8: Building a Modern Higher Ed Marketing Team at University at Albany (SUNY) w/ Dr. Joseph Brennan

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Joseph Brennan, VP of Communications & Marketing and Clinical Professor of Business at The University at Albany, discusses how to hire, organize and structure your higher ed marketing department to fulfill current and future institutional enrollment goals.

Attracting today's new post traditional learners meansadopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollmentgrowth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, andHelix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percentbrand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges.Downloaded today for free at Helix educationcoms playbook. You're listening to enrollment growth university fromHelix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking togrow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growthtechniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place.Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university. I'm Ericleson, AVP of marketing at Helix Education, and we're here today with Dr JosephBrennan, Vice President for Communications and marketing and clinical professor of business at theuniversity at Albany. Joe, thanks so much for joining us today. You'rewelcome. Eric Joe and I met in person at Ama highered last year,I was wearing my bright orange helix shoes and joe stopped by to give mea compliment. So lesson for all you out there. Peak cocking works.On Joe Brennan. We're going to have a great conversation today about how tobest restructure your marketing departments and the strategy behind that. But before we getinto that, Joe, can you give the listeners a little bit better understandingof both the university at Albany and your role there? Thanks, charic.The university at Albany is one of the four big research universities in the StateUniversity of New York system. We have a little more than seventeen thousand studentsin our graduate undergraduate programs and my role is really to serve as the chiefmarketing officer, devising strategy, nurturing the...

...brand and leading a team of abouttwenty five people who deliver marketing services, digital communications and earned media. Ialso am engaged in sort of issues management and crisis response, so it's apretty broad ranging portfolio and when I'm not in my day job I'm researching andteaching classes in our school of business. Awesome, awesome, Joe we talkedabout this before. Marketing and marketing departments are just fundamentally changing and continuing tochange. About five years ago I saw many colleges and universities creating smaller digitalmarketing teams within their departments. And now, five years later, boy, whodon't you put on the Digital Marketing World? Nearly all of marketings functionscan be considered digital or at least overlap there. So where should one startsin making sure their team is properly organized for the current day reality of amodern, high read Marketing Department? You know, Eric, I think you'reso right, and this is the question I'm hearing it asked with increasing urgencyby my peers at all kinds of institutions, large and small, public and private. The field is is no doubt rapidly changing. Digital is underlying everythingwe do and, more important, the demands on marketing are bigger than ever. Marketing has to become strategic and proactive and move out of the role thatwe used to be cast in, which was largely tactical and reactive. Peopleshowed up on our doorstep and said I need a brochure and then they saidI need a website. Yeah, today, they say, I need some socialmedia, but that tactical and reactive model doesn't fully empower us to dowhat we need to do as strategic marketers. So where do you begin? Youactually begin with an institutional strategic marketing plan, and the plan doesn't haveto be forty pages in a binder. In fact, what it really needsto do is clearly articulate your institutions top...

...business goals. So enrollment growth,how big? What kind we're from? Could be those questions. What mixtureof programs? What are your distinctive differentiators that will help position you in themarketplace? You need to clearly articulate institutional business goals. They may also includealumni engagement and philanthropy. And if you're a public you probably have some goalsthat are related to engaging your legislators and other elected officials. Then in yourplan outline the marketing activities that will drive those institutional outcomes and then, ofcourse, you know, outline the tactics and the schedule and so on andso forth. But the plan is the beginning, because your structure follows yourstrategy. It has to be informed by the strategy. So what's the nextstep? Second step in building the structure is to look at the positions thatyou will need in order to deliver the marketing activities that you promise in yourplan. I always advise people start with a blank piece of paper and identifythe positions and the skill sets necessary to deliver your strategic plan. First.Do that first, and then organize these in some logical way and then lookat what you've got to work with in terms of people that are already thereand see if you can match individual people into your ideal structure. And thenit's a process of if you can't, you're going to have to lobby forthe ability to create new positions. You may me may need to ask somepeople to leave or to accept radically different roles that they're going to have toget prepared to do. Is Little adjustment in this in this last phase asyou switch from ideal to reality, but...

