Change Management for Higher Ed Marketing

The past two years have been full of change for higher education marketers, and the future is likely to continue in the same vein. Now is an excellent time to take a breath, appreciate how we survived the past couple of years of fast pivots, and collect our thoughts to move forward. As we have encountered massive changes in the education we are marketing, we have also had to modify our use of technologies, communication channels, and strategies. This is a good time to look at how we handle changes, new ideas, and new methods and reorganize ourselves to continue planning with flexibility to ride the waves of change that continue to wash over education. Let’s look at ways to effectively manage change so that we can continually transform our processes to respond to a shifting educational landscape.

Why Change is Hard

Change is hard and scary, and people instinctually resist it. In the workplace, employees resist change because they worry about losing their jobs, failing at new tasks, or simply fear the unknown. But the environment and processes can help individuals overcome their resistance to change and even become enthusiastic supporters of transformation.

Mistrust and strategic resistance can make change very difficult to manage. Building trust and teamwork by including all stakeholders in the change process can go a long way towards overcoming these problems and creating a more collaborative work environment. On the other hand, if management uses a top-down approach to change without buy-in from all the team members, this creates resentments and misunderstandings and can hinder the process because each staff member may have valuable input to influence the process or goal. Hence, inclusion benefits organizational change in many ways.

Types of Organizational Changes

There are two basic types of change at the organizational level: adaptive or transformational. and transformational. Adaptive changes are incremental, more minor changes, and in sequence, they may lead to a larger overall goal for change. But each step of the way has time to sink in, and the shifts are more modest. Transformational change happens when you start a new initiative, unveil a new website and marketing strategy, or work within a more extensive transformation of your educational institution.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we were forced to make transformational changes to our marketing efforts, yet we also implemented adaptive changes as conditions changed throughout the pandemic. Maintaining some of these changes will likely benefit future adaptability and deserve to be permanent as we look forward. Admissions offices may also be looking to improve upon these changes to allow our work processes to continually evolve to be more responsive to the individual student and overall institutional needs.

The 8 Steps for Successful Change Management

There are various ideas about managing organizational change. Still, the one that stands out for its attention to the motivational and logistical challenges is the model created by John Kotter, a Harvard Business School professor specializing in change. Here are the steps he has identified:


  1. Create Urgency

The Covid pandemic created a sense of urgency that lit a fire under all of the faculty and staff, making quick transitions to online courses and processes possible. However, without a looming disaster hanging over our heads, we need to create urgency more consciously for change. You can do this by identifying potential threats or repercussions, highlighting the opportunities, initiating dialogues to convince people of the necessity, and involving key stakeholders.

  1. Build a Powerful Team

Find the key stakeholders and change leaders within your staff and put them together into an effective team to guide the transitions. Involve people from different departments and functions and provide them with the time and tools to lead the process.

  1. Develop a Vision and Strategy

The guiding team needs to examine core values, define the vision, and develop the strategies to use when implementing changes.

  1. Communicate Clearly for Buy-In

It is of utmost importance that all staff members become invested in the process. This requires clearly and powerfully communicating the vision, the underlying reasons for the change, and openly discussing concerns that arise. Communication can help the whole organization to begin pulling in the same direction.

  1. Remove Barriers to Enable Action

Ensure that the processes and structures are in place to allow the shifts to occur. Look for resistance or obstacles so that you can work to remove them. Reward employees who support the process of moving the organization forward and endorse change.

  1. Build In Short-Term Wins

Create short-term gains and milestones early in the process to give positive feedback and keep the process moving. Make smaller targets within the larger goal to provide the feeling of achievement, lower the risk of failure, and allow staff to envision action. Reward the contributions of staff who are meeting the targets.

  1. Sustain and Accelerate Change

Once you have had some initial success in implementing changes, accelerate the process to keep moving towards the ultimate goal. It is easy for organizations to encounter resistance or regression as change takes hold, so consolidating your gains is essential. Share the success stories and reach for continuous improvement to keep up the pressure to transition.

  1. Anchor the Change

To keep the change within the organization, you must anchor the changes through group behavioral norms and shared values. Make the changes an integral part of your organization’s operations, share the successes, and ensure that leaders continue to support the change.


The Stages of Individual Change

The changes in your admissions marketing will require each of your staff to change as well. This model for individual behavioral change can be helpful as you consider the process that people within your organization may pass through to implement changes to their own activities.



Change management has become a priority in college recruitment efforts, as methods, processes, and target students all change with the turbulent times. Yet the urgency of our mission remains the same. As we become more comfortable with change as part of our jobs, we can manage the transitions more effectively to continue our vital work to keep higher education enrollments strong no matter the shifting conditions in the world and within education.

Contact us today  to find out how we can help level up .your education marketing strategy

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you adapt to the evolving education marketing landscape and ramp up your efforts, please contact us today.

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