Marketing Council of Elders – Does your institution have one?

It’s that time of year when here at TERMINALFOUR, we get a little reflective and a little bit introspective especially on the back of a big conference season and our own higher education web survey (results coming soon). We’ve been pondering the role, the influence, the reach and the success of institutional marketing across universities and colleges of all shapes and sizes. 

The reality is that no two institutions are alike in terms of marketing resources, structure, budget or approach. There are those with a centralized model and the associated hierarchy, workflows, brand guidelines etc. and there are the more decentralized models with each college or school having autonomy over their message, web presence and budget. There are some with ‘limitless’ budgets and a wealth of resources at their disposal and the one-person marketing department quietly crying in the corner.

Whatever the reality of your marketing resources and/or prowess the truth remains that as a function it still needs to promote itself as a business discipline; it still needs to endorse itself as an agent of change and an enabler of institutional business performance. To put it simply, marketing needs to elevate itself and its role through institution wide collaboration and education.  Hence our question: ‘Marketing Council of Elders’ – Does your institution have one?

The higher education sector is no stranger to collaboration, to independent thinkers coming together to strengthen the knowledge of the collective. Yet, when it comes to marketing this isn’t always the case. We know some of you readers are in institutions where this is not true and we bow to your brilliance.  But for those that might recognize fragmented marketing in their own institution then this blog is for you. (Note: I refer you to the opening paragraph and the words ‘reflective’ and ‘introspective’ as I am not offering this as a strategy – instead a train of thought).

“No man is so foolish but he may sometimes give another good counsel, and no man so wise that he may not easily err if he takes no other counsel than his own.  He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a master”, Hunter S. Thompson.

Call it what you will, a ‘Council of Elders’ or cross-departmental teams or whatever you call a collaboration across budget holders, stakeholders etc. The power of a ‘Marketing Council of Elders’ is real.  Here are a few reasons why:


The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  I may be the Director of Communications for the School of Law at ‘Batman University’ so why do I care what the Director of Marketing at the School of Business does in terms of public relations?  Their campaigns whether successful or highly inflammatory don’t affect me.  Or do they?  For a prospective student you both represent Batman University.  The story I’m building about life at that institution isn’t compartmentalized rather it’s shaped and amplified by the university as a whole.  Maybe a common editorial and messaging platform across schools isn’t such a bad thing.


Siloes build barriers and create divisions.  If your institution has so many talented and capable people doing great things from a marketing & communications perspective then why aren’t they linking them? Why not endeavor to synchronize efforts and amplify the impact?  

Removing Inefficiencies & Cost Savings

Bringing the conversation to brass taxes it’s simply not efficient to not share and communicate marketing efforts.  In a decentralized model whereby each school (let’s say four schools) might have two web developers, two marketing team members and two designers (how lucky are you) this means eight salaries, eight computers, eight licenses for Photoshop etc.  Collaboration across schools logically reduces marketing overheads while creating synergies and often a more cohesive university wide marketing message.

Knowledge share

Higher education has undergone massive changes in the past decade with technological changes, recessions and a host of other influencers but one thing that has remain unchallenged is the notion of it as a bastion of learning and collaboration.  For a sector that has its history drenched in the idea that knowledge is power it shouldn’t be a difficult to sell the benefits of knowledge share with regarding marketing efforts. Bringing together key marketing stakeholders from cross your institution for a dialogue can add value and strength to the collective effort.

*Waiver:  We use the term ‘Elder’ in the leader sense as we know you’re all young and vibrant at heart.

 Does your university or college have a Marketing council of sage, all-knowing elders? Let us know in the comments below or email us at, we would love to hear from you!