The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode · 8 months ago

Proving the Value of Higher Education by Marketing Outcomes


The perceived value of higher education has declined in the last few years. It might seem like it’s simply an issue of cost, but that is only part of the value equation.

The truth?

Linking the return on investment to fulfilling jobs and careers is the key to demonstrating value and driving enrollment numbers back up, especially for community colleges.

In this episode, Terri Giltner, Chief Marketing Officer at Kentucky Community and Technical College System, explains how her team refocused marketing efforts on outcomes and switched from telling the story of current students, to the story of successful alumni.

We discuss:

- The progress made in higher ed marketing

- The perceived declining value of higher ed and how to combat it

- How to effectively market outcomes

- The need to communicate the value of marketing

Mentioned during the podcast:

- Ep 41: How to Win the Loyalty of Your Students w/ Exceptional University Offerings feat. Ethan Brade

- Email Terri

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.

We are so good at branding our colleges, ed branding our presidents and all of that, but when it comes to really branding the profession itself and the role that it plays in an organization, I think that's something that we fall short in. 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, donor relations, marketing trends, new technologies and so much more. If you are looking for conversation centered around where the industry is going, this podcast is for you. Let's get into the show. Welcome to the high end marketer podcast. I'm Troye singer and, as always, I'm with my cohost and Soapbox Derby champion, Bart Taylor, where every week we attempt to glean what we can get from high functioning higher d marketers for the betterment of the entire community. This week we're going to talk to Terry Glittner. She is the Cmo of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, and what we're going to talk to her about today is how to communicate and prove the value of highed education and marketing outcomes. Yeah, sure, I think it's as a great episode. I'm really excited to listen to this and you know I don't, I don't have a tremendous amount of experience and community colleges, so I always love talking to Terry or Jeff fanter. We've had on the on the episode before as well. But I think it's it's very interesting because even though sometimes we all look at it and say, well, there's publics, there's privates, there's community colleges and essence we're all doing the same type of work. We're all rowing in the same direction, and sometimes that is in communicating the value of higher education and doing that throughoutcomes, doing that through understanding affordability and communicating that. Well, I think Terry has some really good points and some really good articulation of how they're doing that in her system. That, I think would be very applicable to just about everybody. Let's jump into our conversation with Terry. It's my pleasure to welcome Terry Giltner to the highed marketer podcast. Terry, thank you so much for being a guest with us today. Thank you so much. I am really honored. Well, we are honored to have you and before we get into our topic of discussion, which is communicating and proving the value of Higher Education and marketing outcomes, would love for you, for our audience, to tell us a little bit about your marketing background and then also a little bit about the organization that. Sure, I started in marketing. I don't even want to tell how many years ago. This isn't my first Rodeo, as the commercial says, that many, many years ago. I grew up in marketing through working at Kentucky Fried Chicken and I did all things there. I was there about ten years and did field marketing, new product marketing, handled the national advertising for about two years. Wow, so did menu board. So all across the board. But then I left a KFC to go with a new product developer company that I ran into when I was working on new products with KFC, and it was a startup and we developed and help market new products for restaurant chains and I did that for about another nine years and then I had a life changing event and I kind of quit work for a little bit and called my mother up one day and said, listen, I'm just looking for something part time and she worked for the governor of Kentucky and a week later I was executive director of Communications for the Transportation Cabinet and that was way. That was a shock to get something so quickly like that, but also to step into state government, which those of you have been in that that is an altar universe, not operate very much like the private sector. And I did that stated state government for a while, worked in transportation, which I...

