Episode 73: Coach Prime & Breaking the Cycle in Higher Ed Marketing with Jennifer Schufer

higher ed demand gen podcast logo

Read the transcription

Shiro: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Higher Ed Demand Gen Podcast hosted by Concept3D. Today, I’m very, very excited to be talking about Coach Prime and breaking the cycle in higher ed marketing. And for that conversation, we have an amazing guest here with us live at AMA here, Jennifer Schuefer. She is the assistant vice chancellor of marketing and content strategy at University of Colorado Boulder, Which is also my alma mater, so I’m really excited to talk to you today. And, again, yeah, we’re live at AMA Symposium in Chicago. So this is gonna be a really exciting conversation, and I’m really stoked to have you.

Jennifer: Thanks for joining. Thank you so much for inviting me. I’m excited to talk to you too. It’s always fun to see what our alums are doing and,

Shiro: I told all my friends this, but I I talked to you. And I got so excited after that I texted all my friends like, hey. Are you guys going to the game? I’m not kidding. It’s literally what happened. Excited game, though. Yeah. But you told me about how alive the campus is now, and I had to see it for myself.

Shiro: And you were right.

Jennifer: There is a lot of energy.

Shiro: I’ve never seen a crowd that or the stands that full

Shiro: And I do ask all my guests on the podcast this question, which is a nice baker.

Shiro: What do you love about higher ed?

Jennifer: Oh, I mean, higher ed is such a such a special place to be able to do marketing. So very mission driven and, I don’t know. There’s just a lot there’s a lot of special And the mission of helping people find a place for higher education, is heavy. There’s a lot of responsibility to it. It it’s so life changing, And you never know how it’s gonna catalyze you into your career or your life, and, it’s a really exciting place to be.

Shiro: Thank you for sharing that with us. Can you kinda related to that is can you tell us a little bit more about your role and your time at CU as well? Sure.

Jennifer: So I’ve been at CU since 2006, and I started as their associate director for recruitment In the office of admissions

Jennifer: And, I was as part of that role, I had about 30 people reporting to me. I did Patient reading, traveling, call center, visit programs, big events, all of those things were part and parcel to that position.

Jennifer:

And then I was asked to start an embedded, marketing and communications team in admissions, And, we did that starting in 2010 and, grew that team to be about 10 people. And we did everything From really strategic marketing, so pulling all the pieces together, not just doing printed material, not just sending an email, but how do all the pieces Integrate and work together with, you know, the mission of driving awareness and then also getting students to apply and know if this is the right place for you to, to attend. And then just before the pandemic hit, my whole admissions team moved into the central office, for marketing communications, and so we joined in with our multimedia producers, our content writers, graphic designers, web, UX, UI, and that’s really the team that I lead now, is focused on marketing and content strategy, not just for Recruitment and enrollment Mhmm. But broadly for the whole campus, and all of the partnership and matrixing and collaboration that needs to happen across campus to make marketing and content strategy happen.

Shiro:

How big is your team now?

Jennifer:

I have about 20 two-ish people, that are on my team now.

Shiro:

That’s amazing. And what do you think having this background in recruitment and enrollment, like What how do you have a fresh perspective or a lens you think coming into the central marketing team?

Jennifer:

You know, what I bring is all the years of student service work That I’ve that I have done, so I’ve always been thinking about the student. So from an audience perspective, Making sure that the student sits at the center of every decision that you make and that what it is that we are doing as content creators is in support of the students. One of the things that I’ve mentioned to my team before is, you know, we’re sort of the, the narrator on the student’s journey. And we’re sort of nudging, maybe whispering in their ears, helping them understand what might be the next right step. And so that’s where I feel a really big responsibility, not just to the brand, but also to the students’ experience with the brand And how are we facilitating that, and how are we cultivating that using marketing, using communication as a tool to facilitate their success.

Jennifer:

So at the end of the day, if the student is not successful, then we haven’t done our job. We’ve failed. Right. And that’s where, you know, I find this a pretty there’s a lot of responsibility that goes around, To doing marketing communication at a university, it’s not, you know, for profit. It’s for helping people successfully earn that degree Or whatever credential it is that they’re working on, at that point in time.

