envision: If you understand what the client is telling you and can envision not just what they see their institution now, but what that means to the newcomer, you are then able to capture the essence of that fervor and passion through the concept to completion of the design process.
Enliven: I don’t care if the institution is built over a pile of dung in a cow pasture in Western Nebraska or on a shining city upon a hill in Boston. Even if the people inside the institution don’t have any energy to see what a goldmine their institution is, it’s your job to help them get there. Alter their perspective through your materials and inspire them to use that as a charge to enliven their institution.
Exceed: It doesn’t matter if they’re the biggest or the best client. Even if they are a pain in your ass sometimes and criticize too much. So long as they are holding up their end of the bargain (e.g. paying on time and showing up to meetings and making deadlines) then you have an obligation to exceed their expectations every time.
Too many institutions — especially those who lack the institutional knowledge — are failing to leverage the true power of the web to grow and revitalize their institutions. But as the career of the college web guru — and our friends in consultant land — continue to evolve, it’s our job to make sure this happens. Not only is it job security, but it continues to grow the field and give colleges and universities the confidence to invest more heavily in new media. That creates new jobs, new divisions and departments and raises the bar for all of us.