Web, PR, Admissions = Great Discussion

Okay, I’ve been wrestling with something for months and Matthew Herzberger’s recent post really pulled things together for me.  Well, actually it was the comments that brought things into focus. 

What I’d like is for you to go to his post, read it and the comments.  Then come back here.

(Time passes. . . .)

Okay, you’re back? 

Matt’s post was a well-done rant of a passionate, frustrated Web guy who needs to reach out and share his thoughts (and despondency) with others of us who have felt the same need to find a high cliff.

Several people agreed with him. 

Then Karyn entered. 

Whoah!  New spin on this discussion!

It was an extraordinary conversation, the kind we should be having more often. 

We have stats freaks.  We have Matt who likes stories and anecdotal evidence (same here, but I’m wading into the world of stats at the strong request of my boss). 

But most importantly, we have actual discussion among professionals from different fields of expertise.  

There are three groups today that should be merging and working as one team: The Web team, public relations, and admissions. 

As PR director, I work closely with admissions to motivate students to inquire about our university.  After they inquire, it’s up to admissions to lead them through the next steps.

We try to reach students through traditional advertising and, increasingly, marketing on the Web. 

So I need to understand how the admissions process works.  The admissions director has taken me through a full recruiting cycle.  I’ve gone out on the road with them to college fairs and high schools to experience the break-neck pace, the rushing crowds, smart students and students who should pursue careers as shepherds.

I need to understand Web folks, how they think, talk, and operate and the pressures they face daily.   They also need to understand my role in PR, marketing, and being responsible for the institution’s image.  We need not only to interact, but to actually work together. 

While each of us has several departmental goals, our common goal is to make a variety of publics aware of the university in a truthful, positive manner.

At Mansfield, the Web folks, admissions and PR have been talking more frequently with the development of a content management system.  I’m sure we’ll continue working together after it goes live. 

And I think discussions like the one on Matt’s post should continue. 

In his comment, Kyle  said : “We are the pioneers and the explorers.”  Okay, that means the rules are still being formed.  We’re still defining the terrain.  And, hopefully, we’re coming together as a team, learning each other’s language and experimenting our way toward a common community.

The beauty of the Matt post/discussion is that the various points  of view are presented in a civil, respectful way by thoughtful, passionate professionals.

It made me think.

And that’s what higher education is all about.

What are your thoughts?



12 responses to “Web, PR, Admissions = Great Discussion

  1. I left most of my thoughts over there on the post. I would also recommend reading Karlyn’s blog response, Assigning value to determine ROI.

    Another really good article that really shows you the variety of individuals in varied roles just in a corporate Analytics setting is this article The Multichannel Analytics Team?.

    The truth is to run a solid internet marketing and PR campaign you need a slew of specialized individuals. A project manager, web developer, web programmer, content editor, graphic designer, search optimizer, web analyst, PPC manager, social media marketer, and more.

    The frustration comes out when people who don’t understand the web just expect us to do all this because they don’t truly understand the specializations that go into it. 🙂

  2. I don’t necessarily think these offices should be merged but I do think you need hybrid practitioners in both your admissions and development offices that work side-by-side with the greater university web teams to make sure all the work is complimentary. Those are the two big “money makers” at any university and their audience has a very different set of needs. From first-hand experience (hahaha, I’m using a story as evidence 😉 I think that the best way to achieve success is to be immerse in the environment full time.

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  4. You mention PR people experiencing admissions, and I think web folks should experience the PR and admissions sides of things as well. I love Twitter, for example, and will evangelize about it to anyone who asks, but I need to be careful to not storm into the Admissions office and say “we must use Twitter right now!” We’ve got to sit down, explain, show, etc. Same goes for Facebook, YouTube, etc. Getting them on board sometimes is a different story.

