2014 AMA Symposium Call for Proposals

by Deb Gere on March 6th, 2014

Have innovative and effective higher ed marketing strategies to share with your peers? Then it’s time to work on your paper proposal for this year’s AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education, slated for November 10-13 in Austin, Texas. Co-chaired by SimpsonScarborough’s Jason Simon and mStoner’s Deborah Maue, the Symposium is the largest professional development opportunity for higher ed marketers. It will feature 48 general lecture sessions falling into one of the six tracks described below:

Digital Strategy
(social media, content marketing, web, crowdfunding, search/inbound)

From Google search, to tweet, to mobile website visit, marketers have to plan for every way our increasingly connected audience is finding us. Proposals should cover cutting-edge strategies for creating consistent and compelling digital communications.

Marketing In Action
(undergraduate and graduate recruitment, nontraditional student recruitment, emerging markets, alumni engagement and philanthropic marketing)

For higher ed marketers, this is where the rubber meets the road. How can we do a better job of enrolling highly qualified students, identifying new markets, inspiring alumni and courting donors. Proposals in this category should showcase the innovative ways you’re engaging constituents to achieve results.

Marketing Operations
(staffing, budgeting, organizational structure, teams, tools, and tricks of the trade)

People, processes, budgets, data…managing successful marketing operations has never been easy, and it’s becoming increasingly complex. Proposals should cover innovative approaches and tools to help marcomm professionals elevate their work and take their organizations to the next level.

Brand Strategy
(positioning, market planning, identity, voice and messaging, integrated campaigns, advertising, measurement)

How do you find your institution’s voice, brand position, and bring it to life? Proposals in this category should cover innovative approaches to developing university brand strategies from broad strategies; bringing it to life through integrated campaigns, advertising and more; and  maintaining and evolving your institution’s brand.

Marketing Intelligence
(market opportunity, web analytics, data mining, competitive intelligence, dashboards, research, measurement)

From Google Analytics to Big Data, marketers have never been more accountable for assessment of market opportunity and measurement of marketing activity. Proposals should cover innovative ways in which you are using data, intelligence, and research to determine who your key audiences are, the best ways to reach them and the results of those activities.

Austin City (No)Limits
(student affairs, career services, the kitchen sink, unleashed creativity)

Proposals should highlight solutions and strategies to answer every marcomm professional’s worst nightmare/challenge: “Can you just … ?” One session will be a repeat of last year’s 9 x 5 Open Mic Round Robin: The steering committee will pick 9 proposals that each can showcase one best practice in under 5 minutes.

Download the call for proposals for complete submission guidelines. Proposals are due April 19.

Q&A with New SimpsonScarborough Vice President Jason Simon

by Deb Gere on February 6th, 2014

SimpsonScarborough announced in January that Jason Simon will join our team this month as vice president and partner. Named AMA Higher Ed Marketer of the year in 2013, Jason is well-known in the higher ed marcomm field, having served as executive director of marketing communications at University of California System since 2009. But you may not know that Jason got his start as a sports writer and editor. We sat down with Jason to learn more about how he got his start in higher ed marcomm, why he is making the leap to SimpsonScarborough and some of the changes and opportunities he sees ahead in our field.

Q: You got your start as a sports writer and editor.  How did you get into higher ed marcomm?

A: When I was in college I was a basketball manager for North Carolina State University and really thought I wanted to be a college coach. But I migrated into sports journalism and, later, was the media relations director for NC State’s men’s basketball team for nearly five years. It was a great job—what some might consider a dream job—but I wearied of the lack of control and repetition and was hungry for something else. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to work for a small branding firm in the Research Triangle Park and worked on some great corporate clients—IBM, SonyEricsson, RedHat—helping with brand strategy, advertising and broader communications needs.

After some time there I learned of an opportunity at NC State on the marketing side. It was a newly-created position, the only marketing position, and I was pretty excited about the chance to go back to my alma mater and build a program. We went through a research, positioning, campaign process, and I led efforts to re-launch the main website, launch a capital campaign, and manage a creative service team that was fully funded on charge-back. So my agency experience really came in handy.

