Thought Feeder social media photo for Episode 41. Guest Steve App's headshot is featured in a square image. White text reads "How many elephants can you fit in the room?"

Episode 41: How Many Elephants Can you Fit in the Room?

Thought Feeder
Thought Feeder
Episode 41: How Many Elephants Can you Fit in the Room?
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Steve App returns to discuss the findings from Simpson Scarborough’s recently published MarCom Professional Development and Salary Study.

Joel Goodman: From Bravery Media, this is Thought Feeder. Welcome, my name is Joel Goodman. With me as always is the untamable Jon- Stephen Stansel and a very special guest reprising his role as a guest, uh, in 2020, I think maybe I think it was 2020, Steve App. Now the AV of Marketing and a Business Development, at Simpson Scarborough no longer at Campus Sonar though, we’re all still great friends with everyone. And Steve, it’s very nice to have you back on the show.

Steve App: Thanks for having me back. Glad to be back, honestly, more than anything, just glad that you two are back. We needed you.

Joel Goodman: We appreciate it and J.S. Always good to see you.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yes, always good and glad to be back.

Joel Goodman: So recently, depending on when you’re listening to this podcast recently, the fine folks at Simpson Scarborough re released a report that, uh, they were calling the, uh, Marcom Professional Development and Salary Study. It was a very long title. Did I get close on that?

Steve App: I think you nailed it.

Joel Goodman: I kind of skipped the title. I tried to say it a few times.

Uh, To myself throughout the week, but I mostly just dove into the, into the, the content. And, uh, Steve, I think you were kind of pivotal in the, the development of this report and kind of putting it together along with some of your colleagues, but I’m wondering, if you could kind of give us an overview of what this report was about, what, uh, Simpson Scarborough was trying to do, uh, with it, what, what messages you wanted to get across.

And we’ve got some fun things we want to talk about, uh, as we, as we dive into it.

Steve App: Yeah, happy to. And it’s actually an interesting story because what it was originally intended to be is very different than what I think it ultimately became. I mean, we started building this report in the fall of 2021. Well, before I started at Simpson Scarborough and the original intent here was pretty straightforward, which was to start benchmarking, salaries across the industry. So that, professionals, marketing professionals at an individual level within higher education could really feel more empowered to make the decisions that would be best for them in their own careers. And I think the report still does that. I mean, in the report, we have an entire appendix in which we’ve put in salary data that is broken down by seniority level, region, public and private, uh, whole different ways that you can slice and dice that.

But then what happened is around the spring, I guess, you know, late winter, early spring of 2022, we started to get back and analyze the data. And at this point we were pretty firmly in what everyone, I think, kind of calls the great resignation now. And it became apparent that, that the study was no longer just going to be about benchmarking salary data. This was a report that was going to tell the story about why so many people within the marketing field were either exploring or open to, or fully intending, not only to leave their position, but to leave the industry entirely. And that’s really what this report, uh, became about.

Joel Goodman: I mean, we have one of those, uh, on of those people here on the show and it’s my good friend, Jon Stephen.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Indeed. I’ve gotta say, like, as I was reading this report, like, I, I don’t think I like no fewer than 17 times, did I like stand up and point to it and go, yes. Yes. It’s not just me. Other people are experiencing this too. Um, and I got really excited and was like DMing, uh, Joel and Kevin, like, okay, we gotta get Steve back on the show.

We gotta talk about this. Like, like right now, can we do it now? Because it there’s so many things that we’ve been talking about for years and, and things that I think I know I was feeling when I was considering leaving my university position and, and eventually left higher ed. Um, and it’s just, it was so refreshing to see like, okay, it wasn’t just me.

We can get into a little bit later, but I almost feel like. This feeling of being gas lit a bit like, oh, I, I was, you know, everybody else, I felt like everybody else was okay with this and oh, clearly it’s not. So, uh, it was really refreshing to see and important. I think, I think more people need to need to read this and, and put it in the hands of every C-suite person in higher ed.

Steve App: It’s interesting. I have yet to talk about this report on an individual level or in a group setting and not have someone say. I thought it was just me or I’m so glad it’s not just me. So that reaction is just, I’ve heard that so many times already, and it’s just a really fascinating look at how this report resonates.

