5 Questions: Deby Samuels, Lipscomb University

Meet Deby Samuels, VP University Communication and Marketing

Samuels_Deby_colorThis is the first in our series “5 Questions” where we ask some of the top folks in their fields to answer questions about their world, their brand, their marketing challenges and their life.

1.    What makes you smile? 

Easy. A really great headline. Makes me envious too.

 2.    What is changing the most in education today?

The entire value proposition of higher education is changing. Once, all a university had to do was offer a set number of classes that started at a couple of predictable times a year and attract a number of 18-year-olds and that was pretty much it. Over simplification, of course, but as a rule, no one questioned the cost, the quality, the delivery methods, the choices, or even when and what time of year it was offered. Consumerism and competition have changed everything in higher ed now, especially our dear Four Ps:  product (classes are offered at all hours of most days, price (discounted rates strategies to compete), place (from off-campus to online to thousands at one time through Massive Open Online Courses [MOOCs]), and promotion (gone are the days of just mailing out a catalog with a letter to recruit). The quest is no longer knowledge as value leader, but attractiveness to the workplace. Colleges and universities are held accountable for proving quality, cost, the success of the graduate in the workplace and more.

3.     What is the most exciting thing you have worked on during your time at Lipscomb?

For years, each entity within my university had pretty much done their own thing through a decentralized budgeting approach, including communication design, messaging that was all over the waterfront, absolutely no voice echo, etc. We were losing a huge synergy dividend, and, on very, very slim nonprofit budgets, that is nigh unto catastrophic!

So we undertook a process of listening to our various markets and discovered our brand essence, as it plays today, for the university. We then applied it to a brand look, a brand voice and brand message, through everything including a new website, and “encouraged” the campus to embrace it. Not saying they all did, but we came mega-miles down the road.

My proudest moment was when my boss (President Randy Lowery), who was looking at a file of completed communication pieces I had handed him, looked at me and said, “I see what you mean. I get it. These all look like the same Lipscomb talking.” This may be the only place in marketing that “sameness” is the best thing you can hope for! And I think it is not an accident that about that time I started hearing over and over and over again from the community, “Lipscomb, they sure are doing a lot!” Yes we are, but they were also hearing an message-consistent institution.

4.  Tell us about strong female role models in your career.

I cannot remember a single woman who worked at my first ad agency who was not a secretary.

But as my career moved on, there have been many in which I’ve found qualities I wanted to emulate. The strength of Janice Ericson at EE&A, an advertising powerhouse in the Southeast in the ‘80s.   The leadership capability of Audrey Seitz Kidd who is COO at United Methodist Publishing in Nashville and has had a successful career in health care as well as her present publishing path. The message management skills of Linda Peek Schacht, a college classmate who is presently on the faculty at Lipscomb after a distinguished career in the White House, Coke and Harvard.  The balanced, analytical mind of our Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Nancy Magnusson Durham. Diane Cothran’s ability to maintain a sense of humor and balance in the storm — Diane was HR head for one of my major national employers. And, of course, Jamie Dunham, whose insight into consumer behavior and understanding of the owner and application of brand is deep (don’t edit this out, Jamie…).

5. What’s your favorite part of the week?

Saturday mornings when I wake up with absolutely nothing to do! What a decadent feeling to just follow your nose around for a few hours.

Deby Samuels is Vice President of University Communication and Marketing at Lipscomb University, a private, faith-based, doctoral-granting university that has been a part of Nashville since 1891. Deby’s 40-year marketing career includes a range of experience in the various tools of marketing. She has worked as a copywriter, an account executive, a strategist, a public relations professional, a marketing head, in both for-profit and nonprofit, as well as in agency, corporate and, presently, in university-based higher education. She spends her free time kayaking, playing the hammered dulcimer, doting on Campbell the Wonder Dog and wondering where all her free time went…

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