On Tuesday, May 17, the Chief Marketing Officer Institute will reveal the winners of its "CMO of the Year" award for leadership excellence. As we did last year, CMO.com is publishing exclusive interviews with each of the nine finalists, who discussed with the CMO Journal the strategies and tactics they employed to achieve marketing success at their respective organizations.
>> Category: Small To Midsize Organization
>> Organization Description: Purdue University is a public, doctoral-granting research university founded in 1869. Purdue University's statewide system includes its main campus in West Lafayette, Indiana; four regional campuses; and numerous teaching and research sites throughout Indiana. Purdue has a systemwide enrollment of more than 69,000 students from 50 states and 130 countries. Purdue's main campus offers more than 200 majors for undergraduates and more than 70 master's and doctoral programs. The university also has 18 intercollegiate sports teams and more than 850 student organizations.
>> Highlights: Purdue University continued to gain momentum during 2010. In national rankings by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue ranked 18th among all public universities, a move up from 22nd place. In 2010, Purdue was the only Big Ten University to see a rise in such rankings. In addition, Purdue was acknowledged by U.S. News & World Report for its achievements in the student success categories of first-year experience, internships, learning communities, study abroad, and writing in the disciplines. During 2010, despite economic and market uncertainty, Purdue saw an increase in philanthropic giving and in research funding, which that year was at a record high for the university.
>> The Conversation:
CMOJ: You entered 2010 having restructured the previous University Relations area into the new Marketing & Media department, which reorganized 98 staff from four departments into seven. What was the impetus for that restructuring, and based on that experience, what advice would you have for marketing leaders reconsidering the structure of their departments?
TLT: The impetus for restructuring was our strategic plan. In comparing our ambitious strategic goals to our organizational structure, I saw significant gaps: no one was responsible for brand management, no one was responsible for our digital presence, no marketing research function existed, and no one was helping individual colleges think strategically about how to best leverage their marketing spend in the context of their college-specific goals (philanthropy, recruitment, reputation, etc.). My advice is simply "structure to succeed" based on your organization's goals and deliverables. One of my predecessor's direct reports was a director of special projects; in order to achieve our current strategic plan goals, it was critical for me to have a director of online experience and to spread special projects across the leadership team rather than designating a specific functional area to handle them. Do what makes sense for your organization and your leadership style. Change management is also an important component of restructuring. Taking the time and care to communicate frequently about the rationale for the change, as well as the process, is critical to a successful reorganization.
CMOJ: In 2010 you executed a strategic marketing plan that had a particular focus on national and state media relations and social media. One might expect nonprofit organizatiosn to pursue these channels based on a limited budget, but what else was behind the thought process that led to this strategy?
TLT: In addition to budget, there are two key reasons: First, since reputation helps drive many of our metrics, from the U.S. News & World Report rankings to the scores of applicants we receive, it is critical that our thought leadership and impact stories be told. Two of the best methods for telling those stories and impacting the audiences we need to reach are through traditional media and through social media. Second, we completed our brand differentiation research in early 2010, and our brand strategy work followed; I wanted that foundation in place before we developed new advertising, direct mail, and collateral.
CMOJ: Having a "Chief Marketing Officer" at a major public university must seem like a foreign concept to all but a handful of traditional organization stakeholders. Despite the results you've delivered in 2010 -- and over the past three years of your tenure -- what do you think the perception of your role is across the university?
TLT: That's a great question! Although no one can argue with our results, I think the perception is still mixed. Those who hold a more traditional view of the academy see the role as yet another manifestation of the commercialization of a category they believe should be immune to the need for marketing. Others are excited and welcome the new approaches and services.
One area that has been particularly embraced is the new market research area. This is partially because it fits naturally with the nature of academia, but also because the results -- from naming research to reader surveys to customer insights -- are valuable (and a bargain!) to our internal clients.
CMOJ: Describe the relationship you have with university president France Córdova. What are her expectations of you and your team -- and how are those expectations measured?
TLT: I enjoy working with and for people who have high expectations, and France Córdova is one of those people. She expects us to push the envelope, be better than our competition, and drive results. She is a fan of execution -- not theory. She understands marketing and the importance of a consistent brand message. We use our strategic plan dashboard, as well as a marketing dashboard developed during our reorganization, to measure results; I share results with her on a monthly basis and incorporate this information into an annual governance report presented to our Board of Trustees. The dashboard measures everything from the number of social media followers to media placements to visits to our newsroom to views of our increasingly popular "5 Students Who..." microsite.