Episode 72: Breaking Down Silos in Higher Ed with Myla Edmond – Live from AMA

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Shiro:

Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Higher Ed Demand Gen Podcast hosted by Concept3D. Today, we are live from AMA Symposium, for higher ed In Chicago, it’s day 2 today. It’s been a great show so far and excited for another 2 days. For today’s episode, I’m really excited to talk about breaking down silos in higher ed. For that, we have Myla Edmond today. She is The AVP of communications and marketing at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and she’s also the cochair for planning of the planning committee at AMA as well.

Shiro:

And I’d love to ask you, what is your favorite thing about AMA?

Myla Edmond:

My favorite thing About the American Marketing Association Symposium for the marketing of higher education is the community. This place is filled with People who not only have done this work a long time, but they love this work. And I think what’s unique about it is we’re not necessarily a competition with each other.

Myla Edmond:

So if you need help with something, need suggestions, wanna talk through a strategy with someone, They are more than willing, to have the conversations and share their ideas and insights with you. So I think it’s The strongest thing there are a couple things I like, but the thing I like most is definitely the community.

Shiro:

I definitely echo that, and I know I I’ve tried to attend 2 sessions that are just completely full, and so it’s it’s definitely busy and everyone wants to Learn more and educate themselves, so it’s exciting. And, yeah, the part about open communication, Anne Peters, who I hope to have On the show, after this week is I I went to her presentation yesterday around branding and bringing it to the executive level, and She shared her mistakes that she’s done at the school too, and I thought that was very, like, humbling and saying okay.

Myla Edmond:

Yes. And it’s it’s true. I mean, we don’t get it right every time.

Myla Edmond:

So I do think this is a space by which people not only feel comfortable sharing that, but the people they share it with don’t weaponize it either. They take it down as a note, appreciate hearing it, and make sure that they improve their process when they go to implement some of the things that they’ve heard.

Shiro:

This is fantastic. Well, can you tell us a little bit about, your role at, California State University, Dominguez Health?

Myla Edmond:

Yes. So as the AVP, I’m charged with really I like to think of it as 3 things. Mhmm. Defining and identifying the distinctions of the institution, amplifying those distinctions to the audience that cares about the most, And they’re helping to establish congruence between who we say we are and who we are. And really what that boils down to is lining up The experience the expression of that experience

Myla Edmond:

And the expectations that people have for that experience.

Shiro:

That’s fantastic. And what are some of the key areas you’re working on today.

Myla Edmond:

You know, I think my colleagues at this conference and I are are working on the same things, Making sure that we are communicating openly with our with our various audiences. Mhmm. You know, with The state of higher ed being what it is gotten increasingly competitive. And so I think for marketers, we are focusing on how we can Partner with our enrollment management colleagues and figure out how to develop authentic messaging to students who are interested in our institutions And leading with values. So I think that what that looks like is you know, I think with marketing, people always wanna talk about the output. So website management, social media engagement

Myla Edmond:

And ensuring that materials that are produced across the campus have the same, You know, mission, vision, and values, and and they are branded well to reflect the institution’s mission, vision, and values.

Shiro:

Fantastic. And I I’m I’m curious. Have you had time to go to sessions the last 2 days

Myla Edmond:

I have. Around the country? Yes. I have had really want to make sure that not only I wanna participate as an attendee Uh-huh. But also I wanna see what Experiences the attendees are having as a as a culture of the planning committee, because that’s important to me. So I have had a chance to go to sessions. Yeah.

Shiro:

Is there anything that stood out, like, that would be insightful? So it’s, like, one takeaway from the last I know it’s only been a day and a half. So but any takeaways from the day and a half?

Myla Edmond:

I think I’m hearing some common things just around and it’s funny because it’s all fundamentals. You know? I think that a lot of times, we’ve gotten So sophisticated with what we’re able to do and what tools we have and technology we can use, but really listening to our audience. And I think what’s important about that is they’ve gotten sophisticated, and so we have to learn to meet them where they are, which is something we all know, and we’ve learned that very early on. Yeah. But their tools are changing, and the way that they talk about our institutions are changing. So really just Taking the time to get to know our audience and communicate to them in the ways that they prefer. The other thing I would Say it’s just listening to how my colleagues are managing all the things that we’re charged with.

Myla Edmond:

You know, we are not just It’s hard to brand. There’s reputation. There’s crisis and issues management. There’s there’s so much wrapped up in what we have to do. And then as a manager, you have Figure out how to manage your staff and motivate them because they’ve been doing this work with you. And what I hear from most of our teams, We don’t have enough people to do what we we need to do, and and also managing the expectations of our campus leadership. So Is there one thing? Maybe not one thing, but I think we’re all facing the same things.

Shiro:

Oh, that’s really great. I know. Eddie was Eddie Francis on the last episode. And

Myla Edmond:

I love Eddie.

