The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode · 1 year ago

Solving For the Right Things in the Right Way: IU Strategies to Retain Students


Even at a small college, the risk of becoming siloed is high. At a large school with multiple campuses, it’s crucial to emphasize clarity of vision. Without it, employees will go rogue trying to solve the problems in front of them.

We speak with Eleanor Berman, Chief Marketing Officer at Indiana University, about her experience with decentralized marketing organizations, solving the $800 million question of removing siloes, and helping Indiana thrive by putting students first.

Join us as we discuss:

- Managing a decentralized marketing organization & avoiding silos

- Handling internal marketing

- The impact of a new college president on Eleanor’s position

- Telling the stories of the benefits & human-centered leadership

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

You know, I come across something or someone brings me something that is way off strategy. It's not that folks are trying to go row, they're just going to solve a problem. That's right before though, 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't a 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 always proud to be with my cohost, Bart Taylor, who is the Mickey Mouse Club apologist of the duo, and today we are talking to Eleanor Berman, who serves as the Chief Marketing Officer at Indiana University, and she is one of the best people that we can talk to in regard to decentralize marketing organizations and how the best navigate them. Yeah, it's a great conversation with with Alanor and and again, if you're a smaller school, don't hang up. You know, stay on because there's so many good things that we talked about that I think are extremely relevant for smaller schools that you might not have a large marketing team like eleanor leads, but I think that she has so many good things to say that apply to all levels of highed marketing. I think it's a really valuable conversation. Yeah, and as a conversation where she gives a lot of great advice and a lot of great insight, but in a very lovely way and without further ado. Let's join our conversation with Eleanor Burman. It is my pleasure to welcome Eleanor Burman to the Higher Ed Marketer. Eleanor, in case someone hasn't heard your name here in the Midwest, you are the CMO of a little small school in a particular state that's not too far from Bart and if you would please give us a little bit of interesting facts about you, the school and the role that you play there. Absolutely thanks so much for having me. I'm really excited to be here. I am the Chief Marketing Officer at Indiana University, so just a law school that I that I know you guys have heard of down the road, up the road, left and right of the road as well. I've been with the university. It'll be ten years in February, so you've been with the university for some time. It's the longest I've worked anywhere, which I think is a testament to both the work and the teams that we have there. You know a little bit about me. Before coming into higher ed I lived and worked in Chicago and the Arts Community there in arts marketing and have the opportunity to work for some phenomenal organizations, including the Goodman Theater, writers theater, the second city. I cut my teeth there, all working in arts marketing and at a certain point decided to switch things up and moved. Moved to Indiana and started my career at it at I you about ten years ago, and always within the Central Marketing Office for the university and our various combinations and permutations. We've had a couple of reorgans in the last ten years, which you know we all go through, but always with a foot and strategy and that is really the focus of what I do now as the chief marketing officer. So at the broadest in the broadest way, you know, my role is really to develop and lead the execution of the university's brand strategy and very broadly that that brand strategy is to positively affect and enhance the university's reputation, to enhance enrollment. And when I say enrollment, I'm talking about recruitment and retention and, you know, really thinking about the lifetime engagement. How do we keep our constituents engaged from from the very first time they encounter iu which could be, you know, watching, watching football or basketball on TV or coming to a summer camp when they're in when they're in grade school or Middle School, all the way through graduation and beyond. So thinking about you know, at the at the highest level, our job is done when we've got progressed people along the pathway to...