...actually loved it, and then must called over to the governor's office to be on his communication staff and executor, executor director of communications, and he was the governor that created the Community College System in Kentucky, and so he did a huge higher ed reform as part of his platform, which really did change the state. And after I left him and he went out of office, I was able to get this job as head of marketing, Chief Marketing Officer of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. and to tell a little bit about us. What he did in highreed reform is he took the community colleges that were part of the University of Kentucky, he took those away from them and he took the technical colleges that were part of state government and combined them and this was a shotgun marriage in many ways, but he felt like that was really important to our state to increase access. Kentucky has has one of the lowest educational attainment rates and he really knew he had to jump start this by providing more access and streamlining because he didn't feel like the University of Kentucky really had the best interest of the community colleges of mind. They were focused on their research and their their big programs, but not community colleges. They were usually they were using them a lot for fundraising and all of that. We brought those two institutions together that had a similar mission and it was the success of Higher Ed form. Reform. He did a lot of other things as well, but it almost tripled the the enrollment of community colleges and it increased the number of credentials. Were up triple from what we started. So it was a huge success for our stay. And how many schools are within the system? So we have sixteen colleges with us, seventy campuses at this point and a yearly enrollment of about a hundred and eight thousand students. My goodness. So you are over a large marketing organization and would love to get into the topic comparing your current higher education role to the past. Would love to know your perspective of where you think higher edgy education is going or you know how it's progressed over the past few years. Are you talking about the role of marketing in higher it yes, I am a complete shift. You know, when I started here, and I've been here I'm in my seventeen year, I was not allowed to use the word marketing. It was a dirty word, it was associated with for profit and businesses and just not a term you could use. Also, when I was started, I would say that the focus, and at our colleges and at our system office was primary public relations. Almost everybody in the roles of the college has had were ex journalists, no background in marketing, and so that really was the focus. And I have seen since the seventeen years I've been here now that is totally switched, that we're really having much broader focus in terms of what a marketing is and it encompasses all of the commodeds from PR still being one, to advertising, recruitment, advocacy all the way through. So a complete shift. Yeah, isn't it interesting that that it's changed so much. I mean I think part of it is the nature of the nature of higher education. I think that it's kind of grown up a little bit. You know, as you Terry, I've been in higher ED marketing for for a number of years, even though I came out of the private sector as well. Really decided when I when I started my firm, that I wanted to focus on higher ed and I think that you're right. I remember some of the initial conversations, even when we were developing websites for some college and universities in the late S. it's like, well, is this really something that is going to... us, you know, you know, get more students, or is it going to help us raise money? And then you look now and it seems like a silly question, but back then, I mean there was there's a lot of you know, a lot of that struggle between really understanding academia and then, you know, the basics of business, of just knowing that, you know, students in the seats are going to pay the bills, that are going to pay the salaries. I mean there's there's just a there's just a basic business, you know, equation that needs to be done and I and I think it's taken higher at a little bit of time to kind of come around to that. I agree. I will say, if you look back to the old four peas right of a marketing, I do think high it is still particularly community colleges are still stuck in the promotional land. They're starting to see how marketing really does impact the other four peas in the business. You know, our goal has been to begin to link as to enrollment because really I think even when they were thinking more about marketing and branding, they ex banded that definition. They were really mostly thinking about, I had to use the word, making things look pretty and right and communicating that way, and they weren't really to really aren't directly linking the role marketing plays and accomplishing all of the organization's goals, including enrollment. Yeah, I remember a recent episode we had with Ethan Braden, who's The a chief marketing officer at Perdue University. He he uses the phrase that you know, many times marketing is is driven on campus, where you know it's make it pretty by Monday and we need this by Thursday, versus being the drivers of the brand, drivers of the message, drivers of you know, what's important to the organization. So I think you've made a really good, good point about that. There's an overall discussion within higher read of the perceived declining value of higher education and we'll like to know to what degree are does that affect community colleges? Well, it impacts him a great deal. In fact, we just finished doing a prospective student research study we do on every five years and it is about three thousand interviews with both traditional students, that's junior and seniors in high school, and non traditional students, along with teachers, guidance counselors and parents, and we've been tracking the value of Higher Ed and this was the fourth study that we have done and we started these studies in two thousand and six and every year their perceived value of Higher Ed is declined and and this last time was the biggest decline we have seen. We're just getting the top lines in right now and what was particularly disturbing is the decline in the value among teachers and guidance counselors, who really are setting the stage for those juniors and seniors coming out, but really those folks that you know become adult learners as well. So it really I think is impacting enrollment all around it. It's certainly has impacted community college enrollment. Our rollment has been down for almost nine years and really declined during covid and is really not rebounded. So I think that whole value issue, along with the other factors were facing in our economy, it's just been devastating and it really is not just about cost. You know, cost is part of that value equation, but it's about, you know, is it get and get me a job? And I think that it particularly impacts the the students that enter our doors because I think they in particular are more interested in that particular still level that they're going to get that moves them onto a career pretty quickly. Yeah, I think that this reminds me a little bit of the conversation we have had with Jeff fanner from Ivy Tech here in Indiana, and I think you and jeff know each other. That was our introduction. Jeff made a comment on the podcast was just how how important it is and he was using the reference of community colleges, but I would I would argue that it would be all of higher education how important it is for for communicating and articulating outcomes and just as you kind of...

