People who need people

Looking at my diary, I have booked to attend three seminars about online media marketing for HE over the next couple of months. I started thinking about a mildly satirical piece on this – how despite the Internet we’re still catching real trains, meeting in real function rooms, drinking real coffee. But then I thought – what’s wrong with that? Isn’t that how it should be?

Sure, online media and virtual environments mean it is possible to interact in ways that don’t involve a ‘fleshmeet’. There are new ways of doing things without meeting up, such socialising, learning, buying stuff – meaning fewer real-world encounters. But the new channels also create new ways for people to meet in reality – meaning additional real-world encounters. The forthcoming Twestivals around the globe – where Twitter users will attend events with music and various kinds of fun and frolic – are a great example. (There’s one in Liverpool if you fancy it.)

The Digital Landscape for Student Recruitment in 2009

In March I’ll be chairing this event:

The Digital Landscape for Student Recruitment in 2009

Thursday 26th March 2009
9.30am-1.00pm (lunch included)
The Athenaeum, 116 Piccadilly, London W1

Interested? Then ponder these things in your heart: “Are you responsible for directing your institution’s student recruitment strategy? Are you looking to make the most of web 2.0 to boost your admissions?”

Have you answered yes? The next step is obvious: “join us in London for this FREE half-day seminar.”

Here’s what will happen if you do:

“Delegates will learn from HEIs and experts on the following topics:

* effective mobile campaigns;
* beyond the banner—examples on how to fully engage with potential students on UGC sites;
* tips on successful SEO;
* the latest 2009 research from The Student Room’s users (including the users’ insights on what sort of online campaigns work!); and
* a Q&A panel including representatives from HEIs, Blyk and The Student Room.”

No doubt you’re sold on it by now and will immediately want to ‘book online here‘.

I look forward to seeing you there.

It sounds great and I would probably have gone even if I wasn’t chairing it. I got quite excited about The Athenaeum as a venue – thinking it was the club in Pall Mall, and that I’d be rubbing shoulders with the shades of Ormskirk statue-man D’Israeli and other luminaries, as well as those of clubland heroes from the works of Sapper, Dornford Yates and John Buchan (assuming that fictional characters can have shades.) However this Athenaeum is a hotel in Piccadilly – which looks perfectly acceptable. (Update – it is in fact in the club – early information was misleading. I’m sure participants will get full instructions but do please niote it ISN’T in the hotel.)

A colleague Twittered that he looked forward to ‘seeing me in action’ – and I’m trying to think how action-packed my chairing can possibly be. Thinking back to my clubland fantasy, John Buchan’s Richard Hannay was certainly a man of action. Perhaps I should model my performance on his improvised political speech in The 39 Steps, depicted here (7’13” onwards).

I’ll buy a tweed suit with a hint of digital about it forthwith.

Black Sun Rising

Glancing at the webcam this morning, I saw what appeared to be a black sun rising over the Business School building (home of Criminology, Law and Management programmes.) Or perhaps a black hole has formed, somewhere over Aughton.

We have been briefed to expect a challenging year, but being sucked acrooss the event horizon into singularity would in my view be a bit much.

Fortunately the black dot is an optical illusion and cosmic catastrophe did not occur today, at least not yet. The Business School remains intact and looks very splendid:

More pics here.

Pop endorsement

Iggy Pop is the latest is celebrity advertiser, fronting a multi-media campaign for online insurer Swiftcover…

“We feel this new and unique approach reflects our positioning as a young and innovative company” says their marketing director, and seeing ‘the world’s forgotten boy’ larking around on my telly certainly got my attention. Clearly the choice is deliberately unexpected, incongruous and designed to generate PR.

Higher education has used somewhat tamer characters in its advertising, such as Patrick Stewart (Huddersfield) and John Simm (Blackpool & the Fylde). As a Chancellor and an alumnus respectively, these folks had a direct connection with the ‘product’ being promoted. It’s hard to imagine Iggy (famous for antics such as rolling around in broken glass onstage, and credited with inventing the stage dive) sorting out his finances on the internet, and the ad doesn’t depend on us believing that he is an actual customer. He’s there as a signifier of the ‘life’ we can ‘get’ if we save time by using handy online insurance: a life that could be as thrill-packed and wilfully-expressed as that of the shirtless old man bouncing around our TV screens. (Of course, the actual Pop life may not be that of the ‘Real Wild Child’ of his lyrics; he plays golf, and has a piece in an academic journal in his CV – but none of that matters, he embodies his own legend.)

Which leads me to think – are there cultural figures, not actually connected with Universities, who could embody their values

Seven Deadly New Year’s Resolutions

I have always been a fan of the Seven Deadly Sins, ever since I stayed up to watch the original Bedazzled movie, back when Christmas telly was good. So I thought it would good to devise marketing-related New Year’s Resolutions, based on the handy readymade structure of the ‘capital vices’. The idea isn’t to commit all the sins (in some spectacular orgy of Sadean libertinage); rather, it’s to figure out how to avoid them, and stay on the narrow way of goodness combined with the shining path of marketing success 😉

So what have we got to contend with? Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride comprise the traditional menu, with corresponding virtues: chastity, temperance etc. So let’s sort ’em out.

