The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode · 1 year ago

Small University Presidents: Build Your Social Media Presence


Big universities have the luxury of spending $1M per year only on advertising. For smaller universities, that’s close to a tenth of our entire operating budget.

But all universities have the exact same access to social media platforms. When a university president starts amplifying stories about the institution, think of it as free advertising that works.

In this episode, we interview Walter M. Kimbrough , President at Dillard University, about how he cre ated a personal social media presence to promote his university.

Join us as we discuss:

- Techniques that President Kimbrough used to build his online persona

- How social media attracted Denzel Washington for the nation’s second most watched commencement address

- What audiences that different social media platforms are good at reaching

- Advice for university presidents who might fear social media

Check out these resources we mentioned during the podcast:

Denzel Washington’s commencement speech 

The AP report on Dillard’s physics graduates 

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

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Higher Ed Marketer in your favorite podcast player.

You were 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 High Ed Marketer podcast. My name is troy singer and I'm here with my cohost, Bart Taylor, and each week we do are best to interview higher Ed marketers that you would admire and also benefit hearing from for the betterment of the entire high it community. Today it's a treat to bring to you Dr Walter Kimbro who is the president of Dillard University in New Orleans, and some of you may know him as the hip hop press but most importantly, he is known as being one of the most effective higher ed presidents in utilizing social media. Bart, yeah, I did a search a few weeks ago when we're researching and finding guests to be on the podcast, and I knew that social media was something that I wanted to talk about and have a guest who could really talk through social media well. And so I just did a quick Google search on schools and presidents. They're using social media the best, and Dr Kimbrooke kept coming to the top of the Google search and I recalled meeting him several years ago at a at an eyecase conference here in Indiana at Ball State University. I think I did a workshop and he was one of the keynote speakers and he had talked at that time about utilizing social media in the presidency and in higher at marketing and I was really impressed with that presentation and so when I reached out to him to see if he might be interested in coming, he responded like in fifteen minutes and it was pretty incredible that he came and and participated with us today, and so it's a real treat to talk with him. He's very passionate about what he's doing in social media and how he uses it and keep in mind, as he's talking about this and all the amazing things that he's been doing at Dillard that with his team, Dillard a small school. It's a it's a school one hundred Undergrad students, and so it's it's not a powerhouse, it's not a state school, but the way that they are leveraging social media to get their name out and to get everything going, they've done a pretty amazing job. Let me also add he's not only a wonderful advocate for his institution and his own brand, but also for hbcus. So I was super excited. Wouldn't bart had the idea for us to interview him, and I am so honored that he accepted our invitation. So, without further ADO, here is Dr Walter Kimbro it is my pleasure and honor to welcome Dr Walter Kimbro he is a president of Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana, to the Higher Ed Marketer podcast. Hello, Dr Kimbro, Hey, are you doing today? I'm feeling good, I'm feeling blessed and again I am so excited for a conversation today. A lot of people know but for those who don't, he is a big presence on social media. He's a huge advocate for historically black colleges and universities and he is probably best known as being the HIPHOP press. How did you come to be known as the HIPHOP press? So when I was selected as president of Philander Smith College in Little Rock. I was thirty seven and normally when they do those introductions you give some short speech about who you are. So here I am, this thirty seven year old that looks like he's twelve and I'm saying, you know, I am not from baby boomer generation or the greatest generation. I'm from generation x and you know, people had, you know, misconceptions about generation x, and I'm also from the hiphop generation. So it's just saying this is how I have to operate because this is who I am. And so there's a local paper call the the Arkansas Times, which is a weekly paper. In the very next week the title of the article was Philander welcomes hip pop. President and the Media Marketing Team at Fhlanda Smith...

