Friday, January 21, 2011

Words I Live By

For about eight years this photocopy has been taped to the wall of my office.

It's from a little promotional book produced by advertising executive Robert A. Wilson (father of the Luke and Owen).

On the opposite page I underlined the following: Audiences need insights. What can't be absorbed won't be remembered. Tell stories worth remembering.

Methods may have changed during the last eight years, but the wisdom of Wilson's advice is just as brilliant.

Friday, January 7, 2011

I've Learned A Lot from Boarding Schools

Posting anew this op-ed I did for The Christian Science Monitor in honor of the client school that first inspired it five years ago and the new project I have just finished for the same school.

"Unlike Harry Potter, I didn't have the opportunity to attend boarding school, but I have talked to hundreds of kids who have. I make my living telling their stories in the 'viewbooks' schools send out to prospective students and their parents."

Read the rest here.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 Was a Thrill Ride

I don’t know about you, but as I get older the years seem to flit by faster. Weren’t we all just sending good wishes for a Happy 2010?

I confess I constantly fight against the feeling that time is slipping away. I must force myself not to worry about what I haven’t accomplished yet. When I turned 38 (I won’t say how long ago that was) I remember someone saying to me, “Yeah, now is when you admit to yourself you’re never going to be on the cover of Rolling Stone.” Don’t worry this post gets cheerier.

The feeling that time goes faster is an illusion. For me, it actually indicates how full my life is now compared to my younger life. When I take stock of “what I shipped” Seth Godin and Brad Rourke style 2010 feels like a grand adventure.

On the work front
I got to work with some amazing clients including:
Columbia University
Concordia College
Dickinson College
Flint Hill School
Fredericksburg Academy
Girard College
The Hotchkiss School
Lafayette College
Middlesex School
Oglethorpe University
Philadelphia University
Ridley College
Saint Andrew’s School
Saint James School
Scripps College (It was a special honor to work with the new president of my alma mater on her inaugural speech.)
Spelman College
Swarthmore College
University of Delaware
The Winsor School
Yale University

I also got to work with some inspiring partners: Creative Communications Associates, Landesberg Design, Pentagram Design, Plainspoke, and Turnaround Marketing Communications.

In addition to all of the above, eight new clients came on board with projects now underway. I spoke at two national conferences and wrote some magazine articles.

On the personal creative front
I finished my novel, queried agents, and received several requests for the manuscript – an adventure that is still underway. I learned a whole lot about publishing versus writing – in a good way. I’ve been supported by many friends and mentors through the process of both.

On the home front
I watched my husband Brad get bitten by the yoga bug. Now we practice together, which has been such a fantastic gift. I watched my son Daniel get almost as tall as me (“I’m 5’ 2” and have a mustache. I am not little,” he declared.) I watched my daughter Carson become ever more awesome. I mended a difficult relationship with a family member. I welcomed two baby nieces into the world. I watched my mom fulfill her dream of going to Kenya – a trip that is only the beginning of more.

Looking back, 2010 was a thrill ride that leaves me grateful and optimistic about the New Year that begins today.

Sending you best wishes for your own new year of grand adventure.

Photo Credit: mgrayflickr

Friday, October 22, 2010

Join Me at TABS 2010 (Baltimore December 3-4)

Here's why you should go. Here is who you will meet and hear. Here are a few tips to make the most of the conference (Courtesy of Chris Brogan). You can register here.

I'll be there along with Dr. Andrew T. Weller, Dean of Admissions for Canadian boarding school Ridley College, and Rob Norman and Liza Fisher Norman of Turnaround Marketing Communications.

Our session is “Canadian Hogwarts Magic: National Prestige to Global Brand”
How can a local legend break into U.S. and global markets? Start with a British system head of school, an admission dean fresh from East Coast prep schools in the U.S. and a venerable Canadian institution. Add marketing expertise and communication strategy. In this case study of Ridley College hear universal lessons on market positioning, brand storytelling, and the power of design to appeal to target markets worldwide.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bonus Material: Content is King

The Bonus Materials i.e. outtakes, deleted scenes and "the making of" are one of my favorite parts of any DVD (and the only drawback to iTunes movies). So here is a little bonus material from my latest CASE CURRENTS article.

During my interview with William and Mary's Susan Evans she told me, "Marketing and communications is changing so much. There is nothing that doesn’t require multimedia-based technology at this point. But one of the things I see people do is focus on technology when they need to be working on core messages instead." The kicker is that Evans is a technology expert. She spent 12 years working on the IT side at her institution before becoming its director of creative services on the central communications side.

She went on to say before you think about technology "you've got to focus on your institution's core values. What are you trying to accomplish? What do you want people to know about? Content is king."

I hate leaving good stuff on the cutting room floor. This is a gem.

Photo by Edgley Cesar

Monday, October 11, 2010

Partners vs. Vendors

In case you missed my column on working with consultants in the September CASE CURRENTS, here you go. It features words of wisdom from Missouri S & T's Andrew Careaga (if you're not reading Andy's top higher ed blog already, it's a must), William and Mary's Susan Evans (many thanks to Michael Stoner for connecting me to this sage who discusses what she was looking for in a consulting partner when she chose mStoner to help develop the college's new website), CCA's Dan Kehn (undoubtedly one of the top strategist/account managers I have ever seen), George School's Odie LeFever (she has the Midas touch when it comes to working with consultants and turning out gold), and the University of Richmond's Nanci Tessier (an enrollment management star who has helped her university become the envy of peers and a first choice for prospective students and parents).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Client’s Brand Primer

The best sign that branding I’ve done works is when those who live the brand really own its ideas and language and make it their own.

In terms of my own brand, I was reminded of this when Andrew T. Weller, Dean of Admission at Ridley College in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, told me what he tells other schools they can expect from working with me. I’ve worked on three school branding projects with Andrew (partnering with Turnaround Marketing Communications). He understands the process inside and out. He doesn’t use my language when he tells people what I do. Yet it is exactly what I hope clients get from partnering with me. His insights are a great brand primer in general.

Courtesy of Andrew Weller:

1. I assure people they are not going to be told who they *should* be or become but rather have reflected back to them who they already are.

2. I highlight the research done into other schools the client provides as well as the consulting team’s collective knowledge from experience. What’s the point in a brand someone already has?

3. I let them know that the work will distinguish between what is great about the school and what is great about the school that the market cares about. Who cares if we take pride in our plaid skirts from the 1880’s if prospective families don’t?

4. The end result will be market-friendly, market-digestible language – the school’s “insider” identity will be crafted in a way that resonates with the audience.

Read more Dr. Weller here.