The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode 7 · 1 year ago

Using your Distinctiveness as a Selling Point


When you’re not a large public university, you have to market yourself in a different way. Especially if you’re a faith-based institution, a single-sex college, or even an HBCU, you’ve got to set yourself apart from the rest of the field. You’ve got to be distinctive as a selling point for your institution.

What does that look like? On this episode of Higher Ed Marketer, we talk with Ayana Hernandez, Associate Vice Chancellor for University Relations at North Carolina Central University. To hear her talk about how HBCUs are in her DNA was something special.

We also talked about:

- Working for an HBCU that she applied to attend when she was starting college

- The TIME Magazine cover that she keeps framed in her office and how she uses it to talk to her students about celebrating their successes

- What university life was like Pre-COVID, and what she anticipates it to be like moving forward

- The need to be distinctive in your marketing when you’re a mission-driven institution

Know of a higher education marketing change agent you’d like to hear on the show? Does your university have an interesting story to be featured?

Connect with Bart Caylor or Troy Singer. If you’re not on LinkedIn, check out Caylor Solutions or Think Patented.

To hear more interviews like this one, subscribe to The Higher Ed Marketer on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your preferred podcast platform.

To be able to really market anything, you have to really be inside of it. Listening to yes, all, all of those who are your audiences, who are your constituents, but on a college or university campus, you know, literally be part of the campus. You are listening to the Higher Ed Marketer, a podcast geared towards marketing professionals in higher education. This show will tackle all sorts of questions related to student recruitment, don'tor relations, marketing trends, new technologies and so much more. If you are looking for conversations centered around where the industry is going, this podcast is for you. Let's get into the show. Welcome to the Higher Ed Marketing podcast. Will we explore ideas and insights by marketers and people that we admire and higher education. I'm troy singer and speaking of people that we admire and higher it I like to introduce my cohost, Bart Taylor. Hi Bart, Hey Troy, thank you. That's a very kind of you to say. I it's been a pleasure getting to know you and I think that you are kind of, you know, the upandcoming higher Ed Marketer, you know, expert as well. I really admire a lot of what you've been doing on Linkedin and we're both power users on Linkedin, and so we've gotten a chance to kind of see a lot of feedback from a lot of folks as they're responding to the promotions for the for the PODCAST, and we're meeting some great people and one of the people that we've met today through the network is our guests so maybe you can tell us attle bit about her. Certainly, Ayana her Nandez works at a historically black university and I happen to know she has some wonderful stories and wonderful backgrounds and with historically black colleges being very near and dear to me, I wanted to make sure that we represented them early within the podcast and I think she is an excellent person and everyone will see why when they hear her journey and they listen to her story. While she is the best person that...

...we can premiere from a historically Black College. Great well, so excited about that, so let's bring her in. I am honored to introduce a Jana Hernandez, associate ad vice chancellor for university relations at North Carolina Central University, to the Higher Ed Marketer podcast. Welcome to Yanna. Thank you so much, Troy, it's a pleasure to be with you this afternoon and to be on your podcast. I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you and your audience. It's our pleasure. We've heard so much about you and we just look forward to sharing some of the wonderful things that we knew about you, plus what we had in the pre interview with you here with everyone else. So, if you would, during the pre interview you shared lots of great things about your journey of where you're at today. One of the fascinating things is it weaves in and out of HBCUS and I would like to know if you can kind of share your journey with our listeners. Oh absolutely so. Historically, black colleges and universities have been part of my life for my entire life, and I say that because my grandmother, who was born in one thousand nine hundred and eight, attended a very small one of two all women hbcus in the country to this day been at college for a few years. My parents were both products of HBCUS and so it was always known whether it was visiting the campuses that they really grew up on or for homecoming or going back for reunions. You know, when it was time for me to to select a college or university to continue my education at, I looked at historically black colleges and universities and I wound up attending and graduating from spellman college in Atlanta, Georgia, and had an amazing experience where everything that I was told about HBC use and really the investment that professors put into you and pour into you...

