How to become a higher education marketing thought leader

How to become a higher education marketing thought leader

Like it or not, the truth is that your ability to become a Higher Education marketing thought-leader will be determined by the successes stories you help create in your day-to-day job.

If you receive an award, appear on a list or are asked to write a guest blog, it’s because somewhere along the line your work creating big university brands and effective student recruitment campaigns has helped you get noticed.

In my last blog, “How to stand out in a crowded Higher Education Sector“, I looked at 6 proven steps taken from leading HE marketers on how they get they drive awareness and engagement in this crowded market.

Building a respected personal brand that sticks is not easy…and it shouldn’t be. And the only way to show others that what you say is worth listening to is by practicing what you preach…and that means being able to demonstrate deep student insights, build brands that cut through the noise and driving big enquirer and conversion numbers.

Disclaimer Alert!!!

Developing a successful personal brand will happen a lot quicker if you work for an organisation with the same beliefs, values and vision as yourself. This allows you to talk about what you do at your university in your personal brand building work, and vice versa.

By showing off all of the great marketing work your institution has done, you will also likely get the added bonus of your boss supporting you in your personal ventures…maybe even giving you time to work on your solo projects or use some university resources.

Why build your personal brand?

So, why would you want to build your personal brand and be seen as a Higher Education marketing thought-leader – after all, it’s going to involve creating even more work for yourself.

Well, obviously you will receive recognition from your peers for your efforts to drive forward new approaches and ways of thinking about HE marketing. Then there’s career advancement, be that at your current university or elsewhere. You will also grow your network, which could prove an invaluable resource on future projects.

The HE marketing community is pretty small and tight-knit, if you do a good job or develop some disruptive new techniques people will soon start to hear about it and want to know more.

Hang on a minute, what is my personal brand?

Unfortunately, for this one you’re on your own. Ask yourself, what is your passion…your strengths…your marketing vision? Try to really boil things down to what makes your “personal brand” unique – the same as you would with any rebranding project. What is relevant and valued at the moment? Try and build these elements into your brand.

It will help to produce a “mission statement”, some sort of document that you stick up on a wall or keep in your desk drawer and which you can always refer back to. This will help guide your “character”.

So here are personal brand building lessons taken from the very best in the business:

1. Harness the power at your finger tips
Almost all successful personal brand builders of recent years have harnessed the power of social media to their advantage. That’s because Social Media has the ability to put you in touch with / in front of your peers around the globe.

But this will take some commitment and organisation on your part. Set some time aside to create, source and schedule content for the forthcoming day, week or month. There are a ton of tools out there which will help you find content (e.g. Feedly) in your specialist field and share it (e.g. Sprout Social).

But don’t rely on these tools to do all the work and lose sight of the human touch. Engage with people that like, share or comment on your posts and add them to your social networks.

2. Be a busy blogger

Writing a blog article is one of the cheapest and most effective ways of getting your thoughts out to a wider audience. With Google’s new algorithms it’s great for SEO and gives you a platform to share your expertise and experience. You can set up your own WordPress blog or use the LinkedIn publishing tool, Pulse.

Put together an editorial schedule and commit to a specific frequency – the more regular the better. Reach out to Editors on key industry websites and offer your services as a contributor on your specific subject (don’t forget that backlink for SEO)…offering the same in return on your own website. Don’t forget to reference and notify any sources or peers…the chances are they will be happy to share your content if they are namechecked.

Oh, and don’t forget to include a link to your blog in the bio for your Twitter, Google+, Linkedin and email accounts.

3. Keep yourself at the cutting edge

Save yourself a lot of time, effort and a steep learning curve by only focusing on the latest news stories, trends and techniques. People have a natural curiosity for what’s new or has a buzz around it. It also helps position you as a thought-leader and ahead of the curve, so be quick and get your content out their first.

Keeping your fingers on the pulse will reflect well on you both in your day job and the wider HE marketing community. So next time you are struggling for motivation at the end of the day, rather than going to make another coffee, hop online and discover what the breaking stories are in the world of Marketing with sources like Hubspot or Social Media Examiner.

4. Become known on events circuit

Most of us would not naturally jump at the chance to stand up and speak to a room full of people. But if you want to be a HE marketing thought-leader this is something you’re going to have to start doing…and become good at. Seize every chance you get to address your peers share your opinions.

It’s a simple equation, the more people you speak to and impress, the larger your LinkedIn, Twitter and email network will grow. This in turn will lead to more guest blogs, magazine articles, round table events and speaking opportunities. Again, this will only reflect well on your current university so the chances are they will support you in all of these activities.

Bear in mind though that this will not happen overnight, as with any brand building exercise it will require clarity, consistency and persistence. But by putting some of the steps above into practice you will soon start to turn a few heads and get your name known on the scene.

Stay true to your principles and beliefs (people will spot a phoney) and your hard work in the office and during those late evening spent blogging will soon pay off.