Shiro:

Yeah. Do you have, like, an example of something that shifted in the last 6 or 10 years since you’ve taken on the new new role and responsibility around, like, how you’ve changed it, this focus on the student centric journey?

Jennifer:

Last academic year, we really worked to create a student a new student communication model

Jennifer:

Where it has These 7 concentric rings, and we have the student at the center. And key to their journey is what their faculty and their advisers are doing to Help them Mhmm. Understand and navigate the academic part of their experience. And then the next circle out is their college school or program, And then the net circle out from there is more like the business offices, and we kind of just move out from there. And so in talking about that student communication model, It was, well, what are the communication tools that a faculty member and adviser would use? Mhmm. What sort of tools, templates, and trainings does Do those messengers need in order to speak directly to the students? And then on the flip side, how do we cut back on the noise Yep. Of all the other circles so that the student can really, at their core, understand what does my adviser, my faculty number, What are they asking me to do in order to be successful in my current coursework? And then how do we then sort of quiet The other pieces of communication content that everybody wants to talk about, join the band and do this and do that. Mhmm.

Jennifer:

But really they’re here for their education. How do you balance all those pieces? So we spent all of last year really explaining the communication model and really helping people understand. And then this academic year, what we did was put together toolkits, for our communicators who are in our college schools and programs To say things like, hey. We know you wanna talk about suicide prevention. Let us give you the content And some templates that you can take the content that the health and wellness experts have written. So it’s appropriate. It’s tried and true to the health industry, and you can use this content. And that’s really helped Kind of create more, continuity around what we want to say as an institution about Suicide prevention.

Jennifer:

So that’s just one example how built the model, and now we’re trying to execute on that model.

Shiro:

That’s fantastic. And I know In our past conversation, in our introduction conversation, one of your your main goals, high level goals is Working on your student persistence. Right? Making sure students persist through their education. And it sounds like, you know, exactly what you’re doing, the example you just gave me, is to help More persistence. Right?

Jennifer:

Yes. Because if we want to make sure that all students understand their options

Jennifer:

Understanding, you know, student development theory that not everybody is ready to hear about this one thing at this point in time. You know, there’s there’s a lot of work to produce the content, Store the content and then have it accessible to student when they’re when they are ready for it

Jennifer:

Rather than just continually blasting saying things over and over and over again. And, again, you know, we’re kind of the narrators for them, and we’re helping them Mhmm. Kind of Understand how to navigate this thing that they’ve never navigated before.

Jennifer:

And how do we help them Read the signposts, and make sure that they see what’s could be coming next when they’re ready for it.

Shiro:

At at CU Boulder, does Who’s directly responsible with student resistance? Is it far far more into student success, teams, or

Jennifer:

It’s really everybody at the university

Jennifer:

Is responsible for student Success.

Jennifer:

And because we all add to the success of students

Jennifer:

our own way. So The office of undergraduate education has a role to play.

Jennifer:

Our advising teams have a role to play. Communication has a role to play. The registrar’s office has a role to play, And it’s making sure that everybody plays their role at the right time

Shiro:

Mhmm.

Jennifer:

And that we’re not all trying to do the same work in each space. And, the university shares that responsibility. And this a really big goal for our executive leadership

Jennifer:

Is To unify campus around student success, what does that mean, and what parts of student success are we focusing on? You know, health and wellness is a really big focal point for the university and how are we helping students with mental health, how are we helping them be aware of the resources that are available, and how are we not adding on Mhmm. To them feeling stressed and, you know, degrading their mental health are really trying to help.

Shiro:

How have you I know it’s a work in progress. Right? It’s always gonna be. But what have been some ways that have helped create that alignment? Because I think student assistance is, you You know, something every school is really trying to work Absolutely. Towards right now.

Jennifer:

So I think what we what we’re doing, I mean, it’s a it’s not a grassroots effort. Right? It’s not gonna come from the bottom line. And it’s really alignment across, you know, the the chancellor to the provost to the chief operating officer, You know? And then all the people that report to them really being engaged in the conversation of student success and unifying how we’re Defining it and how we are approaching it and really, you know, having those conversations Okay. This is what we’re doing in the college schools and programs.

Jennifer:

This is what we’re doing in academic affairs. This is what we’re doing in student affairs And communication. And so everybody’s playing their role, but the the conversation is being had collectively and not in individual silos. And that that’s really how you begin to matrix very complex place Mhmm. And get everybody to move towards the same thing.

