An elevator pitch for admissions

In business, there is something called an ‘elevator pitch.

An elevator pitch (or elevator speech) is a brief overview of an idea for a product, service, or project. The pitch is so called because it can be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride (say, thirty seconds or 100-150 words).

Why don’t colleges and universities employ these in the way they sell students? The entire student recruiting process right now is predicated upon building relationships and souping up impressionable kids on the notion that 1) they are wanted 2) that they are valued and 3) they can benefit from what it is we’re selling.

All of that is fine and dandy. But when will we begin to realize that all of this takes time, energy and money to pull off? Print materials are great, but they take a long time to arrive and don’t offer everything a web site could. Even if a kid has to go to a library, internet access is pretty much available to most U.S. students who need it.

But why convolute our web sites with chock full o’ content? A college education is a big investment. But so is sitting on a web site looking for this thing and that thing. Common sense is paramount, too. Because while the student may want one thing, the parent is akin to the skeptical venture capitalist who isn’t quick on the trigger and replete with biases and ideas of their own from the minute they walk in.

Perception is everything. Too much time is spend cramming as much as we can into a tour, a viewbook, a brochure or a web site and less is spend cultivating the message therein.

Do you ever ask, “What do I want someone to get from this?” when you’re printing a brochure, catalog or developing content for a web site? Not for catalogs or other things that contain factual information, but for persuasive content, there needs to be an overriding mission that speaks to the prospective student in a manner that will help them make a singular connection.

Each student is different, has a lot of different factors at play and are evaluating different things before making their final decision. You can’t be everything to everybody.

But elevator pitch is a really effective way to learn how to pair down your message to the core and tell them why they should care about your institution.

Ximena Sariñana ~ Mediocre

Ximena Sarinana

Mexico has been producing an increasing number of indie pop-rockers who have quirky style and offer up style and originality in heaps that’s not being produced here in the upper 48. Between Julieta Venegas, Chetes last year and now Ximena Sariñana, they are a true tour de force on the scene, unbeknown to most indie fans who are too busy crying in their milk to the newest emo fare.

Ximena Sarinana debut release Mediocre sounds like a confluence of styles. Something along the lines of Nellie McKay meets countryman Julieta Venegas meets Sia. It’s original, in other words. Very original. The jazz influences are hard to ignore throughout this release. She’s got the chops to hang with the best of them and if you have any real desire to listen to music en espanol, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better singer on the indie scene these days. Ximena has got chops, folks.

Ironically, some of her best songs are on YouTube when she’s signing live backed by a live band. Here’s one in English, a cover of You Don’t Notice Me, made famous by Ray Charles and others.

I love her quirky nature and can you see the influences of artists like Fiona Apple and Bjork embedded in her stage presence. Sariñana marches to the beat of her own drummer, to be sure.

On Mediocre, there is a mix of the jazz-influence indie downtempo on tracks like Un Error and Sintiendo Rara. The title track (Mediocre) is the most rocking track on the album, but no matter whether she’s jamming or singing sweetly on my favourite track on the album No Vuelvo Más, she brings the same passion and energy to each song. She even ventures into pop on Vidas Paralelas

The production is adept and well balanced, giving this album a chance to bounce from genre to genre without missing a beat. It’s one of those you can listen to straight through. It’ll end the year as one of the best albums released this year. It’s even-keeled, well presented and leaves you wanting more. The fact that there isn’t anything else like it out there right now, makes it sound that much better.

[rating:5]

There is no celebrating in baseball…

This just in. Celebrating in baseball is a problem. Just ask Goose Gossage:

“There’s no place for it in the game,” Gossage told reporters Monday during a tour of the Hall of Fame, according to MLB.com.

This whole idea of ‘showing up the other team’ came to my attention when Lastings Milledge hit his first career home run for the Mets and went back in the field and gave high-fives to fans. This was a few years ago. He’s had other problems. But the whole idea of “act like you’ve been there before” is valid to me. I get that. No one would want a player in the field showboating in the middle of a game or getting excited at inappropriate times.

At the same time, we see this in other sports all of the time. Should you do a touchdown dance if your team is down by 40? No. Should you get excited when your team is down by 7 runs in the 9th, with two outs and you get on base? No.