Shiro:

Oh, yeah. He’s he’s great. Brings a lot of energy to the table.

Myla Edmond:

Every time.

Shiro:

And he’s a radio, radio host, like, early in his career. So I was like, oh, I was a little nervous to talk to him because I know he was gonna

Myla Edmond:

press it.

Shiro:

His session was around, employer branding. And I think one thing I went to that session and one thing I walked away with was importance of highlighting your employees and, you know because you can’t always, you know, hit the goal that you wanted to, but, like, you know, empowering them to make sure They have the agency to do what they want and also give them praise, basically. Right? Like, I know they have really there’s really high expectations for them from the top down. So, You know? Are you properly appraising your employees or your team was, like, one thing that I that that stood with me in yesterday’s session.

Myla Edmond:

It’s incredibly important. We can’t do the work that we do on our own.

Shiro:

Yep.

Myla Edmond:

Team is so important to what we’re doing, and so making sure that they feel not only recognized but heard is is critical.

Shiro:

Well and sort of related to that and going into our topic a little bit more here, can you tell us a little bit about what the process is for breaking down silos and opening communication Really at your level, in higher ed.

Myla Edmond:

How much time do you have? No. It is it’s ever evolving. And Yeah. Anything that I share, You know, I’m not saying it to say that we have it all figured out because I think when you get new people in, you have to change your strategy. When Mhmm. Expectations change. You have to reevaluate what you’re doing. But what I would say is keeping the students at the center is the first part of this Mhmm.

Myla Edmond:

And really understanding what it is that they need. I think because our organizations are so complex, We often pass that down to the students. They don’t care that you’re divided by this division in this unit and Yep. The handoffs that take place between the staff.

Myla Edmond:

They care about your institution. And so when I think about my students, They care about Cal State Dominguez Hills and what is Cal State Dominguez Hills sharing with them. They don’t wanna hear that they have to get this from this department, This from that department and this from this person. They want a seamless communication experience. And so I have to look at Who do I need to talk to to ensure that that happens? And it does take longer. Absolutely. But the payoffs are so much better because your students find that they have a seamless communication experience. So bringing the right people to the table, And it’s often a lot of people bringing them to the table from the start.

Myla Edmond:

Don’t just create something and then say, hey. Check this and tell me what you think. I think feedback is critical and important, but it’s even more important to bring people in during the development stage to make sure that

Myla Edmond:

You’re not just covering things, but the way you cover it makes sense. And so getting feedback along the way is more important than just having somebody check at the end. So you have to ask yourself,

Myla Edmond:

know, if you’re doing this by a topic, who are all the people that touch this particular topic, or who are all the people that students have to engage with to get this certain thing done. I think that’s an important part of making sure that that silos are getting busted. It’s finding out who touches all these, you know, this particular thing and making sure that they have buy in and They get to weigh in on what your what your strategy

Shiro:

is. Yeah. And that process in itself probably takes a lot of time to start. Right? Even just finding who the key players are for each specific thing is probably difficult too.

Myla Edmond:

Absolutely. One of the things I was interested in was collecting all the Different means of communicating to students, and we know Mhmm. We love email. Mhmm. We gotta we gotta get over our overdependence on email. But what I did was I wanted to know by cohort. So I started with 1st year incoming students. Mhmm.

Myla Edmond:

What are all the messages they get from our campus? You can imagine. I think it’s significant, but I wanted to do that so we can improve all the communications that our 1st year students receive. And we started with a group of about 35 people. And

Shiro:

From, like, admissions, enrollment, everyone? Everywhere. Okay.

Myla Edmond:

35 people. And Yes. Creative a tool for them to input. Uh-huh. What are the messages you send out to 1st year incoming students? And if you’re not sending them and there’s something you would like to send, include that too. We just wanted a really bird’s eye view of all the potential messages that were specific to 1st year incoming students. Mhmm. And they weren’t behavioral based.

Myla Edmond:

It was just cohort based. So this didn’t include if a student didn’t Respond to something or there was some action you wanted a specific student to take. This was for all of them. And we actually did that exercise for 1st year incoming students, graduating seniors, and we did 1 more cohort that I that’s escaping me right now, but we have a list of 7 we wanna get through, It was not just free. Gotcha. The work continues.

Shiro:

And how long is that just that process taking to get through?

Myla Edmond:

This to has been going on for 18 months.

Shiro:

Yep. I guess that’s a good if you think it’s taking time, like

Myla Edmond:

It needs to take time. Agency. Wanna do it right.

Myla Edmond:

And Things are fluid. You know? Like I said, we ask them, what are the messages you send, the messages you think you could send? Mhmm. So when we went to the next cohort, That was shaping how they inputted their data

Myla Edmond:

Because they had walked through it before. And and I want people to be thorough. I don’t want them to feel rushed.