Shiro:

Gotcha. And who ultimately, like, call I don’t know if it’s the right way to say, but calls the shots. Right? Like, it’s like Everyone has their idea, like, we should, you know, doing this. Mhmm. Does it come down to the senior executive leadership level? Or

Jennifer:

So how does that process work? I think, you know, you have, Catherine Edgar who is, I think, our senior associate vice provost. Okay. And, you know, she is Charged by the provost, to lead our Buff Undergraduate Success Program.

Jennifer:

And then we have what’s called bus drivers because Buff Undergraduate Success comes down to bus. And so we have bus drivers, and that is we have our folks from the lead from enrollment management, communications, technology, and and student affairs. There are bus drivers, and then, then there’s the rest The best you feed into different committees, and, that initiative that the chancellor gave us 2, 3 years ago is really what is focusing the campus. And so the decision making happens, you know, in individual committees Mhmm. And then it rolls its way up, and then Catherine helps Move things on the academic affairs side, and then then we have our folks on the administrative side that are working together to make it happen. So I think there’s lots of agency within individual committees, but then there’s also if people get stuck, there are people very high up in the organization Who are able to make those calls and say, this is what we’re gonna do.

Shiro:

Gotcha. Thanks for sharing that detail. That’s really helpful. And I know, I guess one thing I wanna make clear is, like, does you have a application issue? Is is it a problem for you? You know, a lot of schools saw a reduction in applications over the last years. I wanted to ask where you are at with that.

Jennifer:

No. So CU Boulder is really fortunate Uh-huh. In that it does not really It doesn’t have an application problem.

Jennifer:

We do really well in generating interest in the university and in applications. I think what gets complicated is, you know, as students make their way through the journey and they try on the university, you know, really helping the right ones, Students find the right fit. You know, there’s a lot of reasons for application increases, and you’re going to the common application. It’s Easy for people to apply to multiple schools that’s not as laborious. We also now have free application couple of days in the state of Colorado, As you remove the fee barrier, that increases applications. And so, I mean, my enrollment call management colleagues, you know, would say that it’s It’s not easy to get applications. You have to earn the students’ application.

Jennifer:

But from a strictly numbers perspective, No. It’s that’s not the hard part of the funnel for us.

Shiro:

Gotcha. And that makes sense now that you’re really trying to focus on helping the student, Student success and student retention rate. So that’s that’s fantastic. I think one thing you shared in our intro call that I really liked what you mentioned is about You’re going kinda earlier back to our conversation about reducing some of the noise and communication. You also thought that this could In the student’s journey, not only does this help the student, but it actually helps the business side of things as well and how it could, reduce inefficiencies and even, like, Not have to raise cost by improving these programs as well. Like, I think you had a point on that that I thought was really interesting.

Jennifer:

Yeah. So, you know, as You get more sophisticated in your technology Uh-huh. Stack. And so, you know, what sort of marketing communication tools you bring in to align how you’re doing communication, how accessible data is, how you are governing both Your technology and your content. Mhmm. It makes it a little bit simpler for staff to be able to do Right. The work, which means that you can be more efficient And you can have broader impact. And, you know, when you have a lot of manual processes, It takes up a lot of staff time, and there are definitely efficiencies to be had around using and leveraging technology, to make things more impactful and more efficient for staff, which at the end of the day should Reduce costs for students or at least hold costs at bay because you don’t have to keep adding and adding and adding because the technology can be leveraged in a way to help them.

Shiro:

That’s great. And this kinda goes to the the topic around breaking the cycle as well. Right?

Jennifer:

Yeah. And, you know, breaking the cycle of people working in silos. And, you know, a lot of the work that we’re doing right now is focused on content strategy and being ready to leverage The technologies that the university is investing in so that we can move towards advanced personalization

Jennifer:

Which means You build the content. We’ll be building content in a very different way than you do right now. It won’t be, like, synthesized in, by project, it’ll be this is the type of content we need to develop about cost of attendance, and you build all the content around cost of attendance. You put it in a content management system, and then as the student is ready for that information on whatever channel, the technology is set up to get that content to the student at a later time. And the only way that you can do that is through Working really hard with your colleagues, and you can’t be siloed. You have to do that collaborative work. You have to work closely with colleagues all over the campus. You cannot take your ball and go home.