Joel Goodman: So, where do you think the results, uh, that, that you found in this data are, are coming from, do you think, you know, higher ed wise, is it a leadership issue? Is it an issue with our industry? Is it a combination of a whole bunch of stuff going on that, you know, has, has kinda led us to this point where so many, so many higher ed pros are, are looking to, to, to get away.

Uh, yeah. Where, where, where do you stand on that?

Steve App: It is a complicated, uh, very, you know, it’s a complex situation, I think to be clear, uh, this is not. This is not, I think it should be said is not a higher ed issue in many respects. When we talk about high turnover or people who are leaving their current roles, right? That’s not something that is only happening in higher ed marketing.

It’s not something that’s only happening in higher education. And the reasons for those departures are also not unique to higher education in many ways, the, the top three, reasons across the board, um, for, for people who were looking to leave their position was they wanted increased compensation. They felt like there were limited opportunities to advance in their current role and they wanted a new challenge or growth opportunity.

And, even those three reasons, uh, through research that McKinsey has done for example, those are the reasons that people are leaving their role. So I don’t think we can or should pin too much of this in a higher ed vacuum, but I do think that there are a couple things that. Uh, compound the issue that are more higher ed focused.

So, um, one of those I think is decentralization. You know, we have central marketing and communications shops in higher education, but on campuses of many different sizes, we also have communications professionals that are, shops of one, or are only supporting an individual school or college or department.

And I think that can, especially when we talk about limited advancement opportunities, if you are a team of one, uh, and you don’t have a team, then of course, you’re, you’re going to feel that more than someone who’s in a shop of 20 or 30, or, you know, 50 plus individuals.

Joel Goodman: You may have like a manager level title, but you’re essentially the defacto director of that thing, and you’re not gonna move up anywhere else because you can’t, you can’t. What are you gonna do?

Steve App: I mean, it goes right back to so much of what J.S. has tweeted over the years. Right? You’ve got this team of one that is a social media manager, a graphic designer, a videographer, a photographer, a web manager, a content creator. Like, so yeah, it, it, there’s a lot of compounding issues there that happen in that moment.

And I do think that is, maybe more unique to higher education.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: And then they’re not getting promoted because they don’t have managerial experience because there’s no, because they are the entire team. Like I, yes, I’m managing a photographer, a videographer and a graphic designer, but I am also those people like,

Steve App: The annual reviews are great though.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: yes,

Steve App: I also think we should acknowledge, you know, marketing and, and our CEO, jason Simon did a really good job of, I think putting this in the context when we presented this report, not too long ago, it’s important to, to keep in mind, marketing has come a long way over the last 14, 15 years within higher education, but I still think from a profession standpoint and for individuals within that profession, there is still, there is still a headwind. That is this outdated, longstanding perception of higher education as a cost center, as a print shop, um, as a you know, just do whatever it is that we’re telling you to do and don’t work strategically.

So that’s changing, we’re getting there higher, you know, we’re having more CMOs on cabinet reporting, to presidents, the budgets are increasing, the team’s sizes, generally speaking, are increasing, but we’re not where we wanna be yet. And so I think that’s part of the struggle here too. Um, and then I do think pay obviously has to be considered because, um, I, I don’t think anyone in higher education, right.

The line is always, I didn’t go to the higher ed, for the paycheck, right? They believe in the mission and the vision and the, and the work. Um, but when you’re looking at so many people around you who are moving on to other roles for these pay raises, that’s really hard to ignore.

Joel Goodman: You should be able to have it all is the problem, you know, and you, you shouldn’t have to, you shouldn’t have to give up a, a standard of living just because you believe in a mission. You know, that that’s, especially when we’re talking about multi multimillion dollar entities that are doing more sub. And I mean, I, I think there’s, I I’ve had this conversation a little bit over the last week with folks online, but you know, to some, extent I, I, I don’t know that I don’t know that some institutions can actually afford to pay the types of salaries that they need to and not affect the core product that they actually have, which is education. And so that gets into, uh, you know, a whole lot of other issues and, and kind of underscores how this isn’t really clean, cut and simple, you know, in the same way that there are multiple issues compounding to make this happen, there are other considerations that. Uh, you know, have to have to have us questioning, are we even set up, uh, uh, structurally in a sound way as institutions, as an industry to support these expectations that, you know, especially that these folks that responded to the, to the survey, uh, have in their heads. And I. It’s different for everyone too, right? I mean, a state school’s gonna be able to afford a lot more than maybe a small private school. And I think different configurations of staffing and services and everything else makes sense for different size institutions with different, different missions.

