Carnegie Conference 2018: The Tweetable Takeaways

Carnegie Higher Ed Jan 22, 2018 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

Another groundbreaking Carnegie Conference is in the books! After a week of great speakers, content, and connections made between attendees, let’s look back at some of the highlights and takeaways from a memorable event.

The conference kicked off with the Carnegie Dartlet leadership sharing about the uniqueness, the seamless fit, and the power behind the recently announced company merger. The emphasis here was on Marketing Innovation, and that theme carried itself as a common thread throughout the entire conference.

As the opening keynote speaker, Tyler Farnsworth (@TylerFarnsworth) set the tone with his challenge to “Rid the World of Boring Marketing.” In addition to his mission of also ridding the world of Comic Sans font, Tyler hammered home the concepts of audiences’ reactions to advertising versus authentic or interesting experiences. This message also stood out throughout the conference. In an industry (and time of year) where prospective student audiences will experience a barrage of mailings and marketing outreach that look and feel very similar to one another, his message of standing out and being REMARKable was especially relevant.

Next up, Jessica Best (@bestofjess) responded to our high demand for some focus on best practices and information on e-mail marketing and its role in nurturing prospects along their journey. While she highlighted that permission-based e-mail is the #1 channel for generating return on investment (ROI), she also emphasized the need to explore innovative ways to reach and manage e-mail list audiences through other channels and methods (social, IP Targeting, segmentation, system integration, etc.). A quick tangible takeaway from the session also revolved around plain-text e-mail usage and its effectiveness for demonstrating authenticity and personal connection (not to mention mobile safe).

Continuing the powerhouse lineup of speakers, Josie Ahlquist (@josieahlquist) took the stage to talk social media and our role in engaging and empowering a digital generation. As part of her presentation, she shared her research on how social media is part of the college experience and highlighted how students receive very little guidance on how to manage their social media lives from K-12; much of what they learn is through trial and error. At the university level, students are told a lot about what not to do, leading to a love/hate relationship with social as it’s more about reputation management. The result is they often choose silence and don’t post anything at all, meaning much opportunity is lost for them to share their stories and to be social ambassadors for your campus.

With the morning of day one not even over, Tyler Borders (@TylerBorders) echoed the Marketing Innovation pledge from the conference kick-off and shared what is starting right now as the future of higher education marketing: psychographics. Combining the worlds of demographic research and data with psychographic data for students then marrying it with your own institution’s authentic personality is a leap that has never been taken before. As schools look to connect with students in a way that will truly resonate, the emergence and application of psychographic data’s capabilities is the definition of marketing innovation for higher ed.

After an outdoor lunch involving perfect Disney weather, Peep Laja (@peeplaja) covered a critical topic for enrollment marketers today: how to use data to get increased conversions. He warned us all about just trying to implement all of the latest “best practices,” as that can dramatically impact or complicate the primary purpose and goal of conversion. Ask the right questions, analyze the data, and optimize for your specific goals.

As more and more platforms for student reach and engagement continue to emerge, streaming services have started to play a larger role for higher ed marketers. So it was great to have Khurrum Malik (@thetrihoo) from Spotify provide updates and perspective direct from one of the primary services out there today. As he put it, “you are what you stream,” and the behaviors and interests we demonstrate on these platforms provide a fresh new way of targeting and reaching prospective students to build awareness and interest that continues the theme of offering relevant and quality experiences.

Four different breakout session options rounded out the afternoon, including:

Cory Munchback (@corinnejames) sharing tips on using website data to help drive marketing decisions.

Eric Page (@HigherEdEric) talking Communications Planning 101.

Paul Redfern (@coachfern) speaking Google’s language as he focused on undergraduate audiences and “Taking Advantage of Micro Moments.”

And Josh LaFave (@JoshuaLaFave) answering a ton of questions for the graduate-level attendees at the conference, reviewing how to evaluate tools to help inform graduate program marketing.

Day two started off just as strong as day one, with Mack Fogelson (@mackfogelson) speaking on the importance of authenticity. Her presentation reminded us all that in the digital age, marketing is about three things: purpose, people, and promise. According to Mack, your institution’s purpose is the intersection of cultural tension (the problem you’re trying to solve) and your brand’s best self.

An international focus took center stage next, as Google’s own Mark Donnelly (@markjdonn) shared approaches and tools to best pursue a digital strategy for marketing to audiences around the globe. Attendees dove into the resources he shared that can help inform the right direction for them, including Google Trends and Google’s Market Finder.

After sparking a furious photo hunt competition for any sign of squirrels on Disney property, Britney Muller (@BritneyMuller) had the audience on the edge of their seats to hear about the future of higher ed marketing. With a heavy focus on search results and experience, she got attendees really thinking about how their own institutions are providing the answers and information students and families are seeking. Her session included tons of tools and resources for schools to use, and she ended with a bold prediction about the end of apps and the emergence of PWAs (progressive web apps).

Ron Bronson (@ronbronson) took the stage next to lend perspective from a service designer point of view and the everyday experience that can be impacted. Service design is about designing with people and not just for them. He focused on collaborating, finding opportunities to see things from others’ points of view, and getting us to think about the journeys of our audiences versus developing stories based on assumptions.

To bring so much of the conference together, particularly from a team and internal dynamic standpoint, Phil Gerbyshack (@PhilGerb) closed things out with a talk on aligning your marketing and enrollment teams for maximum impact. The emphasis from this session fell on incentivizing change through open and comprehensible communication channels so that language motivates instead of manipulates. As so many institutions manage distinct and separate groups of stakeholders and responsibilities, his message was an important one to help work toward more effective and efficient approaches.

Overall, the 2018 Carnegie Conference will go down as one of the most memorable in conference history. When we ask attendees what they enjoyed most or why they come back, it’s always great to hear the three most common responses: the amazing content/speakers, the people I get the opportunity to connect with, and the uniqueness of this conference versus so many other higher ed–focused conferences. We will continue to make those three areas our primary focus to ensure 2019 and beyond deliver on those even more!

To see all of the tweets from the conference, check out #CarnegieConf on Twitter.

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