Strategic Directions

Drop Shadow

Marketing: Open Forum, March 3, 2005

[pdf file for printing]

Facilitators: Steve Pultz, Elaine Worzala

Steve introduced the topics for discussion and explained the purpose of the brainstorming sessions at the President’s Strategic Directions Workshop. He noted that the objective of this forum is to get broader feedback on these ideas and to explore our best options for developing a five-year action plan for marketing.

Comments from Forum Participants

  • How did we establish our current marketing campaign focusing on “University of (…Ideas, Faith, Dreams, etc.)”? [Response: Our current marketing campaign is a two-year project which coincides with our capital campaign. The kick-off was the TV spot which first aired on local TV during the Olympics.]
  • To “clarify” our identity means knowing who we are. There’s no document stating that. We need to clarify who we are to ourselves before we can clarify our identity to the outside world.
  • Ideas about marketing have been expressed through the workshop, but what’s the process? We need to engage in some marketing research to see how we’re perceived by our target markets, and this effort has to be given priority.
  • Our Web site is of primary importance in marketing the university, and the site doesn’t present us as well as it should. Navigation and presentation aren’t consistent among departments.
  • We’re talking about a five-year plan here, but establishing a niche for this university has to move forward faster than five years. This needs to be a priority with a budget, and there are some tough trade-offs. [Response: If we can write a five-year plan that’s accepted by the President and vice presidents, the plan should be an institutional priority, raise the visibility of the effort, and get us moving in the right direction.]
  • Consistency in marketing sounds great, but we shouldn’t strive for consistency for its own sake. What’s important is what works. If inconsistency—or distinctiveness—brings us better results, than that’s what we should do. [Response: Distinctiveness is very important, but we’re also concerned with consistency of quality here, not just consistency in appearance. We’ve been producing some low-quality marketing products that we can’t be proud of. USD should strive to produce marketing of uniformly good quality.]
  • The first phase of project planning is the discovery phase. We have to define where we are before we can determine where we want to go—and estimate the resources in terms of money and people that it will take to get us there. At the same time, we can work to improve quality if we know that’s an issue.
  • There’s a short spot running on the local KPBS radio station that says USD is a place of honor and wonder—it really doesn’t say much about USD. [Response: It’s a 15-second drive-by to build upon the TV spot that aired during the Olympics, and 15 seconds doesn’t give you time to say very much. The drive-by may not connect with a lot of people—it’s probably most effective when heard by people who saw the TV spot.]
  • If there’s an overarching idea with the branding, it would clarify the school’s identity. Are we adding stuff to the list?
  • Emerson once noted that “Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” We have to strive for consistency that’s meaningful and has the intended effect.
  • We have to be careful that we don’t have schools competing against each other in their marketing. There are days that we have competing ads placed right next to each other in the Union-Tribune.
  • Consistency needs to extend to students, faculty, and staff. Faculty are trying very hard to shift USD’s focus more toward academics, and we need to have students and staff supporting those efforts.
  • There can be an inconsistency between “activity” and “accomplishment.” Do the drive-by spots get us what we want? Similarly, there can be an inconsistency between “let’s get going” and “what’s our destination?” We want to be sure our activities work for us.
  • Our mission, vision, and goals do say something who we are and what we’re going to do. The vision and goals are action statements.
  • How does our market see us? Where do we have an opportunity to make an impact? Our vision and goals are “wishes”—but can they get us where we want to go?
  • Our vision and goals are biased by nonscientific data. Results of the “Enrollment Factors Survey” show that trustees are at variance with faculty and staff. We probably have some external problems as well with customers not agreeing on what the brand is.
  • Psychology tells us that there’s an important part of the cognitive process before “clarifying”—it’s “recognizing.” Doe they see us at all? We’re using USD—we need to be the University of San Diego. We’re the only school in town who can say “University of…”
  • Our marketing structure is too ad hoc—we need a marketing council with representatives who meet once a month, and we need more internal communication.
  • We need to get a picture of our identity as we’re perceived from outside—often, as a school of rich, white kids. How do we fix that?
  • Be careful about being schizophrenic in presenting our identity. If we had a strong regional and national identity, that might play out locally as well. We tend to be confused locally with UCSD and SDSU, but USCD doesn’t have this problem because they’re strong nationally.
  • We don’t control news pieces presented by our faculty, we react to requests from the media. The city media decide on the hot topic for the day and ask for comments. We need to take stock of what we can do proactively and look for every opportunity to reinforce it. We have to make that a budgetary priority.
  • We should seize on opportunities to boast of our accomplishments. For example, a Union-Tribune article excoriating SDSU for having athletics programs out of compliance mentioned that all of USD’s programs are in compliance. We should publicize that.
  • The law school has been working very hard to get professors on radio news. Until a few years ago, you’d have thought the only law schools in San Diego were Thomas Jefferson and Cal Western based on radio broadcasts.
  • Only three people at USD do public relations. We need more staff involved for an effective campaign. We need Web pages that make it easy for media to find faculty who are experts on topics in the news. [Response: In order to be proactive at getting into the news, we need someone in each school to develop those opportunities—not just react to media requests for information. But we’re excited about two things we’ve recently developed. The first is a speakers’ bureau and media list on the Web—a list of faculty experts on different topics and how to contact them. Media area instant people—they want a response right away. Lots of faculty are reluctant to talk to the media, but they get our name out when they do. Please encourage people in your area to become involved as resources. The second thing we’ve done is to develop biweekly media tips. We send lists to the media of things that are going on at USD. This is very proactive, and we’re getting calls from the media now. Also, we provide media training. We’ve brought in experts to help people improve their level of confidence in dealing with the media. And we’re finally getting a good listing of events on the Web.
  • We need a director of internal communication. I know more about what’s going on at SDSU than I know about what’s going on here. [Response: SDSU has been marketing very aggressively since they brought in an outside firm to help with marketing. KPBS gives them a lot of air time—the station is on the SDSU campus. But other channels have been running campaigns for SDSU too.]
  • We need to encompass students’ perceptions. Have we asked our student why they came to USD?
  • Athletics is a way to draw attention to our identity that’s only been mentioned twice. We have some great coaches here that we can use to draw attention to ourselves.

Steve concluded the forum by identifying four priorities that emerged from the discussion:

  • Establish and clarify a sense of who we are by conducting some extensive marketing research.
  • Work toward consistency and flexibility in marketing efforts that will support recruiting both freshmen and doctoral students.
  • Develop an internal group to share marketing ideas.
  • Improve our marketing organizational structure to optimize our efforts.