At some point, I felt like I’d accomplished almost everything I could have at NC State and had started to keep my eyes out for opportunities when I came across a great position at the University of California System. They had gone through a complete reorganization, so it was a chance to build a team and a program from the ground up. Being at UC has given me a terrific perch to understand issues at multiple campus and system levels and, from a leadership position, to understand the major issues facing higher ed today.

Q: Your keynote at the 2013 AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education touched upon the need to accept change as a constant—what do you see as the biggest changes coming to higher ed in general, and marcomm in particular?

A: It’s a really exciting time to be a marketer in higher education. There just is so much happening around the broader public dialogue around rising costs of tuition, value of a degree, national policy from the White House, state funding issues, increases in philanthropy, changing (and declining) demographics of college-aged students, the rise of the low-income student, MOOCs, online education and so much more. And between that and the evolution of social media, it’s really putting marketing in such a high-level strategic place at institutions. It’s no wonder the CMO role continues to rise on campus.

I think marketers need to be willing to accept some of these changes, and I believe marketers can be real champions on campus—on-campus consultants, conveners that brings people together—the marketer working with IT, admissions, institutional research, alumni and fundraising. Even at bigger institutions, divides between media and marketing are going away with the opportunity to own your story more directly through social and digital channels. A voice of strategy that can inform campus leaders about changes and perceptions in the market and devise strategies is a real asset to any campus.

Q: The UC logo controversy that blew up in late 2012 seems like a case study on rolling with changes.  From the outside, it certainly looked like a controversy that could have been job-jeopardizing. And yet, you were ultimately named AMA Higher Ed Marketer of the Year—tell us more about that.

A: I was fortunate that we had strong leadership support that realized that the steps we’d taken were all sound and solid approaches. It was disappointing but I don’t think I ever worried about my job.

In the midst of the frenzy, I had a couple of conversations with people I really respect in higher ed. There was a real sense of trepidation in what we were enduring, namely because it’s been an all-too-familiar trend not only around logos but really around higher ed marketing efforts in general. Critics were viewing marketing efforts as surface-level promotion. I knew we had to tell the full story—not only to correct things that were left out of the reporting (like the idea we hadn’t done creative testing)—because there was a lot to learn from our experience. I felt obligated to stand up for the importance of marketing and for trying new and different approaches that attempt to cut through the cluttered media landscape we’re all in.

I think one reason our story—and the way we responded and managed through it—has resonated is because there’s a certain inevitability that in today’s social media-driven world, things can flare up and be really visible. Accepting that things don’t always work out and preparing yourself for constant re-adjustment are things today’s marketer must be keenly aware of.

Response to Jason Simon Announcement Overwhelming

by Elizabeth Scarborough on January 21st, 2014

On Friday, SimpsonScarborough announced that Jason Simon will be joining the firm as a partner in February. The response we received from friends and colleagues around the country was quite overwhelming. Thank you for all your notes and well wishes. Here is a sample:

