Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Pro Bono

I watched the Prayer Breakfast speech by the rock musician, humanitarian, Bono as recommended by Peter the Great, so I understand better what makes both men tick: messiah complexes. ;-)

But who wouldn't want to "save the world" or save a university if (s)he could? Even Marketing Dept. Chairman Terry Clark would like to save a piece of it -- its advertising message. . . the Carbondale university's "story."

I've seen the spots created by Terry and his team of students before final edits. I'm sure whatever superior qualities the final product shows is due in large measure to the half-hour we spent together in his office that day. ;-)

Summarizing the message: (1. "take a good class at SIUC" and 2. "conveniently enjoy the natural resources") scored a bullseye with, the bloggers' friend, SIU President Glenn Poshard. The important part is #2. That's what makes SIUC special. And the message makes total sense. Besides good classes, the accessibility of "nature" here in Southern Illinois is unparalleled among other Illinois state universities.

In the same SI article that mentions Clark's Marketing (Clark'eting), Caleb Hale reports on an independent evaluation of the university's goals and realities came down pretty hard on how things were. The report, by the marketing consulting firm of
SimpsonScarborough, gives SIUC a reality check, saying essentially, SIUC can't have it both ways. Research-centered or Student-centered. Choose one and run.

But it sounds like interim Chancellor John Dunn thinks SIUC can have it both ways, by moving the goal posts, in defining what makes a top university.

Let Caleb Hale explain:
The question of the hour, however, is will the university continue seeking a top 75 spot among research institutions?

Interim Chancellor Dunn said it may not be a question of whether it does it but how it does it.

"Do you change the goal or do you change the matrix of how that goal is being assessed?" Dunn said. "If you're in the top 75, what is the marker of knowing when you're in the top 75?

"For instance, right now we have an institute [of] American Philosophy that, on anybody's list, is certainly no worse than in the top five; the school of art and design would be in the top 45 . . . .

"I think what this report is also telling us is we have to speak with much greater pride of the things we are already doing very well and that have clearly already put us in the top 75."

Dunn said SIUC will always be a research university, but it will be a "student-centered, responsive research university." (boldface added)

So getting back to marketing. . . . Why not have a student-centered marketing campaign? Use student talent to help create the product, as Professor Clark has done. Have them all produce spots with the same message: SIU at Carbondale combines excellent academics (and athletics) with accessible outdoor recreation, at an affordable price -- with the same tag line, or catchy phrase, that "says it all." An Admissions web log might be a good idea, as well..... Something on MySpace, maybe. A hip-hop version of the school song? Fresh as all outdoors.

As a media maven, I'd be happy to produce a 30-second video promotion for SIUC pro magnum bonum, free of charge.


[ ] said...

People have to want to believe a story. You can't (succesfully) market something that people just don't want to believe. Top 75 research? I don't think so.

Solid college education in a small-town setting at an affordable price? People want to believe that. A smaller, less intense version of the University of Illinois. Quality education closer to home (figuratively).

Yep. People will line up for that. They did before.

Unknown said...

The thing that strikes me is that we don't have a harmoneous vision for what this University ought to be.

Either it needs to be this, or it needs to be that, depending on who you ask.

To me, this is where we're failing from the get-go. You have those in the "let's make our school a research school" camp, others in the "we need to spend more on our athletics programs" camp, and then those who "just want a better campus experience for the students" camp. Each seems to see the other as the ideological enemy ... and then we wonder why we can't get anything accomplished.

As unpopular as it may be to say, we need strong academics, student services, AND athletics. Positioning each as antithetical to the other is wholly counterproductive. Until we can work together, and recognize the value of a new football stadium along with the value of a new research grant, we'll be only bickering and spinning our wheels. A fools' errand we've been on for far too long.

I know Terry Clark ... I've shared a beer or two with Terry. He's a smart guy. The "powers that be" would do well to heed his advice. He's right in that we need to do something. You're right, Dave, in that we ought to utilize the talents we have at our disposal to do it - the students. The one thing I know, if I know anything, is that we do a truly dismal job of marketing ourselves both locally and nationally - that applies to academics AND athletics, by the way.

We can do better, and we need to do better. We won't, however, unless we're willing to see the other side of the issue and compromise our "pet" cause just a little.

But what do I know, I write about beer.

Anonymous said...

It's not just about SIU--our town and region suffers when enrollment goes down. Fix the problem guys!

Anonymous said...

Hey, it's not just about the town and region, either. When the town and region don't offer enough, the kids choose another school. A majority of students looking at state schools don't give a crap about academics. To them, one state school is about the same as the other. Try to be a little more cosmopolitan and a little less hillbilly.