...that is essentially the process. Letme recap, do the institutional strategic plan first, then create the ideal structureand set of positions to deliver that plan and then match the reality of whatyou've got to work with into that chart and make some adjustments along the way. Joe, it's such good stuff. And I think you had on somethingreally important that I dealt with when I was at university and in today's stilldeal with our university partners. Is a lot of folks on campus view marketingas just a service operations that they come to them with a problem in marketingjust delivers them explicitly what they asked. The problem that you mentioned is thatthey come with the wrong problem. They say, I need a poster orI need a website where I need social media, and that's not what theyneed. They need to fill, you know, the butts and seats attheir events. They need to fill the butts and seats in their classrooms.And so helping the department think of themselves more strategically and then and then helpingto communicate that with the rest of the university is so important. So lovethose steps you you had one thing I really want to dig into now,because talk to me about how to decide whether to organize around the Unicorns youcurrently have on your team versus organizing around the functional needs of the department's movingforward. If there you those Unicorns were to leave. Well, this isdifficult because decisions like this have a real impact on people's lives right and Eric. I think in my experience most new chief marketing officers who are struggling withthis issue of the structuring have inherited something, and often what they've inherited is waseither a structure and a set of skills that were built for the realityof twenty years ago or a really unplanned department that just sort of grew because, I don't know, times were good...

...and somebody gave the marketing people anotherposition. Right. So I think the best advice I can give is youhave to be disciplined to say the institutional goals come first, then the marketingfunctions that will drive those goals, then the skill sets and the structure thatbest supports that, and then you look at matching people to the work,and I recommend a couple of ways to go about that matching. One isto really explore with your staff what their strengths are. We've used strengths finder, strengths finder two, oh with I've used that twice on different campuses thatI've been on as a way to give people insights into their unique strengths andtalents. And I also recommend using a career conversation, which is a structuredinterview that you can do with your employee to help them articulate their unique strengths, talents and values and help them help you understand where they get the bestsatisfactions. It's often the case that you've got the right person but they're inthe wrong chair. In that case that's just a sort of a realignment andthat's okay. But sometimes you will have a more difficult problem that you've gotthe right person but the chair doesn't exist right you just don't need that functionanymore. I hope. I hope to colleague get at a small private collegelast year go through this exercise and she found that she had a couple ofpeople that were really doing things that the college the new strategic plan she createdjust honestly, they just didn't make sense. These functions were inherited and they mighthave made suns years back, but they were no longer necessary and soshe eliminated those positions and we allocated those dollars to create some new and muchneeded capacity that didn't exist before till.

I love that. Help me understandwhat that looks like when your backfilling positions to so a person leaves. Theywere your email marketer, when you are looking to a refill that, let'ssay that function still needs to exist at your institution. You still deeply believein email marketing. How do you hire for that position where that person canbecome broader than that, where that email marketer can progress into an engagement marker, they can progress into into running marketing automation for your team? How doyou staff for the current day needs while making sure that they have broader talentsthan that and then they can grow with the industry and with your department?You know, Eric, and I know you know this from your time oncampus, we tend to hire people who will come and stay higher. Itis a relatively low turnover environment, right. So we have to think with aneye to ten or even twenty years out where somebody might go. Moreover, our field is changing so that everything is integrating, right. So Ican't afford anymore to have someone who's an expert in just one channel. Iwant them to be able to be comfortable thinking multi channel. Right photography,for example, I don't think we're ever going to hire again someone one whois only a still photographer. Yeah, and need you can do photo,video, motion graphics. You know I need that, that whole package.I think the good news is that there are folks, especially the new generationcoming out of college today, that are much more oriented to multi channel,you know. But you look for the capacity to learn, look for peoplewho have shown over their career the ability to adapt and grow and then investin their growth. The first thing I did when I got to you allmany was asked my president for a budget to support professional development, and hegave that to me with no hesitation,...