...loving I you for life. And then, a little more specifically, when we're talking about the brand for I you, you know, and and our role within our central marketing office, you know, we're responsible for what I consider what I would call the capital B brand of Indiana University and we market and manage the brand for our core campuses and Bloomington and at Ipui, and then, in a more localized way, we also work with our various campus schools and units to help them solve their marketing problems, marketing problems or opportunities, depending on how full or if the glasses we work with with those folks across the entire university system as well. I think we really wanted to talk about with you, since you oversee a large organization, how to approach, shore manage a decentralized marketing organization and wrap your arms around it. And for context, you mentioned a couple of the campuses, but if you can, you're marketing organization, how many campuses, centers are under your per for you? Yeah, absolutely so. Indiana University, we are a large statewide system school. So we have officially seven campuses. We have our two core campuses that probably folks are most familiar with in Bloomington, our largest and oldest campus, and then at IUPUI, which is Indiana University for due university Indianapolis. That's what that stands for. And then we also have five regional campuses throughout the state and those were developed, were created, you know, fifty plus years ago. Are Fifty or so and some change years ago to really serve the communities and their their regions. And then also we have two centers, one in Columbus, Indiana and Fort Wayne, and then we also have a global footprint. We have five global gateways around the world. We have a seven hundred and twenty five thousand living alumni. We Have Twenty One tho faculty and staff across the State and this year we have nearly a hundred thousand students enrolls. So I use a large organization. It is quite a large place. Will tell me a little bit about I mean when you're working on something like that. I mean, obviously scale is something, but when you when I when I hear that, how do you kind of work through? And I think this is relevant to any any audience that's listening, because I was at a small, small school doing a project a few a few weeks ago and their marketing team was only five six people. The entire enrollment team, the entire enrollment at the university was maybe three or four hundred students, and so it was a very small school, but I was still I walked away with some notes that I shared with the with the leadership, is that it was very siload and I was really surprised, even at a very small school like that. You know, the the tendency to kind of stay in your own silo, your own your pocket. How do you work with that? I mean at an institution like I you and with a large marketing team like you have and the different constituencies? How do you keep from becoming siload where you know, one side doesn't know what the other side's doing? Absolutely that is the eight hundred million dollar question. If we solve it here today, we're we're doing right. Yes, you know, we really. The my approach has been and how I've how we have a proach it and how I have approached it is really clarity of vision and I always kind of when I think about you know, we have our brand strategy and it is, you know, my responsibility, our units responsibility, to ensure that we have clearly articulated what it is we're trying to do, why we're trying to do it and where did it come from. I think the the understanding of the background, the research, you know, I think that's really important for people to understand that we didn't just pick this out of a hat. It wasn't eaten with. With any organization as large and decentralize as I you we do a great many things and we have a great many stories to tell, but if we all are shouting at the top of our lungs, we're just going to create noise. Right. So I think really my approach has been and what...

...has worked well, is having that clear that clarity of vision that is well articulated and well crafted so folks can really understand what is the big picture. And then, on the flip side of that coin, I think we also have to really, you know, think of it from the point of view of how are we helping people to solve their problems, right, coming from the very top to all the way, you know, from the very top of like let's set a brand strategy, to the very all the way down to the tactical execution of a social post. Everyone's trying to solve a problem or all trying to meet our business needs. Were all trying to solve those problems. How do we help folks see themselves and connect back to that vision and then provide them with the tools, the resources, the materials they need to do their jobs right? So it's less about don't do X, don't say why, and more of Hey, you have this really robust story to tell, because we do a great many things. How do we connect that back to this larger story that we're trying to articulate for the university as a whole? Nine Times out of ten, I've found when, you know, I come across something or someone brings me something that is way off strategy. It's not that folks are trying to go row right, they're just going to solve a problem that's right before them. And so, you know, thinking about it from that point of view is how do we put as much information, as much empowerment, as many tools and resources into folks hands so they can do their best work and do what they know best and and manage that, you know, and their localized environment, and still connect back to those larger brand straded, the larger brand strategy and, you know, help us move the needle on those big picture, big picture goals. It's almost like, and I've seen some schools do this, where there has to be a little bit of an emphasis, or a little bit of attention, I should say, to maybe some internal marketing, some internal communications, so that you've got to make sure that everybody is on the same page, because otherwise you end up being, like you said, the brand police were walking around issuing citations as opposed to doing the effort to actually educate all the constituencies, not just the marketing people but also, you know, those those people that are, you know, the deans and other people that are are making to decisions because of the problems that they have. So I mean, do you kind of have like a round table or how does I you kind of handle that kind of internal marketing? Yeah, absolutely well. So with our brand strategy, we had this big rollout plan for Spring of two thousand and twenty, and I think we all maybe know what happened there. That back, I've delayed and you know, we focused in and honed in on our covid response and so, you know, pushing that back a little that pushing that back by eight ten months, maybe longer than we had wanted to. But it also give us an opportunity, as we were doing all the things that needed to happen in two thousand and twenty with our covid response, it give us a little actually a little bit more time to retool things for the new world. The world is very different than it was, you know, when we made all of our plans in two thousand and nineteen, and so one of the things that we did and we always we always knew we were going to do this, but it morphed and evolved. Is We actually put together. This past summer in two thousand and twenty one, we did a storyteller summit and we opened that up to all of the Marcom community throughout Indiana University and quite honestly, anyone could have attended and it was a two day online virtual summit and we use that as an opportunity to roll out our brand and roll out the strategy which we had been talking about. You know, we had been talking about it at a low hum but this was really the big you know, I wish I could say was a big TEDA. It was. It was really the opportunity for all of us to come together as a community and rally around this, and so we really spent that first day talking big pick. Sure, a big picture strategy. Where did it come from? How are we going to use it? Where are we trying to affect change? How these a community are going to get there? And then the second day was really about tactical execution. So we had a lot of different breakout sessions. I think we had twenty five or thirty in all you know from anywhere, from talking about, you know, data driven, data driven decisionmaking...

