Time to think beyond tomorrow

14 October 2020

Co-founder Andrew Crisp digests the views from external relations staff at business schools: low marketing budgets and absence of a clear strategy means institutions are often guided by short-term goals, according to a new survey conducted by EFMD, Roe Communications and CarringtonCrisp.


External relations, whether that’s marcoms, alumni, corporate or international roles, need to become more strategic and less short-term, but it won’t be easy. Responses from a new survey conducted by EFMD, Roe Communications and CarringtonCrisp found that many of those working in external relations fields find their work compromised by too much short-term thinking, the absence of a clear strategy in their institution and lack of budget.

 Yet, while there will always be demands for short-term action, not least in the immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic, external relations should be about strategic activity. External relations is engaged in building long-term relationships that enhance the reputation of an institution, whether that is with prospective students who become long-term ambassadors as alumni, with international partner institutions who develop global presence or with corporates who engage as recruiters, research funders or learning partners. All of these relationships, create long-term benefit for a business school if managed effectively.

However, the study, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, finds short-term thinking everywhere. While 57% of the respondents indicate that they are involved in formal training, 53% of report that a lack of training is one of the reasons they are not as effective as they might be in their role and 31% suggest that a lack of training is one of the reasons they may change jobs. Only just over half (56%) regularly evaluate and measure the impact of their external activity, with some limited to assessing impact through social media likes and followers.

And in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, 47% of respondents anticipate a cut in their budget over the next three years, while only 25% believe funding will grow. Of course, higher education has been badly hit by the pandemic, but while two-thirds believe their school is clearly differentiated from competitors, 60% think it is becoming more difficult, potentially impacting on student recruitment, reputation and much more.

Gartner, the research and advisory firm, suggested in their 2018-19 marketing expenditure survey that companies spend on average 11.2% of their revenue on marketing. Few business schools reach such levels, especially when the full range of external relations roles are included, but with funding under risk at so many institutions it will become even more difficult to focus on the strategic rather than just delivering for the short-term.

A copy of the report, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, can be downloaded free of charge at: https://bit.ly/2H7i5M0

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