Myla Edmond:

We we will take the time.

Shiro:

Is there a specific way you’ve set up this prod project or ongoing project? Like, may maybe labeling so that, like, everyone is involved. Maybe you’re put standing meetings in time where everyone gets together like a Brand card.

Myla Edmond:

Yeah. So it’s In

Myla Edmond:

to do that. After we finish 1 cohort Uh-huh. We all revisit. Okay. We agree that the next cohort would be in this case, it was graduating seniors, what’s the second one. Do we still agree that that’s the best move to make next? Okay. Yes. We still agree.

Myla Edmond:

Okay. So who wasn’t involved in this that should be for graduating seniors?

Myla Edmond:

So you kinda you don’t start all over, but you kinda start all over because you have new people walking in. And I don’t want them to feel that they’ve missed something, so We’ve got the scaffold again. This is what we’re doing. This is why you do have an example to show them because now the tool exists. But yeah. And then you start the conversation with this new group and just, again, get them to think about what are all the messages going to this cohort so that we can all see them Find ways to collaborate. Look at timing because timing is a big part of this, and we make sure that we’re not just sending students message just because we need to check something off of our risk. Again, being student centered is the intent here.

Shiro:

Mhmm. What have been some of the outcomes of your 2 early cohorts? Have you reduced duplication? Like, what’s the what’s what’s that been like?

Myla Edmond:

We have been able to get some partnership on some messages. Uh-huh. I wouldn’t you know, it’s it’s difficult to say reduced duplication because sometimes you realize, But we weren’t communicating about this.

Myla Edmond:

So, you know, I’m not interested in saying we are going to necessarily send less or have accounts. There’s no perfect number. Mhmm. But I do wanna make sure the communication is effective and also give people an opportunity to see that. Maybe this isn’t an email. Maybe this is something else. We have social media accounts. We have other means to communicate with students.

Myla Edmond:

We have an app. We have faculty that could communicate messages to students. So really just a student or reconsidering how we can Communicate to students, and we’ll recommiticate to students.

Shiro:

Has there been anything that, like, you weren’t expecting from going through this exercise, like, positive, negatives?

Myla Edmond:

I think it it wasn’t that I wasn’t expecting it, but I was certainly encouraged by people wanting to work together on this. Okay. It was just They hadn’t been given the space to do it. You know? No one no one walked in this meeting in over Zoom, and said, I don’t wanna do this or I’m not interested. I think they all understood the importance. And as of of you know, in my job, I’m always I have to tie you back to the why. So I was prepared to say, you know, this is why we have to do it, and I didn’t have to repeat that. They they all Got it.

Myla Edmond:

You know? It was like, this makes sense. I understand. Now let’s get this done.

Shiro:

That’s amazing. Turning the page a little bit here. I know you’ve had A lot of experience at different universities, different positions, right, which has led to you to where you are today. I know you actually started out in alumni relations, and I I think this wraps over the wraps up the whole conversation really nicely as well, but what have what did you learn in alumni relations that you’re bringing to the table now in the search marketing team, and your position as well.

Myla Edmond:

I am so thankful that I started at the end, honestly, and it wasn’t intentional by any

Myla Edmond:

I saw a job that sounded really fun, and it was managing the marketing communications for an alumni association. Starting at the end really helped me understand after I got there for a while that colleagues from Admissions all the way through impact the output of alumni relations, and the experience that students have Mhmm. Impacts how they engage as alums. And that that lesson stayed with me, and I think it’s partly why I’m Such a collaborator because I understand that if students don’t have a good experience either in the Student life in the classroom or dealing with some of our colleagues on some of their administrative tasks.

Myla Edmond:

They may not have the warm, fuzzy feelings. Even if they stay and get their degree, they may not look back at that time as a favorable time. And so that lesson stuck with me all throughout my career. And so I’m really thankful that I started at the end of the The journey because I got to also hear what happens when they do have a great experience. So you have alums coming back for their 40 or 50 year Anniversary telling us that this was the best or most memorable part of their life. And it’s like, How amazing is that to be a part of someone’s most memorable time of their life? You have to get this right.

Shiro:

That’s fantastic. Yeah. Do you think there’s maybe someone who hasn’t had this experience? Like, if you had to sum up, like, What advice you’d give to them if they’re just climbing just in through the central team? Like, do you have any advice to give to someone that you’ve learned?

Myla Edmond:

A marketer just climbing through. I would say don’t be afraid to disrupt things. Okay. You know? There’s I understand why we go into patterns and Say, you know, this is how we’ve done it, and we just wanna make incremental improvements every year. I understand because we’re all taxed with more work than we have time to. But if we don’t disrupt our thinking, we’re not gonna create that Alignment that I talk about.