Lust
Tricky one this – what kind of marketing lust might we fall prey to? Dante defined it as ‘excessive love of others’ so let’s avoid promiscuously courting random people – and instead try and fill our databases, Facebook friend lists etc with genuine potential customers, with whom we can have meaningful relationships.

Gluttony
doesn’t just refer to food, though personally I do intent to follow Thomas Aquinas’ example and avoid eating ‘too much’, ‘too daintily’ or conversely ‘wildly’. Gluttony is also about waste – so our diligent value-for-money procurement, environmentally-friendly production methods and highly-targeted (or non-lustful) marketing will put us on the right side of this one.

Greed

is slightly different – a sin of excess involving the accumulation of wealth. Isn’t this what marketing people are interested in? Maybe, though in the public sector we aren’t creating profits for shareholders. We do intend to raise £1.3m in philanthropic income over the next three years. That will of course be charity – the virtue corresponding to the vice of greed – so we’ll definitely be on the side of the angels.

Sloth
can’t be good, and I’ll be fitting in some regular blood-pumping, endorphin-liberating, cholestertol-lowering exercise by walking around the campus, into town and maybe even through the woods, inspired by the Urban Walks scheme. Within the department, as well as maintaining a white-hot rate of busy-ness, we’ll be going above and beyond by working on an exciting action research project, of which more in a later post.

Wrath
can be manifested as impatience, and in a sense we’re paid to be impatient as we’re all trying to improve things; to move with speed from where we are now to where we want to be. However the Devil’s in the detail, and we need to get things right as well as forging ahead. So I’m resolving to avoid overhastiness…

Envy
played by Barry Humphries in the 1967 version of Bedazzled, is another kind of insatiable desire, wanting what others have. ‘Envious marketing’ could manifest itself as lookalike advertising, trying to resemble another institution or organisation. I’d like us to carry on being distinctive and ploughing our own furough.

Finally Pride – a difficult one as we’re often beating ourselves up for being too shy and retiring as an institution. And, yes, I’d like us to win more awards and recognition. Perhaps marketing departments are a kind of professional boasters, absorbing hubris like a medieval Sin Eater? I don’t think this is the case – as any marketing claims we make have to be based on substance. So another resolution is to focus on credibility and keep it real…

Trying to Cover It Live

Last Saturday we used the Graduation Ceremony as an opportunity to try an experiment in live blogging, using an online tool called Cover It Live. You can see the results here.

CoverItLive has some neat features and is pretty easy to use. People with ‘Producer’ accounts get a simple editing window with the usual tools for formatting, links etc. There can be multiple ‘producers’ at one time. The audience can comment, and comments can be moderated. It can be set up to receive messages from Twitter therefore allowing posts to come in from any person/device using Twitter – I texted a few bits in to test this out. (Unfortunately we forgot to turn this off so some of my presumed-personal ones appeared this morning – nothing too psychotic or surreal luckily.)

The big disappointment from Saturday was that we couldn’t get the ‘media uploader’ to work, so adding pictures was very diufficult. As there isn’t a lot to say about a graduation, this was limiting – I think it would have been best as a photo-stream with a few comments, giving a less formal view on the event before/during/after. Next time maybe.

Live blogging could work well for all sorts of events. We only scratched the surface – video, audio, and polls could be used also. Given a bit of person-power a conference, for instance, could have a live blog.

Thanks to everyone who participated, specially ‘official blogger’ Tom.

Update: Experimenting later we have found that (for us) the media uploader function works in Firefox, but not IE.

Leadership in Development Management – days 3-5

Day 3
We relocate to Orlando, basing ourselves in a hotel complex designed to look like an Italian village – a impressive example of the hyperreal copy-world charted by Baudrillard et al. The hotel may have be inauthentic, but there is nothing fake about the development professionals we meet, who show deep commitment based on a profound understanding of their institutions’ aims. Which makes me think – people working in alumni and development talk a lot about building affinity – a good starting point is the affinity between alumni staff themselves and the institutions they work for.
Lunch at Rollins College gives us a snapshot of campus life, as we pass students with laptops and lunchboxes in the sun. I felt at home in a university founded in 1885, with a strong focus on applied learning in an attractive campus – just like Edge Hill! Among many enviably successful projects, we learned of a parents’ programme which brings in support from people already paying $40-$50k per annum in fees.

Later we visit the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, part of the University of Central Florida. Rosen is a four-year-old campus created by the gifts of one individual, so we are literally sitting in the concrete results of philanthropy. In parallel with the campus development, the hospitality discipline has become a college in its own right and grown both staff and students. Undoubtedly impressive, this raises some interesting questions about the influence of philanthropy on the pace and direction of change in academic structures.
Notes from today: setting up a development operation is hard work, like ‘pushing boulders uphill’, but the rewards can be significant. And it all comes back to relationships: gifts are made to people, not institutions.

