We all have deadlines in our lives. The time to get the kids to school. The time you want that package delivered. The time you were promised a raise.
Successful marketing is based on meeting deadlines. The time the event is happening and you want to maximize attendance. The time applications are due and you want a boatload of them in your admissions director's inbox. The time the website redesign is due to coincide with the opening of school.
Missing deadlines not only disappoints leadership and colleagues (and yourself), it also has a deleterious effect on your marketing efforts, ripping through the school's enrollment and fundraising goals, brand image, and community trust. Not to mention your personal brand.
I was a production manager at a national magazine in my previous life. I loved that job. It played to my organizational strengths and attention to detail. (The latter has gotten weaker in my "older years," just so you know.) During "closing week" (the one running up to the deadline to get the magazine to the printer), I'd wear a promotional button I got from Federal Express (pre-FedEx) that said "Don't Panic" because everyone else was, well, panicking that week. Staffers knew we weren't going to miss a deadline if I had anything to do with it. But there's the catch. Frequently, I didn't have anything to do with it. I needed others to meet their deadlines so that I could meet mine. (Or figure out a workaround, which was often the case.)
My imperative not to miss deadlines meant I needed to be a bit of a hard-ass sometimes — a nice, respectful hard-ass. And you do, too.
You need to assign and announce deadlines way ahead of schedule (and build in secret air time). You need to mention the deadline in a group meeting so that all are aware of it. You need to ask colleagues if they need help with their assignment before the deadline is on top of them. You learn quickly who is likely to be the Deadline Diva or the one who rarely misses a deadline without a good reason. Then concentrate your efforts on the Divas.
My favorite way to acknowledge an upcoming deadline (or to connect with someone who I'm pretty sure is about to miss one) is to send an email whose subject line is "Checking In." I then ask if the person is ok with their part and/or if they need any help. I usually get a "thanks for checking in" in response and then an update on the status.
At the magazine, it got to the point where when I would pass someone in the hall, they would stop and ask, "Do I owe you something?" Just seeing me would elicit a feeling of guilt. Did this make me popular? No. But I wasn't there to be popular. I was there to keep the magazine on-time to the printer, on-budget at the printer, and on-time at the newsstand, ensuring quality control all the way. You have to be demanding at times when a good part of your job is about meeting deadlines. Be (respectfully) demanding. Your personal success and the school's success hinges on it.
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