But it’s, it’s a, it’s a fairly complex issue. Once you get into to all of this, you know, question of retention or, or, or, or whether you should even retain some of them who knows, like some, sometimes it may not be the best thing.

Steve App: Yeah, it’s definitely, like I said, it there’s so much compounding it, and, um, I think that is both comforting in some ways, um, especially the piece of look, this is just happening, right? This is not, we haven’t, individually failed across, you know, in a way that other industries have not in some respects, but it does present a massive challenge when we’re talking about, okay, well then what next?

What do we do about this data? Uh, because if it’s a complex scenario in terms of what is creating the problem, there’s, there’s no silver bullet to fixing it.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Exactly. One thing that you, you brought up that keeps coming up, comes up again and again in the study, but both inside and out is the limited advancement opportunities in higher ed. So could you go a little bit deeper into that and discuss like how that issue, you know, might be resolved?

Steve App: that is one of those top three, factors across the board and in the report, we broke down our respondents into different seniority levels because we wanted to appreciate that. Look, we had almost 900 higher education marketing professionals who responded to this survey and they’re not all in the same stage of their career.

So we had, we broke individuals up into the senior leadership category. So your VPs, CMOs, AVPs, your director level professionals. Your manager level professionals and then a group that we called contributors, uh, who are those that are, coordinator level. Um, they are, uh, in web graphic design, uh, digital content, some of those broader terms in, in, in that regard.

And limited advancement potential was a number two reason behind only increased compensation for everyone, but the senior leader. So it was right at the top there. And it was the highest about 80% of contributors said that it was the primary reason that they were leaving higher education, which I think is one of the symptoms that is more unique to higher education.

These are the folks who like, I said, are doing graphic design or digital content or looking at the web or they’re handling paid advertising on digital or social. Um, these are folks who are really in demand across the industry right now. And this is an area in particular where I think higher education has been a little bit slower to acknowledge the value and the specialization of this role. And so for these individuals, you know, they are sitting there in, in their, in their role and they’re yeah, thinking, well, where do I go from here? If I’m the only graphic designer or if I’m the only person on my staff handling paid advertising, there is no next role for that individual to go in.

And I think we see that, especially at the contributor level, but at all levels where , you know, you are in a position in which there either is no next role above you, or if there is, there’s only one person in that role. And so your ability to advance is dependent on that person moving on or retiring or, or being let go.

I mean, that was the reason I left campus, uh, which was back in 2016 is I had reached a level where I realized the next level up was blocked and, and it was only gonna be open if, if somebody left the, the institution, which I didn’t think was going to happen. And I think we, we do see that across, um, like I said, most of the levels in this report.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: That was a major part of my decision making process of just asking myself, okay. If I stay where I am, where will I be in five years? And. You know, the honest answer was probably in the same place I, I was now, you know, so I was like, oh, okay, well then it’s time, clearly time to move on cuz, and it’s both advancement and pay.

Right. Cause with that, that, that moving up comes higher compensation. Um, so you know, it’s really kind of two factors in one, but it’s um, I think, I think having a clear path of advancement of knowing, you know, where you’re going to be next, there was no, you know, AVP of social media on any campus that I’ve seen.

So, you know, that’s never going to come. And, and with that advancement also comes like authority and respect a little bit of, okay, well, I’ve been doing social media at this university for X number of years. When am I, when does my voice have a little bit more clout? And you’re gonna take me more seriously because if I don’t have that title.

I don’t feel I get that.

Joel Goodman: I think with, I think with some of these too, when you’ve been in a position for a while and you start to see, either, there’s no way to move up, but maybe there is a way to move up, but then you’re like, do I really want to do that job, cuz I know that that’s not gonna get paid very well. And, and you see the stresses and uh, you know, the, the amount of overwork that you may feel as someone in a lower level, like is that really worth a, you know, $12,000 a year pay bump or something like that.

When, you know, your skills are in demand, your expertise is in demand and you can go outside somewhere and, and find that balance of being able to work on something that you really enjoy. Hopefully see a diff being made a difference, or, you know, whatever, whatever that kind of intrinsic motivation for you is that, that keeps you, keeps you happy in the role.

