Storytelling, Goldfish, and Other Takeaways from the Carnegie Conference

Carnegie Higher Ed Feb 14, 2017 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, 250 of the most thoughtful and creative higher education marketers gathered for the annual Carnegie Conference. There was sunshine and fireworks and great food, but our story doesn’t focus on that. In season six of the #CarnegieConf, it all started with gravity and a roller coaster.

That feeling as you climb to the apex of the roller coaster. The anticipation. The excitement. (Or, in my case, the absolute terror.) As you round the top, everything seems to let go and you soar down the tracks in an almost out-of-body way. Gravity.

Kindra Hall, a true storytelling powerhouse and our story’s protagonist, opened the conference by capturing our attention and making us feel her story about gravity. We related. We listened. We were inspired. We wondered: how can we engage our prospects with stories about us and our schools to get them as engaged as we are right now?

After Kindra’s reinforcement that our marketing must be captured beyond the “award-winning faculty,” “small classes,” and “state-of-the-art facilities,” we dove into the ways we deliver our story with other leading characters. Engaging students where they are is the magical mixture of message and timing. With the continuously improving online search targeting capabilities, we can ensure our messages reach them when they’re ready. Same with social media—be proactive and reactive.

All of that messaging falls flat on our marketing goals if we don’t convert. And as our “Angry Viking” character discussed, providing a landing page experience that people want to respond to is the icing on the cake. Make it easy and clear. Make the message match the marketing. And be engaging.

Every year I leave the conference excited, but this year resonated in an unmatched way, from the comments to the energy. Here are five takeaways that only others in attendance can relate to:

  • Change Google suggested results to 10. Use that to know the search before the search.
  • The Goldfish won the attention span game.
  • Be authentic (à la Wendy’s Twitter account) in your engagement.
  • WYSIATI. Make sure you know what they see, because that’s all there is!
  • Resonate.

This list could go on and on, but I have to remember the Goldfish.

Again I leave excited, but like no other year before. I’m ready to run with these ideas and help improve my own storytelling efforts, allowing for the story to continue even after the last chapter.

This season of the Carnegie Conference was certainly binge worthy. And while most series end a season with a cliffhanger, we’re happy to let you know that we’ve been picked up for a seventh season. Next January we will be beginning a new storyline at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort for the 2018 Carnegie Conference on January 18 and 19!

I hope you can join us. And don’t just take my word for it; here’s what some of our exit surveys had to say:

“Best conference I have been to in 10 years.”

“Everything was honestly amazing—best conference I’ve ever been to!”

“Thank you, it has been an amazing experience!”

“This was my first time at the conference and I was truly impressed. Great speakers and content. I look forward to next year!”

“Very glad I got to come and this conference is a great tool for professional development and hearing new ideas.”

“Thanks for making my first #carnegieconf a fantastic experience!”

“Loved the conference! Excellent planning, just the right amount of time/length.”

“Wonderful job! Dynamic, engaging speakers.”

“Can’t wait until next year!”

So as one of our favorite characters would say: see ya real soon!

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