College thought it was hard, but they were like, Oh my God, hip hop is awful. Just here was an older school, you know, view of music and they're just like this is terrible, and I said no, they might be on the something and I'd lean into it, because it then, you know, gave me this sort of unique brand to step out, particularly when you're at a little bitty school in a state that nobody can find on the map. So it made a lot of sense to say leaning into this, this is something that is different and you can put a spin on it. Doesn't have because for me, you know, as a college student, hippop for me were people like public endemy and it was very conscious and thoughtful. So to me that's not necessarily a negative thing. Is You can't wrap it all up into gangster rapping all those other things as well. So it made sense to me and it was a good decision. Well, that's a great transition, because not only do you lean into, or did you lean into that title, but you really lean intoo marketing and utilizing social media effectively to to give your message and to communicate to the different constituencies and audiences that you communicate with. And love to know how you developed your approach to that and how you deliberately approach the communication that you do through social media. Right. So part of it was when I became president of Land Smith in two thousand and four that's a year facebook lines, and so your, it's my presidency evolved as you started adding social media platforms, you know, along the way. So facebook, instagram, toward all those starts to develop around that time. But once again I'm at this school that most people don't know anything about in Arkansas state, that people don't know a lot about either. So for the Clintons that's it. And I would work out at a gym in North Little Rock, which is really right across the river, and every time I was going there there were these ads from the universes central Arkansas and they would talk about, you know, you see, a the the center of learning in Arkansas, and it didn't matter. Whenever I went to that gym I saw one of those ads and I read in the paper that they were spending a million dollars a year in advertising. I we're never going to get our message out like that. Is You can't come heet with that. We don't have that kind of budget. I mean that would have been, you know, one hundred and twelve of my entire budget for a year to do those ads. So for me it was becomes logical. Social media was a free way to start getting out our message and amplify other things that we could do. So I mean I just started by doing my own blog just to say think of myself as a reporter here. The things that are happening on our campus and then I, you know, would build that out and then use facebook some and then finally got to twitter and those kind of things, and so it made a lot of sense. And then over the course of my career, you know, I'm still today, I can get a direct message from a reporter saying Hey, I'm doing a story on X, Y and Z, and I can respond that way and then the story is done. It was a good thing to do. But some of that was out of necessity. You know, you're in this major market. The University of Arkansas takes a lot of the Air Universe or Central Arkansas. So how do you get any kind of notoriety into space like that? I use what was free and I liver rest it. That's great and I think that if I recall in our initial conversations some of the social media that you did, I mean certainly you kind of jumped in on the blog and some other things, but and I did some research before we even invited you on the show, just kind of like who's doing social media the best in college presidents, and you consistently come up in some of those searches. But I think it even at the beginning though, there was some maybe some reluctancy on some of the platforms. Maybe tell us a little bit about that. Yeah, well, I mean, so I start off with a blog. I felt like that was the best way that I could really add some kind of narrative to what was happening, and then I moved to facebook really as a way to say we had a good, great photographer on campus. So there is a way for me to amplify events if I just had a photo album to say we did this on campus, we did this. That was really good and particularly but it was something that was popular, like for the lecture series which I called blessed, the mic I had, you know, hip hop...

...icon common there, and so you have common on campus. A lot of students work the event, they tag their friends. Their friends are saying who common was on your so you get a lot of buzz because people are excited that just happened. You know, common is in a Little Rock Arkansas. So those kinds of things, I think, were very helpful. So I thought because I had the blog and I had facebook, I was good and one of our team members who handled all of our marketing pr she is just kept saying like you got to do twitter, I do to it. I was like, it's a microblog. I already have a blog. I don't need that, you know, and so we fought the whole way and so she had somebody come in and really talk about it. So I said, okay, all right, I'll get into to it. And I was two thousand and nine when I got into twitter. Now that becomes one of my main platforms, but that was the one I did not want to do. I just like I got enough. I think that's fine. But you know, once I got into it and then figured out ways to use it, I think one of the things that helped is that as major mainstream media companies started to make it easy for you to amplify your stories via social media, it may sense to be able to have an access to, you know, facebook and a twitter and now to linkedin. So if there's a great story about the institution, all I have to do is go on and Click and then now I've amplified five this story for free. So that I think part of that for me was seeing how those new site started to change and they had the little twitter icon on there and it was like all I have to do is pointing click and now I'm telling other people about what's happening here. So it a lot of this is just being practical. Yeah, yeah, practical, and using using free tools, as you talked about earlier and right. And I think that it's probably evolved over time because now it gives you kind of access to being able to engage with students current or perspective and families and you know, how are you leveraging that even with other constituencies? I mean certainly I'm sure that there are community members and things like that. How's that working out? So I you know, I look at the platforms differently because I find it different constituencies will reach you. In certain places students are more instant and so they'll get a lot of information off of twitter. Even know particularly, and I think some people try to use that. Like some of the airlines are really good. If somebody has a problem with their luggage, they have their help person that's on twitter all the time and we don't have that kind of band with so for me it becomes a tool that particular student reaches out via twitter, I want them to send me an email so I can get more detail to really address the issue. So sometimes people say, well, you know, just meetum where they are. It's like that's a starting point for me, but it doesn't give me enough information in two hundred and eighty characters. Are Really solve that? That's part of it, right. But for the general population, twitter becomes a good to just to share what's happening on campus. That's very important. Parents and alums lean a little bit more toward facebook, so, you know, pictures of events and those stories that go there. I can reach some of them linkedin. You'll get, I think, Linkedin, you start to get more of the unsolicited hey, I got this deal for dealer, so you just have to, you know, try to wead some of that out as a part of that. But yeah, those are different ways. And then just having the platforms, particularly like foundations. Foundations will do their research and look at what's on your platforms and see what's happening. So all of the platforms come in to play for them. And then, you know, instagram is another like facebook, but it's shorter where you can have just some pictures and, you know, almost like announcements and bulletin board. So I use it more and that or just simple congratulations about different things. So I have a different mindset for what I want to share her platform and they are a little the audience. The audiences skew a little differently based on the platform from issues. That's great and I guess one of the questions I have about that is that I might be hearing people who are on the listening right now. They might be saying, okay, that's great. Where did you learn that? How did you do that? My guess is, and if mean being a generation extra myself, we kind of figure things out and I'm guessing that's kind of what you've done. Yeah, that's trialing there. I mean that's I mean that's really...

