UNIVERSITY: Rethinking Marketing Priorities and Structure

university1Background
A well known Evangelical Christian university had expanded its graduate, community, and international programs outside its primary suburban campus. The ambitious effort had resulted in varying degrees of success and mixed reviews.

A director of marketing position was born out of that spirit of expansion. However, the role was ill-defined, generated confusion and dissatisfaction, which, after two years, led to the director’s resignation. I was retained to reassess the marketing function’s purpose and structure.

Challenges

  • Faculty and staff, whose support of marketing was critical, differed on its definition.
  • Was the client prepared for the significant change I sensed was needed?
  • I had only three billable days to investigate, solve, and recommend a workable plan.

Strategy/tactics
Since the university had scant, hard market research data. I knew I would have to extract audience, product, and related marketing information from interviews. Three days and 19 interviews later with administrators, faculty, and marketing staff, I learned that:

  • the school was awash in information – publications, reports, memos, etc. — but deficient in communication that produced understanding;
  • no one knew if any of the “stuff” being generated from multiple sources around campus was having any impact;
  • the organization was passionately mission-driven, but not market-driven;
  • a unifying brand was needed because the school’s parts were promoting themselves as brands, not products;
  • a value offering was missing; and
  • nobody was clearly in charge of the message, the brand, or communication channels.

Among my recommendations

  • renaming Marketing as “Communication and Marketing,” in part for symbolic reasons, to differentiate the two activities and set the stage for incorporating into one department all the loose-ended “communication” activities dispersed around campus.
  • hiring a seasoned, successful, and decisive branding-minded professional at the vice president level, who was willing to sacrifice salary dollars for making a difference in the lives of young people.
  • building a four-person staff of strategic-minded, creative, results-driven professionals who would be credible in the academic community.
  • assigning, as the first priority of the new Communication and Marketing staff, the preparation of a one-year and long-range, researched, integrated plans that would define and build from the university’s value statement.

Results
The university’s leadership acted quickly on my recommendations regarding the need for a senior-marketing
position and the type of individual to fill that role. I was asked to:

  • write the job description;
  • advertise the position;
  • filter the applications for the best-equipped candidates;
  • help conduct the interviews; and
  • participate in the final selection.

As that new vice president of marketing was about to join the university, the president was already speaking publicly about the need for the school to clearly establish its identity and value.