Saturday, May 26, 2012

Electronic Toolbox

I have a meeting with the Board of Governors in less than hour.  Why wouldn’t I be working on a blog post??  Well, frankly, my head and my notebook are so full of stats, charts, quaint stories, tales of woe, and predictions for the future that my brain needs a rest before I go in the big room.  But one of the things I will be addressing today is our plan to step back and do a serious communications audit this summer.

We have certainly jumped with reckless abandon onto the social media and in-bound marketing wagon.  In the last two years we have launched a very active Facebook and Twitter account.  They are updated almost daily.  We have launched a new website, built for maximum SEO.  We have an equally active blog up and running and we have over 100 videos on our YouTube Channel.  We even have a full-time employee dedicated to the maintenance of all these media.  Our proverbial toolbox is full.  Our proverbial cup overfloweth.

But two statements in the last month have been ricocheting around in my head.  The first comes from the famous columnist Peggy Noonan.  Whether or not you agree with her politics, she is a brilliant writer and her books are wonderful.  The other comes from my dear friend JT Hanley at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, California.  He does not have the fame of Peggy Noonan but he should.  He is an educator and a coach without peer.

Talking about President Obama and how his campaign has become expert at mining the internet and the data to be found therein, Noonan, who is not a fan of the president, asks in this column, “If you have fabulous new ways to reach everyone in the world but you have little to say, does that really help you?”  And then my friend JT, speaking on a topic I honestly don’t remember (we were a few martinis and glasses of wine into dinner at that point!), asked, “If you don’t have focus, isn’t your camera just a plastic box?” 

All this got me thinking of our electronic arsenal.  Now that we have built up these resources and filled our toolbox, what do we do next?  We have spent the last two years creating and staffing for this 21st century world of recruitment in which we must be successful but I will admit we have not figured out exactly what to do with it now that we have it.  Or more accurately, we have not figured out the best use of what to do with it.  How do we harness their power, craft the messages, maximize the potential, and build a strategy?

Ask me in September what we accomplished this summer.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I had the personal and professional pleasure to have dinner with a favourite consultant at IECA this month. The real treat was she invited me to dinner—what an honour. You would know her. We all know her. And we all love her. She is kind, patient and has immeasurable time for all of us, all while running her own practice and helping mentor new consultants in the profession.

Around April 10th when we all constantly vacillate between celebration and frustration, I lost one kid each from two key feeder schools to the same boarding school. I’d heard of this boarding school but, frankly, it wasn’t on my radar and I never had reason to think it was in the same league. (To be honest, I knew so little of it, I didn’t have any reason to think it wasn’t in the same league either.) So, I told this to our consultant friend and asked her what she knew of the school.

She loves the school. She has sent a number of clients there over the years. She had great things to say about it and said her clients had all been quite happy there. She respected their mission and felt they held true to who they were, something very important to her. No complaints.

But then the admissions director left.

And she’s sent nobody since.

She doesn’t know the new admissions director. She doesn’t have a contact, doesn’t have someone with whom she can have a frank conversation about a client, someone with whom she can test the waters. There is nobody at that school who will roll out the red carpet for her clients when they visit, nobody to give them an extra bit of attention and to recognize who sent them. She still thinks very highly of the school but her relationships are the key to her confidence in recommending a school. And she has none there now.

 Four days later I had the professional privilege to stand next to Pat Gimbel from Deerfield at a fair in California. Pat has been doing this forever and is a role model and mentor to so many of us. And if you haven’t heard, she’s retiring next year. What a loss for us. But Pat and I got chatting, making note of who was attending the fair. Directors? Other staff? Local parent or alumni volunteers? I noted with admiration and congratulations that she’s enrolled five kids from this prestigious feeder school out of 13 graduates who were continuing onto boarding school. We then talked about the importance of relationships and why someone of her stature from a school like hers still hits the road and travels the world. Pat doesn’t pawn off Asia on someone else. She’s there in the trenches in Korea like the rest of us. And after a grueling admissions year, just weeks after April 10th, she was on that long 6 ½ flight from Boston to San Francisco to attend this fair, at this school where Deerfield is so beloved that they got over 33% of the boarding-bound graduates. She was on the 6am flight back to Boston the next morning to get back to her office. Why does she do this? To maintain her ties and relationships. They are key to her and to her success.

As she prepares to walk out the door, Pat still teaches us by her words and deeds that it is still all about the relationships.