...wasn't I mean there are people now doing scholarly work about how do you, you know, maximize are use these platforms. But right you know, once again, I've became a president the same your facebook started. So they're figuring out facebook and I'm figuring out facebook at the same time. Yeah, and so that's I think that's just been part of it. and You I don't think you have to use all the platforms. I think sometimes, I mean I you know, I have an account on pair of scope. People don't really use paiscope because you can do video on instagram and facebook. So that didn't really exist. A lot of people talk about the benefits of Tick Tock. I, you know, I have an account that's there just to protect the brand, but I don't use it. And and based on our studies that we've done for our campus, our campus is much more of a twitter campus. So I'm not going to really expand my reach if I go to tick tock. That's not going to I mean, I have a fifteen year old daughter. She likes Tick Tock, so it's so that's it. I just, you know, the ones that I want to use. I really lean into those and others I'm aware of and I haven't really found a good use for them yet and so I'm not pressed to do that. Yeah, okay. What would you say for other campuses that are saying like hey, we really think that our our president, his personality or her personality would go well in social media? How would you encourage them to help them get involved, or is that something where it's like well, if they don't already do it and they're not already naturally there, it might not be the best use of their time? Well, yeah, I think presents more presence. Are Open to having that kind of presence at our accreditation meeting in the South Southern Association of colleges and schools about three or four years ago, Josie all quiz who does a lot of work in this area. She's she was a speaker for Presidents Day. So I mean she showed them examples as a how college presence can be effective on social media and I had a lot of people asking me questions afterwards because, you know, I was one of her examples a number of times. So I think a lot of people are aware of it. I think they're still is some reticence by people just because they might think that I'm too old or really engage at when I always tell them it's like Gordon get at West Virginia is in his mid to late seventies and he's an active presence on social media. So don't give me the I'm too old answer because that's not it, but that you just have to find a way that you're comfortable in using it. It doesn't mean that you need to be on their all day. It might just be a couple of time that you pick. I always encourage people to make sure it's more authentic because some places you got a team of people that do their social media for them and I'm not a fan of that at all. Is I rather not do it than just have somebody posting. As you right, I think it's better if its authentic, but it's you know, it's scared for some people because then you know you're there and if somebody's mad about something that happens on campus, they're going to add you and you're going to get the vitriol and that sort of comes with the territory. So well, first I would encourage our listeners that they haven't followed Dr Kimbro already to go out there and do so on twitter and the other platforms that he is on, and you'll see that he is authentic. He needs very engaging, very dynamic, and would love for you to share a story or two. I think the one that I'm most curious about and would love for everyone to know is the story behind you getting Denzel Washington to do the commencement address. That, I think is one of the most famous commencement addresses on Youtube. Right. So, and this is one where, at the end of the story, after it happened, we were able to use social media, something like Youtube, to the really amplify what happened on our campus. So this is a Washington film, a movie in New Orleans right after Katrina with Paula Patton, and he heard about dillard and in one of the scenes he has a black on black dillard hat. So if you watch this movie you see this Dillard had on and he gave money because we're the oldest hbcu speech in theater program in the country. He gave a million dollars a deal at universities. That's right after Katrina. He was in town, heard about dillard and so we were thinking for a commissment ahead to say this is going to be the ten anniversity of Katrina two thousand and fifteen. Let'stend Denzel Washington and we have his people's information. Let's see if it... commissment. We send him the letter in October. So October two thousand and fourteen. So it's February. We haven't heard anything. It's like all right, we better get somebody. So I restout to dawn Lemmon. He's a Louisiana native. He agreed to do it. So one day I lead officer, I'm going home to work out. Our worst study student answers us the call and it's Denzel Washington and she doesn't believe him. So she passes the the phone call on to my assistant and she says, Miss Cath is, somebody's on the phone plan and I don't know who it is, and so she answered. Cath answer the phone and it's Denzel Washington trying to reach me. So she gives him my cell number. So I'm working out. It's like four and afternoon thirty I see this unlisted number. I think it's Arnie Duncan because we've been having conversations about some thing. That's I'll call aren't Duncan back late. I'm not worried about that now. And so I finished working out and listen to the message and it's Denzel Washington saying basically, Hey, I got your letter. Sorry took me so long to respond, but I know my schedule now I'll be in an area, so if you want me to do commissment, I'll do it. He was filming the magnificence seven, which is one of my favorite movies, and so it's like this at Washington said I'm going to be in an area, I'm going to do this, so we're like cool. You know, it was great and we know we did like a little preview for the seniors I had to meet in the room and I actually played the the voice mail message and so you know they're citing aroundic a like that's this a Washington isn't who you're say. They hear him saying I'm coming to do your commitment. That was like one of the coolest moments that happen. So he came and so you know he had only done one commitment before at pin so this is the second one he's ever done before and short to the point, like nine minutes, and it this is really viral because it's like been viewed thirty, forty million times, and so you know, we put it on our youtube channel, but it's been on so many different platforms that this I mean I think there