The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode · 1 year ago

Staying Ahead of the Next Big Thing in Higher Ed Marketing


There’s always going to be a “next big thing” in higher ed marketing.

The important thing to remember is it’s not so much what that next big thing is that matters, it’s how you use it.

John Drevs, Associate Vice President of Digital Marketing and Communications at Loyola University Chicago, provides insights on how to keep ahead of the next big thing in this episode. Plus, he explains the ideal way to approach content marketing.

Join us as we discuss:

- Why marketing principles are fundamental to leveraging the next big thing

- Lessons from some of the next big things from the past

- Where content marketing is headed in higher ed

- Resources for keeping up with the next big thing

Resources mentioned during the podcast:

- Building a Storybrand

- Contact John:

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.

But at the end of the day, you know, you really started thinking about what the audience is and what they need. You know what their needs are and looking at it from the the the next big thing and being and preparing for the next big thing by understanding that we can always go back to the marketing principles. 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 another edition of the high end marketer podcast. My name is troy singer, here with Bart Taylor and every week we do our best to identify higher ed marketers to interview for the benefit of others. Today we're talking to John Drev's about the next big thing and content marketing and higher education, and it's no surprise that this is someone that Bart has had a history, a relationship with, but this time it's been for a lot of years. Yeah, try John, and I have known each other, I think, since nineteen ninety seven or uand nine hundred and ninety eight. We both kind of grew up in the Internet Marketing Range, the digital marketing range, and then both kind of share his father, Bob drevs, was a marketing professor at Notre Dame, at the Mendozes College of business, and we want an our FP at a previous firm that I was a part of when we were first doing college and highered websites in the late S. I think the Notre Dame website was maybe that my third or fourth high ed website that I had done, and so I got to know Bob drefs, he's he was a marketing professor at Notre Dame, and his son John, and many times when Bob and I'd be meeting he'd be talking about well, John says this because John had a marketing firm to that did a little bit of highed marketing, and so I got to know John Through his dad, Bob. In fact, I went to lunch with Bob. He's long since retired, and went to lunch with him, I think it perkins a few years ago when I was in the Notre Dame South Bend area. So really have always enjoyed Bob and getting to know John and John's been at Loyola for several years now. I've visited him on campus and and always follow him and really have an admiration for John and the work that he's done and and I think there's kind of a camaraderie in the sense that we kind of we're kind of the old men of the Internet now, and so it's a it's fun to have this conversation with him today and I think the listeners are going to find John Very engaging, very resourceful and this is a conversation not not only will be entertaining but will also have a lot of information for people to use. So, without further ado our conversation with John Dretts, it is my pleasure to welcome John Drev's, Associated Vice President of Digital Marketing and communications at Loyola University of Chicago to the Higher Ed Marketer podcast. John, before we get into our conversation, can you tell everyone a little bit about yourself and your role at Loyola? Sure, I've been in higher ED marketing for a little over a while, twenty five years now, and have been in a number of different circumstances. I started my career as a startup firm, leading a higher ed marketing experience consulting firm and then transitioned into a medical software company for a couple of years and then about seventeen years ago join lawyer University Chicago as a Web content manager and have been at Loyala for seventeen years now. So it's gone a long and story to time at loyalist, starting from a very rudimentary space and then watching the the Internet evolved to where it is today and the many challenges and obstacles that we faced in a lot of opportunities as well. That's great and I appreciate that. John, I know you and I've known each other for...