But then also like, , you know, you’re making good money and you can, you don’t have to, you don’t have to worry about, you know, you just worry about doing the best you can and, and seeing more clear paths to where you want to be versus having to, having to constantly make those trade offs.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Joel, that perfectly segues into my next question.

Joel Goodman: Oh, great. That was accidental. I mean, that was on purpose.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Well, I wanted to bring up because one, one of the things I really, that really stuck out to me in this report, you know, cause the data is amazing and I’m, a dork and just wanna dive right into it and, and, and go through all the numbers and everything. But the, the quotes that you pulled and the stories from actual people in Higher ed and what they said, this lace to what you were relates saying.

Joel one, the one that one that really stuck out at me was. There’s a huge salary difference between the people taking credit for the work, versus those of us who actually produce the work on a daily basis. And that’s from a contributer level person in, in the Southwest.

And that just, you know, so stuck out to me. Um, and, and all of these stories where I was just saying yes, that that’s me. I, are you sure I wasn’t quoted in this? Like, this sounds like something I would say. Um, so Steve, having gathered the state and going through some, some of these stories, what, what are some of the, the stories that you heard from higher ed marketers that really stood out to you?

Steve App: You know, we didn’t originally intend to include so many of these open ends that are throughout the report. These reports are, are generally very quantitatively driven because like you said, J.S., right. We wanna see that data. And we wanna pull in the data and find the trends and insights from that, from those numbers, what we thought what we thought as we were going through the, the numbers initially through our second pass was, there’s a story here that is, that offers so much color. And how do we go back to some of these folks to hear from their, from their experiences? Do we do a, almost a second, qualitative layer to this report to pull those out. And someone on our team, um, actually decided, you know, we actually had a single open ended field where people could put in some thoughts at the end of the survey, let’s just go see what we found and what we found was so much of what we put in the report that was so meaningful. I think we all internally had the same reaction that you did J.S., which was that it just feels like it hits you in the face, right. Where, where you can’t ignore it. Um, the biggest thing for me was really the fact that the, the entire report, but I think.

The the, the open end, especially this was a means of catharsis for so many individuals in the report itself. In the chat in which we presented the, the report, the I’ve had Twitter, DMS. I’ve had emails sent to me personally, people who have said, I feel seen or heard through this report in a way that I have not felt in years.

And I think that both felt really good, as well as pretty awful that, that was the situation, uh, that we were in. But there were a lot of people who in their open ends talked about how, um, appreciative they were of the opportunity, to share this. The, the second thing that I thought was really interesting and there’s one, um, there’s one open ended quote in particular where this really shines through is that people don’t or didn’t want to leave higher education.

I don’t think what we have here in the data is a situation in which the people who work in higher education no longer believe, in the mission or value of higher education? I think quite the opposite is true in which people still very much believe in the mission or the value. The problem is that, rationally speaking, they no longer feel like they can risk their economic or their psychological wellbeing for the sake of that mission. And I thought that was this really interesting phenomenon of people who were leaving, um, almost not begrudgingly, but, but with a little bit of, of sadness in terms of like, this is what it had come to.

Um, the third thing I thought that was really interesting was that just everyone is struggling, everyone is struggling at the contributor level all the way up to the CMOs. The issues are different from, of course we’ve talked about the compensation or the advancement, but we should also reference the, the issues with, uh, flexibility from a remote working style.

Frustrations with the workplace culture, um, desire for better work life balance, or the need to take care of their mental health. I think so often when we see these reports, we think of folks who are trying to build their careers up as the ones who are struggling. What we saw in this report is that even those who have reached the summit, if you will, the, the ones who report to their president, they sit on cabinet. They, they interact with their board. They oversee the whole operation on their campus. They are massively struggling as well. Um, and that really shined through, I thought more than anything within the open ends.

