Change Needs Marketing

In “Take It From an ex-Journalist: Adapt or Die,” a recent opinion piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Byron P. White has a strong message for administrators and faculty members about change. 

When I was a university professor, I appreciated the predictable cycles and traditions on campus. But having served as a marketing consultant to a few schools and universities, and having heard from numerous administrators at conferences and events, I also realize the severe difficulties that many institutions have in trying to transform themselves. 

Mr. White—now a university administrator—com

pares the forces affecting higher education to those he saw while a manager at the Chicago Tribune. Once-reliable sources of revenue were drying up. New technologies made for a new class of competitors that were faster and cheaper. The constituents who paid the freight (e.g. subscribers and advertisers) were losing confidence. 

Still, the decision-makers could not bring themselves to do much more than talk about incremental, operational adjustments. They did not feel or internalize the need to change. Despite mounting evidence of a changing customer world, they believed the customer was simply wrong (meaning, that most people didn’t know what they wanted and should appreciate what they had). Finally, and understandably, they could not imagine a future reality so different from the one they had experienced. 

Resistance to change is certainly not limited to industries like publishing or higher education. Where do you see the most frustrating roadblocks? In a future post I’ll share some tips for “marketing change” inside organizations that really need it.

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