Marketing and the digital generation – Part two of three

Competition for the attention of the digital generation is generating even greater collaboration between university and college marketing and IT teams.

In the second of our series of three blogs on the topic, Iain G. Morrison, Chief Marketing Officer at the University of Greenwich, offers his views on a productive approach to partnership while UCISA Executive Committee member Paul Butler adds insight on how to achieve the best possible partnership.




“You’ll very often hear people working in marketing, and even in other roles in HE, talking about digital first or mobile first. Whatever the fashionable term of the day — it’s human first,” says Iain G. Morrison. “However brands evolve and change, I think that unless you put human needs first you risk failure.”
“In my view, brands that succeed have a single uniting factor in common and that is an absolutely relentless focus on their respective customers and prospects. If you have that relentless focus, then everything else naturally comes second — whether that is digital, mobile or other priorities to improve the customer experience.”
“For me, it’s people first always. I think particularly in the space of student recruitment which is a life choice for students and young people. It can be daunting. It can be exciting. You can run through a whole gamut of emotions whatever age you are when coming, or thinking about coming, to university.”
“That’s why meeting emotional needs as well as helping toward a future career is so important.”
“While it happens in many other industries, I think close collaboration in terms of marketing and IT in this sector is key. There should be an aligned business strategy that looks at where the business is and where it needs to get to. Marketing, IT, and other stakeholders then work together to review, plan and deliver that through a shared roadmap. “
Paul Butler, Greenwich’s Director of Information & Library Services and a UCISA Executive Committee member, agrees: “I think it’s important to make sure that your entire organisational model for professional services is pitched at the right level.
I meet with our marketing director regularly and we share and have trust – having that ability to have those day-to-day safe, trust-based conversations outside the formality of committees but within the same reporting structure, makes for a healthy and productive relationship. It’s the same healthy rapport from top to bottom within all levels of marketing and IT services,” says Paul.
Iain continues the theme: “It often works best when project teams are created, as we are doing here at the University of Greenwich. Workstreams are identified within the overarching business strategy; and collaborative multipurpose teams are then formed. One I’m leading at the moment brings together various elements of marketing with our IT team so we can move our website on significantly.
“Likewise, we’re not working in silos but as a single team when it comes to other aspects of our digital transformation. Helping drive projects forward successfully comes from working together.
“One of the common themes that runs through a successful collaboration of this kind is communication. In the early days, teams probably need to over-communicate because marketing and IT still tend to speak slightly different languages.
“If you over-communicate, collaborate and work together from the perspective of the user with a relentless focus on improving the customer experience, I don’t think you can go far wrong.”
“However, IT has started to move away from the traditional gamekeeper role around infrastructure and protection. They are moving much more into the delivery of the customer experience and facilitating growth. So, now it’s about communicating to ensure we’re all on the same page and all understand what’s coming next.
“Personally, I’m making an effort to actually learn more about IT’s barriers and challenges. If you can understand where someone is coming from and fully understand their perspective, it makes for better collaboration.”

Key take-outs:

  • Whatever platform you are using, focus first on the customer needs of students in a human way

  • Consider how organisational structures can foster a positive and co-operative culture

  • Learn to talk the same language or over-communicate until you are on the same page


UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via


The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA.

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