Joel Goodman: I think we all felt this before the report came out, too. And, and so the report was just kind of giving, you know, giving some, giving some structure and some, you know, flesh and bones or whatever, to what we all felt. We, you know, during the pandemic, everyone was feeling burnout. We know that, uh, people were given time to kind of reevaluate where they were in their profession, right? How they, how they were feeling about the work they were doing, how they were feeling about staying home, and then this, that, that flexibility piece is so interesting because, it from the outside, it looks like such low hanging fruit. The sort of thing where we know, we know from other studies in, in other industries that people were perhaps more productive when they worked at home, which we could, we could talk about, we could, we could talk about the ethics of that later, but, uh, you know, like they, they actually got more work done, being able to have that flexibility and freedom from working from home and. There’s no reason there, like there’s, there’s no reason that any university should have gone back and especially, well, at least for roles that you know, can be done remotely.

There’s no reason any institution should have gone and, uh, forced people back into offices. And, uh, you know, you touched on this a little bit, Steve, there’s this, uh, there’s this recognition now of how, not valued. Uh, these people have felt, and that came through a lot in these, in these quotes and these stories that they put through.

And, and it’s been going on in conversations that, that I’ve seen or have been a part of on Twitter and LinkedIn over the last, the last week. Um, but this, this recognition that, they value the work that they’re doing. And then a lot, a lot of times they value the institutions they’re working for. And like you said, they, they still buy into that mission, but they don’t find that reciprocated toward them.

They don’t find that they are recognized as, one human beings. I think like, just baseline as human beings, they’re, they’re viewed as assets, right? They’re they’re viewed as they’re viewed as just a, a, a means of production. Oh, great. Now we’re getting to Marxism. Aren’t we? Uh, sorry, I didn’t mean to take this into into, into theoretical, uh, the theoretical economics, but, um, and, and cultural structures, but this idea that you know, they’re putting a lot of work into, into what they’re doing and value it and trying to do the best that they possibly can, but not seeing that reciprocated towards them in terms of this giant package of things, right. This like all and all these like fairly easy things that, that could be fixed, uh, in a lot of cases.

And. um, that’s, that’s just so disheartening and I’m not gonna ask another question here. I’m because I wanna sit with that a little bit, but that’s. Yeah, I, I, that was one of those things that struck me, struck me the most is this lack of reciprocal value, uh, that, that we’ve seen grow and build in this industry.

Steve App: I think though there’s a really interesting, way to look at this when you break down the report by seniority level, because I think what we saw was, especially for those individuals at the director and the manager level, these are folks who have led teams remotely for the last, one to two plus years, uh, and have dealt firsthand with some of that turnover within their team’s open positions or at the manager level,

I suspect these are the folks who have, faced the ramifications of that turnover and all of the open positions, more than anyone the managers are, who we heard from, who said I’m handling my job and one other full-time job, two other full-time jobs. I’m trying to do three jobs on my own. I do think those, those people feel a sense of,

being undervalued for sure. I think what’s interesting is that when you look at the senior leadership level and the people who are leaving higher ed there. the number one reason was to improve work life balance. The number four reason was mental health concerns. Those were far and away listed more often for senior leaders than they were other levels of seniority in the report.

And so I think what you have here are these marketing professionals who are looking up at their supervisors or the leaders of their department and saying hey, value me. And what we’re seeing at the top level is pure exhaustion. And I think in part, because they are trying to value those on their team, they are trying to advocate for those on their team and what they are facing, which is unique to other levels,

in this report, they are running into the rigidness. for which structural structures are in higher education, whether that’s battling human resources or whether that’s, uh, battling other, uh, elements of, of internal politics. And so they are trying to do the best that they can for their team, but they are personally beat up exhausted talking you know, ready.

They also needed to take a step back. And so I, I do wonder to the extent, how much are folks undervalued and how much have we lost, our ability to continue to advocate and to continue to communicate that value because of these struggles that we’re facing personally at different levels? I think it’s a really complicated aspect of this report that the open ends didn’t paint a full picture of.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: And I, I think dead on with like that rigidness that those senior leaders hit up against where, you know, so many times I think a lot of people will tell the story of like, yes, my, my supervisor three rungs up the chain wanted to do this for us, but ran into opposition as, as it, as it moved forward. And that’s so disheartening to think like, okay, even though we have people advocating for us that may value us and are trying to make these changes, it’s just, happening in, in any reasonable amount of time.

