Archive for the ‘Integrated Marketing’ Category

Watching the current chaotic and confused political party conventions I found myself recalling how I felt on July 4th.

I had spent the day listening to eloquent speeches, captivating patriotic music, and watching amazing fireworks with great pride. But I could not help but worry about the long-term consequences of our mean-spirited polarized politics and the recent frightening increases in terrorist assaults.

“You have a republic if you can keep it,” said Ben Franklin. So in the midst of celebrating our independence I found myself asking: “What can we do in these volatile times to keep it?”

Somehow I found myself recalling a project I had the pleasure of directing at Texas Christian University called The Commission on the Future of TCU.” We recruited a highly visible volunteer chair along with experienced opinion leaders from all segments of the university and community. These participants served an entire year on 18 different task forces and were asked to help clarify the university’s competitive advantage, articulate an appropriate vision, and make suggestions for what needed to be done to secure a strong future. The result was that 75% of the commission’s suggestions became a reality.

On this day, and again during the recent party conventions, I wondered if this commission concept could be modified to develop a meaningful plan for the future of America?

For example, could a U.S. president form such a nonpartisan commission successfully, or is this a project for a former president, or a respected think tank, or an especially created nonprofit institute?

I pondered how it would work for participants to be asked to clarify America’s competitive advantage, restate its core values, articulate a strong future vision, and make suggestions for how to proceed. Task-forces could be formed around urgent needs such as jobs, defense, political process reform, healthcare, energy, foreign policy, terrorism, and so on.

It seems to me that what America needs now is a basic, non-partisan, straightforward strategic plan. I believe that even if it didn’t work miracles it certainly could educate large numbers of people about the possibilities, and result in a dedicated group of leaders committed to making some really good things happen.



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There is a gathering this week in New York City of the leaders of the education advancement professions. They are the strategic communicators, marketers, alumni relations directors, government affairs professionals, and fundraisers for educational institutions around the world.

They are meeting at a time when dramatic sea changes are coming in their industry, and at a time when volatile events are begging for their institutions to deliver on their potential for community and world problem-solving.

Their institutions are in a state of transition because of government role changes and cutbacks, a digital technology revolution that is changing both how we teach and how we communicate institutions, and the pervasive economic influences of globalization.

Their success is imperative because the world desperately needs their institutions to be in position to improve cross-cultural understanding at a time of widespread conflict, develop talented and global-minded leaders, and make research and consulting experts available to address the world’s most pressing problems.

To ready their institutions for this new day they will need to prepare people internally and externally for this coming change, adapt strategic communication and marketing initiatives to a more global environment, cultivate the help of local and remote alumni and parents, deal with government changes both local and foreign, adapt to changing student migration patterns and faculty career opportunities, and find new sources of financial support while holding on to current ones.

The stakes are high. The world needs these colleges, universities and schools on solid ground now more than ever. And surviving the unique challenges of this transition will require leadership at all levels.

It may be surprising to hear me argue that it’s the advancement professionals who will have the most urgent leadership responsibilities and opportunities of all. This is because the future success of these institutions will be completely dependent on confronting and solving these absolutely essential and complicated communication, marketing and funding challenges.

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This week I helped kickoff a special pre-conference seminar at the association of international educators (NAFSA) annual meeting. It was co-sponsored by both NAFSA and the Council for the Advancement and Support for Education (CASE) and it was about how individual institutions can “get their key constituents on the same page” with respect to their international objectives.

When higher education became a more competitive industry a number of years ago my staff and I at TCU understood that we would have to become much more sophisticated.  Institutions today once again face a similar challenge to become even more sophisticated now that they will have to compete in a rapidly changing global market.

What differentiates our institution in a global context?  What do we offer better than others? How will we know what our constituents are thinking, or how they are responding? What are they saying to others about us?