• “Congratulations Jason. Well deserved, well earned. I’m excited to see how you’ll change the industry next.”
• “Congratulations. You can count me in as a future client.”
• “Congratulations, Jason! This is a great move for you and your career and I hope it goes really well for you! Sorry to lose you from UC.”
• “That is AWESOME!! I have four projects ahead with SimpsonScarborough this year, so it sure would be awesome to get to work with you! Congratulations!”
• “Thanks so much for sharing with me. Can’t tell you how excited I am for you. I have a ton of respect and admiration for what SimpsonScarborough does and, with you in a leadership position there, I can only imagine what you’ll accomplish.”
• “Congrats to you all! Jason is a great hire, and SimpsonScarborough shouldn’t settle for any less! I look forward to the next era for you all.”
• “Congratulations on bringing in Jason. You guys will be phenomenal together. Looking forward to finding more ways to work together.”
• “A great addition. Congrats!”
• “What terrific news. Congratulations to you, Jason, and to everyone at SS. Looking forward to more great projects together.”
• “Congratulations Elizabeth on a great addition to your already impressive team. We are excited about the potential of working with you all in the not-too-distant future.”
• “Congratulations, all. Nice. Excellent choice. I thought Jason’s presentation at AMA was brilliant, and – more important – I thought the work he led at UC system was brilliant and well managed. Hmmmm, a ‘best’ joining the best. As life should be.”
• “This is excellent news!!!! Congrats to Jason. What an asset for SimpsonScarborough.”
• “We’re sad to lose him as a colleague but delighted to work with him as a partner. Welcome, Jason!”
• “Congratulations, Elizabeth! You’ve landed a great catch, which will make a great firm even greater.”
• “Congratulations to Jason and what a great addition for SimpsonScarborough!”
• “I am very happy for you, but sad for the UC. I think you were the most innovative and forward looking person I have worked with at a university.”
• “You will be terrific at this new work, and many institutions will be better off for having worked with you. Enjoy the journey!”
• “Congratulations, Elizabeth! Jason is as lucky to be part of your team as you are to have him as one of your partners. His hire is truly on brand for SimpsonScarborough. Very cool.”
• “I am very excited for you guys! Jason is awesome and I hope with all the work we’re planning to do this year that we get to work with him at some point! :) Congratulations!”
• “That’s great for you. Really. I’ve conducted over 150 interviews and I was so impressed with Jason — whipsmart and really nice / professional. He will be a great asset, I’m sure! Congratulations!”
• “Congratulations, Elizabeth, what a very smart strategic move!”
• “What a match made in heaven. Congrats to you all.”
• “I am so sorry to hear you’ll be leaving. What a loss for the university! But this sounds like a great opportunity. Congratulations and good luck on your new adventures!”
• “Congratulations. Sounds like a good move for you. Thank you for you strong leadership at UC! Let’s stay in touch!”
• “Congratulations!! For some reason I knew after your impressive presentation at AMA this year, which SimpsonScarborough obviously enjoyed, you would be moving on to bigger things! We have worked with Liz and Jeff for many years and would love to work with you also. “
• “Congratulations on your move. Please use your great brain, however, to continue to advance understanding that “brand” as conventionally considered will not solve the great ills of higher education. I was so impressed by your capture of the larger concerns about value and service you were tackling in California. Keep that flame burning!”
• “I am NOT surprised!”
• “Exciting news! A great hire for your firm, as well!”
• “Wow – great “get”! Well done!”
• “That’s great news, Jason. SimpsonScarborough is a great company, and in fact they are on my list to contact about a new awareness study we need to do very soon.”

River Hawks Rising: UML Brand a Success Story in the Making

by Deb Gere on December 6th, 2013

UML's new, $40 million Health & Social Sciences building, which opened in 2013

A Lowell, Massachusetts resident since 1998, I’ve watched with fascination as UMass Lowell (UML) has transformed itself under the leadership of former Congressman Marty Meehan, who became Chancellor in 2007. When I moved to the area, UML was widely perceived as a safety school—one lifelong Lowell residents have described to me as “a place for local kids to go get a bargain-basement education”—not a bad school, but nothing stellar.  It’s not that school anymore.

Enrollment is up 40% since 2007. UML ranks 158 in U.S. News & World Report’s 2014 edition of Best Colleges, National Universities category, up 12 spots since 2013 and 25 spots in the past three years. It ranks tenth this year on Forbes magazine’s 25 Best Value Colleges, and was ranked tenth by Payscale, Inc. on return on investment among public institutions nationwide.  Business Insider  named it the No. 1 “Most Underrated College in America.”

UML successes don’t end there.  In 2013, the UML River Hawks Division 1 Hockey Team won Hockey East and advanced to the Frozen Four for the first time since it entered D1 in 1984. All other sports, formerly Division 2, made the jump to Division 1 as part of the America East Conference this fall.