...and reporting and how to use reports to help influence our stakeholders and use that as data driven decisions rather than driven decisions, all the way down to like, let's talk t how do we get in front of Gen Z in a way that is relevant and meaningful to them? And it's and the secret is it's not anything for us. It's exactly right, isn't it? Understand it, and I'm like, I don't get it, it's not for me and I'm the right tract. That's exactly right, eleanor. Recently, Indiana has a new president and I'm sure in your role that could mean change and that means different directions and certain aspects and maybe different priorities. If you could kind of tell us how that affected your job and your organization as a new president came in? Absolutely so. President Pamela witten's started July one of two thousand and twenty one of this year and she has really, I tell you what, she has hit the ground running. President WHITTON has a real clarity of vision and a clarity of voice that has been actually really, I would say, really helpful from my point of view and one of the things that she has articulated and and when you say it out loud it's like yes, of course, no, due you are a higher Ed Institution. But her focus is on students. She is putting students first and foremost in everything she says and does and even just, you know, a nearly six month on the job, you can absolutely see that and what she's doing. And so students are her core focus area and student success. But the other two areas that she that we are really rallying around with her direction, is our research. We are in our one institution. We do a nominal amount of research and really life changing research, and so we have a great opportunity of even telling that story in an even more compelling way and in a way that connects with people's lives. You know, we just don't want to say, Hey, we got a huge grant. We want to say hey, we're doing Alzheimer's research. That is going to change how dementia is treated. That's that's the way we want to talk about right. You know, these things and then the other pieces really how articulating our benefit to the state and how we help Indiana thrive. And you know, as one of the largest employers in the state, as one of the largest student education providers, for college education for students in this state. We have a huge opportunity to really enhance the state of Indiana, both from educating the next generation of entrepreneurs, leaders, health, educators, legislators, you know, the that opportunity, but then also as as an economic driver, you know, thinking about all that the state can do and contribute from both a consumer of goods as an employer of people who also consume goods, and then and then thinking about all the entrepreneurial ways that we help take the research that our team, you know, our faculty in our folks are doing and then turn that into a business reality as well. And so, in terms of how that has shaped and change things for us, it's really given us, you know, some great rally points that we can really focus around. And so the way we think about it is we look at what is our messaging North Star? What is it that we are trying to communicate above all else? We're trying to talk about student success, about research, or also trying to, you know, really articulate how we help Indiana thrive and and when we're talking about you know, such a large, decentralized we're going to place. Like I you, everyone can connect to those things. So you know, even if you are our student facing organization or not, there is a way that you can articulate your benefit and tell your story that connects to one of those pieces, one of one of those three tenants. Yeah, I love that because I think that I constantly talked to different schools about the idea that one you've got to understand your distinctive, which is kind of that messaging North Star that you've talked about and have that. I really like that, that that phraseology. And then also the idea that we're going to be selling benefits, and it doesn't matter if you're...