...most of that time, I would think. I'm trying to think of when we met. I think it was late s when you and I met. Your father was a client of mine at Notre Dame Mendoza College of business and and they were one of the very first websites that we did in the late S, and so you and I had known each other through then and then, you know, gotten to know each other over the years, and so one of the things that I've always found and people ask me, and I'm sure people ask you too, is that what is that next big thing that's going to be in marketing and Higher Ed? I mean it's it's you know, you and I came from, you know, startups and and we were kind of the ones that people look to to to hey, what's that next big thing, you know, and then now that you're in your role, I'm sure that that's the same thing that other people in the cabinet and other leaders, your peers, are coming and saying what's the next big thing that we need to be doing to market to, you know, online students or traditional students or whatever it is? So what's your what's your thoughts? I mean, how do you answer that? Yeah, you know, you're absolutely right. The one consistency about the next big thing is that's people keep asking the question what is the next big thing? And you know, it's been a long time and, like I said, I've been in it for, you know, close to twenty five years now, and you know, it's gone through different transitions. It's been push technologies, it's been portals, it's been social media, and I always look at the next big thing, in the answer to the next big thing that it's less important what is the next big thing and how we're going to use the next big thing. And maybe this is because my dad was a marketing professor. We we always return to what are the principles of marketing and how do how will the next big thing address it right? And so the next big thing might be user generated content, it might be personalization and but at the end of the day, you know, you really start thinking about what the audience is and what they need. You know what their needs are, and looking at it from the the the next big thing and being and preparing for the next big thing by understanding that, we can always go back to the marketing principles. You know, when they talked about blogs as the next big thing, it was always this conversation of you know, what is what is the advantage of it? And we look at it from an audience perspective. Really, what they want to do is participate in your brand right. They want to have a voice, they have a an investment that they've made, especially in higher Ed if you're talking about perspective, or current students, certainly with alumni and donors. They want to have share the experience of the brand and so what does that mean? It means a two way communication flow. It means people being participatory in a process to be able to understand that. So, you know, those are marketing principles. Understanding and valuing what is important to your audience, understanding the marketing principle of differentiation. How can what we do be different than what our competitors do and what is the value of that for our audiences? So, you know, I don't really know. I don't have an answer today of what the next big thing is. Bart I'm sure it's going to be asked of me probably very soon, but I do have confidence knowing that if we were to approach the next big thing from a marketing principles angle, I think we're going to be successful and understand that, whatever it might be, it's going to be something rooted in understanding our audience, understanding what the message the media is. You know, if I didn't say the four peas, product, price, place and promotion, I think my dad wouldn't invite me to Thanksgiving dinner next week. But the very heart of it, it's really those things that we all learned in marketing principles one hundred and one. Yeah, I think that's a great point and I think that I think you're right because, I mean, if you look at it, just even look at the history of social media, I mean it was facebook. Well, before that was myspace and then it was facebook and then you know, and then you know, facebook kind of lost its edge because, hey, mom and dad and grandma start getting on facebook. So you know, I'm going to jump to twitter and then after that I'm going to jump over to instagram and then I'm going to jump over to tick tock, and so it's the yes, the the channels are different, they have different things. I mean you dance on one, you serve up pictures on another, but at the end...