Jennifer:

You have to really work hard on on relationships some of the cheerleading that to to happen. And if we don’t, like, if the grown ups in the room can’t figure out how to work together, The students are really going to suffer. Mhmm. And their inability to persist is really on us Because we can’t come together and work together, which does not seem like that’s gonna be the case at all. We have really great colleagues, and everybody’s really hungry For a lot of this change that we’re, embarking on, and it should really help benefit both staff and students, and, you know, at The brand as well. The experience is better than the the brand engagement. It should get better too.

Shiro:

As an alum, that gets Me really excited. That’s good to hear. Awesome. That’s so awesome. Well, switching gears a little bit, but still related. Mhmm. So there’s post prime now. Right?

Jennifer:

Yeah.

Shiro:

With the CU, CU Boulder football team, there’s a lot of press. A lot of people know about Coach Prime now and the Prime effect. And I’m wondering what the Prime effect has been on you and your social marketing team.

Jennifer:

Sure. So I think for the most part, The PrimeEffect has really impacted mostly my strategic communication colleagues and colleagues in, that area that work directly with athletics. K. The athletics department has their own marketing folks.

Jennifer:

They’ve probably been more directly impacted. Mhmm.

Shiro:

You

Jennifer:

have been more directly impacted than The central marketing team, where we have started to come in a little bit is the, as you would imagine, the volume of new visitors To the website, the number of new followers to our channels has really gone through the roof. And so we have, trying to capitalize a little bit on that awareness in this moment in time, which we may never have again. I mean, this is a really

Shiro:

It’s a unicorn.

Jennifer:

It really is. It’s a it’s a very, very unique moment. And, so we’ve we’ve tried to do some campaigns, To broaden awareness of research and some of the high caliber work that our faculty are doing, to kinda test out and see how do these new audiences, those, engaged with that content. Do they find it useful? And so we’ve been playing around a little bit and testing some things out.

Shiro:

How how crazy are the numbers in terms of website traffic increases? I know how much the CU Buffalo’s the Ceramican crew buy, but I wonder what the compounding effects been.

Jennifer:

I wanna say that views to the home page were up, like, 500%. 500? Yeah. That’s insane. Bananas.

Shiro:

That’s that’s incredible. Okay. Wow. And that’s just to, like, the main Marcom website. Right? Colorado.edu. Wow. Okay. And and so so what comes with that is, like, what do you do with the traffic? Right? Like, where do you take them? How do you, segment the audience? Are they coming to learn more about the football athletic program? Are they interested in your school? Because are there some of the questions you’re asking yourself?

Jennifer:

Yes. Yes. But the infrastructure is an important piece

Shiro:

Right.

Jennifer:

Funneling people to the right places.

Shiro:

Right.

Jennifer:

And so we have been very intentional with the way that we’ve used the advertising and where we’re pointing people, because the numbers to the home page were after the first 2 games, I think, is what we were seeing, the the huge increase. And then we decided to, like, let’s see what we can do with some, advertising and some marketing on top of What’s happening, but we didn’t drive people to the home page. We drove them to a very intentional site and curated that content and that experience in specific way, rather than just leaving them on the home page to fend for themselves.

Shiro:

That’s interesting. And so It sounds like what I’m hearing kind of is there is a shiny object syndrome, obviously, but, like, you’re you’re trying to Keep it actually at a very analytical, considerable, like, approach because you can’t let it just be everything that you have.

Jennifer:

Yes.

Shiro:

Okay.

Jennifer:

Absolutely. Yep. I mean, the the university, right, is an academic institution. Yes. There is a lot of energy and excitement. Mhmm. It’s almost as if he’s awoken something that has been dormant for a really long time. That’s what it Feels like I’ve been on campus for 17 years, and I’ve never felt it like this before.

Shiro:

Mhmm.

Jennifer:

And there is just a lot of excitement, around campus. And so, yeah, really wanting to test out, like I said, research messaging. You know? C is really, really, really good in space Mhmm. Climate and sustainability Right. Efforts. And so we wanted to With this general population that is brand new to us

Shiro:

from all

Jennifer:

over the country, how do they respond to marketing messages in that space? Because even though we do really amazing research, we’re not as well known as we should be.