...talked about a little bit, the ideas it's a it's linking all of this to jobs and careers. And what? What is that return on the investment? Because, I mean how many times, you know, we can talk about okay, well, if I have a choice of being able to, you know, get a generic brand soda or, you know, name brand pepsire coke, well, I might spend the extra for peps your coke because the return on the investment of the enjoyment is worth it. And there's a lot of other, you know, things that are part of that brand that are kind of mixed into that. I think sometimes we have to start talking about that in terms of higher education and how we market higher education to make sure that it that those outcomes are demonstrating that return on the end on that investment and being able to kind of really prove that through all kinds of means. Would you agree with that? Oh, absolutely. In fact, we switched all of our marketing, creative and efforts to be more outcome about three or four years ago, where, instead of going on campus and interviewing current students and, you know, under a tree with books and all of that, we were really interviewing our alumni and what that career had done for them, not just from a career point of view but from a whole life point of view. Our brand statement is we are here to improve the quality of life, but really to make life better for Kentuckian's. That's what we're committed to. So we're trying to show how we're making our students, our former students, lives better and that is the feature in most of our creative and stories that we tell at this point. But absolutely, and we've also changed our web, particularly our program pages, which we know are the first pages that people visit, to be more career focus, where they can see what the average salary is with the careers are that are linked to those programs. All of that we've made a switch to to show outcomes and I'm sure that you kind of talked about a little bit of that social proof that sometimes the social proof has been the current students, but many times it needs to be those alumni who are experiencing those outcomes. But I'm guessing to I think in our pre interview we talked a little bit about some of the social proof is either of them is even the employers that are, you know, employing your graduates, and tell me about how how you're using that as well. We are really trying to get more and more of our employers engaged in our even our traditional marketing efforts, to say that, you know, they employed these employees and how successful they were in the careers. And I will say with most of those students stories that we're doing now, where we're talking to alumni, we interview their employer at the same time and we have been doing most of these interviews at their place of employment, along with some of the things in their personal life, and so that really has been, I think, great. I think it's really important when we show some of our photos that we show that student with some kind of background that shows the employer they're working in and the career, that they have some kind of context, that who kind of brings it all together. I think that's great. And then let's talk a little bit about affordability. I mean, you know, we talked a little bit about that return on investment and again, affordability, and I mean there's always context with everything, and so you know, I talked to some schools and it's like, you know, affordability means this, you know it's the cost per credit hour, things like that, but at the end of the day, I have found, and maybe you can kind of tell me from your perspective, I found that a lot of times, making sure that we talk about affordability in the in the language and in the ways that resonates the most with our perspective students and whether they're traditional, with parents or with, you know, significant others who are helping them make decisions. Really being able to communicate that affordability and that return on investment is so critical. Is that? Is that something that you've also faced? Yes, and if I wish I had the answer on how to effectively communicate affordability. You know, that is really community colleges. One of their primary value propositions, right, is that we are lower cost and the than the rest the other options...

...that are out there. Do you know? There's a lot more, as you know, to cost than just the actual ticket price of the education and, particularly among non traditional students, all of those opportunity cost you know, the job that they have right now that maybe they can't go full time to go back to school, maybe it is child care. You know, for most a lot of our students in the rule area, just transportation getting to and from the campus. So there's just so much involved in that cost factor that we really do, I think, have not really effectively identified the best way to market that and we're having huge discussions. In fact, we're going to go into some focus groups after this big study to really dig into that. When we say, you know what her words can we use? How can we demonstrate to students affordability that resonates with them? And that is something we are we are really struggling with and trying to get to. To give an example, we were doing some oneonone interviews with perspective students. This was about three years ago, and we were asking about affordability and I and we were asking about, you know, their knowledge of, you know, the four year schools in our state and then community colleges, and they said Yeah, yeah, we realize that you all are cheaper, but you're still expensive. So you know, it's I don't know, it's a hard one to get to. Yeah, I think you're exactly right. I think that sometimes, you know, for different audiences, and we've talked to a lot of different marketers who are on the podcast, I think a lot of times there's different messages and different elements that are so critical for the for the particular audience that you're serving. Whether it's, in your case, you know, students perspective, students for community colleges, whether it's, you know, faith based schools, whether it's, you know, other other areas. Being able to communicate those distinctives, being able to communicate those those element it's whether it's affordability or different things like that in context and very distinguished from all of the other options, is really part of the part of the challenge. But you're right, it's such a it's a secret sauce that everybody needs to do, but it's a very, very difficult one to do. Yeah, it is, and I some of the research that we are looking at right now. We know it's a very different message with the Jin's ears kids coming out of high school than it is with adults. We know with this new group that coming out of covid which is a totally different mindset than we've seen with high school students before. They're mostly living in today, they're they're not thinking about the futures. So when we talked about the long term benefits of an education, so you know you're investing this much. This is how much you're going to get out of that. You know, that doesn't really resonate with them that much. And even we're finding even that young non traditional student, so you're talking somebody that's like two thousand and two thirty, they're going to resonate with them either. So you know, it's a it's really is a hard one to get at. Yeah, as we wind up this show, we always ask this of our guests. Terry, is there a either a tip or thought, a top of mind topic that you have that you can share that could be implemented right away from fellow CMOS or other marketers within higher education? Well, I thought a little bit about this. I think one of the things that is impacting the marketing profession and Higher Ed the difficulty of all of us who are in marketing to market our own profession. Does that make sense? We are so good at branding our colleges, ed branding our presidents and all of that, but when it comes to really branding the profession itself and the role that it plays in an organization, I think that's something that we fall short in and it and it is pretty difficult because we're still kind of...