For a long time marketing people educated in business schools have talked about the 4 P’s… product, price, place and promotion. Promotion was their word for communication, and all four elements needed to be considered simultaneously for success. So we in strategic communication realized early on that if products (or programs), prices and places (total experiences) were to be communicated successfully we would have to think collaboratively with those who determined the first 3 of those 4 P’s.

Now that higher education is becoming a competitive “global” industry integrated marketing thinking and planning, the use of carefully selected new media platforms, and group process tools will still be essential for success. A critical mass of people will need to understand what makes each institution special, and they will need to help to tell the institution’s story. The use of task-forces, action teams, and focus groups are still the most effective way to first find out what constituents think and then get them fully engaged. And most especially in today’s new media world, communicators will need to know how people in each market segment within each country want to receive information from them.

The bottom line: As higher education becomes a global industry the ideas and tools of integrated marketing communication will be essential to get key constituents in each institution “on the same page” with respect to institutional objectives… and the many exciting opportunities.


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Extremely long security lines at US airports are driving airline customers nuts. Waits in excess of three hours are causing many to miss flights, forcing some to sleep on cots. The reasons vary from a recent dramatic decline in the number of TSA officers to an amazing increase in air travelers. Add this anger to the growing arrogance of most airlines and you have both government and private industry ignoring their customers’ well-being in order to advance their own interests and profits.

Whatever happened to the idea of focusing on superior customer service?  Whatever happened to the idea that the best reason to start a business is to make a great place for people to find meaning in their work and to make the customer experience the best ever?

Airport travelers today are so angry that they take out their frustrations on everyone from TSA agents to airline employees both on and off the airplane. So I ask: What is the point of a government agency that allows a predictable problem to escalate into a crisis, or a business that is unwilling to insure that their customers have the best possible experience and their employees feel proud of their company?

Admittedly, I have been in higher education most of my life. So I can be a bit naïve from time to time. But I really can imagine a business where profits, a great experience for customers, and a team of employees who love their work are balanced objectives! Of course, I can also imagine asking customers and employees to stretch a bit during periods of economic uncertainty. But I just can’t see the point of sacrificing a rewarding customer and employee  experience in order to produce huge company profits and executive salaries.

I recall a seminar I attended in Washington several years ago where a corporate CEO was asked if he was against all government regulation. At first he said, “Yes.”  But then he paused a minute and added, “But maybe we do need someone out there who keeps us from destroying ourselves!”

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Members of Fort Worth Sister Cities International recently visited Cuba. After 50 years of an American embargo they experienced a country that may soon witness rapid commercial development… a situation which poses many concerns about what could result.

While in Cuba the group met University of Havana Professor Carlos Alzugaray Treto who spent 35 years in the Cuban foreign service during those embargo years. In that role the ambassador saw human rights issues not only in Cuba, but in many other countries… including the US and some  of its allies. And he came to see trade between countries purely as win-win exchanges.

So on a recent trip to Fort Worth he remained optimistic about improved US-Cuba relations in matters of human rights and trade. And he also saw commercial development in Cuba as happening one step at a time, enabling traditional Cuban cultural values to be retained.

While buildings are crumbling in many areas of Cuban cities, the question  will be whether to restore them or build modern ones. Will streets end up lined with fast food joints or traditional Cuban bars and eateries? And while more hotels certainly are needed, how many must model traditional Cuban architecture for the culture to be reinforced?

And beyond these physical development issues how can long-standing  Cuban cultural and artistic values be retained? In other words, what is an appropriate overall vision for Cuba’s future? Can standards be articulated which encourage appropriate modernization and yet ensure that traditional Cuban cultural features are preserved?

I suggest that a simple “marketing and communication blueprint” which everyone can understand will be required. It must clearly articulate, update, and authenticate a renewed national brand identity. Such a blueprint is much more than mere advertising.

A clear brand identity enables a national “self-fulfilling prophecy” to take place. It does so by constantly surrounding local citizens and the rest of the world with many media platforms… from TV to newspapers to posters to social media. To be effective the content must be clear messages and pictures about what Cuba stands for and believes about itself.

