Selling the Academy

without Selling Out!

90-120 min keynote presentation, or full-day brand strategy workshop

Selling the Academy without Selling OutMany campus stakeholders misunderstand the work of marketing communications professionals, and the growing need for significant investments in branding, recruitment marketing and awareness campaigns. Once upon a time, perhaps education sold itself, but the enrolment boom years are over and many regions now face a demographic wasteland. Even though branding often seems to oversimplify the complexity and rigour of higher education, it is not a “dumbing down”: effective marketing raises public awareness, enhances institutional reputation, attracts more qualified applicants, and positions the institution as worthy of public, corporate, and philanthropic support. Campus communicators can do a much better job building support across campus by recognizing that most marketing terminology (like “branding,” “targeting,” “product” or “competitor”) is emotionally loaded and intellectually suspect in academic circles. Marketing does not and cannot challenge the intellect, open minds, or expand horizons – that is the transformative role of faculty, once applicants become students.

Ken Steele is Canada’s leading higher education monitor and futurist. After an award-winning career in marketing, he co-founded Academica Group, created the Academica Top Ten, manages Eduvation Inc, co-authored Canada’s first book on enrolment management, and hosts a weekly webcast, Ten with Ken, that reaches thousands of subscribers on a dozen platforms. Ken brings his unique perspective and insight to a broad range of audiences, from faculty and instructors, boards and senior administration, to information technology staff, concerned parents, and Canada’s most powerful corporate CEOs.

In this wide-ranging overview of higher education branding, marketing and recruitment, brand strategist Ken Steele helps staff, faculty, and the broader campus community comprehend the importance of marketing communications work to advance the mission of modern colleges and universities. Marketing directors or senior leadership may use this presentation as a precursor to the development of a new brand or integrated marketing communication plan, or a major marketing campaign.

“I have only received great/positive feedback since your session. Our team certainly appreciated the content, your insights, the pace and opportunity to interact. The real-time polling was efficient and effective!  Ken, on behalf of my colleagues, thanks very much for the time you invested in ensuring our session was productive, stimulating and thought/idea-provoking.”

Lisa Banks, VP External Relations, Georgian College

Ken showed up on our BC campus at 8PM after a flight from Ontario and didn’t lose a minute — working a faculty gathering for information all evening. He then plunged into a day and a half of meetings with a perspicacity unmatched in my experience, emerging with a thorough understanding of who we are and what we needed. His tactical and strategic recommendations helped lead to a 51% increase in enrolment this fall, and he continues to help us spread the word about our new University long after his contract was up.

Dr. David J. Helfand, President, Quest University Canada

Ken is a lively and engaging presenter who brings his material to life through anecdote and compelling visuals. More than that, though, he is an evangelist for university communications and a subject matter expert.

Richard Fisher, Chief Communications Officer, Development & Alumni Engagement, UBC

For some insight into Ken’s position on these issues, read this article from OCUFA Academic Matters, Feb-Mar 2009.

Here are some relevant episodes of 10K, for a sense of Ken’s approach and as potential examples to share with participants in advance:



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