is a report that came out recently. It's like the second most viewed commencement address ever, behind one that I think Steve Jobs or Bill Gates gave, one of the two. I can't remember which one. So it's just been crazy. But that's how social media has as amplified that and every year invariably somebody POPs up. They show that this is a Washington speech at diller and it's great branding because you see him, you see the poling with diller university, and that's just that's going to lead live for infamy. It's just going to be there forever. Yeah, and we see you to write beside him, Dr Kimball. Right, yeah, yeah, it's I mean it's just one of those things, but that's the way that for us, social media just continues to just, you know, a great, you know iconic moment in the history of this institution is that Denzel Washington Commencement address. That's great and because it was just so good. It was to the point, it was practical. So he was just like boom boom, boom, boom boom. It was great. Everybody loved it. He kept it moved. Yeah, I mean I was perfect. Well, and it seemed like he really when I've watched it. It's I mean he knew the audience and he really leaned into the audience and I think that's for anybody. I think, and even when we're talking about social media, really being able to know your audience and lean into that and being able to be authentic. I think those are really good takeaways. Right, that's great. Yeah, no, it was it was. It was just it was a great it was a great moment and, like I said, continues to live on. When people talk about great commiscement speeches, he always is mentioned in so just to have dillard and Dinzel mentioned together is always good. Dr Kimbro is there a piece of advice that you would give other presidents or high red leaders that aren't as leaned into social media as you, and maybe a tip or two to get them started and maybe a convincing reason why that they should do it? So what my reasons? I always tell people is that sometimes people feel like if they don't have an account on social media, they're not on social media, and that's a that's a mistake. Everybody's on social media. They just don't have a way to sort of add you, but they are with your name and so you can't avoid it. You're a part of that conversation. So since you're already a part of..., is better to play an active role so you can decide how you want to participate in that and not just sort of be a bystander. I mean it. So it is it's scary, like I said, you know, the toughest part because sometimes social media is a me space. You know, people go through out ray cycles. We had a Senate debate here in Louisiana and we just rented out the space and it wasn't a big deal until some kind of way David do qualify, and so everybody was like, you know, you guys invited David you we were like no, we didn't. I mean we rented the space. We always wrint spaces for debates. He didn't qualify for the one two weeks ago. I still don't believe he qualify. Legitimately, I think it was somebody just did US wrong, but that's a whole nother story. So it's like for you know, for twenty four hours is like, don't even look at your mentions because the whole world was mad at me because of that. And you let the outrace cycle go through and then you go on about your business. I mean that's you know, as the people who really know you and noticed situation, and we use social media to tell our side of the story. But it's just going to be sometimes when you just get beat up, that's just part of it. So I think you understand that. But in the end, can you leverage it to really get out stories about your institution in ways and it might spur additional people to write stories about your institution. So another really quick story. I have always when I got to dealer, when I learned it we were number two in the country for producing African Americans with degrees in physics. I was telling everybody I could about that. I was like, I would post about it a lot. Every time I gave a speech I led with that. So I had a reporter from the APE, this is two thousand and sixteen I believe, who said, Hey, you are always talking about dealing in physics, and this is after we had secure Janelle Mulney to be our commencement speaker, and this is right after hidden figures that come out. So you got this movie about these women and stem and this reporter from the ape says, I am going to pitch this story that we do an ape story on Dialer in physics. She pictures the story, she comes, they write the story, they have the photographer here. That becomes another one of our viral moments because this story is an APE story. It rant in every major newspaper in the country, from the New York Times to the San Francisco Chronicle, and so now you getting it amplified via social media and NBC News on their site. So that was just another but that was part of me always talking about physics, physics, that this AP reporter. It clicked for her to say, yeah, he's always talking to outside. She saw Janelle Monee and she put the dits together and she ran with it at that's the power of social media. That happens because of social media. Didn't happen because I wrote a you know, a piss letter, hey do a story on this. She came up with the idea and she ran with that's exactly but that's part of me. Just continue to say here are good things that we're doing over and over again, and somebody picks it up and they say this is a great idea, let's run with it. So to me that's a benefit. Once again, it cost me nothing and the media hit that we got for having Janelle money alone would have been great, but then when they linked it to the movie and to our physics program it took us to a whole another level. Free. Cost me nothing. That's awesome. Can't even calculate the add value of having those stories and every major newspaper in the country very very cool. Thank you well again. We are honored to it. Had you as a guest on the Higher Ed Marketer podcast. If we can, if someone would like to reach you, I mean they can just google you and there's so many ways that they can contact you, but as their way that you prefer serious inquiries to come to you. Yeah, well, you know, particularly folks engine hire at marketing. He just email me. I take all my emails directly. W Kimbro at dillarded you and it did normally take me a long time either. I always tell my students if you haven't heard from me in twenty four hours, it means I'm dead or means called Liam Neeson because I was takes. I respond via email. So you know, people who have questions about that they can say my email and I can share...

