Bill Murray, #snapsofsean and Confab Higher Ed Atlanta 2013
Confab Higher Ed brought together an international group of content practitioners from junior colleges, state colleges and ivy league institutions to discuss their mutual challenges and wins, and their mutual disgust for committees and silos. By the end of the convention, revelers were saturated with knowledge, inspiration (some, a little perspiration), and a broader network to help them conquer Higher Ed content strategy and marketing challenges. Here are some highlights from Atlanta.
Navigating Blurred Lines
From keynote speaker to breakout sessions, the term blurred lines was repeated. I think everyone in the room could relate to this term, and not just from the annoying images of Miley Cyrus grinding on Robin Thicke. No, the blurred lines term spoken about at Confab Higher Ed was a rallying cry everyone could relate to. Blurred lines was a testament to the many hats content marketers wear, the many departments one must report to, and be a part of. Blurred lines could be considered another line, a battle line.
All the speakers in attendance brought to our attention many ways to help navigate these battle lines. Dan Raom’s “The Back of the Napkin: Explaining Complexity With Simple Pictures” painted a very clear picture of the necessity and usefulness of providing simple VISUALS to communicate with both internal stakeholders and external audiences.
Karen McGrane conveyed another battle line that content marketers in Higher Ed must face. The struggle to convey the importance of content marketing to school Presidents, Boards and committees is challenging enough for Higher Ed communications teams. Now the battle to get educational institutes to see the importance of mobile adaptation is an additional front. Karen’s “The Mobile Content Mandate in Higher Ed” reinforced the need for mobile-friendly websites and communications initiatives and gave statistics for Confab Higher Ed attendees to bring back to their schools.
Flipping the Bill
Helping to unblur the lines (and sponsor the convention) within Higher Ed content marketing are CMS providers, content optimization tools and… cough cough, content planning and production platforms. Something DivvyHQ took away from this event ourselves was mentioned in John Eckman’s CMS Myths in Higher Education. The question when exploring SaaS providers, and CMS platforms in particular, should not be what they can do. The questions that should be asked… Can the platform match the production processes that our educational institutions already have in place? Can it mold to our needs? Not, can we mold to its capabilities. In John’s words, “Try to break it.” With SaaS, you can break and then not buy it.
Cats Over Kids
A personal observation… This is the first convention where people showed me more pictures of their cats then of their kids. Why? Because this is a content strategy and digital marketing convention and cats own the internet. It also demonstrates the youthfulness of the industry and should be a sign to educational Presidents and Boards. This IS the future.
So Bill Murray was there. If you were fortunate, like the DivvyHQ team was, you saw him the Sunday night before the start of the convention, meeting a group of movie producers at the hotel bar. If you were not fortunate enough, you had to make do with the blurry picture that was tweeted from my phone. Sorry.
Some of the best experiences of social media develop organically. The #snapsofsean was one of those experiences. What started as a joke picture of Sean Tubridy, Creative Manager of Brain Traffic who was photographing speakers at the event, snowballed into a convention-wide hashtag, that originally Sean wasn’t in on. I want to thank Sean again for his willingness to play along and to everyone who joined in on the fun.
As the last keynote speaker finished up and the process of cleaning up the DivvyHQ booth started, I took a chance to reflect on Confab Higher Ed 2013. Though many of the practitioners in Higher Ed content marketing face many challenges, they also have a huge network of support. From industry leaders, like Kristina Halvorson and Ahava Leibtag, to the many other content marketers in the Higher Ed space–there are great resources and tools available to help you stand up and fight the battles within this ever-evolving industry.