The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode 7 · 9 months 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 ona college or university campus, you know, literally be part of thecampus. You are listening to the Higher Ed Marketer, a podcast geared towardsmarketing professionals in higher education. This show will tackle all sorts of questions relatedto student recruitment, don'tor relations, marketing trends, new technologies and so muchmore. 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 tothe Higher Ed Marketing podcast. Will we explore ideas and insights by marketers andpeople that we admire and higher education. I'm troy singer and speaking of peoplethat we admire and higher it I like to introduce my cohost, Bart Taylor. Hi Bart, Hey Troy, thank you. That's a very kind ofyou to say. I it's been a pleasure getting to know you and Ithink that you are kind of, you know, the upandcoming higher Ed Marketer, you know, expert as well. I really admire a lot of whatyou've been doing on Linkedin and we're both power users on Linkedin, and sowe've gotten a chance to kind of see a lot of feedback from a lotof folks as they're responding to the promotions for the for the PODCAST, andwe're meeting some great people and one of the people that we've met today throughthe 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 happento know she has some wonderful stories and wonderful backgrounds and with historically black collegesbeing very near and dear to me, I wanted to make sure that werepresented them early within the podcast and I think she is an excellent person andeveryone 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 BlackCollege. Great well, so excited about that, so let's bring her in. I am honored to introduce a Jana Hernandez, associate ad vice chancellor foruniversity 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 bewith you this afternoon and to be on your podcast. I appreciate theopportunity to speak with you and your audience. It's our pleasure. We've heard somuch about you and we just look forward to sharing some of the wonderfulthings that we knew about you, plus what we had in the pre interviewwith you here with everyone else. So, if you would, during the preinterview you shared lots of great things about your journey of where you're attoday. One of the fascinating things is it weaves in and out of HBCUSand I would like to know if you can kind of share your journey withour listeners. Oh absolutely so. Historically, black colleges and universities have been partof my life for my entire life, and I say that because my grandmother, who was born in one thousand nine hundred and eight, attended avery small one of two all women hbcus in the country to this day beenat college for a few years. My parents were both products of HBCUS andso it was always known whether it was visiting the campuses that they really grewup on or for homecoming or going back for reunions. You know, whenit was time for me to to select a college or university to continue myeducation at, I looked at historically black colleges and universities and I wound upattending and graduating from spellman college in Atlanta, Georgia, and had an amazing experiencewhere everything that I was told about HBC use and really the investment thatprofessors put into you and pour into you...

...and the relationships that you will buildnot only with your professors but with the young people who are in college withyou, I found all of that to be true and today, having theopportunity to actually work at an HBCU that I actually apply to is is kindof like a full circle moment, and so hbcus are really a big parthave been a big part of my life, as I said, for my entirelife. 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, whetherwhether they're in Hbcu or a single sex you know, Hbcu of single sexcollege, kind of like what Spellman guys for you, or or Wabash Collegehere in Indiana, as well as just a lot of faith based institutions oreven schools that are singularly focused on a specific program such an art school ormaybe healthcare. Tell us a little bit about how you know, in yourrole 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 littlebit more that unique aspect, to draw the student, that the students andthe audience toward you, since it's really not aimed at everyone. Absolutely sothe uniqueness of all of the institution types that you mentioned from a marketing perspectiveis, you know, offer so many opportunities. And I say that because, whether it is an Hbcu, whether it is and you know, anothermind wording serving institution, all of our institutions are mission driven in some insome way, shape or form, and at the core of that mission,I would think, and I would I would often say, are the graduatesthat metique matriculate through our campus. Kind of those stories that you witness andyou did, you're able to share and being one who markets for this institutionon many of the different institution types, it's really coming to know the fabricof what makes you distinct, what makes... unique? Why are students selectingyou 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 alsolooking at everything from all of the the legacy of our institution, but it'salso kind of connecting the legacy to kind of present day. Our institution happenedto be founded as the first Liberal Arts Institution or college for African Americans publiclysupported 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 wasfounded at a time when African Americans in this area and in the state didnot we're not admitted to other law schools. And so whatever you're the mission ofyour institution is the distinctiveness, the stories, and I particularly love topull 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 onlyin transforming our students lies but their families lives, whether you serve first generationcollege students or whether you serve commuter student population, I think all of usare very unique and fulfilling that mission, also communicating the outcome of the workthat 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 thepre interview, you talked a little bit about, you know, something thatyou 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 illustratessome of the points you just made. Can you tell me a little bitabout that? Certainly so. I think throughout our professional career, and especiallyin 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 myown personal kind of career journey, which began in magazine publishing and we'ved itsway to a nonprofit organization in New York and then we've did its way toa global public relations agency and then we've did its way to, it's auniversity campus. And so this particular issue focused on the changing demographics in Americaand I was kind of randomly contacted by a researcher in the author of thepiece, and I think it's really important for me to sometimes, when I'min 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 myparents were both Edgu caters secondary, you know, educators, guidance, schoolcounselors, and it talked about, you know, just the power of educationand what you know. I've spoke about previously about, you know, educationplaying 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 itand then they look back and then they look at me and then they're likeyou, 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 neverhave 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 andI 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 wayof getting that message to them when your students are in your office. Andin the past you've also talked about how being distinctive must be a settling pointfor 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 precovid and then how Wi look like going...

