May 22, 2017
Kicking Away the Crutches
We recently spent a few days hosting what we like to call “Brand Camp” at a small, private university in the midwest.
Brand Camp is just a fun way for us to conduct training and workshops with the purpose of getting admissions, administration, advancement, students, and others on the same page with a new brand concept and its tone and voice.
With some groups, we are focusing on the creative, with others we discuss key talking points, and with others our focus is on getting them to rethink what marketing materials are needed or how they could be used more effectively.
Which brings us to admissions. We’ve been working with the VP of Enrollment and the VP of Marketing to rethink the viewbook, both from design and utility. Collectively, we felt we were in a good place to begin the discussion with the admissions counselors. We knew there would be pushback, and there were good critiques and feedback. But when we really pulled away from the piece of collateral itself, it was easy to see this had little to do with any creative. It had to do with how effective these counselors thought they could do their jobs. And the viewbook was just a crutch. A podium to stand behind. A Power Point presentation (this was a literal example).
And that’s ok. At many schools, admissions counselors are young and in a lot of cases this is their first job out of school. Their youth hasn’t allowed them to fail and learn a million times over like the rest of us. It’s natural for them to rely on things like viewbooks but they are incredibly talented and insightful. Understanding the balance between giving them a crutch and kicking the crutches out from under them is vital to the success of the admissions team.
So, before jumping into your next piece of collateral, here’s a few things to think on.
It would be interesting to know how much higher ed marketing collateral ends up in a recycle bin. I don’t want to think about it to be honest. All the more reason to think how staff should use it, or more importantly, how the audience will actually find value in it. We marketers and staffers can think through cool new uses and functionality all we want, but we’d be better off just asking the users themselves. Pull together a group of new students, senior staff, and a few counselors and work through it.
Hold a pre-design workshop
Getting buy-in early is huge in any project. They are much more likely to use a new piece and make it their own if they are involved in the process. And this is important because no piece, even in print, should be set in stone. It should be built upon through their own stories and experiences, and not read like a script. Of course, rather than just whiteboarding feedback with no context, we’d recommend presenting an early prototype or wireframe to discuss what types of content may be included and the initial direction for the piece. This is a great way to set the stage for challenging the way they are currently telling stories and using collateral.
A digital counterpart
Everything in print needs a place to land online. It doesn’t need to be one for one, but digital can build on the content and staff can use that to fill the gaps. Plus, this is a generation of digital natives, and if I’m being honest, I’d start digital first anyways. But, this blog isn’t an argument of the effectiveness of print vs. digital. It’s about giving staff the opportunity to make things their own.