Top Takeaways from the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education

Every year, the minute after our booth is (finally) set up for the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education, we are reminded of our great fortune to work, live, and breathe in a sector powered by positivity and collaboration. 
Some of our favorite moments from 2023’s conference—besides the chance to connect with familiar faces, meet new ones, and offer a friendly sofa to all—include our opportunities to actively join the conversation: 

  • SVP Kirsten Fedderke, along with our client-partner, Sarah Malinowski Ferrary representing Saint Peter’s University, presented their session, “What Happens to Cinderella After the Ball?” This session allowed us to give voice to SPU’s unique opportunity to harness the momentum—and national spotlight—that followed their accomplishment of the greatest March Madness run in NCAA history. We enjoyed discussing the development of SPU’s new brand campaign, the buy-in process including how to engage stakeholders strategically, and trusting the team through true collaboration—and a short timeline. 
  • SVP Alexia Koelling was honored to present the Higher Ed Marketer of the Year Awards + Excellence in Higher Ed for the second year in a row. Congratulations to all individual and group winners, it’s a pleasure to share the stage with other aspiring and accomplished higher ed marketers. 

Below are our team’s four major takeaways: 

  1. It’s no surprise that AI was the buzzword of the week. Everyone’s thinking about it, trying it, teaching it, and figuring out how to use it to enhance—not overcome—the good work we’re already doing. As marketers, we must not only learn to incorporate it, but learn how to push it to be exactly what we imagine it can be.  
  2. The rising lack of trust in higher ed and/or accelerating partisanship dominated marketing presentations and conversations this year, giving “the great demographic cliff” a run for its money as our collective looming challenge. Clearly, people are looking for good news in terms of how institutions can forge ahead, rise above the fray and/or be seen by their audiences as an honest broker instead of merely hunkering down.   
  3. Social and digital continue to be among the top items on marketing agendas, particularly given the turmoil in the platforms themselves, state government regulation, and Gen Z and Gen Alpha’s new consumption patterns. Unfortunately, a lot of “data” presented by higher ed teams comes from studies of adults (18+). Investing in proprietary research will help provide real value and insight that is customizable to our clients’ (and prospective clients’) needs. 
  4. Higher ed marketing teams are lean, under tremendous pressure, and need experts they can rely on. We spoke to many agencies and marketing teams who are now hiring their first CMOs who wear a lot of hats, or have managers doing the work of many (some with student workers and some without). A frank and funny presentation by the Skidmore College team about the travails and triumphs they faced over a three-year period evoked a response akin to a type of revival meeting. We’re proud that our proposals and introductory conversations reflect our ability to work alongside in-house teams to strategize and develop and not just “take and handle” their creative/media/web/etc. without collaboration and continued discussion. 

Whether you attended the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education or not, we hope you found this list interesting or helpful and we’d love to hear your thoughts, too

Living Positivity & Possibility: Our Fall Day of Service 

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“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”    — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  …