How much does what other institutions do influence the decision making process where you work? I mean, we know how much it can affect other industries like retail or other marketing intensive businesses like athletic shoes or cars.
But what about higher ed? I know we’re plugged in — or at least, try to be — to our target audiences, but what about to the competitors and reacting to what they’re doing. It’s one thing to put your name on a college’s mailing list to see their marketing materials, but is simply picking the “best” ideas off of other places. After all, why work harder when you can work smarter or implement an idea better than another place does.
What happens though, when an entire institutional strategy is based off of doing nothing but following the competition?
On June 18, 1939, The New York Times ran an editorial about the evolving technology of communications. On the subject of the newly invented television and the threat it posed to the entrenched medium of radio, The Times said: “The problem with television is that people must sit and keep their eyes glued to the screen; the average American family hasn’t time for it… for this reason, if no other, television will never be a serious competitor.”
Fast-forward 70 years: “It should come as no surprise that video has exploded as a valuable content source on the Web,” says John Blossom, senior analyst and president of Shore Communications, Inc. “We’ve been staring at screens that have had at least as much resolution for image detail as a typical television for years.”
Talk about inspiring people and a life worth living in word and in deed:
“Almost all of us have childhood dreams; for example, being an astronaut, or making movies or video games for a living,” said Pausch. “Sadly, most people don’t achieve theirs, and I think that’s a shame.”
I really appreciate how his institution found a dignified way to magnify the work he did, revealing that Randy Pausch was more than just one lecture for those that did not know him. His legacy will live on well beyond anything he could have imagined. I remember watching his lecture when it first hit the web, sending it to friends to watch and who even thought it was long, said they “watched the whole thing and were just astounded” by the magnitude and weight of his words.
The Songs of National Freedom – Richard Swift
Mr. Blue – Catherine Feeny
Party – Envelopes
Spirtualized – Sweet Talk
Teardrop – Jose Gonzalez
Feet Asleep – Thao
The Night Is When You Can Not See – Castanets
In The Night – Basia Bulat
Broadway – Foxboro Hottubs
I’m Making Eyes At You – Black Kids
I submitted a proposal on ChangeThis on a whim last month, they posted it and well people vote and then they’ll ask people to write them a manifesto of their proposal. People like Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki and Chris Anderson have had manifestos published on ChangeThis in the past.
What’s been impressive to me, is without any forward push from me, short of a brief post to some friends at the beginning of the month, my proposal has remained in the top 3. Part of the benefit is being on the front page of the site, as the first proposal listed. But still. It’s a big deal and I think it’s pretty cool.
So we’ll see what happens and if I get to write it. I like the site because of the presentation of the proposals once you publish them, because they look pretty slick.
More and more, I can see a definite need for institutions to position the web as an institution resource poised for success. No different than say, public relations and its place serving the entire message control for the college or university, is the web and experts devoted to it within an institution’s organization.
Every school is different. Organizational charts are something that each institution has to work out on their own. But I can look at the “job” of the web, from an authoritative perspective and point to several scenarios, depending on the place.
First, is the institution who vests the trust of the web in the hands of a single “webmaster”. This old model worked great when web pages were static and required the knowledge of an “all-knowing seer and wise woman among the masses” who knew HTML better than everyone else. In this declining model, your situation gets thrown into the whims of a single person and when s(he) leaves, you almost have to start over.
Next, is the web by committee. You might have a person in charge of this nebulous force in decentralization, but ultimately, each area is responsible for their part of the web. In theory? Sounds great. No one area has to be in charge of the massive site as a whole, you cobble together a committee of folks to make “web decisions” and everyone is happy, right? Uh, no. Because you need authority. You need someone in charge who has the expertise, the experience and the vision to call the shots and to plot a course. Would you do this for admission? Marketing? Of course not. But for the web, it constantly gets relegated to the backseat or into the corner like a stepchild. Or worse, someone’s pet project.
In the end, it’s all about the quirks of the place and trying to cultivate a structure that works best. And being flexible about that, because not every institution needs more layers of red tape that prevent things from getting done. But there needs to be a web strategy that delineates what decisions are made by who, how and when. As well as who controls the purse strings, no matter how few pennies they may be. When I refer to the web here, I’m talking almost entirely about the web as a marketing and communication tool, rather than the IT parts of things.
One of the unique challenges in higher ed web geekery is the plight of the community college web editor/manager/etc. You’re not focusing on one audience, usually. It’s a cacophony of different voices, audiences and people you’re trying to reach — all with one site. Couple that with what can often be a group of people who are used to doing things “the old way” and people who are looking to do things “the new way” and you find yourself in a situation where…well…there are a bloc of folks who are very married to the old ways of doing things.
That said, the institutions can be a wellspring of innovation and are often times willing to invest in new technology, in part to shed the moniker of being second-rate compared to their 4-year sisters.
They do a lot with a little, comparatively and it’s the type of job that really never stays the same because you’re constantly trying to tweak and alter your approach to fit the institutional focus at that time.