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An Admissions + Marketing Organization

June 5, 2011

For most of the 20+ years that I have led an admissions and enrollment team, I have also led marketing, and have come to believe in the effectiveness of an organization responsible for both, especially at a tuition-driven institution, and certainly in light of a new market environment.

Marketing ROI tied to meeting enrollment goals

Typically at small colleges and universities, marketing has been organizationally aligned with university advancement. Historically, marketing was largely seen as being about publications, advertising, and maybe media relations. It supported admissions.

Now at many tuition-dependent institutions, including my own, marketing and admissions have been brought under the same tent because of the importance of meeting enrollment and revenue goals. Now more than ever, marketing’s return on investment is measured by enrollment numbers.

Organization does affect collaboration and message

The role of Admissions is clearly understood by faculty and academic leadership. It’s woven into the fabric of the academy, as it’s about recruiting students. Marketing is not seen the same way by faculty. But a leader who represents both marketing and admissions is in a position to have influence.

If faculty are tending the vineyard, an admissions/marketing leader needs to be seen as tending it with them.

That means serving on committees and developing key relationships outside of those committees, both of which–if the marketing/admissions leader has the interpersonal skills to pull it off–will give the marketing leader a voice for the marketing perspective on campus, and consequently, a better chance at collaboration, a key ingredient for his/her success, and at connecting marketing and branding with admissions. Because the connection does matter.

Disconnect marketing from student recruitment, and it’s just tactics. Disconnect branding from admissions, and it sounds to many like over-inflated nonsense, just the sort of thing faculty perceive marketing to be.

However, walk the vineyard with faculty throughout the semester and talk to them about how institutional programs and policies are affecting brand and the ability to recruit their students, and you may eventually get their attention.

The marketing environment has changed

There’s been a sea change that has altered the organizational alignment of marketing (and PR), and it’s blurred the lines between admissions recruiting and marketing, between PR and social media.

Tell me, in today’s world of social media, mobile communications, and technology-empowered prospective students, where does marketing end and admissions recruiting begin for undergraduate, graduate, and adult markets?  For example, is Facebook a marketing tactic, a PR channel, or a communications tool for admissions counselors? Try all of the above. 

Every campus has its history, politics, and bizarre organizational alignments, so in this case one size won’t fit all.  But I’ve found that with the blurred lines of this new market environment, a marketing division and its leader should be strategically situated in the trenches with the institution’s admissions and enrollment professionals, collaborating with academic leadership, and figuring out how to brand and promote the university and its programs, with the ultimate goal of meeting enrollment and revenue goals.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Veronica permalink
    June 5, 2011 5:33 PM

    Granted I’m new at this but having Marketing in the hands of Advancement never made sense to me. Admissions sells the WHOLE institution and has the responsibilty of being in the know with all things on the campus. It only makes sense that they have a strong direct connection to the marketing team/department.

    • Rick Hardy permalink
      June 5, 2011 5:48 PM

      Veronica, thanks for your comment. Well said. There’s no doubt that the admissions team works more closely with faculty and academic departments, and that admissions and advancement have different frames of reference. It can work either way, but I concur that it makes a lot of sense to tie marketing to admissions.

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