DISCLAIMER: WHILE I HAVE WITNESSED AND EXPERIENCED THE FOLLOWING SITUATIONS IN MY CAREER, THIS POST IS SIMPLY TO EDUCATE AND PROMPT A DISCUSSION AMONG MY COMMUNICATIONS PEERS AND HIGHER EDUCATION PROFESSIONALS.
I know you don’t like the title. Higher education administrators, I’m talking to you. I talk with my CEO mentors, marketing professors, and colleagues daily about the issue of Ph.D.’s and Ed.D’s thinking that just because they wrote a dissertation, they can now save the entire world, lead a team, and oh… they can also write copy to an external audience of teenagers. Now unless your terminal degree happens to be in marketing, I’m here to tell you that you’re simply not qualified to take on such a task. Writing copy is more complex than it seems when it comes to appealing to a particular audience.
- Communications teams know their audience. Your dissertation was to defend your degree. Marketing copy and all communications efforts seek to sell a brand and prompt actions from the audience. These are two completely different things. While you might know what communication plans and strategies are for, you don’t know how to get the desired results which leads me to my next point.
- Communicators know how to prompt actions. We don’t talk AT our audience. We talk TO them using language they like and will put them at ease. The best brands like Chick-Fil-A and Wendy’s for example, have effectively told the stories of their brands by engaging with their audiences. You can’t get engagement without first establishing a relationship with the audience. This starts with gaining trust which begins by using words they actually understand, and speaking to them like they matter.
- Communicators know the competition and marketing trends. This should go without saying, but unless you work in a specific area at your job you won’t be abreast on the inner workings of why they do what they do. For example, the student affairs department at a university is more knowledgable of trends and what their competition is up to than the finance department is on that same topic. Let the communications team be great. They know the jargon, the trends, what ABC University is doing better and HOW they’re achieving better results. You Mr./Mrs./ Dr. AVP of ABC, do not.
The message I’m trying to convey to everyone who does not work in a marketing/communications role is to let the ones who are do what they need to do. Could they use your suggestions? Maybe. From a higher education standpoint, it is extremely counterproductive and institutions who are seeing lower engagement on campus, lower enrollment and facing financial troubles are often the same institutions with way too many non-marketers and non-communicators trying to sell the brand throughout communication channels. It simply won’t work.
Let me know your thoughts, though! Have you seen this type of confusion in your career? How was it handled?