...forward? Well, I believe thatcovid obviously is has touched impacted all of our lives. It's impacted higher educationand you know it, particularly as we're coming up on kind of the springseason and now we've almost kind of been in Covid for a year. Iwas at actually at our are, our basketball champions are. Well, itwas the tournament. We were probably going to go to the championships, butI 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 makingthat very strong pivot. And so from a marketing standpoint, obviously our marketinghas changed. Our communications has changed so much and much of what we soldto our students that we're still selling is about also in an experience that youreceive when you come here. And so how can you really still position thatyou'll still get a wonderful education? You'll still get a you know, highquality professors. Maybe you might be learning in a different format now, but, for example, on our campus, like that homecoming experience when have thousandsof alumni coming back and feeling that energy of the campus. You might notexperience 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 makesure that the whole student is nurtured on our campus and so even in covidterms and in covid times, making sure that our students know that we havea responsibility to them, they have a responsibility to each other in our campusand we have actually been really proud that our students have embraced that, thathave they've been. We have a very low percent of our students that wewe test them regularly, like many other campuses. But to really be ableto showcase that the fact that you can still come here, yes, thingswill look different, yes, things will... a little bit different, wewill all get through this together, but to be still be able to sella fact that this institution is here to ensure that you are successful. Weare producing a competitive student. We know that the market places change, weknow that industries have changed. We are keeping up with that and we willstill 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 fromhome. And so what are those pivots from a career services and career planningand 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'retalking about the the experience, that that experience still exists. It might bea couple of years before it comes back as we knew it, but we'restill 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 mediumsized privates, and publics to that matter, to be able to really be ableto explain the distinctive of what an experience is, because it's it's tooconvenient now, especially post covid to just say well, we know how towork from home, we know how to educate from home, we know howto do everything from home, and I think that the people who decide togo that route are going to miss so much experience and the distinctives that havethat a school like yours or other, you know, mission, mission Ordanschools and the things that we've talked about. These these these distinctiveness of that experienceis going to be so important and and I think that I guess froma marketing standpoint, do you think that that is going to be one ofthe key marketing points moving forward, is really being able to articulate and distinguishyour experience that you offer, yes, and and being transparent and knowing andstating 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, andso being able to tell students okay, will be experience is a little bitdifferent. For example, we opened our false semester having two new residencehalls on campus apartment style living, and we do have students in those residencehalls, but that was for so many years. It's well, actually abouta year and a half student saw these residence halls going up and to beable to anticipate all of the kind of living and learning opportunities that would begoing 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 arewhole mentally in the classroom. We are a very we're going to be veryintrusive and I think that for parents, you know, those questions that theyhave about the safety of your campus and making sure that, yes, duringcovid 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 dohave graduate and professional programs, but that we're going to make sure wetake care of you and we're going to be responsive to your needs and we'regoing to shift and pivots, as all of us have had to do.But really, and as we talk about kind of selling the experience, theexperience 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 processand in marketing your institution and selling that the change that that we now knowto be are part of our campuses. You articulate that very well and I'msure that a lot of your colleagues are on campus does so. I'm surethe parents feel that and they get that message. Weekly when we have thePODCAST, we attempt to provide our audience with one great idea that they cango away with and maybe apply, that...

...they can clean from our guests.That which today is you, of course. For our markers listening, is thereone idea that you would like them to have, maybe from the dataseat, along with your journey as you're finishing up, that you would mindsharing with everyone? Oh, absolutely, college campus, as university campuses,are so rich in so many ways, and one way I've learned how totruly market this great institution is being really, really intrusive. And when I sayintrusive, 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 andour campus is one that has an LGBTA center and for students to seea member of the campus and administrator coming out and supporting them means so muchhonors Society inductions I've gone to. Those are textile and design students usually havea fashion show that where they show off the work that they've been doing throughoutthe semester. Yes, it's football games, yes, it's athletics, but it'salso 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 clientsand we had a team meeting. It was probably about an hour anda half. It in Krispy Kreme. And how can I best market andtalk about Chrispy Kreme? You have to be there, you have to experienceit, and I are. Also remember a pitch that we were doing fora transit company, and so we said, okay, for for us to beable to market a transit organization, we're going to take the bus tothe pitch, and so we took the bus to the pitch. And soI would definitely pass along kind of the jewel about being intrusive, knowing theto be able to really market anything,... have to really be inside ofit listening to get ye, yes, all all of those who who areyour audiences, who are your constituents, but on a college or university campus, yet out literally be part of the campus. I know all of usare so busy in our job responsibilities, but it could be that after fiveo'clock, but when a student asked you, to invite you to to a programor something, make sure you go and show up and give them feedbackafterwards. They so appreciate it and it helps you really, I would say, do your job or just a little bit better. I love your useof the word intrusive and I love your definition of it and I can seewhere 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 oncampus. I also appreciate all the wonderful, useful takeaways that you gave us throughoutthe podcast. If there was a if someone wanted to reach you,someone wanted to get more information about you or communicate with you, what wouldbe the best way for them to do that? So I will share myemail address as well, as is my twitter account. I obviously we needto be more active. I'm probably more active on thanking university's account, butmy email address is very reasonable. It's just a Hernandez, so a cheerand A and D Z at Inccu Dot Edu, and on twitter I'm aYana, Ay ANA, Middle Initial D Fernandez, and so please reach outto me. I'm also on Linkedin. Thank you very much for a verywarm and authentic episode and for everyone else our listeners. The hired marketer podcastis 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. Thankyou for joining us. Thank you so much. You've been listening to theHigher Ed Marketer. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe tothe 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 tapthe number of stars you think the podcast deserves. Until next time,.

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