Shiro:

It’s, like, nationally. Yeah. I mean, I was a engineering student for 1 year before I changed majors, but it was impressive. Just, like, facilities, like, that’s what got me going. Yeah. The crazy labs. We have, like, leads business schools. Yeah.

Shiro:

That was where I wanted to go, but Mhmm. It’s amazing school as well. I have a lot of friends who graduated in their program. So, yeah, I think There’s a lot of impressive schools and units in the schools.

Jennifer:

So Yes. For sure. That’s good.

Shiro:

And hopefully, what I’m hearing is, you know, hopefully, some of this effect will compound into Supporting those schools’ research a little bit more as well.

Jennifer:

Well, do you mean directly from a funding perspective?

Shiro:

More for awareness, I would say, to learn about, like, the school, and then they’ll be able to learn about their

Jennifer:

respective programs. So, you know, stoking that curiosity like, oh, I didn’t even know that that was a thing. And where does that take them from there?

Shiro:

Yep. And we I know we already talked about this before, but I was watching ESPN or something on the prime effect, and they showed, you know, 4 bullet points. A lot of them were donation related. Instagram increased the followers for this UBuffalo’s team, but one was around applications, and it said there’s a 41% increase in applications already. I know you refuted that yet, and we won’t know the final numbers till Later this week or at you at least you won’t know the final numbers to speak, but, yeah, we’re we’re still unsure about its effects on applications. Is that correct? Yeah.

Jennifer:

I would say it takes a long time to earn an application.

Shiro:

Yep.

Jennifer:

And I think that it’ll be interesting to see, and our 1st deadline is Wednesday, and then the 2nd deadline is in January. But with that increase, There’s always a curiosity of, is that increase a real increase, or did we just have students apply earlier because they were super cited by what was happening in September October. And so what really is the net new Mhmm. Applications. And so we won’t really know, You know, we’re we’re that lands until Right. Later this week and then again in January once we have our 2nd application deadline and

Shiro:

Mhmm.

Jennifer:

Incomplete for the fall. So it would be exciting, for sure.

Shiro:

Right.

Jennifer:

But I don’t know if the excitement again is generating new applications or if it’s just Generating excitement about applying early.

Shiro:

Sounds like we need to do another episode in a few months is is what I’m hearing.

Jennifer:

For sure.

Shiro:

And, yeah, if there’s other things going on, right, I think you’re Starting to look into the potential impact on a local community as well. Mhmm. And these are all really interesting things that I wanna

Jennifer:

Yeah. For sure. The, local community impact. And it’s not just Boulder itself

Shiro:

Right.

Jennifer:

But, you know, the hotels and restaurants that are in surrounding cities like Longmont, Lewisville, you know, they’re seeing an increase in of people, like, you know, going into bars and restaurants. People are staying overflow from Boulder staying in, you know, long, long hotels, and, you know, that’s, increasing Right. Economies around there. And a lot of new visitors, chambers of commerce, and the visitor bureaus are are in tune with I know the prime effect in what’s happening there.

Shiro:

It’s definitely affect traffic as well. I experienced it firsthand

Jennifer:

on Saturday. Yeah. Yes.

Shiro:

That was interesting.

Jennifer:

My husband and I went to the the Stanford game, and Yeah. We parked off campus

Shiro:

Uh-huh.

Jennifer:

And and walked in because we didn’t wanna have to battle the traffic. But Yeah.

Shiro:

That’s that’s very smart.

Jennifer:

Good thing for the campus. It’s a good thing for the city and for folks.

Shiro:

And so, you know, as we look, I know you know, we’re nearing the end of the year 2023. What are some things you’re looking forward to in 2024 from CU Boulder perspective or it could just be from a higher ed marketing perspective?

Jennifer:

Yeah. So I think for what I’m really focused on kind of going into 2024 is, How we’re going to leverage the technology that we the technology investments that we are putting into place Mhmm. And how content strategy is going to need to be built. We’re doing a lot of work around, the framework of our brand And where that needs to move and evolve, as we’re moving into more advanced personalization. So learning the new technologies, the capabilities of the technologies Mhmm. And how do we need to approach, govern content and how is that gonna work across the university. Really interested in how all those pieces begin to come together. And I think that’s a really huge step forward in having a university wide integrated marketing and communication plan.

