The $209,200 Question

Ithaca College, IC, Ithaca, Communications, Park School of Communications

Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College (via http://www.ithaca.edu)

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a conference call with current students at Ithaca College, who are interning at the Office of Career Services.  Our chat centered around marketing, social media and the lessons I’ve learned in “the real world” since graduating from Ithaca College and leaving South Hill for Rochester, NY.  I enjoy giving back to my alma matter in this fashion, so when asked if I could spare 15-20 minutes on a Wednesday afternoon I didn’t hesitate to accept.

My favorite question that was asked by a student was, “What is the skill a graduating senior would need most in order to secure employment?”  Since I didn’t know the questions in advance, my mind raced with possible answers. . . .

Communications:  I majored in Communications, so this was an easy answer to give.  Virtually all jobs require good communication skills!  I dismissed that answer as something that should be a given.

Marketing:  These are marketing interns, so a broad-based marketing skill set would be valuable.  After all, marketing applies to all job seekers because they’re ultimately marketing themselves to prospective employers.  So, I dismissed that answer too, since it should also be a given.

Networking:  As a job seeker, it’s not just what you know.  It’s also not just who you know.  It’s who knows about you which is equally important.  What’s the best way to make sure recruiters, employers and hiring managers know about you?  Networking!  I had my answer!

Whether in-person or via social media, networking is truly an important skill set that graduating seniors should possess.  It’s also a skill that won’t be taught in most classrooms.  Some colleges do, however, teach networking to their students (along with personal branding).  I have first-hand experience that Ithaca College currently does this.

I was able to stress to these students that their networking efforts should begin immediately with fellow students, professors and other professionals.  Two other important points about networking, especially for students who are likely to be new to networking:

  1. Make sure you practice a “give to get” philosophy.  Seek out ways to help the person you’re networking with and/or what you can bring to your professional relationship.  Effective networking is a two-way street.
  2. Emphasize quality over quantity when it comes to your network.  It’s better to have a network that’s half the size but twice as effective.

If you were faced with that same question, what would be your advice to a graduating senior?

As to the title of this post?  That refers to the current 4-year total of tuition/room/board at Ithaca College.  🙂

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The Value Of First Impressions

I’ve written previously about the value of first impressions.  A few weeks ago I was reminded about how valuable those first impressions can be.  I had the opportunity to bring my daughter to a local college fair with over 200 schools in attendance.  She did some homework ahead of the event and we had a large list of schools we wanted to speak with.

Upon arriving at the event, what struck me first, was that there was an immediate and obvious discrepancy among the schools.  Some had great signage that was branded consistently with their school.  Other colleges simply made do with what was provided by the convention center.  When you see something like that, what’s your first impression?  Is it that one school takes pride in their brand and another doesn’t?  Or is it something more cynical, such as one school charges more in tuition to support its marketing and promotions budget?

A few of the colleges had more than one representative at the table to help reduce waiting times.  As a parent with many schools on the list and many questions to ask, I found that to be very valuable.  But that begs the same questions, doesn’t it?  Is it “smart business” on the school’s behalf or is it flaunting a larger budget that can afford to send two representatives instead of one?

Many of the colleges had large visuals of campus.  Not surprisingly, all of the students look like models and the campus apparently enjoys nothing but  sunny, blue skies and 70-degree days all year-long.  What surprised me was that some schools didn’t have visuals at all, unless you proactively flipped through their glossy brochures.  You can’t flip through a brochure if your booth doesn’t attract the visitor to begin with!  That seems like Marketing 101 to me, and that doesn’t bode well for the offending schools offering a marketing degree.  I think they need to re-take that class, or perhaps take it at a different school that understands marketing!

My final observation, however, was how few schools had promotional products with them.  I was expecting to bring home enough branded pens to supply a few classrooms with.  Instead, we found one school that had postcards of campus images printed in 3-D and another school that gave out small smartphone screen cleaning pads.

After speaking with 30+ schools, I must admit that many of them blended together at the end of the event.  The ones I remembered either had a great representative, or they had the right combination of marketing and promotional collateral to stand out from the crowd.  For the colleges, isn’t it all about making a great first impression at an event like that?  My daughter was able to eliminate many schools from consideration based on first impressions alone.  The rest will be eliminated on other, more traditional criteria.

Does your business actively plan for making the right first impression?  If you’re looking for a job, what are you doing to ensure your first impression is a good one?