Joel Goodman: Yeah, well, we’ve got, we’ve got these vintage structures of how we staff in higher ed too, that are, you know, for some reason, you know, that, that I, I don’t know yet. Maybe we’ll maybe we’ll start to learn this over the next couple years, but you know, for some reason haven’t been reevaluated in terms of. Uh, the, I mean, changing roles, like I, I tossed this on, I think, I think it was Twitter.

I, I, cuz I, I had been using Twitter lately to just like work through thoughts, which I kind of like, um, you know, but, but this idea that employers are responsible for putting good jobs in place. Right. And so that’s not necessarily saying like just the person at the director level or the, you know, the kind of senior, senior management level.

But I mean up, up and down like a university, approves those positions approves, approves those jobs. And if you’re an employer, you have, I, I believe you have responsibility to, make those jobs like good and worthwhile and beneficial to the people that are going to go into them. And if you’re not doing that, then why do you have that position in the first place?

Rethink it and create something that you can put together that will be good. And we’re stuck in these, these systems of, you know, the same configurations of marketing offices or, I mean, even advancement offices and all this stuff that we had 30 years ago, and the rest of the world has modernized. And the rest of the, I mean, even the, the industries that we’re now competing with, that weren’t really a concern 15 years ago.

Uh, you know, the, the lack of prestige that, that higher education has in the world these days, like. The fact that we’re not taking those data points into consideration to reevaluate how we even put these hiring structures or these offices together. Uh, it, it points to a, it, it points to that, you know, really slow moving giant ship that you’re trying to turn that we’ve all known has been an issue, but like, I, I don’t, I worry that the industry can’t hold on without a reckoning.

And I, and I honestly think that a lot of, what came out in, in the Simpson Scarborough data in this report it’s just the ramifications of this years and years and years of not paying attention and expecting the status quo of, of in reality, a different kind of generational model of, of hiring and doing this kind of work, uh, to continue working for us.

And it’s. Apparently it doesn’t, apparently we’re losing staff and I, I think that’s a direct result of, of that, that unwillingness to, to reevaluate or, or at least that, that unwillingness to, to recognize that we need to modernize a little bit more than we have.

Steve App: And I think that goes beyond marketing. There was a really, interesting episode of the future you podcast, um, that was recorded at UCLA in which their president talked about the, um, I don’t, I don’t know that, that, that they said this explicitly, um, but this idea that staff low staff turnover has been taken for granted in higher ed for a long time, you know, we’re used to fighting for faculty, but we assume, the Royal we of higher education assumes that staff are going to want to work at their local college or university and they’re gonna want to stay. And I think there is now a realization at the most senior levels that, that, that is not the reality any longer.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Well it comes, back to that flexibility too. Remote work is a thing, now, like one thing that kept me in higher ed for so long when I’m, I may have looked elsewhere is the fact that I’m in Conway, Arkansas. There’s not a whole lot of job opportunities for social media managers. So if you leave your social media manager job, at the local university.

Right. Okay. Yeah. There’s a couple universities around us, but. They’re fully staffed. Right? And there’s, I mean, where am I gonna go? But now there is a world of jobs and opportunities open for social media managers in these jobs with graphic designers and, and other jobs that can be done, done remotely, that where it used to be, you know, you’ll say you’re a graphic designer somewhere in Nebraska.

like, yeah, the college is gonna be your best option for a job, but guess what? That’s not the case anymore.

Steve App: And it’s gonna be really interesting to see how quickly, this shift occurs with increased flexibility because I do believe wholeheartedly that it’s coming. I do believe higher education is working on adding increased flexibility as an option for administrators who are not fully student facing. Moving forward, there was an interesting report in inside higher or article in inside higher ed, not too long ago in which they talked about human resources departments working with staffing firms to try to get a better grip on employees who work across state lines, but I think you’re gonna see campuses who are, um, maybe more urban in their location or are in desirable cities who will not face that same pressure as quickly as the campuses that as you mentioned, J.S. are maybe in more rural areas of the country, um, in which it’s harder to, recruit individuals to come relocate to those places and live nearby campus. Those are the campuses that are gonna have to move a little bit quicker than others, because the alternative is, is a little bit more, um, existential.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: And oddly enough, those seem to be the campus’s most resistant to it.

Joel Goodman: Okay. So knowing, knowing all this, like seeing the, seeing the retention problems that we, you know, turned up in your data, but we also kind of knew anecdotally were, were happening anyway. Um, and we know that it’s a, it’s a extremely complicated issue. Um, it’s not gonna be solved by a podcast episode or, you know, purely by, by more visibility.

