As a young professional attending networking events in the tech and B2B world, I was dismayed to find a closed and competitive atmosphere: acquire as much information as possible, while surrendering the least. This culture reflected a model that required ideas to be proprietary in order to be monetized. In fact, I’d lost count of the number of non-disclosures I had to sign—in some cases simply to interview for a position.
When I moved into higher education, the contrast was striking. I found a community that embraces a commitment to knowledge creation and sharing, one that understands the cross pollination of ideas is a strength. I've been empowered to improve my work by colleagues, within and outside of my home institution, who generously shared their knowledge and expertise.
Whatever your role, incorporating outside perspectives into your job provides opportunities to do your job better—more effectively, more efficiently, more creatively. We’re fortunate that higher ed readily provides these opportunities. If you’re looking to weave new ideas into your day-to-day, here’s a round-up of some of the best resources out there.
If you have the budget for professional development, find a conference that aligns with your role and interests. You’ll see how other campuses address the very same challenges you face, like budget constraints, small staff sizes, and limited resources. And you’ll get to meet people in similar roles to yours, which is particularly valuable if you’re on a small team—and even more so if you’re a team of one. Ultimately, you’ll find a supportive community willing to share what they’ve figured out, on the off chance it might help a colleague in similar shoes.
If you don’t know where to begin, take a look at these higher ed-specific organizations.
- CASE: The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education offers conferences, trainings, and workshops that span enrollment and advancement, in addition to providing a robust resource catalog.
- EduWeb: A conference that's a great fit for anyone in higher ed who works in the digital marketing space.
- HighEdWeb: The Higher Education Web Professionals Association hosts an annual conference that brings together practitioners in the higher ed web, technology, and marketing spaces. This community shares a strong commitment to inclusivity and maintains an active Slack presence between meetings and conferences.
- HigherEdExperts: This organization hosts digital conferences and courses on a wide range of topics throughout the year.
- UCDA: The University & College Designers Association hosts workshops and annual conferences that bring creative professionals together to explore design trends and spark creativity.
If your budget doesn’t support a conference, all hope is not lost! Read on.
Blogs, Newsletters, and Podcasts
Blogs, newsletters, and podcasts are excellent—and free—ways to keep up with trends in higher education and to hear from different voices.
Newsletters and Blogs
- Inside HigherEd (IHE) and The Chronicle of Higher Ed (The Chronicle) cover the world of higher education exclusively. Subscribe to their daily emails to get a feel for the priorities, challenges, and issues facing the field right now.
- While IHE and The Chronicle cover higher ed news, Volt has a finger on the pulse of higher ed marketing.
- Ashley in Your Inbox is a newsletter from Ashley Budd, director of digital marketing for alumni affairs and development at Cornell University. She shares stories of interest to the advancement community, paired with her own insights and expertise.
- In addition to their Insights blog, SimpsonScarborough’s Simply Speaking monthly newsletter offers a wealth of branding and marketing information, tailored for higher ed.
- Campus Sonar’s own Brain Waves newsletter is a great source of industry expertise, blog posts, research, and news articles—all through the lens of social listening in higher ed.
- The Conversation is not only a great news source, but offers visibility into what research is making its way into the public sphere.
- Outside of higher ed, the TLDR Newsletter offers a daily digest of technology stories, and Dense Discovery, a weekly design-centered newsletter gives your brain a satisfying creative break.
- Ann Handley, the authority on marketing content and writing, publishes a newsletter filled with writing tips and new ideas to improve your marketing communications
- Josie and the Podcast, created by Dr. Josie Alquist, bridges technology and higher education leadership.
- The Admissions Leadership Podcast is hosted by Ken Anselment who brings in guests from the college admissions world.
- The Undeclared podcast is produced by Up&Up, a marketing agency specializing in higher education. They host higher ed thought leaders for conversations centered on topics of interest to the community.
Many companies that serve higher education also embrace the practice of knowledge sharing that is common within the community. Campus Sonar is one example.
(Spoiler alert: I left my university job and joined their team.)
But I was a fan first, so I embraced the opportunity to join a company that makes so many resources available to higher education. This blog, as one example, not only has content from the Campus Sonar team, but also provides a platform for guest bloggers in the higher ed community to share their expertise with their peers.
I was also a fan because the research findings Campus Sonar shares enabled me to do my job better. From social listening education to industry trends to deep-dive research, you’ll find it all here. Industry benchmarking reports, like the Online Conversation Benchmarks for Higher Ed, offer context for evaluating your own metrics and help you understand where your institution excels and where there is room to grow.
Industry reports on more specific topics, such as Examining Twitter Influence of Campus Executives, give you an opening to talk with a reluctant leader, demystify something new, or mitigate feelings of risk.
On the admissions side, the annual E-Expectations Trend Report published by Ruffalo Noel Levitz offers a wealth of information on the behaviors of prospective college students and their parents. In my role on campus, this piece spurred conversation around new technologies, informed the placement of information for parents, and validated many of our channel strategies.
Once you understand student behavior, wouldn’t you also like to know what they’re thinking and feeling? Campus Sonar’s forthcoming report digs into the thoughts and feelings of prospective students throughout the admissions cycle. Combined, these reports will provide a comprehensive look at the way prospective students approach their college selection process, and the part digital media plays in the way they gather data, interact with institutions, and express their feelings along the way.
To further deepen your understanding of this critical audience, an upcoming whitepaper and webinar from mStoner and TargetX, trusted partners in the higher ed community, will focus on digital admissions research and specifically how teens use digital tools in their college decision-making.
Building Your Toolkit
This list is by no means comprehensive, which is a testament to the community we’ve created. I encourage you to build yourself a toolkit of newsletters, podcasts, research reports, and communities of practice. Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned professional, my advice is to look for work that has integrity and comes from trusted sources, find pieces that expand your view of your field, and seek new approaches to challenges you’re experiencing.
My favorite thing about @CampusSonar is the fact that its resources are not a sales front. The newsletters, blogs, & social media outreach all include concrete, info and data filled, usable content that help MarCom professionals in the day-to-day. Here's an excellent example. https://t.co/0pQZHrd2JR— Heather Dotchel (@hdotchel) October 30, 2019