Achieving an “authentic” Cuban brand identity will require key opinion leaders from government, the arts, hotels, restaurants, education, human services, marketing, communication, etc. to meet together in small groups to brainstorm, clarify and take full “ownership” of an authentic Cuban brand. Similar groups can also work on the standards for commercial development and for preserving the culture.

I must add at this point that universities with strong programs in political science, international relations, public health, public administration, urban planning, marketing, media studies, communication, etc. can be vital resources to countries such as Cuba. Universities can provide research and expertise in everything from rebuilding institutions and businesses to addressing problems in climate change, poverty, hunger, energy, conservation, and much more.

Indeed, universities are strong soft power and public diplomacy forces… much the same as Sister Cities International.



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We live in a world where communication breakdown is rampant. Polarized ideologies and outrageous political campaign claims have created confusion and consumer frustration. Can legitimate institutions and individuals ever be understood in an environment such as this? It may seem complicated and time-consuming at first, but there is a set of communication initiatives that when used over time can cut through information clutter.

This set of communication power tools is called Integrated Marketing Communication, or IMC. “Integration” in strategic communication has two basic dimensions: The first is the simultaneous use of a variety of media platforms carefully selected for each target market to significantly ramp up the frequency and intensity of messages. The second is to use group dynamics techniques to bring opinion leaders together to clarify competitive advantage, get constituents on the same page with respect to brand identity, and to organize and facilitate aggressive and on-going media “buzz,” and word-of-mouth support.

Bringing basic “marketing” ideas into strategic communication establishes that to communicate them successfully, programs, products, prices, ways to connect, and on-location experiences, all need to meet real consumer needs. To make sure this happens the primary communicator  must be a major and active player in the entire strategic planning process.

When all of these pieces are in place, Integrated Marketing Communication will provide a powerful set of communication tools that can clarify authentic messages and cut through the bewildering information clutter of this new digital media world.

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Last week I discussed the danger of rigid marketing models and evolving executive groupthink when the market outside is changing. However, this should not be confused with a strong corporate culture that monitors and embraces ongoing change.

Some organizations build their corporate cultures gradually over time. Other organizations are created at the outset with values and cultural characteristics intended to differentiate them from the others.

For example, some silicon valley companies are building team cultures by offering free food, child care, attractive health and other benefits, parking, recreation facilities, mid-day rest time, paternity and maternity leave, etc. These perks serve as hiring advantages, team building tools, and high productivity incentives.

On the other hand, Amazon was recently criticized for a no-nonsense culture with high expectations for fast work and long work hours. But the company responded that employees there were energized by a culture based on exciting new challenges and being a part of a cutting-edge organization on the move.

Even though universities are more like small cities they too have corporate cultures that help define their competitive advantage. Some use benefits and a sense of family in place of salary to attract top quality faculty and staff. Others count more on a culture of rigorous scholarship, academic prestige, and competitive salary to motivate achievement and define competitive advantage.

No matter how corporate culture is established it becomes a major  part of an institution’s brand identity. A clear understanding of “how we do things around here” can be a positive force so long as those things can evolve with outside market changes. The challenge is to let those things evolve without damaging  the features which have established the institution’s competitive advantage.

The interesting thing about corporate culture is that it both defines the nature of the workplace inside and much of the appeal the institution has with most of its external constituents.

Experience suggests that cultural features can be so strong in many organizations that even in hard times every effort should be made to hold on to as many as possible. Some may go so far as to prefer cutting staff positions before damaging the external “brand promise” and the internal work experience for those who remain.

In the final analysis, groupthink and marketing models that insulate executive teams from the forces of change are certainly harmful. But organization-wide task forces and internal think tanks that monitor market changes and carefully manage the evolution of strong and creative corporate cultures are really powerful and essential strategic communication tools.


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