...and and our staff here tell meall the time how much that means to them, because the field change isso rapidly. So, in a word, look for the capacity to learn andgrow and look for actual experience in with people that have acquired new skillsets and evolved their roles. Awesome advice. See. You mentioned the field growingso rapidly. Are there any specific positions or specific functional responsibilities you thinkhigh red marking departments are currently underestimating or understating for Oh, absolutely, thefirst thing that comes to mind is research and data analysis. If we aregoing to really be first rate marketers, we have to be data informed,and data today is prolific. Right we leave in the era of big data, so we need people that know how to systematically gather up this data and, more importantly, get the story, get the strategy, get the insightsout of it. Looking at numbers on a page is one thing, butreally understanding the implications for action is quite another. So you know, ifif I had one new position today, I would put it into research anddata analysis. Awesome, it's awesome, great advice. All right, Joe. So let's say that we've identified the business goals of the departments, we'veidentified the marking strategies and necessary to complete those goals, and then we've identifiedthose positions necessary to complete these strategies. How do you best go about communicatingthese new functional changes and, some cases, responsibility changes, with your current staff? Well, this can be difficult because these are real changes that affectpeople's lives. So I think as a good leader you always want to betransparent and you don't want things to be a surprise, big major changes tobe a surprise for people. So I recommend involving your entire staff from thebeginning in the development of the institutional strategic...

...plan. Now, that doesn't meanputting everybody around a table and saying, you know, help me do themarketing plan. I think it means talking to them about what a plan is, it's importance your role in fashioning the plan, soliciting their input along theway and letting them know early on that the plan is going to inform ourpriorities, including how we're organized and what skill sets we need to deliver theplant. So it's no surprise then with the once the plan has been developedand you've built the support of the president, provost another key senior officials, thenbring it back to your staff and share it with them and reveal thestructure and the positions that are necessary to deliver the plan. I think thisis the only way that you that you can do this and not make itseem like it's arbitrary or that you're just favoring some and picking on others.I think. And if you have to deliver bad news or to people,do it privately and do it compassionately, but be firm. You know,high reads a funny place because our faculty culture has tenure. So you knowfaculty never leave right and I think that creeps over a little bit sometimes ontothe staff side, that people kind of consume that you know, things willalways be the way they are obviously not the case in the private sector,but in higher at it's a little different. So you got to be sensitive tothat culture and, you know, stay firm, but but remain compassionate. For many of your staff it's actually a great opportunity, you know,and if you've had those career conversations and done the strengths finder and say hey, I from what I know about you, you're good at this or you're interestedin this, and this is why I'm asking you to step into thischair in our orchestra. You know, it can be a very positive thingbecause all of us humans have an inner...

...need to learn and grow throughout ourentire lifetime. And you know you're you're actually creating an opportunity for people toto try some new things, developed some new skills and gain some new satisfactions. Joe, it's such good stuff. Any final suggestions for I read leaderswho are looking to reorganize their marking department at Their College University. Well,Eric, I'll tell you, this can be really hard work and it's alonely job sometimes to be the chief marketing officer. You don't really have anyother peers who who you can have frank conversations with because they don't really knowyour world right. You know, you may be really friendly with the PROOSTER, the VP of student affairs, they don't know exactly ins and outs.So I would recommend find somebody on the outside. It could be a trustedpeer that you found through Ama, like we connected. It could be anagency partner or an independent consultant, but have someone who only talks to youand you only talk to them and you can lay this out and let themguide you through this process and give you the moral support and sometimes that ittakes to make hard change in your organization. Such great stuff, Joe. Thankyou so much for joining us today. Well, what's the best place forlisteners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? Eric, thank you for having me on and I would invite all of your listenersto connect with me on linked in, just to search my name, JosephBrennan and Albany New York, and and then let me know in your invitationthat you were a listener so that I can recognize you and I will happilyconnect. Awesome, Joe. Thanks against so much for joining us today.Thanks, Chark, this was great and good luck everybody out there and makingthose positive changes. You've been listening to...

...enrollment growth university, from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show andItunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Untilnext time,.

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