In the July/August 2022 issue, Nick Eppley, the assistant director of Marketing and Communications at Colorado State University, shares advice on marketing.
What does a day of planning campus rec marketing at Colorado State University look like?
NE: Part of what I love about this work is that every day is a little different. Some days we get to brainstorm new and innovative ways to connect with students. Other days we’re planning out content and projects to make sure everyone on the team has a clear path forward. Other days we’re creating prints, organizing giveaway items and setting up event spaces. Each brings its own sense of accomplishment. We work to balance the big-picture strategic planning with time and space to execute projects well. My amazing student staff continuously surprise me with their ability to bring projects to life through their creative skillsets.
Describe one of your favorite campus rec marketing campaigns over the years.
NE: I’ve only worked in Campus Recreation for about a year — after six years working in our student union — but thus far one project that really stands out is Radical Self Love week. It was amazing to see the excitement our department had in bringing this program back and making it bigger than ever. We were able to create a simple yet effective visual brand language and some exciting new media such as a logo motion graphic and large stanchion branding. These helped to:
- Tie the campaign together.
- Draw the attention of passing patrons.
- Make the event feel appropriately substantial after two years of pandemic-related adjustments.
What have been your most successful marketing strategies?
NE: The first that comes to mind is embracing co-creation throughout creative projects, both with student staff as well as patrons when possible. The more involved students are in the creation and execution of a campaign, the better it will connect with their peers — though it does take a little longer to pull together. This also creates opportunities to bring diverse identities and perspectives to the table from the start and helps counter individual implicit bias.
Another strategy I’ve found helpful is regularly and thoughtfully assessing collaborative opportunities across campus. Many existing partnerships can continue to be strengthened and adapted. New opportunities that may not have made sense in the past can suddenly be the perfect fit for a current initiative.
A third strategy that weaves through everything else is prioritizing consistent assessment and making data-driven decisions throughout the marketing lifecycle. As marketers, we must keep digging for as much data as we can. Then use it to inform our next steps. And embrace a spirit of curiosity as we start the cycle over again and again.
What top lessons have you learned over the years?
NE: One lesson I’ve learned is that perfection is rarely possible but progress always is. I’ve found focusing more on fostering a drive to keep trying and growing versus fixating too hard on “what could have been” creates the most sustainable outcomes in the long run and keeps team members far more engaged. Another lesson is that marketing channels, approaches and messages must be more fluid and responsive than ever. What might have been best practice previously rarely still is.