Tips for a Clutter-Free Communication Strategy” by Mary DeLuca, VP of Interact.

Fall is fast approaching, along with the return of faculty and related requests for program-level support. Add this to the unprecedented enrollment pressure marketing staffs have been working under all summer, and you’re likely dreaming of a better way. 

Now is the perfect time to clean out your communication toolkit. Applying Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo’s methods may be just the approach you need. 

“You probably have a strong desire to change your current situation, to reset your life, to improve your lifestyle, to gain happiness, to shine,” Kondo shares in her bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

If you’ve dreamt of a calmer, more confident future at work, let’s put your imagination to the task. No matter the year or the challenges, the expectations placed on you and your department will always exceed your current budget and level of staffing. So, you need to identify those things worth doing. Plus, wouldn’t you rather pour your time and passion into what brings you joy?

Recently inspired by the KonMari method at home, I discovered insights that I believe can also restore balance and invite good fortune for two-year college marketing professionals.

Ready to put your marketing house in order so you can shine? Try following these three tips from Kondo.

1. Take Inventory

The first step to tidying up at home is to gather all of your belongings together to see what you have. The pile may be daunting, but it can be sorted and reduced. The same is true for tidying up your marketing house. Gather all of your outreach communications. Consider doing so by call-to-action. Categorize by the intent to:

  • attract new students and build brand awareness, 
  • convert prospective students from interest and application to registration, and
  • engage, retain, and recover continuing students and previously enrolled students. 

Approach this like a special event. Pull key members of your team together and make it celebratory. Set aside ample time in a pleasant location where you will not be interrupted and can enjoy an open, creative mindset. 

Take an honest assessment of what you gather. It’s time to clean out the clutter! Look at available data to determine what is working and what is not. Consider not only direct costs but also staff time needed to produce each item and the resulting impact:

  • Where do you see time or money drains? 
  • Where do you see opportunities to do something more efficiently? 
  • What is no longer effective or necessary? 
  • What will actually move the needle? 

Whether that needle is aimed at driving enrollment, student satisfaction, community support, or another priority, choose the tools that will enhance, not dull, your performance.

According to Marie Kondo, “The task of putting your house in order allows you to confront the issues that are really important.” When you take this same approach with your marketing, you’ll gain clarity and focus, and become more strategic. 

2. Let Go

So how to decide what to let go? It’s common to feel stuck at this point in the process. But don’t shy away. Getting rid of the unnecessary will empower you to become a better decision maker. 

“One of the magical effects of tidying is confidence in your decision-making capacity,” explains Kondo. 

Think quality vs. quantity. Start with the easier decisions. Identify the communications, strategies, and tactics you want to keep—the ones you feel good about because you know they’re the right approach, having the right impact on the right audience. Then, decide what you’re doing that is out of date, out of style, or has outlived its purpose. You know the ones.  You keep doing them, even though they’ve long outlived their usefulness or relevance. This includes the multitude of pesky, little projects leadership “believe” are important or the spaghetti du jour the faculty insist you should toss at the wall—both of which are likely driven by either an attachment to the past or fear of the future. 

Commit to discarding or discontinuing these. Set the expiration date. Holding onto them will weigh you down when you could be free to focus on what’s working well, making a difference, and, dare I say, sparking joy for you and your intended audience. Show how you’ll reallocate the time and money into things you can measure and appreciate. Chances are, this will also enable you to try those new approaches you’ve been dying to pursue. 

3. Spark Joy

Now that you’ve initiated the letting-go process, you are ready for a reset. This reset should be driven by an ongoing commitment to declutter and simplify your marketing strategy and resulting communications. This includes clearing out the academic jargon, administrivia, and internal speak from all outreach activity. 

Comb through your content for big words and stuff that doesn’t mean anything to your prospects or students. The use of unfamiliar terminology can make your audiences feel ignorant at best and outsiders at worst. Comb through again to look for extraneous, confusing, or unnecessary details that could be better shared in a different way or at a different, more appropriate time. 

“By eliminating excess visual information that doesn’t inspire joy, you can make your space much more peaceful and comfortable,” notes Kondo.

This applies to your website, your emails, your social media. Think about how simplifying and improving the visual appeal of your content, regardless of media, can better engage and encourage your audiences. Help them escape the clutter and feel good about taking that next step. Abandon the transactional details for aspirational experiences. Avoid packing everything into one communication, overwhelming your audiences with too much all at once. Rather, selectively treat them to just-in-time helpful bites of information that will guide them kindly along their student journey.

4. Be Inspired

The need to spark a bit more joy in our lives is one insight I’ve certainly gained from the pandemic. Applying the KonMari method to your marketing may be just what you need to avoid burnout, find clarity, and be inspired at work. But you don’t need to tackle your communication clutter alone! Reach out if you need help conducting a communication or website audit, developing your marketing plan, or rewriting and designing your collateral in a user-friendly way. Interact can help!