Every year, Beloit College releases its Mindset List to give a snapshot of how the incoming freshmen class, of whom most were born in 1994, views the world. Take a look at the full list for all 75 items; some of my favorites are below:
1. Robert De Niro is thought of as Greg Focker’s long-suffering father-in-law, not as Vito Corleone or Jimmy Conway.
2. For most of their lives, maintaining relations between the U.S. and the rest of the world has been a woman’s job in the State Department.
3. Outdated icons with images of floppy discs for ‘‘save,’’ a telephone for ‘‘phone,’’ and a snail-mail envelope for ‘‘mail’’ have oddly decorated their tablets and smartphone screens.
4. There have always been blue M&Ms, but no tan ones.
5. Along with online viewbooks, parents have always been able to check the crime stats for the colleges their kids have selected.
6. Martin Lawrence has always been banned from hosting Saturday Night Live.
7. History has always had its own channel.
8. While the iconic TV series for their older siblings was the sci-fi show Lost, for them it’s Breaking Bad, a gritty crime story motivated by desperate economic circumstances.
9. Little Caesar has always been proclaiming ‘‘Pizza Pizza.’’
10. Despite being preferred urban gathering places, two-thirds of the independent bookstores in the United States have closed for good during their lifetimes.
To prepare for the future and keep the institution on a trajectory of growth and expansion, Guilford College developed a strategic long-range plan for 2011- 2016. As a result, one of the college’s objectives was to evaluate Guilford’s marketing and communications efforts and identify specific ways the institution could enhance its overall image and visibility. We spoke with Camilla Meek, who served as senior director of marketing communications at Guilford through July 31, 2012, and asked her to share the steps they took to assess the college’s marketing and communications efforts and the benefits they derived from this activity.
Q. Tell us about Guilford College.
A. Founded by Quakers in 1837, Guilford College is an undergraduate liberal arts college in Greensboro, North Carolina with a diverse student body. While no longer affiliated with the Religious Society of Friends, the college’s core values and governance still reflect its founding principles of social justice and egalitarianism. The college has enjoyed a long history of academic rigor emphasizing writing, critical thinking and the sciences. The student body includes traditional-age as well as adult students. We also have one of the most successful and highly ranked early colleges (high school students) in the country. So we need to tailor our marketing and offerings to a wide range of demographics and needs.
Q. What was your role at Guilford?
A. I joined Guilford in 2010 to lead the integrated marketing effort that was prescribed in the college’s strategic long-range plan for 2011-2016. The college has experienced growth in the past decade, but the marketing communications staffing and expertise hadn’t kept pace with that growth. We wanted to intelligently plan a path for developing our capabilities in this area, so we engaged SimpsonScarborough to audit our past communications efforts, as well as to examine the roles, staffing and effectiveness of the communications and marketing department.
Q. What was the outcome?
A. The communications audit consisted of internal interviews and qualitative research, such as comparisons with peer institutions in the areas of staffing, resource allocation, production workflow, asset management, measurement of communications efforts and the state of our work relationships with other departments.
SimpsonScarborough’s recommendations addressed the positioning of communications and marketing department relative to other divisions of the College: for example, the staffing of the office, governance of College brand standards, and the importance of marketing metrics in a dashboard. In total we received 22 recommendations as part of the detailed assessment. One year later, we have implemented approximately half of them. Some are larger initiatives, such as a physical move of our office from an off-campus site to a location on-campus, which will happen when space becomes available.
We also participated in a CASE-sponsored online metrics dashboards webinar by Elizabeth Scarborough that gave some excellent examples and guidelines.
Based on the recommendations of the audit, we reorganized the department and added one position, a digital communications coordinator and brought in some additional student workers for more routine editing and web site work.
A more intangible outcome was that the communications audit opened up a dialogue with some groups within our division that felt they hadn’t been well served by our department, and a year later, our collaboration has greatly improved.
Although we weren’t aware of it at the time, the work done by Simpson Scarborough dovetailed nicely with a college-wide administrative assessment initiated by the president and the vice presidents for administration and finance earlier this year. We were able to demonstrate that the department was understaffed in relation to its peers and gain some budgetary support from the administration.
Q. What advice do you have for communications professionals with limited resources and increasing demands for output?
A. Part of my approach is to train up as many people across campus as possible in areas like social media, web editing, photography and videography, and most of all thinking in terms of contributing useful content that our office can repurpose across our media platforms.
With today’s distributed mode of communications and social media, literally every academic and administrative department can have a voice and a front door to our public. Guilford College’s culture is independent by nature and by way of its Quaker history, so we have to allow for that freedom of expression in our communications strategy. Integration of communications only works if you have the buy-in of those at the top of the org chart and those who actually do the work of communicating.
One of the best things I’ve read recently that resonated for me about my daily work is from Tina Fey’s funny autobiography, Bossy Pants. She said she had to learn that as the producer of 30 Rock her role was to stifle creativity. Really?
“Producing is about discouraging creativity,” she says. “Everyone in every department wants to show off their skills and contribute creatively to the show, which is a blessing. You’re grateful to work with people who are talented and enthusiastic about their jobs. You would think that as a producer, your job would be to churn up creativity, but mostly your job is to police enthusiasm.”
That sort of gave me permission to own the creativity squelching part of my job because that’s one of the hardest parts, like when someone is inspired to redesign the college’s logo in their spare time.
Camilla Meek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org