Day 4
Our last visit takes us to Seminole Community College. SCC take a distinctive approach, ignoring alumni in favour of focusing on major gifts. The hi-tech campus to me exemplified a market-driven approach – labs named after client companies and offices rented by external organisations showing how the College and its stakeholders work together.

Fundraising here seems to be about finding partners with shared objectives and working to achieve mutual ends – making me think that what we would call ‘business development’ has a lot of similarities to fundraising.

Back at the fantasy hotel, the group shared yet another meal. Forming a network has been an objective of the programme, and there is plenty of mutual support and optimism in evidence over the ranch dressing and chipotle sauce.

Final day
Our last morning, and time to meet two Presidents. Not the shiny new President Elect, whose presence has infused the places we have been with a palpable sense of optimism; and not the other fellow currently shuffling greyly away from offfice. Instead we meet Ann McGee, President of Seminole Community College, and Rita Bornstein, President Emeritus of Rollins College; living embodiments of two of the institutions we have visited. Their electrifying presentations cover the role of institutional leaders, with ‘understanding of how to ask for money and who should do the asking’ being one of the key qualities. I suspect that few UK Vice-Chancellors’ job descriptions identify this quite so explicitly, although this may change if philanthropy does indeed become part of the mainstream. The relationship between President and Chief Development Officer is explored: the CDO should ‘push’ the President and ‘make the trains run on time’, perhaps literally as US institutional leaders do seem to expect, and be expected, to act as road warriors, spending significant amounts of time meeting donors. The parting message, one that has been returned to relentlessly each day this week, is one that UK institutions will hear increasingly: before you leave , don’t forget to actually ask for the money.

Leadership in Development Management Day 2

Building fundraising teams is a challenge, especially in the UK where there is a dearth of ready-made talent waiting to be hired. So another day looking at leadership, this time in a broader organisational setting, has been useful. Change management emerged as strong theme. The (re)development of philanthropic culture in HE involves major cultural change, which takes place amidst many other changes in the sector and in society – so no wonder ‘tolerance of ambiguity’ was listed as a virtue to seek and cultivate in team members. As the day unfolded, key differences between UK and US employment practices became apparent – it seems that in America even public institutions have a more flexible approach to hiring and firing than we do. Language differences also cropped up now and again. I was familiar with the word ‘Faculty’ as the descriptor for academic staff rather than an organisational unit, but had not come across the usage of ‘staff’ as a verb, something you can do to a person, as in ‘how are we staffing the Vice-Chancellor’ – meaning not ‘providing the V-C with staff’, but ‘supporting the V-C in staff-like ways’.

Leadership in Development Management Day 1

We join the larger group of US delegates for the start of a two-day conference, filling a large windowless hall with our interpretations of business casual dress. Like ourselves, the Americans work at a range of institution-types: there are delegates from community colleges, large universities and, surprisingly, the National Rifle Association. Many of us are expanding our fundraising operations, launching them from scratch or rebooting them, so people management is important and that is the focus of today’s sessions. We explore communications and relationships, assess our ‘Management and Leadership IQ (c)’.

Later, while the US contingent head out to alluring-sounding restaurants, the Brits stay in the hotel discussing the intricacies of our matched funding scheme. One institution gets a round of applause for having already achieved their target for the three-year period. As we share the joy, I’m reminded of a slide from earlier in the day quoted a neurological study indicating that altruistic giving stimulates the same parts of the brain as sex. Arguably, then, we are working in a benign version of the sex industry, an insight worth a 4000-mile trip to unlock: ‘Know Thyself’ being a key precept of leadership.

Leadership in Development Management – Day 0

I’ve been fortunate enough to obtain a scholarship for a place on the Leadership in Development Management programme run by CASE. The programme is for people involved in fundraising and related activities, particularly those new to their roles. 20 of these folks have converged on Sarasota in Florida where we will participate in a 2-day conference with US colleagues and have a study tour of institutions of various kinds. The programme has been well planned so that we don’t only visit high fliers with billion-dollar campaigns – we will also meet people from more modest institutions who have had an uphill struggle setting up their development operations.

The context for the programme is the opportunities created by the Government’s £200m matched funding scheme, which for the next three years will provide additional funds matching philanthropic giving to HE from organisations and individuals, in our case adding 50p to every pound raised, up to £1.3m. That’s ten bob in the old money added on to every pound we raise, and well worth having. With that in mind, my question for the week is what kind of fundraising programme would work at EHU? What is the best model for us, specifically, with our distinctive mission, subject mix, and body of alumni?

Did I mention that it’s in Florida? The venue makes a nice change from a wet and prematurely wintry UK – although we’ll be working hard in a programme which, frankly, looks pretty challenging, feeling some sun though the window will be great and occasionally glimpsing some blue sky will be pleasant.

We arrived late on Saturday night and had some free time on Sunday morning, blogged about elsewhere. The afternoon was taken up with an orientation session where the differences between our 20 institutions, and the common themes we share, became apparent.

Physically I’m still on UK time so early nights and mornings are the order of the day – in my case seeking out the earliest possible coffee availability.

Hope to blog more as the opportunity arises.