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Higher ed Pros Play and Learn in Rochester

Leaders in higher education gathered in Rochester, N.Y. last week for the annual State University of New York Council for Advancement (SUNYCUAD) Conference. Staying with this year’s “playful” focus in the hometown of the Strong National Museum of Play and the National Toy Hall of Fame, Tipping Point Communications was a sponsor and helped attendees recapture their youthful spirits with fresh popcorn we popped on-site in an old-fashioned popcorn cart.

Higher ed Pros Play and Learn in Rochester

Each year, the SUNYCUAD Conference event provides “high-quality programming, designed to allow us to renew, refresh and re-energize ourselves with creative ideas, all while we network—and have some fun—with good friends and colleagues,” according to SUNYCUAD Board of Directors President Dan Doyle. This year’s sessions included: social media best practices, optimizing project campaigns, successful student storytelling, alumni and donor relations, marketing and branding sessions, and a crisis communications workshop. 

Our Tipping Point team attended the conference to better understand what marketing, communication, and digital needs higher ed institutions have that are not currently being met. Attendees were full of excitement and eager to share their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities ahead.


“The best things I learned this year came from Colleen Brennan-Barry’s talk on the digital landscape of the future,” said Rachel Coker, director of research advancement at Binghamton University. “She encourages people to “COPE: Create Once; Publish Everywhere,” which I think is very smart. This philosophy, of course, means that content is more important than ever. And that’s good news for people like me who have interesting stories to tell about what’s happening at our universities.”

Coker was also a presenter at the conference with Michael Sgro, executive director of alumni engagement at SUNY Cortland. The duo shared 25 Tweetable Truths About #HESM, with important lessons in higher ed social media.

“Attending SUNYCUAD and speaking with members gave us valuable insight,” said Rachael Unger, an account executive with Tipping Point Communications who works with our higher ed clients. “A common challenge for colleges and universities is internal communication, where a ‘silo mentality’ can leave departments unaware of each others’ marketing and communications efforts. Similarly, attendees pointed to the importance of crisis communications planning and crisis management, but shared stories of how they found out about situations on campus from social media before internal channels.”

While the fundamentals of PR and social media in higher ed are similar to other industries, there are unique challenges for colleges and universities. Conferences like SUNYCUAD are a great opportunity to learn from other professionals, as well as spark new ideas and partnerships.

Did you attend the 2015 SUNYCUAD Conference? If so, we’d love to hear your takeaways!


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