...of the day, the way you market on those is it's it's true to your point, there's a consistency of marketing, whether it's social media, whether it's a view book, whether it's a website. We have to have that differentiation. We have to have those different product price, place and promotion. We've got to have all those in place so that we can make sure that what we're doing and how we are communicating is ultimately for the end users benefit. Yeah, I think the other thing to think about when you talk about social media as a next big thing or the next big thing, is that they always go through these product cyclist right to your point. I remember back in the day it was my space and then it was facebook and you know, we were trying to figure out how we were going to, you know, capitalize on facebook to be able to compel our audience to be able to do what we wanted them to do right. But then a transition and evolved in facebook became, you know, twitter, and twitter became instagram, and each one of those channels and and even even those mediums go through an evolutionary cycle where you start understanding social media as oh, we're going to post everything we possibly can to social media and you know we're going to tell them what we want them to know, when, in reality, as the life cycle of social media evolves, you start realizing the real marketing play here is engaging people in conversation. Right that you think about things like social listening and you use the channel of social media to be able to do a better job of telling the brand story of your institution. And so you know, those people that are using social media as a one way communication flow, you're going to be in a situation where you're very quickly going to understand that it's not a message that or a channel or a medium that you can control as much as you want. We talked about a lot these days about the the challenge of social media being as a not zero risk platform. Right, that, because you're in a two way communication flow. There's opportunity for people to have dissent, right. There's opportunities for people to tell you what's really wrong with your institution, but it also is a very authentic experience for our audiences and being able to understand in and engage with our brand and understand that not only are we telling a story, that they can tell us a story back, and so I think it's very valuable to look at those kind of opportunities and be able to understand where are we in the life cycle of each one of those kind of things and wherever we are start getting back to those principles that we talked about of engagement and the idea of how our positioning our product. You know, how we are looking at the the brand and what it means to our audiences. Yeah, John, one of the things that I like talking to Bart about is are with his back in the day stories and he started the episode by saying that the both of you have been in this since the mid s and known one another. So will like to ask you, and also to get him a share a little bit about some of the next big things that you've encountered over the years and those life cycles of things that have come up and then went away and maybe some learnings that you've gained from those. Yeah, absolutely, and I mean there's a lot of back in the day stories when you've been at it for twenty five years. I'm sure Bart would echo this that there's just so many. I mean there are. There are things that also have endured over that time. You know, search engines are a particular interesting thing to me, having been around from the very inception of Yahoo, even before Google was a thing, and I remember back in the day when Yahoo is more of a listing service than it was a search engine, and they would put a new site up there and you could put your little badge on the bottom of your website it was a yahoo preferred search or a Yahoo preferred site. My colleague and I used to go to Yahoo every single day and it just hit refresh because we wanted to. We're just start for all the new and cool sites that were coming out, and so we would hit refresh and we would look for every new thing that was list, you know, listed on Yahoo. Can you imagine going through a search engine and having basically come to the end of the search engine because it was there wasn't any other sites listed on it? It's just crazy. And my... favorite story about that is at one point is you know, I was an entrepreneur and we were starting this company. At the bottom of the Yahoo search page there was a call and said, you know, Yahoo is expanding and we want, you know, people like you to be able to come work with us out in California. We can't pay you much, but you know, we know you're a likeminded person. Come on out and send your resume in and we'll do this together. And I always look back on that as a missed opportunity. You know, I obviously transitioned out of the entrepreneur of spirit and have been at loyal for seventeen years. But did I miss my opportunity to have that Super Yat by getting in on the ground floor with Yahoo and getting some stock options from that day? So the thing that I that fascinates me about search engines is, you know, seeing them evolved from the time when they were a listing engine, right and they were just a collection of sites that were endorsed by Yahoo, to the point where it's search engine, you know, in Google and the the the enormous way that search engines began as a service and a tool and now it become an experience. And so google itself, if you ever call it a search engine, is really kind of shortsighted. It's more of a user experience company and they've recognized that. Now, I think they're alphabet or whatever, and they've got mail and they've got search engine and they've got video and youtube and all those kind of things. So their storytellers again and you know, but it's still starts as a as a search engine, and it starts as an evolution in that product cycle of you know, what does that mean? And one are the opportunities they each one of those different ways that Google represents itself is an opportunity as a marketer to be able to understand a different way of either telling your story reaching your audience. And we still spend a lot of money these days on search engine optimization, even though it's been the next big thing for, you know, Fifteen, twenty years now, but it's still it's still part of that marketing makes it. You have to equate. Yeah, I remember talking about search engines. I remember that before Google it was Alta Vista and asked Jeeves, I remember. Yeah, and and you never could quite if you couldn't quite find what you wanted to ask Jeeves, you go over to over to Alta Vista and you'd kind of you kind of kind of did this search engine surf until you found what you were looking for. And then I remember talking to a client one day and they're like, Hey, have you heard about that new thing coming out today? This couple guys from Stanford Google. I'm like no, I hadn't heard about Google. And that's a weird name. Yeah, it's kind of a weird name. You gott to check it out. They've got a better search engine than anybody. It's just it's fine. Remember when search engines were such a big thing. And I won't name the university, but this we were undergoing a webrary design for our our university and we were, you know, doing some competitive analysis and trying to figure out what we should do in one of the institutions really just honestly did nothing more than put a good like a a search box in a submit form. They had gotten the point where what we'd got in the point we're trying to make an information architecture. And you know, you you wrestle with the about us, the academics, the admission, you know, the you know the standard approach to the to an institutional website. I don't know whether they were frustrated and through their arms up in the air or they were sheer geniuses that they were just going to put a search engine, because I remember that. Yeah, and everybody it was just it looked like Google. I thought it was the clolest thing in the world. I thought it was something that we should really consider and and you know I I I paid attention to it and I said, let's look at this and see where it ends up. But I saw what ended up happening was, over time, little things just started creeping up, like the the the master idea was a simplicity, right, that it was just the basic thing and everybody was going to get to something through a search. And then they had been enamored with Google and this was they we're going to do, but over time went and up happening was they would end up having, you know, a link to the president's office, or there was a directory here or there was something like there, and it became almost like a nascar where there were like little things that kept on...

