Ready to Roll: Centralize wherever you can.

It’s 2014. Is your communications and marketing team prepared to succeed? I address this question in part two of Ready to Roll, a piece I wrote for CASE CURRENTS. In case you missed it, part one also appeared on my blog.

Centralize wherever you can
I understand that alumni relations is different from sports information, which is different from development communications or enrollment marketing. Still, we all know that silos on campuses make it difficult to implement an integrated approach to communications and marketing. Frequently, even our central communications teams have the magazine staff members working in one place and the web team somewhere else. Organizing the people responsible for communications and marketing into a single, cross-functional, multidisciplinary team encourages holistic work and a consistent focus on institutional goals.

Ideally, you want a centralized communications and marketing team that blends capabilities across mediums and disciplines. More specifically, you should ignore the artificial boundaries between print, web, and social media. By placing content at the root of everything you do, the perceived barriers between communications channels will disappear. Then, designers will design for print, web, and social media. Writers will do the same, creating content for everything from print publications and websites to video scripts, tweets, and Facebook posts. Technologists will understand web architecture, content management, and how to integrate content from multiple web-based tools and systems.

During my time at William & Mary, we established a creative services unit by combining the skills and talents of the web team and the publications office. Bringing these two units together broke down the silos that separated our work and helped us approach projects in a more effective, centralized manner. This approach made sense for our projects as well as employees’ professional development. For example, graphic designers who had previously done only print work began participating in web design projects. Experienced web designers mentored them throughout, which helped the print designers gain skills in this area.

I’ve seen and experienced the institutional barriers and political challenges that can hinder this kind of holistic thinking. I still observe it on campuses in my consulting work. But we should use the current crisis around shrinking budgets, fiscal accountability, and growing expectations to gain support for centralized multidisciplinary teams. Often, such teams can save money by replacing more costly outsourcing efforts and add value by bringing on staff members who understand and are more invested in the institution’s brand. They also can reduce the duplication of effort that occurs when people work separately toward similar communication goals. The work of a multidisciplinary team is generally better—both organizationally and in terms of the final product—because members have the advantage of close and consistent communication between creative, editorial, and technology specialists.

Collaborative projects often contribute to people’s professional development. When individuals from different disciplines rally around the work, the experience of acting as a team encourages people to learn from their colleagues.

Next Monday, January 27, 2014, I’ll publish more from Ready to Roll. (Read part one.)

Copyright 2014 Council for Advancement and Support of Education. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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Author: susantevans

Susan T. Evans is a proven strategic leader with deep expertise in communications, brand management, marketing, digital strategy, technology, administration and organizational development. She is known for creative and strategic approaches to challenges within higher education, nonprofits and business.

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