NCMPR 2012 - San Francisco - Day Three

Someone said that if you can take just one great idea back to your college, then your time spent at the NCMPR national conference would be worth it.  By that modest measure, I'm definitely getting my money's worth, and then some.

In addition to tweeting the light bulb moments as they go zooming by - well over 100 so far - I doodle in my precious black book, in the margins of the program, and on the various handouts that the gracious presenters pass out to help reinforce their message.  Trying to stitch it all together 24 hours later is like creating one of those patchwork quilts that my Mémère (Grandma) used to make back in the 80s and 90s.

Yesterday may have been helped by the pelting rain and fierce wind offered up by Mother Nature for the grand city of San Francisco.  Even dashing from the Huntington Hotel over to the Fairmont proved to be a moist endeavor sans umbrella.  Being inside, gathering nuggets of wisdom, was not only the best use of our time, but the driest and warmest.

I'm so glad I picked Nicole Finkbeiner's (Kellogg Community College, MI) session on Broken Windows theory to start the day.  She was absolutely awesome (a sentiment I heard more than once before the end of the day).  Her presentation style and ability to engage the room was inspiring.

(from the NCMPR program) "In 1982, two social scientists developed the Broken Window Theory of Criminology to explain how people's perceptions of something, such as a building with broken windows, can affect their behaviour."

"What are the broken windows at your college?" she asked.

At this point my mind started swirling with ideas and with whispers of a session attended several years ago facilitated by Brenda Robinson, who challenged us to do something similar.

Nicole suggested five key areas we should be looking at as community colleges: 1) Facilities, 2) Product Quality, 3) Customer Service, 4) Communications, and 5) Pure Irony.  As we broke into small groups we heard frightening tales of unkempt bathrooms, aging and putrid infrastructure, signage that was just plain wrong, and sports team names dripping with prophylactic proturbance. Customer service cries erupted from the room with a mere mention of the Financial Aid department.  (I wonder if this is an American thing, as our Financial Aid office is great?)

What are your broken windows and can you afford not to get them fixed?  No.  A Broken Window audit might be something to consider to get an unfettered view of just how cracked your institution might be.

From the Broken Window side of the pool I swam over to the ROI section for some aquatic synchronization with Kathy Corbalis (Atlantic Cape Community College, NJ) and NCMPR President-Elect Sally Cameron (Bristol Community College, MA).  Together, they started getting the water moving talking about ROI (return on investment) and how we can more effectively demonstrate the value of the marketing and communication choices that we make.

In these challenging economic times, senior leadership are asking essential questions at to what the institution is getting back for its investment in both advertising and resources (human).  One great suggestion, a mantra we should all utter before launching into any new campaign or initiative, is "How will I measure it?"  Another example of starting with the end in mind, you have to imagine the data that would prove most useful, not only justifying your tactics, but also providing valuable insight into what you need to be doing in the future.

I won't list all the resources provided by Kathy and Sally in their post-session handout, but watch for it on the NCMPR website as it might provide a solid starting point if you are weak in this particular area.

My morning ended with Barb Dreger's (Fox Valley Technical College,WI) rousing session on tying your social networks together.  She did a brilliant job of contextualizing why social media is so important and not to be ignored.  The work they have done at Fox Valley has been remarkable in producing tangible results and more vibrant (and sticky) webs to their students.

A couple of things stood out for me, chief among which is the fact that their President's Blog is a key driver of traffic to their website.

"Organizations using social media have doubled in the last five years," she said.  Only a small percentage have chosen not to jump aboard and I can't help but wonder why.

"Attention is the new online currency," she posited.  In my view, if attention is the currency, then influence is the gold standard.

Barb and her crew at Fox Valley are doing great things.  The fact that she has over 4,000 followers on Twitter makes me both envious and curious as to how she has done it.  Talk about influence!

A stunning view of San Francisco in the Crown Room atop the Fairmont Hotel, exciting Paragon Awards presentations and a delectable banquet brought day three of the NCMPR national conference to a close.

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