...a fledgling discipline within the highered world. I think one of the first things that any marketer can do, and this is at any level, and I'm sure some of the very sophisticated four years like for du I've already done this, is to develop a common definition of what marketing is your institution and what it does. Oh, it back up a couple years ago we started tackling this because, you know, you walk in and talk to any of our presidents, every single one of them had a totally different, well not totally different, but a different view our definition of what marketing is and what it the role that it plays in the organization. So we have worked really hard, and this is something it takes a little time, but not that much time, but we were collective, collectively with all of our marketing folks at the college, to come up with that common definition, and it's pretty detailed because it also goes into here's our overarching role, but here's the way that we go about doing it, and it has really impacted and our organization kind of taken the blinders off. I hate to use that word, maybe the lens that that's a better word. We colored lends that some of our faculty and leadership had about marketing and allowed them to broaden and understand and it's made a big difference from us. It's allowed us to kind of move into the recruitment and enrollment we now I've taken over responsibility for leads, lead generation. That's a big leap for us, particularly at community colleges, but I think just make it getting everybody on on board and on the same page of what marketing really is and what it does for an organization. Thank you very much and I one hundred percent agree. If someone would like to reach out to you, Terry, what would be the best way for them to reach you be the best way is through my email. It's Terry Dot Giltner at casetcs Dot Edu. I'm sure you all will show that, but that's the best way to get me. I respond to email really, really easily quickly. Wonderful will. Thank you very much for being our guest today. Bart do you have any thoughts that you would like to end us with? Yeah, I think that a themes kind of emerged, at least for me, as I listen to a lot of what Terry talked about and kind of kind of circles around value. You know, not only did we talk early at the top about just kind of the idea of what what marketing brings to higher education, the value that it does, especially historically being more in the private area, but then, you know, in the last fifteen twenty years higher atis really started to embrace marketing and embrace those for peas and traditional marketing principles, and so there's a value that that is comes out of that. And I think that value starts to you know, when marketers do their job correctly, the value is you know, the school see that value in that. And then I think also just communicating value in what we do as higher ad marketers, in promoting the schools and and representing the schools through the brand, you know, outcomes, you know, affordability, other things of really trying to communicate that value that we bring to an individual's life. I mean, Troy, you and I are both first in students and we've talked about this before. It's like, you know, the the trajectory that our lives went on in a change by higher education, by you know, post secondary education. Those things make a difference and there's a true value in our lives because of that, and I think Terry's done a great job of communicating and articulating that and how that's how she's leading that with with her school system. And then finally, I think that that last thing that Terry said was so important is how do we also communicate the value of our own teams in the in in marketing, within the within the academia, within the you know, the at the level of the cabinet and and different places of leadership? I think it's important that we articulate it for ourselves so that we understand this is who we are and this is what we do. We're not just the people who make...

...things look pretty, where the people are actually driving the brand and that are making decisions to really impact the success of the organization and being able to articulate that better. I think that's a that's a very wise word from you, Terry, so thank you so much. Thank you. That closes this episode of the High Ed Marketer Podcast, which is sponsored by Klo solutions and education marketing and branding agency and by Think, patented, a Marketing Execution Company specializing in personalized and customized outreach programs. On behalf of my cohost Bart 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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