Five Takeaways from CASE-NAIS Day 1 (Plus)
I’m spending this week (the first part) at the CASE-NAIS national convention at the sprawling, overpriced (with a beautiful view) National Harbor development outside of D.C. The emphasis is on communications, marketing and development for independent schools.
While I entered skeptical about the actual value of the convention (outside of networking), the quality of the sessions have impressed me. Since 2 p.m. Saturday, I’ve spent most of my waking hours in meeting rooms and haven’t felt my time wasted. Considering the thrill rides of the NFL games and my proximity D.C., that says something.
Here’s five takeaways from the first day (plus), which really began Saturday for those of us attending pre-conference training sessions. While my focus is communications, every session I’ve attended has hit on multiple disciplines.
- Develop Buyer Personas: The keynote speaker, Jane Buckingham, spoke extensively about the difference between Baby Boomers and Gen Y (while basically ignoring her own generation, X). While I tend to cringe when people profile generations because too many marketers rely far too heavily on those very broad generalizations, it reinforced the necessity of developing many buyer personas. It’s fine to start with big generalizations (generational, economic, cultural), but continue to tweak and refine those personas as you get to know your community.
- Social Media Scares People Five years ago, I watched many journalists struggle with social media. They feared inane tweets, cat pictures, pointless rants … which really meant they feared the messiness of the public realm. Now I’m hearing the same concerns from private school folks, who wonder how Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and so forth can help. My advice: try it. Figure out the “party” that fits your personality (or your institution’s personality) and embrace it. Right now, that hasn’t happened — the the fact that only about 40 have people tweeted anything to the convention hashtag (#casenais) out of 1,300 attendees surprises me.
- Digital Rules Kill the brochure. Kill the magazine. Kill the donor list. Kill the view book. Kill anything printed. Everybody (in the communications world) understands print provides minimal value at a high cost, but few seem to have found a way to convince the traditionalists to embrace the digital possibilities.
- To Innovate, Eliminate The value of printed materials reinforces one of my primary goals at Wasatch Academy: eliminate the unnecessary. Whether it’s David Thiel taking the donor list out of the Deerfield magazine or refusing to do galas and brochures for capital campaigns (as Ray Happy of CCS recommended), those pushing communications forward willingly challenge every so-called “accepted practice” and often end up scrapping said practice.
- On Deck: Pinterest, Google+While many schools have yet to master Twitter (most have Facebook figured out), Pinterest and Google+ have generated much more interest — and I can practically guarantee every school attending the convention (most of them) will launch accounts in the coming months. So my new challenge: Figure out now what everyone will talk about next year. Tumblr? Squidoo? Instagram? RenRen? Who knows.