At many institutions, faculty and marketing aren’t exactly BFFs.
The two seem locked in a perpetual power struggle, one that isn’t easily avoided—unless the relationship is handled well from the beginning.
We recently had a great conversation with Jillian Coppler, Executive Director of Enrollment Marketing at Fresno Pacific University, about how she and her team have successfully leveraged faculty across all of their enrollment marketing efforts.
Here’s what we learned.
Why It’s So Important to Prioritize Healthy Relationships Between Faculty and Your Enrollment Marketing Office
Early on in her higher ed career, Jill picked up on the tension between enrollment and academics, and it made her curious. She thought it might have been unique to her environment at the time, but it turns out it’s a very common problem in higher ed as a whole.
She began doing annual program director meetings to build a relationship and review the status of things. Those are always tricky because you have to deal with the dynamic of who’s in charge and how everything is going to play out.
Over time she developed a fairly simple working model, a PowerPoint that they review per program. It covers a number of things.
The main thing is future benefits and outcomes. This is a quick review to open up dialogue around how they’re positioning the program and to think about other ways they might enhance their marketing.
They look at the marketplace: what are the career outcomes that students can expect? What are the average salaries? They follow trends year over year and in five-year blocks. They also look at demographics to determine their ideal student for testimonials and marketing.
One of the benefits of these steps is that they create a space where everyone can really talk holistically about the program. Everyone can dialogue look at potential challenges and assets that they can leverage. Eventually, the program inevitably produces solutions and takeaways.
Jill had a program director tell her that these were the best meetings they’d ever had. That’s how you know you’re on the right track.
3 Golden Questions to Ask Faculty in Meetings
Jill has learned three particularly effective questions to ask in these meetings from her years of working with program directors.
They’re pretty straightforward, but they’re a great way to kick off relationships.
1) What drew you into your field?
What are they passionate about? This is an emotional hook that resonates with the kind of student that wants to participate in the director’s program, so it’s really helpful to know.
Whatever the program director’s passionate about in the field, you’ll find that the people who want to pursue that career are usually going to be similarly passionate.
2) What makes the program unique?
In other words, “Is there anything you see in your program that’s different from what others do?”
Answers to this questions can help you stand out from competitors. There are so many programs offered across institutions that are basically the same, so continue to ask that
question: what’s different about you?
3) What’s your favorite thing that you do in the coursework?
It could be a class they teach or an assignment, but usually the answer reflects the aspect of each program that is the most fun most innovative.
Asking this question usually gives you a great story to tell, so these tend to be good fuel for social media or even video. The answer to this question is a goldmine for content marketing.
How to Balance Getting Faculty Help and Maintaining Control
It’s worth asking: how do you strike a balance between getting faculty help and buy-in on your marketing efforts without giving up control altogether?
This is something that everyone in enrollment-related higher-ed marketing struggles with. The power struggle is real, and the only way to take things out of that realm is to focus on relationships. This is why those golden questions are so helpful: when you ask questions instead of making statements, you’re already postured differently.
It’s also helpful to understand what faculty have at stake. You may be looking at 65-plus program directors that you’re trying to engage a relationship with, but the same can’t be said for your faculty. They’re focused on their program and the marketing for that Program.
Put yourself in their space and understand that there’s a lot of fear when a program is declining in numbers, especially because this is the thing that a faculty member has probably invested most of their life in developing, either through their own education or through the curriculum development.
Jill’s other suggestion is to do your own homework. That’s the value of the PowerPoint presentations that she does, because they give a lot of data.
Having data shows faculty that you really care about their program, that you’re looking at it from multiple lenses and trying to be strategic and thoughtful about solving problems that may be arising.
It also helps you talk more realistically about the health of the program, which is vital.
“We can continue to promote and promote and promote,” Jill said, “but if it’s something that’s in discord, all we’re doing is drawing people’s attention to something that’s not great.”
How to Approach Faculty Collaboration at Your Institution
In the end, how you approach faculty goes a long way toward your relationship with them.
If you approach the relationship from a place of a power struggle, that’s all it’s ever going to be. But if you take time to reposition yourself, you will invite other people to do the same.
Ask yourself: What am I hoping to get out of this? Not just in terms of a business outcome, but in terms of collaborating as a team. Jill said it best:
“We all have to be in this as a team.”
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