Questions Enrollment Leaders Should Ask Their Marketing Teams

Scott JeffeVice President, Research (Graduate and Online)June 23, 2022

Colleges and universities are filled with experts. Certainly, presidents, enrollment management vice presidents, marketing directors, and faculty are experts to name only a few. However, so are registrar’s assistants, social media coordinators, admissions specialists, and (probably more than all the rest) call center staff. So why don’t we always hear the most valuable information these team members know that will lead to success?

Faculty and the staff who work with students daily are potentially the best sources of information on what students need, what they’re thinking, and what is not working for them. Marketing staff and especially recruitment staff have their finger on the pulse of prospective students. They are any institution’s “intelligence gatherers.” But often these valuable stakeholders are not asked what they know, nor do they feel empowered to tell their leaders what they know. Why is that?

At this year’ RNL National Conference, Amy Jauman of RNL and Sarah Dampier from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota have worked together on issues like this for years. In fact, both Amy and Sarah have been those staff members of which they are going to speak—the “doers” who know what is going through the minds of students. In fact, their frustration with who to tell, how to get them to listen, and how to ensure that action is taken was the basis for their proposing the session.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the session is that they are going to start with a discussion about how teams interact, how leaders and staff interact, and how to build good communications. They’ve both been in involved with SHRM (the Society of Human Resource Managers) over the years and they’re going to use some of their excellent research to get the conversation going. Listen to my conversation with them about the session:

Sarah Dampier of St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and RNL’s Amy Jauman share a preview of their RNL National Conference session on working with marketing teams.

Where are you going to begin this discussion about how managers and teams can develop better communications practices?

Amy Jauman: We know higher education professionals value research and experts, so we’re going to present research that SHRM has conducted in all kinds of workplace settings on workplace communication culture. They’ve been doing really incredible work around the changes that have come as a result of the pandemic and that continue to unfold. What we have done is looked at that research and really thought about how it applies to higher education settings—using our accumulated experiences to level-set the conversation we will have with attendees. We both thought that it was really important to raise the most recent changes caused by the pandemic into the discussion.

What are some of the highlights of the advice you’re going to share during the session?

Sarah Dampier: The landscape in higher education has changed pretty dramatically as we slowly exit the pandemic. Understanding that we’re operating in a very different environment than just a few years ago means (to use what I know is an overused term) that we must think outside the box. That is often not a comfortable place—particularly for many who work in higher education (both staff and leaders.) With this in mind, we’re going to present really tactical and practical ways that teams can improve their ability to navigate in our new reality. Here are a few examples:

  • Clarity: Make sure that you are working together to define common language so that we’re talking about the same benchmarks, we are using the same objectives, and aiming to cohesively approach our work.
  • Confront Risk Aversion: The pandemic has increased risk aversion at a time when we need to be able to feel comfortable taking on innovation. We can’t be asked (as we all are) to be innovative if the institutional culture is defined by being risk averse. If you’re going to encourage your team to be innovative, you really don’t have choice in the matter.
  • Think Deeply About Your Culture: Overall work culture plays an incredibly big role in how we approach everything we do—including but not limited to thinking about innovation. We’re going to talk about how to look at and evaluate your institutional culture with an eye for opening up communication.
  • Listen: Then of course listening. This seems so basic, but it is anything but, and we are going to talk about that. We talk about listening as a skill in almost everything we do, but listening is really important if we are truly going to move the needle and apply new and innovative ways to doing our work.

What are the unique aspects of all of these issues as they relate to higher education?

Amy Jauman: Prep for this session has really been interesting as we have looked at the SHRM research we mentioned earlier. We both have a background in higher education and so we know where some of the differences and unique factors lie and look forward to having our attendees identify others.

Although higher education isn’t the only unique workplace, it really does have some cultural differences that need to be accounted for. The example of risk aversion is definitely one of these. Other sectors are more likely to think in terms of what is “risk appropriate”—working from a vantage that you can’t “grow your business” without taking risk. That is far less so in higher ed. Rather, higher education puts an increased focus on dollars, ethical considerations, and possibly regulations. The ultimate focus is also different.

No matter what your role is in higher education, I hope that you are student-centric. That is related, but different than the classic focus on “customers.” This means that you are thinking about how all the work that you do is ultimately impacting the ability of the right students to find your institution – then enroll, thrive, and ultimately change their lives. This only works if all of us within that higher education institution are playing our role and contributing.

Catch this session and 100 more at the RNL National Conference in July


This year’s RNL National Conference (July 14-16 in Washington, D.C.) has a dedicated track on graduate and online enrollment as well as tracks on undergraduate enrollment, student success and retention, campuswide issues, and more.

Register today and join us for an informative conference and a great opportunity to interact and network with your peers.

About the Author

Scott Jeffe, RNL

Scott Jeffe has worked with more than 200 institutions in 40+ states to apply market data to strategic decisions. With a focus on profiling the demands and preferences of nontraditional (adult, online, etc.) students, Scott...

Read more about Scott's experience and expertise

Reach Scott by e-mail at Scott.Jeffe@RuffaloNL.com.

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