Ithaca College, IC, Roy H. Park School of Communications, Cayuga Lake, South Hill

A first-impression of my alma matter, the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, overlooking Cayuga Lake (image via ithaca.edu)

Natural Disasters and Marketing

Companies need to tread lightly when it comes to marketing around a natural disaster.  With Superstorm Sandy, 100+ people died worldwide and damage estimates are at $20 Billion and growing.  That doesn’t make for a great marketing opportunity in most instances, but it can, if done correctly.

American Apparel caused a Twitter firestorm when they offered a Hurricane Sandy Sale.  As if that wasn’t tasteless enough, their headline read “In case you’re bored during the storm.”  Seriously.  The company was slammed on social media with outrage and rightly so, in my humble opinion.

Closer to (my) home, and with much less publicity, a local winery committed a similar marketing faux pas.  Glenora Wine Cellars offered customers a Hurricane Sandy Sale.

While not as egregious, I still thought it was in very poor taste (especially the picture).  I made my opinion known on their Facebook page, commenting on their post about the promotion.  Within hours, their post (along with my comment) was removed.  Their website still offered the promotion, and I called them out on Twitter for it.

Within hours, their web page promotion was removed too.  What couldn’t be removed were the emails the winery sent out to their list.

So what’s a “good” way to market around a natural disaster?  How about showing some compassion?  How about figuring out how to help the victims through a donation of time, talent, product or service?  Duracell brought charging stations to Lower Manhattan so that those without power could charge their cell phones.  They’re helping victims of Hurricane Sandy and garnering positive publicity and public relations in the process.

It’s such a simple concept when you compare the positive example to the negative ones, isn’t it?  Yet so many companies get it wrong.  One would hope that marketers would learn from these mistakes.  Sadly, history will likely repeat itself and some company will damage their image and reputation by running a tasteless promotion during the next natural disaster.  Hopefully, they have a public relations department or company at their disposal.  Even better would be to employ some common sense.

Want to help the victims?  Below are links to various organizations assisting in the relief efforts (list not to be considered an endorsement):

Red Cross

Salvation Army

New York Blood Center

Feeding America

AmeriCares

World Vision

Save The Children

Before you donate in a time of crisis, make sure you do your homework on the charitable organization.  Here are some tips by Charity Navigator.

Misconceptions Everywhere

I recently visited a close friend who had relocated from the Rochester, NY area to the Cleveland, OH area.  It was my first trip to Cleveland and my friend was happy to play tour guide with the big venues being the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Progressive Field.  I have to admit that prior to this trip, I pictured Cleveland to be the run-down, rust-belt, dirty, “mistake on the lake,” river-on-fire city that I recall hearing about decades ago.  I couldn’t have been more wrong as I found Cleveland to be a fun, clean, friendly and vibrant city.

While in Cleveland, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle ran a topical blog post.  The blogger had relocated to Rochester and had some misperceptions about Rochester (as well as Cleveland).  The timing of her blog post couldn’t have been more perfect and my relocated friend found a lot of truth in her post.

I grew up in a small town in northeastern New Jersey.  Unless you’re from that part of the country, your perception is likely tied to one or more of these television shows:  The Sopranos, Jersey Shore,  The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Cake Boss and/or Jerseylicious.  Or, perhaps you’ve driven the NJ Turnpike and you think that the entire state consists of swampland, rest stops named after famous people and smelly refineries.  I can assure you the vast majority of the state is much nicer than that.  Trust me.

So that got me thinking about marketers in the tourism industry.  Besides touting the many positives of a given area, how much of their efforts are spent countering misconceptions?  I recently chatted with my friend Carol White Llewellyn, who is a travel and tourism promotion entrepreneur for the Finger Lakes region of NY.

According to Carol, the Rochester area has two big misconceptions.  “The first is that Rochester and this region does not get many tourists. In 2010, in spite of a still-down economy, Rochester alone got $1.3 billion in tourism revenue (http://www.actrochester.org/Indicator/Default.aspx?id=1&indicator=11).  Tourism is huge here, especially because of the growth of the wine and food/restaurant locavore movements. Various communities have also been listed in the “Top 10″ as must-see’s by a variety of travel press.  The other misconception among locals is that there is nothing to do here. In fact, about the only thing we’re missing that’s found elsewhere in the country is deserts and tornadoes.”

Carol goes on to say, “In truth, I don’t spend a lot of time correcting misconceptions. I just keep blogging and talking about all the wonders of the region.  I think sometimes, like most communities, we simply don’t recognize/appreciate/take advantage of the amazing wonders we have in our own back yard!”

As with most things in life, you need to take what you hear/see/read with a grain of salt.  Take the time to do some investigating.  If you don’t, you might incorrectly believe the misconceptions that are everywhere.