All these changes are getting attention. The regional newspaper, the Lowell Sun, last year featured a 72-page digital special on the University’s achievements. And last month, WCVB-5 Boston’s award-winning Chronicle program featured the transformation of Lowell—both university and the city itself (you can watch the UML segment here starting at the 2:10 mark).

None of these successes happened by chance. As the Lowell Sun reported, when it proposed naming its feature “The Miracle at UMass Lowell,” Chancellor Meehan balked, emphasizing that “every improvement has been strategically planned by university leaders.” That planning has included more than $500 million in capital investments, including new student housing, dining hall upgrades, new parking garages, and two new academic buildings—the first academic buildings constructed on campus since the 1970s.  Construction is currently underway on University Crossing, a hub that will connect the University’s three campuses to each other and to downtown Lowell and feature a one-stop service center for students, a new bookstore, a café, space for 150+ student organizations, and more. Planning has begun for the new Pulichino Tong Business Building, which will house the University’s Robert J. Manning School of Business. And on November 20, Massachusetts Governor Duval Patrick announced a $20 million investment to renovate and modernize Perry Hall, home to the university’s engineering program. The River Hawks move to Division 1 was also a carefully plotted step in that strategic plan—a move to increase the university’s visibility and improve the student experience.

These successes also reflect a strong partnership between the University and its home city, a place with its own story of reinvention. This shared purpose and spirit of collaboration is visible everywhere, from the transformation of old properties into gleaming new facilities, to the university’s incubator program for high-tech startups, to the Graduate School of Education’s partnerships with the Lowell National Historical Park and the city’s public schools.

Through all of this, one thing is clear: the transformation of UMass Lowell is a story in progress. The River Hawks are rising—and driven to continue their momentum toward the top.

SimpsonScarborough VP Tom Hayes Announces Retirement

by Deb Gere on November 1st, 2013

SimpsonScarborough designates this month’s newsletter to celebrating the career of Vice President and Partner Tom Hayes, who retires this month. A founding partner, Tom has been here since the beginning in 2006, working alongside Christopher Simpson and Elizabeth Scarborough to build SimpsonScarborough into what it is today. Tom has always been passionate about the field of higher education marketing, and we applaud the energy, enthusiasm and experience he always brought to the table.

When Christopher Simpson began looking to partner with well-known experts to transform his small consulting business into an industry leader, Tom Hayes was a clear choice. Known as the “father of higher education marketing,” Tom has consulted with hundreds of colleges and universities worldwide on issues of integrated marketing, branding and market research. A longtime professor of marketing at Xavier University and editor of the Journal of Marketing for Higher Education, he was an early pioneer of linking academic strategic planning with institutional marketing and branding goals. Tom founded the American Marketing Association’s Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education, which has grown into the largest professional development opportunity for higher ed marketers. He has written five books to date and regularly speaks at more than 20 conferences worldwide each year.

I had the opportunity to chat with Tom last week to talk about his contributions to the field of higher education marketing and his time with SimpsonScarborough.

Q: How did you end up the field of higher education marketing? We often mention your involvement in developing the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education—how did that come about?

A: In the late 1970s and through most of the 80s, I focused on healthcare marketing. My Ph.D. dissertation on healthcare marketing prepared me for the field. I was very involved with the AMA in their national conferences on healthcare marketing and was on a number of planning committees for the AMA and a group called the American College of Healthcare Marketing. In fact, I was named the Healthcare Marketer of the year by this group in 1988.

Around this time I observed that most of the changes and upheaval in the healthcare environment were going to happen to higher education. I began teaching at Xavier University in 1976, so I felt I had an even better grasp of the education market than I did the healthcare market. I approached the AMA about conducting a national conference on higher ed marketing, and they were not quite ready for it at the time, thinking the market was not big enough. My university backed the first Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education, which took place in 1989 in Cincinnati. This marked my entrance into the field.

Q: Tell me how the field of higher ed marketing and the Symposium have changed over time.

