The evolution of school marketing communications in the digital era
Reading the article, “Online Community Manager: A New Position in Education” by Jeff Utrecht was like a reality check for me as it provides reflection on the future direction of my professional career. The article, as the name suggests, talks about a new non-teaching/administrative position in education. Put simply, this person will be responsible for doing the work that the traditional Development/Marketing department does but doing it on the online space. The tasks may include creating online communication strategies to producing the actual content or even to measure the effectiveness of this new way of communication in reaching their targeted audience.
One thing I take from reading Jeff’s article is how powerful the Internet has become in education and the fact that integrating social media is now an inevitable agenda of a school. In fact, I first heard about this new position from the CASE Conference I attended in March 2011. Andy Shaindlin, Alumni Futures gave his interesting presentation on “4 Myths & 4 Realities of Social Media for Schools”. At the beginning of his talk, he asked us to put up our hands if we’ve heard of the position ‘Online Community Manager’ before. About 10 out of 200 people put their hands up. He went on to say that by next year conference, he is confident that more than half of us will put our hands up. I agree with him.
To confirm that Jeff and Andy were right and that the School can no longer ignore their online presence, NIST is now hiring for a newly opened position of Communication, Alumni & Community Relations Manager. One of the main tasks of this job is to monitor the School online presence and to use the online channel as an additional way for communication. Personally, I see a bright future for this position and I see the needs for such position at NIST. Considering how much NIST has invested in technology from wireless campus to one-to-one tablet program, it is crucial that the same message and image are conveyed about the School as a whole. Having someone assigned on such duty will certainly help to promote NIST online presence which will eventually help upgrade the School image and reputation.
However, I tried to visualize the ideal person for this position and I have to admit that it was a difficult task. The first question that pops up in mind was if the person should have a PR/Marketing background or IT background. I then came across an article on “Social Media Staffing” by Elizabeth Allen which she tried to address the same issue. I completely agreed with Elizabeth that this person should “know a lot about building relationships and engaging in conversations”. The person should also “have strong, high-level understanding of school’s organization’s mission, values and goals”. Having this in mind, I imagine that the successful candidate should preferably have a background in marketing and PR but he/she should be tech savvy. At the end of the day, the collaboration must come from all parties in a school from the Development Department to the IT Department. Most importantly, whatever content that will be published online must be genuine and reflect what really goes on in classrooms so the raw content should come from students and teachers. Then it will depend on the Online Communication Manager on how to best present those information in the digital form. In conclusion, creating a positive online presence is a whole school effort and perhaps this serves as a perfect opportunity to break that barrier between teachers and the Administrative Office.