Substance trumps style, who knew? PR musings

Sometimes things just work out.

Every other year or so, I venture outside my silo here at University News in order to find out what my peers are up to. Professional development, we like to call it, offers an important avenue to learn what’s new in the profession while enjoying the chance to reenergize and refocus.

Earlier this month, I traveled to San Diego to attend Communications, Marketing and Technology, a conference for higher education communicators sponsored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. I say that “sometimes things just work out” because the conference offered an ideal agenda for my attendance, and it happened to be in one of my favorite cities, which happens to be where one of my sisters lives. Of course, I added in a little vacation time to maximize my trip west—even brought my dad along. We got to catch my Padres in action. They lost, of course.

Any who, to be honest, the conference was a bit of a disappointment. But one of the highlights came with the keynote address presented by Fritz McDonald, an associate of Stamats research firm. He discussed the agency’s annual “TeensTALK” survey—loaded with fascinating insights on the views of increasingly savvy students who are in the market for a college to attend. There was so much good information, but I want to zero in on just one of the survey’s findings.

Among high school juniors, what’s considered to be helpful sources of information during the college evaluation process? Not surprisingly, the top response is the campus visit. Seventy-five percent find that beneficial. But what’s second? College Web sites? View books? U.S. News and World Report rankings? Not even close. Sixty percent say “course catalogs” are more important. Wow, not a very glamorous response, consider the glitzy nature of today’s view books and the publicity associated with annual college rankings.

McDonald explained it this way. Students can read the course catalogs and actually visualize what it’s like to sit in certain classes. It’s authentic, he says. Imagine that, kids actually selecting substance over style.

So what does that mean, particularly for those of us in the college and university communications field? It means information is still king! And in an era that’s witnessing an explosion of new media—blogs, podcasts, YouTube—it’s nice to know that substance still matters.

I’m hoping that’s what you find as you sample the various outlets for RIT information we’re supplying here at University News. If not, please let me know. Sometimes you have to work a little harder to make things work, and that’s okay too.

 
  1. Mike Saffran
    Apr 21

    Speaking of the campus visit as the number one helpful source of college information, a very nicely written, lighthearted account of touring college campuses with his grandchildren, told by Clarence Hotchkiss of Binghamton, appeared Sunday in the Press & Sun-Bulletin. And it just so happens RIT is mentioned (four times to be exact). It seems some of the things RIT is famous for are our robots and the Golisano College (two things highly touted, no doubt, to campus visitors). But we’re also famous (or is it infamous?)—at least among those in the Hotchkiss clan—for our speed bumps and Canadian geese. Ah, yes, our speed bumps—I believe they were called “elevated walkways” when they were installed a few years ago, and they rank second to no place! As for those geese, well, let me just change the subject and add that RIT, like Cornell, also has a concrete canoe team—and theirs (usually) floats, too! Great story, Mr. Hotchkiss!

  2. Justin Thorp
    Apr 22

    Paul, are you implying that blogs, podcasts, and YouTube lack substance? They are just tools that deliver content. The usefulness of the content is up to the author.

    If what prospective students want is the ability to imagine themselves sitting in the classes, it'd be interesting to try and use blogging and online video as a way to document the college class experience to give prospective students the actual inside peak.

    What if you used something like ustream.tv to stream certain college classes?

  3. Brian Niles
    Apr 22

    Be sure to check out the tips and thoughts from our experience evangelist at TargetX - Jeff Kallay. I'll let him know about the article in the Press & Sun-Bulletin too.
    blogs.targetx.com/targetx/theexperienceevangelist/

  4. Paul
    Apr 22

    Hi Justin! Actually, I'd like to suggest that, in many case, new media is a source for tremendous substance. I hope that University News is setting a positive example in that regard. Certainly some new-media offers seem frivolous, and that's okay too. Any opportunity for expression can be quite positive. We have new media to thank for that.

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