...and the relationships that you will build not only with your professors but with the young people who are in college with you, I found all of that to be true and today, having the opportunity to actually work at an HBCU that I actually apply to is is kind of like a full circle moment, and so hbcus are really a big part have been a big part of my life, as I said, for my entire life. That's great. I appreciate your sharing all that and you know, I know that while not all of our listeners will be marketing for hbcus, obviously they often have kind of a mission fit type of institution, whether whether they're in Hbcu or a single sex you know, Hbcu of single sex college, kind of like what Spellman guys for you, or or Wabash College here in Indiana, as well as just a lot of faith based institutions or even schools that are singularly focused on a specific program such an art school or maybe healthcare. Tell us a little bit about how you know, in your role and and the way that North Central, North Carolina Central, does their marketing. Tell us how that marketing needs to be crafted to communicate a little bit more that unique aspect, to draw the student, that the students and the audience toward you, since it's really not aimed at everyone. Absolutely so the uniqueness of all of the institution types that you mentioned from a marketing perspective is, you know, offer so many opportunities. And I say that because, whether it is an Hbcu, whether it is and you know, another mind wording serving institution, all of our institutions are mission driven in some in some way, shape or form, and at the core of that mission, I would think, and I would I would often say, are the graduates that metique matriculate through our campus. Kind of those stories that you witness and you did, you're able to share and being one who markets for this institution on many of the different institution types, it's really coming to know the fabric of what makes you distinct, what makes... unique? Why are students selecting you when they in many cases have many other options to attend college or university? And so it's really finding whether it's fitting that mission. It is also looking at everything from all of the the legacy of our institution, but it's also kind of connecting the legacy to kind of present day. Our institution happened to be founded as the first Liberal Arts Institution or college for African Americans publicly supported in the nation, and today we not only have like jazz studies, but I am actually right now sitting in our school of law, which was founded at a time when African Americans in this area and in the state did not we're not admitted to other law schools. And so whatever you're the mission of your institution is the distinctiveness, the stories, and I particularly love to pull whole from the student stories, the transformational power that are in the end, we really do serve in many cases as an economic engine, not only in transforming our students lies but their families lives, whether you serve first generation college students or whether you serve commuter student population, I think all of us are very unique and fulfilling that mission, also communicating the outcome of the work that we're doing in the serve the students that were serving on our campuses. That's great. That's great and I know that when we talked earlier in the pre interview, you talked a little bit about, you know, something that you have on your wall and your office at a framed Time magazine cover. It kind of you use that for a couple reasons and it kind of illustrates some of the points you just made. Can you tell me a little bit about that? Certainly so. I think throughout our professional career, and especially in communications and marketing, many times we're still passionate about telling other people stories, but this was an opportunity to actually...

...tell my own personal story and my own personal kind of career journey, which began in magazine publishing and we'ved its way to a nonprofit organization in New York and then we've did its way to a global public relations agency and then we've did its way to, it's a university campus. And so this particular issue focused on the changing demographics in America and I was kind of randomly contacted by a researcher in the author of the piece, and I think it's really important for me to sometimes, when I'm in the office and it could be a tough day or a challenging day, just to look up at it and remind myself of my own personal journey. In the piece, I it's there was a small paragraph that mentioned how my parents were both Edgu caters secondary, you know, educators, guidance, school counselors, and it talked about, you know, just the power of education and what you know. I've spoke about previously about, you know, education playing a major role in my life and when students come in my office, they kind of or just anyone, they're like they kind of look at it and then they look back and then they look at me and then they're like you, especially with students missing on has at you. I'm like yes, and and I said that could be you too. I said I would never have considered myself someone who would be in Time magazine, but you know, this is something that you can also do. I am no different than you and I look forward to like I celebrate my success as I look forwards, is celebrating yours too. So it's a good reminder. That's a powerful way of getting that message to them when your students are in your office. And in the past you've also talked about how being distinctive must be a settling point for an institution. So obviously there are personal ways that that is done. If you can tell us from your perspective of what it was like before pre covid and then how Wi look like going...

...forward? Well, I believe that covid obviously is has touched impacted all of our lives. It's impacted higher education and you know it, particularly as we're coming up on kind of the spring season and now we've almost kind of been in Covid for a year. I was at actually at our are, our basketball champions are. Well, it was the tournament. We were probably going to go to the championships, but I was at our basketball tournament when it you know, we were like, okay, we have to our students were on spring break and we were making that very strong pivot. And so from a marketing standpoint, obviously our marketing has changed. Our communications has changed so much and much of what we sold to our students that we're still selling is about also in an experience that you receive when you come here. And so how can you really still position that you'll still get a wonderful education? You'll still get a you know, high quality professors. Maybe you might be learning in a different format now, but, for example, on our campus, like that homecoming experience when have thousands of alumni coming back and feeling that energy of the campus. You might not experience that or week of welcome or, you know, first year pinning ceremony. But what we have really tried to stress is we always try and make sure that the whole student is nurtured on our campus and so even in covid terms and in covid times, making sure that our students know that we have a responsibility to them, they have a responsibility to each other in our campus and we have actually been really proud that our students have embraced that, that have they've been. We have a very low percent of our students that we we test them regularly, like many other campuses. But to really be able to showcase that the fact that you can still come here, yes, things will look different, yes, things will... a little bit different, we will all get through this together, but to be still be able to sell a fact that this institution is here to ensure that you are successful. We are producing a competitive student. We know that the market places change, we know that industries have changed. We are keeping up with that and we will still make sure that you're successful once you graduate and give you those soft skills, because you may not have graduated thinking that you're you would start working from home. And so what are those pivots from a career services and career planning and policement standpoint? So we yes, we've all had to make very, very strong pivots, but just making sure that our students, and as we're talking about the the experience, that that experience still exists. It might be a couple of years before it comes back as we knew it, but we're still a community here and we're still here to support you and being successful. I think that's so important, that point you bring up about the experience, because I think that's what's going to really differentiate a lot of small to medium sized privates, and publics to that matter, to be able to really be able to explain the distinctive of what an experience is, because it's it's too convenient now, especially post covid to just say well, we know how to work from home, we know how to educate from home, we know how to do everything from home, and I think that the people who decide to go that route are going to miss so much experience and the distinctives that have that a school like yours or other, you know, mission, mission Ordan schools and the things that we've talked about. These these these distinctiveness of that experience is going to be so important and and I think that I guess from a marketing standpoint, do you think that that is going to be one of the key marketing points moving forward, is really being able to articulate and distinguish your experience that you offer, yes, and and being transparent and knowing and stating that the experience has changed. I think that that's really very important. I also, you know, strongly believe that in marketing any institution, students, and I tell them all the time,...