...adding on to the page until the point where I'm sure people who would have been in my position or art and your position would have been like, all right, we can't do it anymore. It just in a failed experiment. It's like one of those things where you're like, if you had just kept it pure, it would have worked. Except we all know and are challenged by the fact that there's so much request on that home page space. There's political challenges that you have to undergo. You've got an answer to a number of different you know, people asking you for space that it just ended up on the other side of it. And you know, I think it's so funny to watch those kind of progressions of different sites and I develop a sympathy for these people on the back end that are like, I know what that guy's going through, I know what that woman's going through, because I've been there and I fought that battle before. But Hey, good job and trying to try in it. Right. Yeah, exactly right. You know, it's fun to kind of think about, you know, the past and all the kind of the back in the day types of things. And you made a comment earlier about Google changing to alphabet and at the end of the day they're really more of a content company and and you can kind of start making an argument that. You look at apple and you know they shifted from hardware and now they are you know, one of the most popular TV shows on the planet is on an apple with with Ted Lasso and and so you think about these so many of these companies in so many places are kind of making a pivot into content companies, content marketing and things like that. So I mean, you know, we can kind of make arguments about the next big thing and things like that, but content has always been something very important and it's something that I think is really starting to drive more of what people are looking for. I mean, in a few weeks we're going to have Jay bear on the show. He's the author of utility and and I read his book, you know, probably seven or eight years ago and it really impacted me in the idea that if you answer the questions that your perspective customers are students or anybody else has, and you provide those answers and you do that in a consistent way, you're going to win at search, you're going to win another things, but it comes down to content. And you know Jay's company, convinced and convert, I mean he's had success developing that content strategy for for different companies across different verticals. Tell me a little bit about what you think about content marketing and higher at and where that's going and where it's been and what it is. Yeah, it's you know, it is, I mean maybe the the one thread line through everything that we've done over these years. Art is content. Right, content is king. I say it all the time and I think it's you know, when we look at it at loyal and we walk into do digital strategy with one of our schools or one of our departments, you know we talked about content as a driver of what we're trying to do, right, tell the story of Loyola. But in many ways we talked about content in two ways. There's process content and there's narrative content. Right, the process content is the stuff that is informational based, right, the you know, what are your admission requirements? What are your academic what is the curriculum? Those kind of things, and certainly you can form that content into an experience, and the good ones really do like looking at that content and making it engaging and palatable and consumable and all those kind of things. But the other part of that content equation is the narrative content and that's the telling the story, and it's really the most engaging and exciting part of your website, in my opinion, because it's where you can differentiate yourself from those other institutions. What is different about an experience at loyal? What is different about how we approach research? What is different about how we do that? We well, we can make that differentiation apparent by talking about stories. And you know, the big thing I always lead people to talk about when we tell narrative stories is be person centric. You know so many times in higher education when we talk about telling stories, someone wants to tell a story about the department of x or, you know, the Institute for X, Y Z, and I always leave people back to think about telling narrative content around a person centric right. Tell me a story of...