...whatever I have on it. Thank you, Doctor Bart do you have any parting words? Yeah, just a couple things. I wanted to point out the Dr Kimbro said just to kind of bring some emphasis to it. But I think that, you know, Dillard is a small school, under a thousand Undergrad students. If I'm correct, Dr Kimbro hundred two hundred. Okay, so one hundred two it's at small school. So all I know a lot of the audience that listens to the hired marketer. You would consider yourself a small to medium size school, much like Dillard. I think one of the things that Dr Kimbro has talked about is just the power of social media and what that can do for a small school. I mean he kind of used the the illustration the beginning about the big state school in Arkansas that was spending a million dollars a year on advertising. Just like Dr Cambro and Dillard. I know a lot of these schools don't have that kind of budget, but you do have access to the same platforms that Dr Kimbro has with the social media, with facebook, with social with twitter, with Linkedin, with instagram. Leverage that in leverage that with several of your leaders. I think that you'll, you know, rather than just relying on the on the young student in turn in the marketing department to do your instagram, really lean into it and get some of your leadership behind that and leverage that free resource which can really turn into something much more, as Dr Kimber has shared today. So thank you again, Dr Kimber. This has been a wonderful conversation. I think it's been very beneficial for audience and it's been a pleasure to have you. Thank you appreciated. Thanks, Bart. The hired marketer podcast is sponsored by Taylor solutions and education, marketing and branding agency and by thing patented, a marketing, execution, printing and mailing provider of Higher Ed Solutions. On behalf of my cohost barred Taylor, I'm troy singer. Thank you for joining us. 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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