...there are best brand ambassadors, and so being able to tell students okay, will be experience is a little bit different. For example, we opened our false semester having two new residence halls on campus apartment style living, and we do have students in those residence halls, but that was for so many years. It's well, actually about a year and a half student saw these residence halls going up and to be able to anticipate all of the kind of living and learning opportunities that would be going on in those facilities, those buildings. It will look a little bit different, but we are still we're still going to make sure that you are whole mentally in the classroom. We are a very we're going to be very intrusive and I think that for parents, you know, those questions that they have about the safety of your campus and making sure that, yes, during covid times, but when covid is not here anymore, making sure that, as parents literally drop there's young person off, if it's undergraduate institution and we do have graduate and professional programs, but that we're going to make sure we take care of you and we're going to be responsive to your needs and we're going to shift and pivots, as all of us have had to do. But really, and as we talk about kind of selling the experience, the experience has definitely change. But what are those experiences that we can also offer, maybe in an online platform and making sure students are part of that process and in marketing your institution and selling that the change that that we now know to be are part of our campuses. You articulate that very well and I'm sure that a lot of your colleagues are on campus does so. I'm sure the parents feel that and they get that message. Weekly when we have the PODCAST, we attempt to provide our audience with one great idea that they can go away with and maybe apply, that...

...they can clean from our guests. That which today is you, of course. For our markers listening, is there one idea that you would like them to have, maybe from the data seat, along with your journey as you're finishing up, that you would mind sharing with everyone? Oh, absolutely, college campus, as university campuses, are so rich in so many ways, and one way I've learned how to truly market this great institution is being really, really intrusive. And when I say intrusive, I have gone to a student, or I think it was. It might have been the center's director, invited me to our lavender graduation and our campus is one that has an LGBTA center and for students to see a member of the campus and administrator coming out and supporting them means so much honors Society inductions I've gone to. Those are textile and design students usually have a fashion show that where they show off the work that they've been doing throughout the semester. Yes, it's football games, yes, it's athletics, but it's also those other events that really help you learn exactly what you're marketing into. Other examples from my days and agency, Chrispy Kreme was one of my clients and we had a team meeting. It was probably about an hour and a half. It in Krispy Kreme. And how can I best market and talk about Chrispy Kreme? You have to be there, you have to experience it, and I are. Also remember a pitch that we were doing for a transit company, and so we said, okay, for for us to be able to market a transit organization, we're going to take the bus to the pitch, and so we took the bus to the pitch. And so I would definitely pass along kind of the jewel about being intrusive, knowing the to be able to really market anything,... have to really be inside of it listening to get ye, yes, all all of those who who are your audiences, who are your constituents, but on a college or university campus, yet out literally be part of the campus. I know all of us are so busy in our job responsibilities, but it could be that after five o'clock, but when a student asked you, to invite you to to a program or something, make sure you go and show up and give them feedback afterwards. They so appreciate it and it helps you really, I would say, do your job or just a little bit better. I love your use of the word intrusive and I love your definition of it and I can see where little moments like that would make a big difference throughout a student's life, especially for students that might feel a little different than some of the others on campus. I also appreciate all the wonderful, useful takeaways that you gave us throughout the podcast. If there was a if someone wanted to reach you, someone wanted to get more information about you or communicate with you, what would be the best way for them to do that? So I will share my email address as well, as is my twitter account. I obviously we need to be more active. I'm probably more active on thanking university's account, but my email address is very reasonable. It's just a Hernandez, so a cheer and A and D Z at Inccu Dot Edu, and on twitter I'm a Yana, Ay ANA, Middle Initial D Fernandez, and so please reach out to me. I'm also on Linkedin. Thank you very much for a very warm and authentic episode and for everyone else our listeners. The hired marketer podcast is sponsored by Taylor solutions and education marketing and branding agency and by Think, patented, a marketing, execution, printing...

...and mailing provider of Higher Ed Solutions. On behalf of my cohost, Bart Taylor, I'm choice singer. Thank you for joining us. Thank you so much. You've been listening to the Higher Ed Marketer. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you're listening with apple PODCASTS, we'd love for you to leave a quick rating of the show. Simply tap the number of stars you think the podcast deserves. Until next time,.

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