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  6. This really is the discussion I’ve been wanting to have and I’d encourage everyone to add your thoughts.
    I’d say we’re at a crossroads but we’re really at the beginning of a new journey that all of us have to take together. First we have to figure out our respective roles in relation to each other, then we have to get the support of the administration. (Notice how easy that is to say (as in “okay, let’s move that mountain, not far, maybe a couple inches. All together now. . .)
    I totally agree with Karlyn, especially since she used a story to make her point.
    Kyle is right in that there are a lot of different skill sets that any one individual will never have in total, which gets back to Karlyn’s point.
    Mike, you’re right on about it all being a long, sometimes arduous education process.
    Andrew, someday I’ll do a post on the haphazard way I came up with my blog title. In the meantime, thanks for your kind words.
    I’ll also do a post on my working relationship with admissions and with the Web folks who once labeled me “certifiably untrainable” (for some fairly good reasons).
    This is a really good and important discussion. Maybe at some point we can consolidate all this into a group article that all of us can use to take to admissions, IT, VPs, presidents, etc.
    After all, we’re the folks in the trenches working out the problems in the best interests of our institutions.
    Or, as Kyle says, the “pioneers.” I like that better.
    So please keep the thoughtful comments coming and maybe we can build a strong case statement together.

  7. I have been blessed to work at a large institution where our leaders have realized the need for communication and cooperation very early. We have a Communications department that houses PR, Publications (print pieces), Video, Postal (in-house mailing services) and Interactive Media (mostly web related). We also have an Undergraduate Admissions Office (where I “reside”). I work closely with the University Communications department as an “adviser” on how to leverage interactive recruitment and retention strategies based on my skill-sets. We also have a marketing director that acts as a liaison between these two offices (though also “resides” in the Admissions office) in relation to all other marketing (big-picture strategies and print).

    With the exception of interactive media (which is my role), all marketing is coordinated by the liaison and produced by the communications office with the primary audience of prospective undergraduate students.

    My office (Admissions) has been on the cutting-edge of utilizing CRM philosophies and technologies for recruitment. We are in the beginning stages of advancing this to all departments on campus; University Communications and Admissions will be more tied together as we learn from each other.

    The missing piece in all of this is IT. Both UCOMM and Admissions have had to spend unnecessary parts of our budgets on IT staffing because of a lack of advancement and adaptation of new technologies from IT staff on campus (our main server hosting unl.edu had no database connection 😦 ). A recent reshuffle in IT leadership, though, has the sweet smell of change in the air.

  8. “There are three groups today that should be merging and working as one team: The Web team, public relations, and admissions.”

    I would add (at least in my environment) alumni relations and development; and maybe career services. There is a convergence among tools being used, channels, messages and audiences that makes even broader collaboration desirable. Of course, the broader you try to get, the more elusive consensus becomes. But the discussion itself is worth a great deal and helps us educate our colleagues across campus.

    Good points on this discussion. Thanks.

  9. Good point, Andy. And you’re right that right now the discussion is everything. Thanks.

  10. I’d really like to see Admissions/Web/PR evolve into a Student Affairs-type model. With a senior (possibly cabinet-level) person in charge and more interaction amongst the departments.

    At our .edu Res Life, Student Activities, Campus Security, and Student Services all fall under the Dean of Students and there is a lot more professional interaction and collaboration. And, I think it has improved the quality of services.

    I want to have someone managing the “Student Engagement Experience.” With Admissions and Financial Aid on the prospect end, Student Life in the Middle, and Alumni/Development taking over after graduation. With PR/Web teams providing the “know-how” to make it happen throughout the process.

    I don’t see why Class of ‘2013 group can’t be started by admissions (let’s say on Facebook) and used for recruitment, then after deposit converted into a student portal system, and later used to provide services for alums. Especially with XML and OpenID technologies readily available.

    but it’s early and I haven’t eaten breakfast.

  11. Really good thoughts, Jamie. What you say makes a lot of sense. Brad Ward at Squared Peg is doing a “class of” Facebook experiment on the order of what you are suggesting http://squaredpeg.com/
    He reports on it in his March 26 post.
    (Somebody tell me how to create a link in the “comments” section).
    Thanks again for your thoughts. I’m saving all of the comments for a group article done by the BlogHighEd Irregulars, so,everyone keep your thougts coming.

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