Jennifer:

And so all all of the stars seem to be aligning in a really interesting way and might actually pull it off. I think there’s a lot of hard work still to do, but that is what I am most excited about in more the marketing space. And then I would say in the other space, we’re working on shared equity leadership, and that is really exciting, as well. And I’m looking forward to just being on the journey of where those conversations take leaders around campus And how can we use shared equity leadership to impact the decisions we’re making about technology and content and how we govern it Okay. And and all of that. I think it’s gonna be really exciting to see all these pieces come to play together, for the benefit of student success.

Shiro:

That’s amazing. And that’s, like, more at the strategic planning level, at this executive level, or the School of strategic planning.

Jennifer:

The shared equity leadership. No. That’s campus wide.

Shiro:

Okay.

Jennifer:

And so that’s going across campus And then down into Interesting. Leadership positions. And this has been a lot of hard work by our diversity, equity, inclusion office. And, we’ve been on a journey for a couple of years now, and and this is it’s really starting to activate And kind of baked down into the university. So really exciting.

Shiro:

That’s amazing. Yeah. Thanks for sharing so much

Jennifer:

You too.

Shiro:

Your insights and everything. It’s been great. I’m wondering, where our listeners could follow-up with you to understand what you’re up to or what to use up to.

Jennifer:

So you can always find me on LinkedIn, and I’m happy to talk to folks. If you have questions about content strategy or any of those pieces or what kind of technology we’re starting to dig into, Yeah. LinkedIn’s probably the

Shiro:

best thought. That’s great. Well, thank you so much for joining the show today. I know we got 2 more days of AMA left, so I’m really excited to attend some more session, so it should be fun.

Jennifer: Yeah. It’s a great conference. I’ve been coming for a really long time, and I always walk away really energized, and informed. They’re they do a really great job vetting both folks that are here on the vendor space, but then also in, the sessions that they are providing to

Shiro: folks. So Well, shout out to Amy. How are you at?

Jennifer: Yes. For sure.

Shiro: Thanks so much.

Jennifer: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

The biggest challenge for [Claremont Graduate University] was lack of a centralized map system entirely. Roughly 30 different maps existed on our website pre-[Concept3D], created by various departments to meet their own needs.

Claremont Graduate University

We want Rice to be a welcoming destination for art, music, lectures, food, athletic events, lectures – a great place to visit just to enjoy the beauty of our campus. [The Concept3D] mapping system will help people find those amenities and explore those opportunities.

Linda Thrane, Vice President of Public Affairs, Rice University
The CMS makes integrating our data feeds a simple, easy process. We can update our content feed once and it updates within the CMS and our map simultaneously.
Robby Sietz, Webmaster, Ole Miss

The new virtual campus map is particularly helpful to showcase our campus to prospective students and families who are not quite ready or able to physically visit campus. International students are a great example of a group who typically do not visit our campus before enrolling, but really value getting a birds-eye view of the place they’re considering calling home.

Admissions Director at Boise State
Our residents are getting more savvy with technology and they will certainly appreciate a tool that guides them from location to location on our campus. Concept3D’s wayfinding capability was the immediate draw for us, but the map and interactive media have been valuable for depicting a bird’s eye view in print materials, or when scheduling an onsite visit. Residents, visitors and even staff find a lot of utility and functionality in Concept3d, and we often hear compliments about our beautiful map.
Mike Haber, Digital Media Manager, Shell Point
We saw the potential of Concept3D’s platform right away, and it was amazing to see our space come to life in a fully interactive 3D map. We know the platform will improve the overall guest and attendee experience, and we’re excited for all the ways that we can use it for both internal and external needs moving forward.
John Adams, General Manager, Colorado Convention Center
Concept3D’s photospheres really allow us to show rather than tell what separates our studios from others.
Corepower Yoga
Vantage is committed to exceptional customer service, and the technology developed by Concept3D helps us work closely with potential clients, give them an incredible preview of the data center and offer a compelling way for them to explore the critical details of our facilities.
Steven Lim, Marketing Vice President, Vantage Data Centers

Case Studies

Seeing is believing.

See our technology come together in one seamless experience.
Request A Demo
Try It!
Seeing Is Believing