A: The first year we had around 136 people in attendance, but it made money. By the time the second symposium came around, I was appointed to the AMA’s national board and they co-sponsored the event with Xavier. They then took it over completely the third year.  Some of the people who have been there from the beginning are Bob Johnson, Bob Sevier and Carole Custer.

I enjoy being involved with the Symposium. I used to give the opening keynote every other year. This went on for the first ten years of the Symposium and was meant to be more “motivational” in nature. We have gotten far beyond the need for that. The last time I gave a keynote was when we had a cancellation at the last minute (as in 12 hours before,) and I was asked to fill in. I still provide the tutorial on Principles of Marketing for Higher Education each year and have done so since year one.

The vast majority of attendees in 1989 and the early years were from admissions departments (not too many enrollment strategy departments then) and academics interested in the field. Today, there are hardly any pure academics, and most attendees come from marketing departments that are found in university relations, enrollment, or free-standing entities. It has become much more accepted as an integral part of the university strategic process.

The field is still developing and not near where it needs to go. Marketing should have a seat at the executive level just as it does in the organizations we prepare our students to enter.

Q. What were the highlights of your time at SimpsonScarborough—personal or professional?

A. The highlights are the same—the people I have met and worked with.  Being part of building such a great company as SimpsonScarborough has been a blessing. The early days with Christopher Simpson, Teresa Valerio Parrot, Chris Turner, Elizabeth and Meredith Simpson are forever burned in my memory. As the company grew, getting to know Jeff and Dana and the rest of the team was something that has contributed a great deal to my life. I will miss interacting with everyone in the office when I came to Washington for meetings and retreats. I will miss the camaraderie that has been built among the staff and the total dedication to the clients.  I miss everyone already.

Q: Do you have a favorite project?  Most gratifying? Why?

A: I don’t have a favorite project. Terry Flannery from American University always says that I never worked for a school I didn’t like…and this is true. I have been in and around higher education my entire life, as my father was a college professor. Teaching and working with students and helping prepare them to contribute to society is a privilege. I truly believe we need an educated workforce to continue to grow and thrive as a country.

Everyone I meet in higher education shares this same feeling. They want to help their institutions succeed and contribute, and I have always considered myself fortunate to be in a position to help. People feel passionately about their schools and their students; it is hard not to enjoy working in that environment.

Q: We’ve been known to have some adventurous staff retreats?  Do you have a favorite it?  Admit it—you are retiring to avoid near-tropical storms on a sailboat, right?

A: My most memorable staff retreat will always be the first to St. Lucia with Christopher Simpson. While it was the last that was that lavish, it is hard to beat the Caribbean in December. We were invited to bring our families, and it was a great way for our young company to bond.

Q: What’s your next chapter?

A: I hope to get involved more heavily with CASE, ACE. AMA and AJCU, as these organizations have had such a profound influence on my life. I want to continue to contribute to the field in any way I can. This includes a rededication to writing as well. I recently wrote a book chapter for a Jossey-Bass book titled The Handbook on Strategic Enrollment Management. I wrote the chapter on “Marketing and the Enrollment Process.”

What I really love to do and feel I am best at is public speaking. I hope to be able to continue speaking at conferences and/or on college campuses on marketing-related topics and their role in the university.

I have spent 38 years teaching at Xavier University and have at least another 12 in me; students keep you young, and you can’t be an effective teacher unless you stay connected to what is going on in the world. This too keeps you young—so I guess, the next chapter will be to avoid growing old!


SimpsonScarborough Scholars Program

by Elizabeth Scarborough on October 7th, 2013

There’s never been a better time to apply to be a SimpsonScarborough Scholar. The scholarship program, which is run through CASE, will now include awards to FOUR (instead of two) up-and-coming advancement professionals annually. We started the program after our founding partner, Christopher Simpson, passed away. It’s a privilege to continue to honor his contributions to the advancement industry by supporting promising, young professionals.  The benefits and networking opportunities associated with the scholarship are terrific. So, make sure to get your applications in by November 15, 2013.