Myla Edmond:

Because student expectations are changing every single day. They’re not just comparing Their experience with other universities, they’re comparing their experiences with businesses and tech companies and their shopping experiences with They’re online shopping experiences, so they’re not just saying, well, I I it’s okay. I’m gonna give my university a pass on how their technology advances are because it’s a university. They’re not doing that. If These other companies can figure out how to give them a seamless communication and a really robust Online experience

Myla Edmond:

They expect us to do the same. And so I would say to someone coming in new, Disrupt some things. You know? Even we are leaders. We’re just sometimes we get caught up in trying to, You know, get things done. And somebody has to say, hey. Have we ever considered doing it this way? Or just asking questions. I think asking questions is a really strong way to get people to reevaluate how they do things as well. So Mhmm.

Myla Edmond:

What’s our process? Why do we do it this way? Is this the best method? Is this the most effective? Are we actually meeting our goals? And 1 question I always ask that I would encourage anyone Ask what is our intent? Sometimes we just jump right into work

Myla Edmond:

we don’t even know if we’re leaving our intentions.

Shiro:

I’m very guilty of that. I I tend to, like, just go right into tactics and strategies.

Myla Edmond:

We gotta we gotta we gotta step back. I I do have an example of that. I was I was talking to a colleague about an event, and I just said, you know, as the marketing team, we’re supporting this.

Myla Edmond:

What are your objectives for this event? And they had a hard time articulating that, so I asked you know? So give me I I was trying to give examples because I want it more than I don’t know. You know? So I said, well, are you trying to increase attendance at this event?

Myla Edmond:

Oh, well, yeah. We do wanna increase attendance. I said, well, who are we reaching out to to invite? The same people who came in last year.

Myla Edmond:

So I said, well, you realize if a 100% of those people who came last year come again, you’re not gonna meet your goal.

Myla Edmond:

So I think new people have that really great ability to see things with fresh eyes and ask those questions. So that’s what I would tell someone. Disrupt things, ask questions, and make sure that we are meeting our objectives.

Shiro:

Yeah. I I like that you bring that up because The session I attended earlier was around social media Mhmm. And reaching Gen z. And every slide Had the word audience growth on it, which was what they believe should be I think it’s creating a university, and it was Their goal, and that’s their goal. There’s no like, there’s not 10 goals. It’s audience growth. And that’s what everything that they should do on social media should be trying to achieve Audience growth. And, you know, I love that they have that vision for it because it makes all the other work that you do, like, align to a common goal.

Myla Edmond:

I was in that session also. So yeah. No. And that’s that’s a great example of we make assumptions

Myla Edmond:

People know what our goals are

Myla Edmond:

And say audience growth is the goal.

Myla Edmond:

It makes it very clear for everyone, because social, you can do so many things. Engagement is part of social media goals. You know? Is it, especially when you look at certain channels. LinkedIn, mostly alums, and they’re employees. They’re on LinkedIn. Is that audience growth? I don’t know. But with with that example that you gave, Everybody’s clear about what they’re working on, and I think clarity is as it said, clarity is kindness. And so I would say that Making sure that everyone understands what the intents are.

Myla Edmond:

Intentions are that that is key.

Shiro:

It’s fantastic. Kinda along the same lines, Is is there something you’re really excited for in 2024 as we, near the end of this year in higher ed?

Myla Edmond:

In higher ed, I would say what I’m excited about in 2024 is really taking I think Seeing my colleagues get empowered to know what their paper will know. We do so much, and This notion of of reclaiming this narrative of higher education and what it means and what its value is To, you know, society, to our country, to financial, you know, institutions of our country. I think understanding our impact, that’s what I’m excited for, because it’s not just about this output that we produce. It it’s creating, I would say almost, I don’t wanna sound grandiose, but, like, it’s it’s a social movement if you choose to take it as such. So I that’s what I’m excited for, to see us walk in our power and our influence because we have a lot of it. We just, You know, get caught up in the day to day sometimes and the struggle of trying to Appease Certain certain leaders or, you know, members of our boards or our presidents, and it’s so much bigger than that.

Shiro:

Yeah. Yeah. That’s fantastic. And they thank you so much for sharing that insight with us today.

Myla Edmond:

Yeah. Thank you. Thanks for having me. I appreciate being here, and I’m glad that you were able to Joining the conference this week.

Shiro:

Yeah. It was amazing. Where can our listeners follow-up with you to see what you’re up to?

Myla Edmond:

I’m on LinkedIn. So, Myla Edmond, find me on LinkedIn. I’m certainly there, participating in conversations around higher end marketing and just leadership in general.

Shiro:

That’s great. Well, thank you so much again. It’s great to have you, and hopefully, we can, record another episode in the future.

Myla Edmond:

Sounds good. Thank you.

Shiro:

Thank you so much, everyone.

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