Um, where do you think we, we move from like, are there, are there ways that you all have been kind of I don’t know, throwing around maybe at Simpson Scarborough in your, in your, in your slack or whatever y’all use for messaging or that you’ve just been like, kind of like sitting in your head, you know, before you go to sleep or like early mornings on your runs, like what, uh, what are some ways we can start, to work towards this. I I like, and I have think like, there’s probably, it’s probably too much to ask that just like an institution systemically changes , you know, the problems. So I think like for, especially for those of us that, feel that we’re champions of our friends and colleagues that work on campuses, and then for those folks that listen, that, that are considering that jump, but don’t want to yet, um, how, how can we frame or how do you think we can frame some ways to start to push this, this effort forward from, from the inside?

Steve App: Well, I hope this is a start. This report is a start more than anything. And you know, a lot of people looked at this report and had the reaction of this, isn’t surprising. The data is not surprising. I still think it’s really important that it exists in the market and in the public, because there’s a difference between anecdotally it feels like we’re in trouble and we all feel it.

But also look at, quantitatively backed report that puts on display the challenges that we’re facing. And so I hope this report is a start. I hope it’s used as leverage in conversations that CMOs in particular, who are at that level to affect systemic change can use in conversations with their, their colleagues in human resources with their president, with their, um, individuals on their board.

Although, again, I think there’s a caveat that it’s not like marketing is the only department within a campus where this is a struggle. So yes, the president needs to see this, but the president is also feeling this well beyond marketing.

Joel Goodman: IT is seeing this too very, like, very closely there, like there. Yeah, there are a lot of, there are a lot of connected organizations within institutions that are just finding themselves without staffing that they thought they were gonna have. And, and then realizing, oh, this is a critical role for what we do.

Steve App: I hope CMOs use this, uh, in those conversations, I think too. Certain CMOs within our industry have moved the needle on some of these aspects. Right. And again, there is no silver bullet. Um, it’s gonna be hard to just increase, pay rates $20,000 or 10% across the board. Right now, that’s not a realistic situation, but there are things that are related to feeling valued.

There are things related to increased flexibility for non-student facing positions. Those are areas in which certain leaders within our industry and our profession have, been able to enact more change and faster change than others. And I hope that we can start conversations among peers at the CMO level to learn from one another to say, how did you do that?

How did you get this role approved to be fully remote, not just hybrid, but fully remote? What roles for you are hybrid, which are fully remote and which are required to be on campus? Because again, it’s a lot of, this is about leverage. If we can start to say, here’s an example where someone has done this and where it has worked, this is the difference in their candidate pool.

This is the difference in the quality of the work. The more we can do that, the more quickly we can try to recover some of the losses we’ve seen. The other thing that I hope that I hope we do with this. Is two. And I think you were alluding to this earlier, joel is to just revisit those staffing structures entirely.

Um, we, we actually talked to one campus last week where they had six open roles within marketing and communications across the, the university. And before they just went ahead and filled those roles, they were looking to do kind of an assessment of their organizational structure to de to determine if those were the right six roles that they should be filling, or if they should be thinking differently about how to use those resources.

I hope that, yeah. I hope more institutions try to take that approach and think differently about, okay, I’ve lost those five roles. Do I need them, or should I be thinking about it a little bit differently? The, the catch there, is we know from the report that there’s an immense, strain on those who choose to stay when all of those positions open up.

And so the longer that that process takes the larger, the delay in refilling positions, regardless of whether it’s a one-to-one backfill or a shift in structure, the more at risk we are that those individuals who at this point have stayed, are also going to leave, and so I don’t think we can take too long on that process, but I do, admire and appreciate the strategic approach with which universities are thinking about backfills and, um, organizational structures. And I hope that continues.

The last thing that I hope we do with this report in terms of taking steps to fix the situation. And we haven’t really talked about this yet, but 88% of respondents. And remember we had almost 900 higher education marketing professionals who responded to the survey. 88% were white. Uh, there was recently a few weeks ago, a larger employee retention survey done by CUPA HR that surveyed, I think, close to 4,000. Higher education employees across all different areas of a campus and 80% of those respondents were white.

