Lessons from the NCMPR community college marketing conference

This week, I was at the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations (NCMPR) professionals for community colleges conference in Chicago, IL. Below are some of the main take-aways for me:

– If you can’t be number one in your market, redefine the conversation to give yourself an advantage. For example, McDonalds is number one in the fast food market, but Subway launched into the number two spot by arguing that fast food can, indeed, be healthy.

– When building new locations/buildings or renovating spaces, include environmental branding elements (wall murals, architectural elements, vending machines, etc.). Work with the build team from the beginning to incorporate these elements into the design.

– If people have a need to design marketing pieces in programs such as Publisher and Word, consider creating branded templates in these programs.

– Like the powerful poverty simulation workshops, is there some simulation you can do to get a better understanding of what your customer’s experience?

– “Advertising is paid for, public relations is prayed for.” – Dominic Calabrese

– According to a panel of five non-traditional students, the best way to position community college education is as a “career tune-up.”

– Utilize, to a greater extent, opportunities where parents are bringing their children to campus to also talk with the parents about education for them.

– Not responding to a social media post is like hanging up on [your customer] in front of a baseball stadium full of people. – Dave Kerpen, Likeable Media. He also emphasized that responding to positive social media posts is just as important as responding to negative posts.

– Engage with high school influences via social media, such as the football captain or the class president. They are most likely to pass your message along. – Dave Kerpen, Likeable Media.

– Use social media to “surprise and delight” your customers. – Dave Kerpen, Likeable Media.

– Social media is like a cocktail party. Not all of your conversations are going to be perfect as they aren’t in real life, so if you have a typo, don’t worry too much about it. Just keep going. Similarly, you can’t start off meeting someone at a cocktail party by trying to sell them right away. Develop the relationship. – Dave Kerpen, Likeable Media.

– I work in one of the best fields in the world with some of the most amazing people I can think of. For those of you I saw at the conference, it was a delight. I hope to see you again soon.

Want them to listen and understand? Speak in their language

This past week, I attended the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations’ (NCMPR) National Conference in San Francisco, CA. There were so many great presentations and a lot of value gained by listening to one another’s questions and answers during discussions and breaks.

One of those unplanned lessons from this conference was that students don’t have a clue what some of the words we are using in higher education marketing mean. I think, deep down, we all knew this, but we needed someone to remind us.

The first revelation of this came when during a presentation on student retention. The presenter mentioned that he tries to avoid words such as “retention” and “cohort” in all of their marketing. Why? Because even though they are academically the correct terms to use to define what we are describing, college students don’t understand them. “What do you use instead of cohorts?” I asked during Q & A. “Um, groups?” said the presenter with a smirk. That sparked a group laugh and a three day conversation among many of us about what other words we were using that our students don’t understand.

In honor of our “revelation,” check out University of Chicago Writing Program’s Write Your Own Academic Sentence tool that allows you to create your own fun, wordy sentences.


Some of my favorites are:

  • “The fiction of normative value(s) is virtually coextensive with the systemization of the public sphere.”
  • “The (re)formation of the specular economy is homologous with the authentication of consumption.”
  • “The culture of normative value(s) may be parsed as the historicization of linguistic transparency.”


National Council for Marketing and PR conference lessons

Me acting as a model for a lighting demonstration for a presentation on videography. Special thanks to Mike Johnson from Lake Michigan College for taking this shot!
Me acting as a model for a lighting demonstration for a presentation on videography. Special thanks to Mike Johnson from Lake Michigan College for taking this shot!

In October of this year, I attended my district’s National Council for Marketing and Public Relations professionals (NCMPR) annual conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. Below is a brief overview of three critical conference lessons that can be applied to a variety of businesses and their marketing strategies.


Speaker: Andy Goodman, The Goodman Center

  • If you have facts that you want people to remember, put them in a story.
  • What makes a good story? The following formula is a good start:
  1. Protagonist
    1. Introduce them and tell us something about them
  2. Inciting incident
    1. What happens to start the story
    2. This gives them a goal
  3. Hero has to run into a barrier or obstacle.
    1. Find way around barrier then run into another one. The action continues to build with the number of barriers overcome.
  4. Finally reach a conclusion/resolution (whether they reach their goal or not).

Virtual Community

Speaker: Anthony Juliano, Asher Agency

  • Your social media is a success when the community starts having conversations with one another instead of with you.
  • Social media is free in terms of hard costs, but costs organizations significant dollars in terms of employee time (yes, I know we as marketers know this, but sometimes others in our organization don’t).
  • You actually need three social media documents (Employee use policy, Marketing strategy, and Community standards posted on the social media pages).

Visual Messaging

Speaker: Susan Kirkland, Propeller Communications

  • Have someone unfamiliar with your brand look over your branding materials. Using only the materials, ask the person to give you adjectives to describe your brand. It they don’t match your brand, you may need to look at redesigning your materials to better match who you really are.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the experts above?