Elizabeth Scarborough

Twitter: elizscar

Fall Internship Available

by wandah on July 23rd, 2013

SimpsonScarborough, a higher education market research firm headquartered in Old Town Alexandria, is seeking a  fall intern with academic background in marketing and/or communications. Candidates should be rising juniors or seniors and/or have completed at least three quarters of their marketing and/or communications studies. SimpsonScarborough interns will have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with market research projects.

Interns will:

* Help with the creation and formatting of client presentations and reports
* Learn how to recruit for focus groups
* Learn how to work with quantitative analysis
* Participate in proposal preparation
* Travel to at least one client meeting with SimpsonScarborough staff

Interns are asked to work 20 hours a week; a stipend is available. For greater detail about the firm, please visit our website atwww.simpsonscarborough.com.

For more information or to submit your resume for consideration, please contact:

Wanda Hoath
Administrative Assistant


Welcome Summer Interns!!!

by Meredith on June 5th, 2013

We are going to have a super busy summer here at SS, so we are thrilled to have so many amazing interns! We went out for a fun lunch date with the new troops so we could get to know one another. We hope they like us as much as we like them:).

And the burgers weren’t bad either!

Yay for new interns!


Enjoyed some awesome burgers at The Burger Joint





SimpsonScarborough is Hiring a Data Analyst

by wandah on May 14th, 2013

Data Analyst Job Description

SimpsonScarborough, a market research firm that works exclusively with colleges and universities, seeks a full-time Data Analyst for its Old Town Alexandria, VA headquarters office. We are a small, dynamic team looking for a self-motivated and enthusiastic new member. Candidates must have a thorough working knowledge of SPSS. Interest in market research and higher education is preferred.

The Data Analyst is responsible for analyzing quantitative survey data, preparing quantitative research reports, and programming/testing online survey instruments.

The responsibilities of the Data Analyst include:

  • Cleaning raw survey data for analysis
  • Analyzing survey data and interpreting findings
  • Coding and summarizing open-ended survey responses
  • Preparing charts and graphs that clearly present survey findings
  • Preparing a comprehensive research report in Powerpoint
  • Working with other team members to prepare the final deliverable for the client in a specified timeline
  • Programming and testing online survey instruments


  • Working knowledge of SPSS and statistics is required. The Data Analyst will be expected to run frequencies, crosstabs, ANOVAs, t-tests, etc.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Excel, Powerpoint, Word
  • Knowledge of best practices in survey design is preferred
  • 0-3 years experience (accepting entry-level candidates if have SPSS experience)
  • Self-motivated, eager to learn, and team-oriented
  • Ability to work independently with minimal oversight
  • Strong communication and social skills (wallflowers need not apply!)
  • Bachelor’s Degree required

Candidates will be asked to complete a short skills test in SPSS upon acceptance of application.

Salary range is $40,000-$45,000, commensurate with experience. Full benefits package.

Please submit cover letters and resumes to Wanda Hoath, at wh@simpsonscarborough.com by Friday, May 24. For additional information about SimpsonScarborough, please visit our website at www.simpsonscarborough.com.

Summer Internship with SimpsonScarborough

by wandah on January 15th, 2013

SimpsonScarborough, a higher education market research firm headquartered in Old Town Alexandria, is seeking summer interns with academic background in marketing and/or communications. Candidates should be entering their junior or senior year and/or have completed at least three quarters of their marketing and/or communications studies. Position is also open to graduate students. SimpsonScarborough interns will have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with market research projects.

Interns will:

* Help with the creation and formatting of client presentations and reports
* Learn how to recruit for focus groups
* Learn how to work with quantitative analysis
* Participate in proposal preparation
* Travel to at least one client meeting with SimpsonScarborough staff

Interns are asked to work 40 hours a week; $3,000 stipend is available. For greater detail about the firm, please visit our website at www.simpsonscarborough.com.

For more information or to submit your resume for consideration, please contact:

Wanda Hoath
Administrative Assistant