...impact for somebody. That begins with you know the problem that this person was overcoming and then tell me how your institute help that person. Right. So it always comes back to that. And I think the other part of that is when you tell those stories in that way, you can compel people to Action Better. First all, it's get it yet engage right. It's really hard to tell a story about an institute or a Department or an idea. It's a lot easier to tell it and engage somebody because they see themselves in that or they see the challenge or they see the passion, or whatever it might be. Because once I'm engaged with you, I can then get you to think about how you can participate in this story. Right, and that's the compelling part of it. So many times we talked about telling stories and content, we forget to ask what we want them to do. Right, if you want to make impact, like the Institute of Xyz, join us, support us, you know is fill out a form, whatever it might be, connecting the narrative content, connecting the process content to the compelling someone to Action. Because here's the bottom line. Doing content well takes a lot of resources. Right, telling stories well takes a lot of resources. If you're not compelling somebody to action through those using those resources. Your ineffective and inefficient being able to use those resources. And then it's you know, and then it gets into digital analytics and how you're tracking what stories are compelling people the most, what resonates with our audience, which one is getting the most likes on social media. So it Becu comes a digital analytics conversation as well and trying to drive back into those kind of things. But it all begins with content, right. It all begins with how we define content and when we we've talked about the evolution of the Internet, but I think you'd echo that content itself has, you know, have evolved in itself, like to your point of you know, the different search engines and experience engines and all those kind of things that people are are working on. Even the way they're doing content has changed and how people are engaging with that content. And maybe there's something in the next big thing in the contents their sphere as well. Yeah, I think you're right and I you talked about resources. A couple resources that I like and I'll just going to throw out Donald Miller did a great job with his book story brand kind of talks about, you know, that our our our perspective, student, our reader, should be the hero and we're simply the the Yoda to their Luke Skywalker to kind of help them kind of do their journey. And so I think that that's really important. And then another one that I really like is just being able to utilize. You know, there's a lot of things online with with content that you can certainly do some research on, and and and so I think that the idea of really kind of coming up with content, with storytelling, being able to kind of capture that and capture that well, is so important and I really appreciate you kind of bringing that up, bringing that up, John. So go ahead and let troy take it over. John. We end every episode by asking our guests to give us either an idea or a thought that they can share that could be immediately implemented by a fellow hired marketer, and I guess today would be maybe around digital strategy or how to stay in front of the next big thing. Yeah, I think it's the people that are most successful about staying relevant in this space are just thirsting for knowledge, right. You know, Bart puts a really good point on it. To be able to provide resources for people to be able to follow up and do more, and I'm I'm writing them down as you speak because you know, when you're looking at the next big thing, you got to be plugged into the places where people are going to identify it. Your point about Donald Miller is a great one. Like I have, I don't know him at all, but I've, you know, received his email newsletter all the time and I pay attention to those kind of things. You know, one of the other things that it brings me energy about this space is that, you know, higher... is weird in the fact that we compete against each other, but we're also very sharing with ideas and backgrounds and even just being on a podcast like that, and I appreciate Troy and Bart, you bringing this podcast. You are our group and paying attention to those kind of things because if someone else is doing it, they probably have faced similar challenges. There's opportunity to be able to learn from them and more often than not that they're sharing it right like we've all gone too those higher at Amas and you know edge, you web and edge cause and all those other things, and I'm always energized by people willing to be able to share those kind of stories of their experiences in the sense that, you know, we're all we're all sharing the same challenges many times, you know, we've got the same political challenges, we've got the same resource challenges, oftentimes we've got the same audience challenges, the same obstacles, that kind of thing, and I really energized by the idea of people bringing to the table and being willing to share that kind of stuff so that we can overcome them, even while we're in competition, right even while we're competing for those same targeted audiences, while we're still looking to be able to fill those seats with some of the similar perspective students or the alum night and donors, and it's just a great industry to be in and a rewarding one that I've been proud to be a part of for as long as I have. Well, John, I'm very grateful for you being on the episode and passionately sharing your knowledge and your recommendations for those who would want to reach out and connect with you. What's the best way for them to do so? They're always welcome to contact me at my email address. It's Jay drebs at Luc died you. I'm on Linkedin. You can find me through Linkedin. Think those are probably the best places to get Ahold of me and I'm always willing to pay the favor back to the many people that have been been beneficial to me and my career and would pay it forward to those people that want to reach out and have a conversation. I don't claim to know anything or everything, but I'm always happy to have a conversation and balance ideas off of people. Thank you, John Bart do you have any last minute thoughts or comments you'd like to share? Yeah, I just wanted to kind of point out a couple things. I mean, it was fun to kind of Walk Down Memory Lane with John and, you know, being able to kind of talk about, you know, days of Issdn and all those types of things. But the the idea that I think is really important to kind of take away as just the idea of this idea of, you know, the next big thing and the idea of content marketing. And so I mean you could argue that, well, content marketing is kind of the next big thing, yes, and maybe so and, but I don't like to really kind of put my thumb on something that's the next big thing, because there's always going to be a lot of next big things and they're going to change. I often in my presentations that I give I will start off with a disclaimer that says, you know, I might tell you something today that this time next year I'm going to tell you don't do that anymore and move on to something else because it changes. That freak that frequently and I think we all know that if we're in any kind of marketing, especially digital marketing, that's the case. But I think John Brings up a lot of really good things about just, you know, the basics of marketing, the four peas, kind of leaning into the the traditional marketing and then also, just as we talked about content marketing, same thing, leaning into that traditional marketing, leaning into the fact that we've got to be constant learners as we go into that. And we talked a little bit about Donald Miller and his story brand. Another one to a podcast that we did recently was with Jim Small at Notre Dame. He kind of did his five points of storytelling. A lot of really great resources out there and I think that, to John's point, being able to kind of take it to the next level and being able to lean into the resources, lean into you know it takes work, it takes resources to do content and being able to kind of, you know, prepare yourself for that and surround yourself with a lot of really good resources and in both content, like reading content, but also listening and being with other people about that. So, John, thanks for being a part of this today. Right pleasure. The hired Marker podcast is sponsored by Kayli solutions and education,... and branding agency and by thing patent did, a marketing execution company offering enhanced printing and mailing solutions to hire it institutions. On behalf of my cohost, Bart Kaylor, I'm Troye 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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