Interdepartmental turf wars between so-called “promoters” and “sellers” are commonplace across all business industries—and higher education is no exception. Despite sharing many of the same top line goals and therefore having a shared vested interest in the institution’s success, higher ed marketing and admissions departments often struggle to align and form collaborative partnerships that leverage each other’s expertise.
Marketing & Admissions: What are their roles?
At most institutions, the marketing department’s primary responsibility is to raise awareness for the school and its programs. Higher ed marketers typically accomplish their goals and objectives through a variety of long-term strategies including branding, advertising, content marketing, website management, collateral development, and media relations. In contrast, the admissions department is tasked with selling the institution to prospective students (and their families) through a series of short-term recruitment tactics including mailings, campus visits, and various other direct touch points.
Why tensions arise...
One can argue that both marketing and admissions are guilty of diminishing the value and contribution the other brings to the table. Let’s dispel some common myths held by marketing and admissions about the other.
- FALSE: The marketing department is merely the font and logo police.
- FALSE: The admissions department is merely responsible for filling seats.
- TRUE: In reality, as fundamental arms of the institution, both disciplines are equally accountable for its success and failure.
Each team believes they best understand the institution's brand and its audience’s needs, as well as how to successfully connect the two to drive results. Yet their respective approaches to brand management, lead generation, prospect engagement, and messaging tend to be miles apart based on having very different team cultures, priorities, and skill sets. The unfortunate outcome is a silo (or camp) mentality—with disparate strategic planning, operations, and tactical execution—that ultimately impedes long-term goals.
So what does it take to unite a divided house?
In today’s competitive higher education climate, institutions that fail to encourage cross-functional communication and collaboration among marketing and admissions departments are bound to miss out on huge opportunities to drive optimum and sustainable student recruitment, retention, and alumni support.
While there’s no silver bullet to enforcing change in a culture and structure that have likely taken decades to establish, strong leadership is the key to creating a unified vision, aligning teams, and breaking down barriers that prevent the institution from reaching its potential. Ultimately higher ed leadership must accept its rightful place as the adult in the house and bring the family together for the good of the institution. It all starts at the top.
To learn more about how you can create and use student personas to recruit higher quality prospects for your college/university, download a free copy of our ebook.