So part of this, and I should say the obvious instead of just moving forward, the obvious point there is that that breakdown does not represent the breakdown of the audience that we are trying to reach, connect with. Influence, um, that’s a problem when those who are responsible for telling the story, of a college or university.

Are not reflective of the audience that needs to hear and believe in that story. So we can talk about org structures and we can talk about maybe increasing staff or changing which staff we consider to be mission critical to have in-house moving forward. But a really important part that I hope comes from this survey too, is that people start taking meaningful steps to change the diversity, of their staffs to make them more inclusive. And that is something that I think higher ed marketing in particular is, has not done a great job of in the past.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Indeed into that, that same note, one of those things you talked about, you know, people reading this report and saying, oh, I’m not surprised. Like I’m not surprised about this, but I’m still shocked and angered, but like this pay discrepancy between men and women on college campuses, which is, you know, across the board in all industries, but this is something that like HigherEd should be leading the charge to combat. And we are just as guilty, if not more, more so, uh, In it. Um, and I think, I think bringing this to light shining it, you know, some light is the ultimate disinfectant, and I think having, having that information out there is a step one of, of solving the problem, but it’s also step one.

There are many other steps that we have to continue to make.

Joel Goodman: And I think it’s a topic that deserves an entire episode from us too. Like, you know, we’re, we’re, we’re getting towards the end of this episode. And I don’t want to just like kind of flippantly throw out that, hey, there’s a huge, uh, wage gap and discrepancy between, uh, you know, obviously men who work in higher ed and women that work in higher ed, uh, because it’s a weighty issue, uh, everywhere and specifically I think, you know, causes a lot of it perpetuates a lot of harm that I’m, I’m not sure higher ed wants to perpetuate. Uh, but I, I think, uh, I think that’s something we need to, we need to have an entire episode on J.S., uh, and, and invite some, maybe some non-white male voices to, uh, to the conversation.

Steve App: Yeah, I think there’s, it’s a good point. Uh, Joel. But I do. I do think, yeah, we, we are three, uh, white guys just talking about this, but I think it’s important for three white guys to talk about it and to bring it up. Um, we need more diversity in the voices that are sharing this, but, but there is absolutely a role for us all in calling that out too.

And so, uh, wanted to make sure we do that today.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: So we could talk about this all day. Like there’s so much. And I could start spilling the tea about all the things in there that that really just resonated, uh, with me. But I think we’ll probably need to leave it there just to, uh, to, to save my own, uh, mental health and, and revisiting some of some of those things, but, um, really appreciate having you on here.

Where can people find you? Where can they get a hold of this report and read this? Like, how can they just put it in, in, into a box and send it to the stakeholders on their university, like give us all the details.

Steve App: Well, it prints and fits nicely in a shoebox that you can wrap and put through the USPS. If you need to send it to your president or board chair, um, you can find that on our website, which is SimpsonScarborough.com. Uh, just click on the. Uh, menu tab on our, on our homepage. And it’s right up there at the top, in terms of the most recent research that we’ve released.

Um, you can also learn a little bit more, uh, if you visit our blog, which is just insights dot Simpson, scarborough.com we’ll be posting some new articles that are follow ups from the report here over the next several weeks. Uh, we are at SimpScar on Twitter, which is a great place to follow us all. Uh, and then I’m at Stephen App, Stephen with a ph because other spellings are incorrect on Twitter. If you need to find me,

Jon-Stephen Stansel: As always, Jon without an H and Stephen with, that’s how it should be done.

Steve App: I’m glad we could agree on that.

Joel Goodman: Thank you so much for listening to Thought Feeder, you can find us online at thoughtfeederpod.com. We’re also on Twitter @ThoughtFeedPod. If you liked this episode, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. We are everywhere, and you can find us and we would love for you to subscribe. We’ve got plenty of new content coming out over the next several months, if not longer, as long as we can keep this going.

But once again, we want to thank Steve App for being, on the show for a second time, Steve, you are the first person to be a guest for a second time, and, uh, and I think it was fitting because if I remember correctly, last time you were, you were talking about how we were scraping the bottom of the barrel, but now I think you have just risen to the top and are the cream of the crop.

So thanks again for being on the show.

Steve App: Uh, thanks for having me fellas, it was, a real lot of fun.