...selling benefits to the spect of students and Gen Z if you're talking to millennials or graduate adult students, or if you're talking to parents selling the benefit, even to the state of Indiana selling the benefit of what you're all about. I love that and I think that's a such a huge part of marketing that sometimes we as marketers forget because we get so wrapped up in Oh, the Dean wants to talk about the features of this new program and you know or somebody else wants to talk about the features of you know, something else. And yes, the features are important, but they point to the benefits. So I love the fact that you're doing that and I'm guessing that that's rolls into not only that enrollment and maybe some of thing you've talked about, but even into some of the retention elements as well. Yeah, absolutely, you know, it's we talked a lot about. I was literally just talking to a team member today about how, you know, we need to redirect a conversation from the features to the benefits. Everybody's has student services, everybody has a career center, but what is the Benett like? How does this help a student? Right, everybody's going to have a library, but what do our librarians do? What is our library? How is it helping students? And so, you know, just kind of and it's not even a huge switch, it's going from you know, it's like a fifteen percent shift in that and it's just taking that next step further. So the way we approach the work is really, you know, I'm a very user centator, human centered approach to the work that we do, and really that's all rooted in research and I will say this. There are lots of different ways to execute research. It doesn't have to be huge and complex and I've worked with a lot of different folks across all of our campuses and sometimes you have lots of resources and lots of time and you can really roll up your sleeve and, you know, make that pivot table and do twenty hours of qualitative research. Yeah, that's not always the norm. Not totally understand there that there's lots of different ways to connect with your audience to really understand their desires, their motivations and their obstacles. It could be social listening tools, it could be doing a poll on your instagram feed. It could there's lots of different ways to do that. It could be using existing research or surveys that you already have to mind for insights in a different way. There's lots of different ways that you can connect with your audience to really understand what is motivating them. And that's and that's really at the core of it. And so, you know, the other piece of it is also you know, we talked about everyone has a problem to solve. Well, a lot of times we solve it through our own lens and we don't always solve the right problem. Really understanding the problem space is super important to be able to say, you know, I thought the issue was x, but after doing some listening and doing some surveying or, you know, reviewing the quant research we already have. are looking at our enrollment numbers, I'm actually seeing the problem is why it's over, it's down here. It's not a funnel, it's down funnel or vice versa, and so that's really important to make sure that as we go forward, we are kind of doing a you know, zooming out to get that thirty, fiftyzero foot view to ensure that we are solving for the right things in the right way. And so, you know, when you're going back to those messaging nor stars, it's all well and good for us to want to communicate about student success and helping Indiana thrive in our research, but if it's not relevant to the audience we're talking to, they're not going to listen. It doesn't matter. That's exactly right. So thinking about you know, what are those features, the features that are going to be that are going to resonate thing bout student success? What's going to resonate for someone who is a junior and high school and really trying to think where do I want to go on my college visits next? It's going to be different than their parents. So, you know, we have the same things we want to communicate, but how we put that forward to folks and how we position that should be different based on the user. And so when I say, you know, User Center design or Human Center design, that that's really what we're thinking about. How do we put forward and position what we want to communicate in a way that one meets our business goals, meets our needs and communicates what we want folks to understand, but does so in a way that is really relevant and resonates with them as if it's if it's not relevant, it...