But a player responding and getting fired up isn’t a big deal.

Then, we are talking about baseball. The sport that’s found more ways to lose more natural advantages than a Clinton in a presidential election. Sure, the sport is making money hand over fist. But it’s losing popularity in the US by the day and isn’t gaining any ground worldwide except in places where it’s already popular.

People need to get over themselves. It’s not 1960 anymore. Now if we could just get crowd noise in tennis, we’d be all set.

What not to do when you apply for a job…

Say hypothetically your company posts a job ad on the web. Now say after the first few days of responses, the people generally get the idea that it’s worthwhile to include their portfolio in an email or at least, links to sites they’ve built.

It almost goes without saying that the more days that go by, that the quality of the candidates will: 1) drop off considerably and 2) said candidates will be increasingly less likely to understand that they ought to include said portfolio or demonstration of their abilities.

It’s not a hard and fast rule, mind you. But it’s a really interesting glimpse into the ‘other side’ of the whole hiring process.

M83 ~ Saturdays = Youth

M83 is really just a time warp back to the 80s. It’s all of the pop-filled snyth goodness of the golden 80s brought back to life over 20 years later. Standout tracks include Kim and Jessie, We Own The Sky, Graveyard Girl.

There isn’t any really good way to describe this. It doesn’t sound like anything that’s out now, because it’s truly a retro album in every sense of the word. It’s perfectly executed, too.

Worth listening to every song, on a Sunday no less. Or late on Saturday night after all of the bars close.

[rating: 4.5]

Chrisette Michele ~ I Am

This came out last year and I don’t really know what I was thinking, but I listened to it again today and it resonated with me in a really big way. She’s an outstanding artist with a soulful voice and a sound that’s refreshing and almost just right for the songs she hits right.

From tracks like “Mr. Radio” to “Golden” or my personal favourite “If I Have My Way”, Chrisette Michele has a sound about that is missing from the soul game these days on the female side. There isn’t anything ‘pop’ about her, she just sings with emotional and sweetness and the songs are about the entire track and not just the hook.

Well worth picking up and adding to your collection.

[rating: 4]

Web people aren’t real

What is a web person, really? In higher education, it could mean any number of things that are all unrelated to each other. The reason for this is simple: Web people aren’t real.

People who do things like student life have degrees they can get in graduate school that define them. Professors have degrees and publications and a whole process that governs their lives. Even PR people, administrative professionals and the campus custodian are recognized entities.

But what about those ominous “web people?” They’re forgotten in a dust cloud of dirt and muck that gets difficult to see through. Why? Because web people aren’t valued as real people, but simple as chess pieces in a game that all but a few grandmasters have come to solve.

The days however, of web people being in content roles or in other random positions on campus are coming to an end. Developers will always find work to do, as will outsourced consultants and big firms who swear they can give you more bang for your web buck. But the people in the middle, the ones who manage content and who are responsible for serving as what I like to call ‘campus web evangelists’ are not going to have much of a shelf life over the next decade.

Why?

It’s simple. Other people need to be integrated to the web from the top to bottom. They need to be completely plugged into the happenings. You can’t expect one or two web people stationed in a college communications office — especially at a smaller institution with lots of tentacles — to be connected to the web in every way as positions change, people move on and things as they were always done get convoluted and forgotten.

That leaves them expendable. If they are expendable, then they can’t do their jobs and if they can’t do their jobs, they do not exist.

I am of the opinion that it would far more important for campuses to assess themselves from the bottom-up, top-down and across the middle to figure out who they, what they believe in and that would do more for the development and future direction of their web sites than any assessment conducted by a bunch of outsiders. Outsiders can and should often facilitate these discussions, but they have to be trained to do it and they have to understand the pulse of organizations and people to be able to help you capture your message. It’s truly lightning in a bottle and without it, there really isn’t a point in trying to let someone define you, as you’ll consistently miss out on your core constituencies.

Organizational change within institutions is very hard to agitate, because it presupposed a particular level of desire amongst those in leading positions to be acutely aware of where the marketplace is. Colleges that know who they are and willing to dig deep to find themselves will thrive. Those that do not, will fail or just tread water.

