Michael Stoner provides communication strategy consulting services for colleges and universities on integrating marketing, communications, and technology. He's also written extensively about the subject on his blog at mStoner.com and in his new book: Social Works: How #HigherEd Uses #Social Media to Raise Money, Build Awareness, Recruit Students, and Get Results.

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I invited Michael to Marketing Smarts to talk about the insights he gained from compiling 25 rich case studies in higher education marketing, and how marketing professionals can build integrated marketing plans that maximize audience reach using traditional channels, social media, and emerging platforms, such as Instagram.

Here are just a few highlights of our conversation.

Email remains essential to success in building an integrated marketing plan (4:40): "Email is still a killer app... We're parceling out our attention in smaller and smaller pieces, and we can't just rely on a mention on Facebook or a tweet to promote something. The more channels we use, the better [chance] we have of gaining somebody's attention. Email is just such an incredibly important platform... It's an essential building block for these campaigns."

Check your baseline of engagement, then choose your metrics carefully (8:22): "The outcomes that a lot of people are using to measure engagement—the convenient measurements like retweets and likes—those are such cheap metrics. They're so trivial. They have such a very, very short time span, like nanoseconds, really. So, how do we do something real? How do we measure engagement in terms of actions that are important to the university, like giving for example, or attendance at an event, or an application?"

The economic model in higher education is changing, and marketing communication and brand messaging are more important than ever (11:12): "People in our industry need to be aware of messaging and differentiation and brand, in just the same way that commercial organizations do. We might talk about it slightly differently, but the same principles are really, really important."

Sometimes, a client will turn down the greatest website in the world (15:50) "(The site was highly personalized, with lots of personalized content. It involved blogging...and crowdsourcing a lot of content for the institution, and... the institution (was) just not ready to take the leap. Fast forward five or ten years, and if they had done it, they'd have been way ahead of everybody else."

Make sure you're managing existing channels effectively before jumping onto emerging platforms (19:50): "Don't be everywhere until you can be awesome everywhere you are... Experimentation is a great thing, but I do get concerned when I see institutions focusing on new channels and not managing their existing channels very well."

My conversation with Michael included much more. I encourage you to listen to the entire show, which you may do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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