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Is your medium sending the wrong message?

1 min read

A ’60s philosopher nails it with a theory that holds even truer today.

What brings you here?

I’ll venture a guess: You want to reach your students and alumni.

So to do that, your office snail mails, schedules carefully timed email blasts, follows up with phone calls from strange numbers at odd times, and posts every message one more time on social media (for good measure, you know). Considering all the hard work your staff puts in and the sheer number of dispatches, your hopes are high, but ultimately, your response rate turns out to be low.

So what’s the problem? Perhaps your medium is sending the wrong message.

Your letters say you’re a little stuck in the past. Your email blasts, with that noreply@yourcampus.edu address, say you’re impersonal. Your phone calls and voicemails say you’re a hound. And your social media posts say “just here because we gotta be.” It’s not that the content of the correspondences is wrong. It’s the channel they’re being sent over.

The late Professor Marshall McLuhan, media philosopher of the ’60s and ’70s, would heartily agree. He coined the phrase, “The medium is the message,” meaning that the medium over which content is dispersed holds its own significance, separate of the content itself. And while it was originally published in 1967, it’s just as relevant today – maybe even more so.

Let’s consider a text message. What does its use as a medium of choice say to students, parents, and alumni?

“We’re friendly.”

“Door’s open.”

“We respect your time and all the other commitments you have.”

“When you have 30 seconds to spare, we’ll still be here.”

And more. But best of all, it works on a number of crucial levels, from increasing enrollment yield, to having more quality conversations with students, to alumni engagement. And while I wouldn’t recommend eliminating the aforementioned, more “traditional” means of communication, I do suggest taking a minute to ponder what message your mediums are sending. They’re speaking volumes about your institution.

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