...doesn't matter what we have to say. Eleanor, you've mentioned human centered leadership a couple of times and would like if you could explain what that means and then how you may utilize that either as a vehicle or a foundation for your leadership or decisions that are made in the organization. Yeah, yeah, I'm going to. I'm going to be honest with you, guys. I love a good chart. I'm a visual I'm a visual person, and I know we're on a podcast or no one can see the massive amount of hand movements I'm doing. But but they're moving everyone. She's using her hands. I am like, I'm like directing traffic over here. So I always think of it, you know, imagine a ven diagram and think about it. You know, when I think of human you know, human centered leadership, I think about, you know, really understanding what is it that the people involved want? What do they want to accomplish? What are they trying to solve for one of their motivations? And then we have the organizational need. Over here, we want to do x, Y or Z, whether that's communicate about something, drive revenue in a certain area. We want to is organize our teams in a certain way. We're trying to solve for the organizational needs, but also keep in mind what our end like, what the what the people involved, you know, what they need as well. And then and then the last piece that I always think about in that last circle in the ven diagram is the feasibility. Can we do these things right? Because everything that are the end user, the people want, may not always meet the organizational need. And so, you know, adding in that layer and we do these things like maybe everybody wants to work, you know, three day weeks. But yeah, well, we can't get our work done in that amount of time. So, like, even though those things come together, it doesn't mean that they're actually feasible. And that's a terrible example. So I always really try to focus on, you know, that magical intersection of those three things really being some of the to help lead decisionmaking or help lead as we're you know, if we're reshaping a team, really thinking about, okay, well, it's going to serve our people, because when our people are well served they do their best work. And what is going to serve the organization? Because if we're not serving the organization, it doesn't come. We have to keep the lights on, we have to keep the doors open. And the other pieces do we have? Do we have the bandwidth, the skill sets? Do we have the revenue? Do we have the dollars to do these things as well? And so finding that beautiful, magical, not always easy, intersection of those three things is is a lot of the ways that I try to approach, you know, my leadership decisions, both from an organizational standpoint and from a marketing standpoint as well. You can you can add that you can create, that those those thinking of those circles. You can add that Lens to just about anything you're working on. You know, is it desirable? Do People want it? Is it feasible? Can we do it and is it viable? Does it meet our business needs? And when you start, you know, looking at back through that Lens where you have to take all three boxes, which is one hard to do, but to it means that you're answering those three essential items or elements to answer any decision that you're trying to make. I think that's great because I think so many times as marketers, whether it's in high at or other places, we kind of get stuck in this mode of well, we have this, so we want to make sure that everybody knows about it and we want to sell this, but if it's not really what people are looking for, then it doesn't often work, and that's that's that's just a small idea, but I really like that. Then diagram overlap idea of what you're talking about. I think it's so true. So as we reach the end of the conversation with there would be a last thought or maybe a quick hit piece of advice that you could give other marketers that could be listening and that they could glean from the wisdom that you have. Well, I would say just always, always keep listening and learning, and I know that is not to be not to be rude, doctive, but always keep listening and learning. You know, when thinking about how do we best connect with our audiences, we have to put them ourselves in their shoes, and so, whether that's reading all...

...of the comments that come in through social media or actually doing, you know, qualitative or quantitative research, to listen and learn and whatever, wherever you fall in that range of complexity, you know, and that range of sophistication when it comes to research, just always keep listening and and be responsive to that and shape your decisions around what you're learning is as you're listening to your end user. Thank you. Well. Nor well said. If someone would like to reach you and or contact you for any reason, what would be the best way for them to do so? You know I'm on Linkedin. Linkedin would be the best way. Perfect, and that's Eleanor Burman. Eleanor Burman Net. That's small school called Indiana University. Perhaps we've heard. Well, I'm Ohio State Guy, but I will say on your behalf. Go whosers, who's that's right, he'll be read. I won't go that far, bar. Do you Bart? Do you have any final thought that you could offer? Yeah, I just wanted to point out a few things at Eleanor said that I thought is just good takeaways. That that I would make sure that if you didn't hear it, maybe go back and listen to it. But the idea that everybody that we're dealing with is trying to solve a problem. You know, whether that's your internal clients, you know, with with a centralized, decentralized marketing team like I you has, where you're going to be talking to the deans the college, is a different places. They're trying to solve a problem. So trying to keep that in mind, but also keep in mind that you're your end consumers, if you will, whether those are perspective students, whether their perspective parents, they're trying to solve a problem as well. They have questions that need answered and as marketers, it's our it's our responsibility to do that in a way that helps them, first and foremost, solve their problem. I also really like the fact that she talked about how I you really utilize as the messaging North Star and the idea of really trying to kind of focus in on what are those benefits that we're trying to share? What is that North Star that we can all together as a community, point to and work toward? I think that's going to that's going to really a lot of ways. In the marketing department sometimes we feel like we have so many different headaches because nobody gets us and nobody understands us and those types of things. But if we can make sure that we're communicating that North Star very clearly, succinctly and articulated over and over and over again internally, that's going to help you with with a lot of the work that you're trying to do. And then, finally, I really appreciated her last comment there about the listening and learning and obviously if you're if you're listening right now, you are learning and that you have that desire and that's I congratulate you on that. I would encourage you to also just continue to be a lifelong learner and go and find as many, many different types of aspects you can to do that. So, eleanor, thank you so much for being on the show today my pleasure. Thank you for having me. Thank you for that thought, Bart and thank you both for a wonderful conversation. The hired marketer podcast is sponsored by Taylor solutions and education, marketing strategy and branding agency and by Think, patented, a marketing execution company combining print, mail and digital engagement will fullblown outreach programs. Thank you for listening to the hired marketer podcast. 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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