25 Apr

5 questions with Larry Lauer

Larry Lauer, vice chancellor for government affairs at Texas Christian University, is one of the more thoughtful writers in our field.  His blog reflects on lessons learned – about strategy, leadership, organizational process, and much more – over the course of 30 years in higher education.

I have enjoyed two of his CASE books, Competing for Students, Money and Reputation: Marketing the Academy in the 21st Century as well as Advancing Higher Education in Uncertain Times, and would recommend both.  Larry, who also serves as distinguished professor of strategic communication in the graduate program at TCU’s Schieffer School of Journalism, has a decorated career in higher ed, and I have always respected his outlook on the evolving profession of university advancement.

1. You are considered a pioneer in integrated marketing.  What does integrated marketing look like and who benefits within the institution?

All areas, beyond a doubt: Integrated marketing has two parts: 1. Using several media platforms simultaneously to break though communication clutter and assault target markets. Research is used to determine the media of preference of each target market. 2. Using group process throughout the institution to get everyone on the same page with respect to brand identify, and motivate them to help to tell the same institutional story.

2. In these “uncertain times” for higher education, what are the unique challenges for advancement teams?

There are many: State funding cutbacks are causing a rethinking of core business parameters…including more emphasis on fund raising. Internationalization of the industry is bringing new foreign competition to the US for our students, our donor’s money and global reputation.

All this is bringing advancement front and center in institutions with greater opportunities for us, but also more pressure to perform.

3. I’ll sometimes hear advancement colleagues describe their relationships with deans/faculty as if they are on opposing teams. What advice would you give to help Advancement and Academics work in concert around the institution’s mission?

You must help them meet their goals first, and then help them see how yours are compatible with theirs. It led me to write my last book: Learning to Love the Politics (CASE Books), which deals with all the problems of getting institutional support for our work. That can take half or more of our time, and it’s a course we somehow never offer.

4. Why are silos more the rule than the exception in higher education (and specifically within advancement)?

Deans and many directors are often hired like presidents, with expectations to find good students, raise money, and put the program on the map. Additionally there often is an atmosphere of competition for budget support from central administration. All this leads to silos, and tendency to resist central advancement program’s influence. The answer is to help deans and directors meet their goals, while demonstrating how overall marketing and advancement supports those goals.

5. Circling back to integrated marketing, has the social web changed the face of integrated marketing?

Planning, integration processes, and internal politics all remain the same. Social media bring a whole new set of tactic tools, however, and they are potentially very powerful indeed. However, their use and impact is constantly changing, and it will be critical to monitor these changes carefully as we move our profession into the future. The management challenge will be determining which ones to invest staff time in maintaining, as a lot of time and resources can be wasted imagining good results that are not really influencing behavior.


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