Rachel Reuben is a marketing communications professional in higher education.

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AMA 2012 Conference Recap: Continuing to raise the bar personally, professionally and as a conference

Nov142012

Earlier this week I attended my third American Marketing Association Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education. The organizers received about 150 paper proposals and selected 48 for publishing in the conference proceedings and to present at the conference. I was fortunate enough to be one of those selected and wrote an eight page paper and presented a 45 minute session in the brand alignment track called “An Integrated Marketing Revolution at Ithaca College.”

On a personal note, this conference has been one I’ve aspired to present at for the last several years. I sat in many sessions in admiration at the last two conferences, looking up to my peers with far more experience than I have in my new(ish) role as the associate vice president for marketing communications at Ithaca College, telling myself that 2012 would be the year I would throw my hat in the ring. I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity, and am humbled by the positive feedback I received during the session on the Twitter back channel, as well as in person from attendees following the session.

I met some terrific new colleagues, re-connected with others I’ve met before or knew through Twitter, and was again inspired by many of the sessions I attended. There was one woman in particular that I’ve been working with off and on for a year and a half and finally had the pleasure to meet in person. We had a magnificent meal at a restaurant recommended by a friend of mine who lives in New Orleans (R’evolution… ohmygosh), and her presentation at the conference was the one I’m going back to the office armed with a pile of notes from and a fire in my belly to put this knowledge to work. I’m going to share those notes internally first before blogging about them to the world. Another colleague also pointed out how interesting it was that the theme of my speech was about a marketing revolution and the one restaurant I went to had the same name. :)

I attended several other great sessions as well. My other favorite was delivered by the ladies from Loyola University Chicago, who talked about brand fragmentation and set up a bit of an improv skit with eight scenes:

  • Scene 1: We want our own logo
  • Scene 2: We want our own colors
  • Scene 3: “Everything you do looks the same” (To which one of the speakers said, “I have two words: Thank you.” I loved that!)
  • Scene 4: We’re different
  • Scene 5: Who doesn’t know us?
  • Scene 6: We’ve always done it this way. (Challenge the status quo. Invent the status quo!)
  • Scene 7: Just do as we (or they, as in, other colleges) say
  • Scene 8: We don’t really need you (thanks to Microsoft Word, Publisher, low or no budgets)

If nothing else, this was a fantastic group therapy session. But the passion with which Kelly Shannon and Katie Hession presented and shared tips for dealing with each of these “scenes” stole the show. They do an annual college-wide marcom audit and share a brief report with their President’s Cabinet. They track a rough percentage of consistency across the different units, and continue to ask what they can do to raise that percentage and get better each year. She also emphasized how unhelpful identity standards guides are for folks outside of the marcom world, largely, which gave me a new perspective for thinking about how we share that information currently. They talked about the infamous House of Brands vs. Branded House, and her analogy of having a House of Brands is like Cybil (multiple personalities) had the crowd roaring with laughter. They’ve also had to give up on certain  “off-brand” logos. Their theory is if it stays within the campus and is internally focused, they let it go. If it’s going to be seen by a larger external audience, her office steps in to assist and work to bring it under the brand standards for the college. We’ve had much discussion and debate about this at Ithaca College in recent years, so this session definitely helped further shape my thinking about where we might go with the minor logo garden outside of the IC logo family on campus.

These ladies kicked off this session with a terrific video, which they use on campus to help faculty, staff and administrators understand the pressures we’re under and the current landscape of higher education. We have to change the model. We need to stay affordable and clearly communicate our value while not sacrificing our objectives core to our mission.

The AMA Symposium is in Boston next year, and I can’t wait. Is it November 2013 yet?

I’m very proud of the integrated marketing revolution my team has accomplished over the past couple of years. But, we’re just beginning. Much more revolutionizing to do. I’m back with lots of fresh new inspiration, albeit a bit exhausted, but ready to go. Let’s do this.

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