Android in the Athenaeum

Yesterday I was in London, chairing the Digital Landscape for Student Recruitment in 2009 event and playing with my new Android phone.

One of the Android’s features is its Googlemapping, GPS and compass features, which proved useful in finding the venue. The Athenauem is sign-free on the outside, apart from some Greek letters set into the doorstep – a bit like the fraternity houses I’ve seen in American films. Inside, any resemblance to such things ceases, as one is confronted by statues, wood panelling and the magnificent sweeping staircase where (as I learned) Dickens once had a famous reconciliation with Thackeray.

I had stressed about the dress code, checking repeatedly that I had a tie with me with the paranoia of someone about to emigrate checking their passport. Judging by the assorted jeans, open-necked shirts and jacket-free torsos around the place I needn’t have worried – shorts and the ‘Vive l’anarchie’ t-shirt I had slept in would have done at a pinch…

Our morning exploring the digital landscape was very fruitful. From a mixture of agency presentations and university case studies I learned useful stuff about mobile marketing, the relationship between search and online display ads, uses of student ambassadors in forums… all practical things to take away. I am glad sessions like this have progressed beyond the ‘here’s what social networking is – we need to think about whether to engage with it’ stage.

And I recommend the club claret.

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.

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.

CASE 2008: Brighton Beach Memories

Having read Mike Nolan’s series of posts on the 2008 CASE Conference, I thought I would set down some thoughts of my own, before the memories fade like abandoned flip-flops carried away by the tide.

As a marketer, I’m defaulting to the classic ‘four Ps’ structure. Normally these are Product, Price, Place and Promotion but in this case I’ve let them undergo a kind of Brightonian candy-floss mutation into Professional Insight, Pub Time, Psychogeography and Personal Grooming…

Professional Insight
I won’t attempt to summarise all 150 sessions, or even the dozen or so I attended. However a few nuggets have stayed with me from some of the talks, workshops and roundtables…

The plenary of the Marketing Track (which I had programmed alongside Emma Leech of MMU) was a firework display of ideas from trends researcher Sean Pillot de Chenecey – a rapid-fire, blink-and-you’ll-miss-five-ideas overview of emerging brands and communication trends. One thing I took away from it was the idea that older people are cool (‘Iggy Pop is 60!’) – having lived with youth culture since 1954, an exemplar mature person could be someone like Mick Jones (former Clash member, half of Carbon/Silicon and Libertines collaborator) rather than, say, Terry Scott – so no need to design materials for ‘returners to study’ to look like The People’s Friend or an Ovaltine advert.

Lorraine Westwood from Foundation Degree Forward challenged our thinking on working with employers and work-based learning, with real examples of fruitful engagement in this challenging area.

The next day, a Breakfast Roundtable on Marketing the Multi-Site Institution, led by Martin Wright from the University of the Highlands and Islands (which is about as multi-site as you can get, operating from the Shetlands to Argyll) provided a thought-provoking start to the day. Being physically distributed is just one of the inherent complexities of HE, and internal communication with staff is a key aspect of holding together a coherent brand.

Claire Brown and Matt Smith from Liverpool University delivered a fascinating session on Consumer Buying behaviour and the HE Decision Making Process, showing how academic research had informed successful recruitment initiatives. It would be interesting to see if the model described works similarly with different groups of students (thinking in particular about Paul Greenbank and Sue Hepworth’s research into working class students and the career decision-making process ).

Using Research to Develop a Market-based Portfolio, by Helen Clapham and Abigail Harrison-Moore from Leeds University again showed marketing thinking turned into real outcomes. It was particularly good to see a collaboration between an academic department and the professional marketing team producing demonstrable good practice. Academics and marketers don’t always understand each other, and there are unfortunate examples of each diabolising the other as the source of all problems, so an example of positive collaboration was very welcome.

Another day, another Breakfast Roundtable – this time lead by Alison Wildish: Web + Marketing = the Future. There was a lot of Web 2.0 discussion at the Conference, to the point of overlap, but this session added some useful points to the ongoing convresation.

Marketing Success through Diversity, Nicola Dandridge (Chief Executive of the Equality Challenge University) contributed to another ongoing conversation – the relationship between the equality agenda and the marketing communications that emanate from HE. All of us want to move beyond compliance and avoid tokenism, and Nicola’s presentation and the discussion it led to were helpful in thinking through how to achieve this. A topic that needs to be revisited.

Pub time!
Conferences aren’t just about the formal sessions. The aura of enthusiasm from nearly 1,000* colleagues being in the same place at the same time would give the most jaded professional a transfusion of jouissance. And there was networking a plenty, like a superaccelerated Brownian motion. I can already attest to the fact that the camaraderie of fellow professionals lives on beyond the event. Thinking about it, I didn’t actually get to any pubs after the mini-tour of Sussex real ale I contrived with Mike on Bank Holiday Monday, but the social programme (in the Pavilion, Dome, and (endlessly) in the hotel itself) was good and ‘very Brighton’.

At least one reader of University blogs likes to be given a proper sense of place, so here goes. The conference was based at the Brighton Hilton Metropole @50.822130, -0.149340 in the zone where the central retail district hits the sea and transforms into the tourism, entertainment and business accommodation band of the coastal margin. Having been born in Brighton and lived there for 25 years, coming back as a business tourist was weird – like revisiting my own life from the outside. The Metropole is next door to the Grand, where (as the tourist guide reminded us) an IRA detonated a bomb in 1984. I used to walk to work along the seafront and remember that day, the beach transformed into a crime scene and an odd sense of carnival as routine was broken and we all had to walk to work a different way.

Personal grooming
I was due to pick up the certificate for our Gold Award from the CASE Circle of Excellence during the gala dinner on the last night. By then my normal suit was like a limp rag, and as I didn’t want to shamble across the stage to collect an international award looking as if I’d slept under the pier, I dashed out to Mod clothes shop Jump the Gun in the North Laine and got reclothed from neck to toe, including the narrowest trousers I’ve worn since 1978. (I resisted the temptation to ride across the stage on a Vespa, even though to do so would have been technically possible given the proximity of a loading bay hidden just behind the stage.) Crossing the platform amidst swelling applause was quite a thrill, so much so that, in a moment of introvert flamboyance, I made a two-handed ‘fists of rock’ gesture… which amused my team but, given its vast array of meanings, may have confused delegates from around the world. But I’ll always be welcome at Satanist groups and Texas Longhorns games…

* Statistics show that, out of this number of visitors to the town, 10 will now remain on a permanent basis: eight to work in bars and restaurants; one to open a bar of their own; and one to make a living as a street performer.