EduWeb 2013: A Web Yankee in King Marketing’s Court

I’m writing from Boston, where I spoke yesterday at the EduWeb conference.

EduWeb LogoIt’s my second time at EduWeb – my friend and colleague Josh Tysiachney and I spoke at this conference in 2008 in Atlantic City. That was the time many of us got stuck in Philadelphia post-EduWeb due to weather.

Yesterday, I spoke about my experiences of transitioning from being the “web guy” to being in charge of more of the marketing at my institution in a session entitled “A Web Yankee in King Marketing’s Court.”

When my friend Karine Joly of CollegeWebEditor and HigherEdExperts approached me earlier this year, asking me if I’d like to submit a presentation proposal, I wasn’t sure what to talk about. I’ve been doing a decent number of talks the last few years about WordPress, but EduWeb doesn’t tend to skew as technical as other conferences. It got me thinking.

I’m just about a year into the transition from web to marketing guy, and it’s been both very stressful and very rewarding. We’ve seen successes, especially with our work with our admission team and winning some national awards, and it’s been quite tumultuous at times. I came in to this role with a very, very cursory understanding of print and how it works.

I spent some time yesteday talking about the “four banger.” Not a small car with a small engine, but the student newspaper ad I designed myself quickly, beyond the deadline late at night one day last fall. It wasn’t until after the ad was submitted and the paper had gone to print that I realized I had made not 1, not 2 but 4 errors in the ad. It was a low point, to be sure.

But we rebounded. We’re in a materially better place than we were a year ago, and I’m thankful for the faith that’s been placed in my by the administration at JCU. They took a chance on me, and I’m grateful.

In reflecting on the past year and my team at John Carroll, I’m extremely excited about the next year. We’ve got an academic year under our belts and I expect we’ll have less total redesigns to do over the next year and instead focus on tweaks and continual improvement. Yes, the job is still stressful, but I’m learning and improving every day. We’re working on better processes, efficiencies and always looking for ways to be awesome.

It’s like a wise man once said, “Sometimes, you gotta work a little, so you can ball a lot.”

If you get a chance to speak at a conference like EduWeb or HighEdWeb, I’d highly recommend it. It forces you to reflect and review your work and assumptions about a topic and synthesize it down to an hour’s worth of information. It’s hard work, but rewarding work. One thing I love about higher ed is that we share our experiences, wins, failures and best practices. Not many other industries are like that.

In break-out sessions at other conferences, I’m used to speaking in smaller rooms with maybe 40-50 seats in them. I managed to sneak a peek into the room I was speaking in yesterday and it was huge. One of the larger rooms I’ve spoken in during my career. Needless to say, I was a little nervous.

I was set to start at 5, and sitting in the lobby at 4:30 p.m. waiting for my talk to start the adrenaline kicked in. I texted my wife that’s my favorite part of speaking – that rush of nerves and excitement and butterflies. I’ve felt it whether it was playing a show with my band back in high school, or doing theatre in college, that rush is exciting and dare I say, a little addictive.

My other advice is network and be social at these events.

In my session yesterday was a John Carroll alumnae, which was neat, and the web coordinator at Ursuline College, which is right down the road from us. It was neat to make those connections, and I hope we can share some local knowledge going forward.

I spent the evening on an outdoor terrace eating pizza with colleagues from institutions from UM Baltimore, Indiana (the state and University of Pennsylvania) and the University of New South Wales in Sydney. We had reuben pizza and talked about our institutions, hipsters, anthropology, maternity leave around the world and what it’s called when it’s raining and sunny at the same time.

It was nice to get some edu from EduWeb.