The critical linchpin to all of this is the definition of your key stakeholders in regards to the web. If you understand who is controlling your public message and then working with internal parties to keep that conduit on that message through evangelizing its importance, you can begin to realize the value of the multitude of tools at our disposal these days.

Why I create sports

Let’s just be clear: I never set out to be a sport inventor. It wasn’t something I grew up imagining (or maybe I did and I just don’t remember) and I never had any real intentions to do it when it happened. It was just a confluence of things that forced my hand.

When you’ve build a tennis program at a camp with a bevy of other activities that has kids saying “I’ll pass on being in the cool lake, to sweat and play tennis” then you’re doing something right. That’s the situation I found myself in, in my reprise role as Tennis Director two years after my first stint.

But as I said, it rained too much. As a result, I had scheduled activity periods in the morning with entire cabins of kids who were sent to me, but who couldn’t play tennis because of the weather or the court conditions after the rain. I had to get creative.

So after we got tired of playing makeshift tennis inside the gym, we started to make up games with a racquet and a tennis ball that incorporated other sports, but universally used a 1) tennis ball and 2) a racquet. There was Tasketball and Tolleyball and the best game of all time, Tennis Dodgeball which isn’t really for public consumption, but still the most fun I’ve ever had.

But none of those games received the good housekeeping seal of universal approval of kids from 7-17. The sport that title was reserved for was known as Toccer (or Tennis Polo for those who’ve discovered it in recent years…)

Make no mistake, just because kids liked it doesn’t mean anyone else did at first. I never intended for the sport to be something we’d take from camp and try to make a real sport. It was just a rainy camp diversion. But when the sun camp out, the kids kept wanting to play toccer. From fellow counselors to senior staff who ran the camp, people were a bit skeptical about this new game. It’s a testament to their trust of me, the safety of the kids (we only had one injury and it was when a kid wasn’t paying attention and it was minor..) and the fact that they were clearly having a blast.

I had the hardest time explaining it to adults at first. But then, as time went on, I started to understand how this game translated and why the kids loved it so much.

It was probably around that time, that whether I liked it or not, I became a sport inventor.

The kids insisted I write rules and take the sport from beyond the camp walls. I sat down with them to work on the first set of rules, bought toccer.com before that summer was over and decided to go from there. I felt, if nothing else, I owed it to them and that it was a testament to how much fun that summer was.

I’ve spent the past few years research pretty much every sport you can think of around the world, their histories and how they’ve evolved. What I’ve came to realize pretty quickly is that most of the major sports around the world have been around a really long time and that there haven’t been many attempts in earnest to try to do anything about that.

Why? Too many people were focused on trying to patent their sports, to try to make profit from their ‘inventions’ that they didn’t spend very much time actually getting the game out there, letting people play it and enjoy it. For me, that has always been the only goal. Save for Ultimate Frisbee, there isn’t a new from scratch sport that’s been evolved from nothing in the past thirty years or so that isn’t based heavily off another sport (Arena Football) and I think this has a big impact on what kids see and choose to do with their time.

Why do so many kids choose to play video games? Or take up alternative sports?

  • Because it’s a field that hasn’t been mined or dominated.
  • Because they can be the ‘best in the world’ (see Seth Godin’s “The Dip” for the definition of this)
  • Because there are no pre-existing people out there who are so entrenched that they feel they have nothing new to contribute, even if they do.
  • The reason Toccer took camp by storm had a lot to do with my enthusiasm and willingness to indulge my inner kid to even invent a sport, much less defend it fervently. When people were naysayers about the game, I’d usually issue a challenge. “Play it one time. If you hate it, you never have to play again.” Anyone who took the challenge — whether they were an 10-year Japanese kid who spoke no English or a 24-year old counselor who was too cool for school — always came back with a completely different view of the game than when they started.

    But that’s not why the kids loved it.

    The kids loved it because it allowed them to be free to be who they were. They weren’t struggling to try to mimic the “Michael Jordan of Toccer” since there wasn’t one. They didn’t have constraints on their imagination and even kids who settled in the midfield or on defense, could find ways to use their talents and skills to contribute to the bottom line.

    I was amazed at how quickly they picked up the rules, how immersed they became and how empowering it felt to be part of something that clearly more people ought to do.