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October 18 , 2004
Leading the industry of education
Johnnie ray is senior vice president for development and university relations
In this difficult age, one could argue that volunteer engagement with a great university is an important part of good citizenship. Through advice, advocacy, philanthropy and many other forms of support, volunteers help Emory deliver what the world desperately needs: intellectual capital of absolute top quality being brought to bear on matters of great societal concern. To obtain the magnitude of philanthropic support necessary to do this, Emory must develop a more sophisticated approach to marketing; that is, defining its promise to the world in terms that resonate with the larger public.
Top universities like Emory are essential—now, more than ever—to our nation’s political, social and economic stability. Emory is a vast reservoir of talent and expertise in virtually every discipline that matters in this complicated time. We don’t just supply workers for the work force; we supply the future leaders. We don’t just have expertise; we have the ablest expertise. This is what distinguishes Emory and its peers from the pack of more than 3,500 colleges and universities in this country. Truly, Emory has arrived in a very small circle of the very best universities.
But considering the enormous amount of competition for top-level student, faculty and research talent, this kind of quality is not guaranteed in the future. We have much work to do to make sure citizens understand us well enough to want to help us see our enormous value fully realized.
Emory interacts with a huge array of diverse and distinct constituencies, all of which want to extract from us different things. There is an unprecedented demand in both the public and private sectors for access to our singularly unique scale of intellectual talent, health care and informational resources. Our capacity to respond to that demand is critical.
We are one player in a larger post-secondary education industry, with “industry” being the operative word. It is an industry, operating in an environment of ever-increasing competitiveness. No one group or government controls this knowledge industry; instead, it responds to market forces, and Emory is not immune from these powerful forces. We need to understand that marketplace and turn it to our advantage.
Plans already are under way to do this. We are establishing a marketing capacity at Emory similar to what you might find in a well-run, private-sector enterprise. It will be led by a soon-to-be-recruited vice president for marketing and University relations and will contain expertise that will allow us to conduct ongoing market research and analysis, with particular (but not exclusive) emphasis on supporting the upcoming campaign.
This new, integrated marketing capacity will allow us to better manage Emory’s aggregate “brand promise,” build stronger two-way relationships with our constituents, and generally improve coherence and consistency in how we interpret our enterprise to the larger public.
Our purpose in establishing a marketing capacity is not to taste-test new flavors of the month for our academic “product,” so to speak, but rather the reverse: to better understand the identities, interests, capacities and motivations of those persons and institutions on whom we must rely for support and advancement in the decades ahead. The research tools of modern marketing will disclose to us new friends and allies; the management disciplines of modern marketing will help us as an institution to forge productive new alliances and to position ourselves competitively in the uppermost tier of research institutions.
Market intelligence will allow us to work more closely with faculty to develop a dynamic, internal, University-wide forum for ideas, capital and talent that can be melded into whatever combinations are likely to generate innovation, grand-scale access to the University’s intellectual resources, and significant new revenue streams—particularly through a well-conceived, comprehensive fund raising campaign.
Once again, the campaign will not only be about raising money. It will drive a healthy self-examination, reposition Emory in a new light, compel us to be more aggressive in telling our story, and define and institutionalize the role private support will play in our future. A strong marketing capacity will provide a critical tool for Emory to realize and be recognized for its greatest achievements.