Registration Now Open for Strategically Speaking Webinar Series
by Deb Gere on February 6th, 2015

SimpsonScarborough is conducting a series of webinars throughout 2015 that you won’t want to miss! Learn the complete process of developing (or maintaining) a strong and enduring brand from initial market research through measuring your marketing ROI.
Executive-level marketers will benefit from the strategic overview of a branding initiative and the case studies, while mid-level marketers will learn from the specific and tactical steps presented by SimpsonScarborough’s leadership.

2015 topics and dates include:

  • March 12: Key Steps to Building an Enduring Brand Strategy
  • May 7: Harnessing the Power of Research and Data to Build a Brand
  • July 9: Principles of a Strong Positioning Strategy
  • September 10: Creatively Expressing Your Brand Strategy
  • November 12: Effectively Measuring Marketing ROI

Each webinar is scheduled from 1 to 2:30 p.m. ET. For full descriptions of each session and information on registering, click on the link below. There, you can sign up for the entire series all at once or sign up for individual webinars.


  • $295 per each webinar
  • $1,180 for the entire series (a savings of $295)

What you get:

  • Access to the live webinar through a link that is unique to you—we encourage you to invite your colleagues and project the webinar to turn it into a mini-town hall event
  • Access to a recording of the webinar

Registration is now open here.

SimpsonScarborough Seeks Full-time Project Strategist
by wandah on April 20th, 2015

Project Strategist-Old Town Alexandria, VA

What’s more important than finding a job where the people you work with care about you and the work you’re doing matters? Well, nothing. Except, maybe, the chance to be independent, trusted, and supported at the same time. We’ll expect a lot from you but we’ll support what you need to deliver, and then champion your every success. That’s what you’ll find working at SimpsonScarborough, a market research, brand strategy and creative services firm that works exclusively with colleges and universities.

We’re currently seeking a Project Strategist for our headquarters office in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Candidates should have 1-3 years of project management experience and an interest in branding, marketing, market research and higher education is preferred. Day-to-day, you’ll be responsible for making sure communication with clients is timely, accurate, and personal. You’ll manage and establish timelines and client correspondence as well as supporting both qualitative and quantitative market research, including drafting survey instruments and moderator guides, working with external data collection, and coordinating and conducting focus groups and written reports. Candidates must have exceptional time management skills and the ability to multitask.

The position requires approximately 10% of travel, visiting some of the nation’s finest college campuses. Salary is commensurate with experience but begins at $40,000. Please submit cover letters and resumes to Wanda Hoath at For additional information about SimpsonScarborough you can visit our website at

Introducing the 2015 SimpsonScarborough Scholars
by Deb Gere on February 5th, 2015

SimpsonScarborough is pleased to announce the selection of four CASE SimpsonScarborough Scholars for 2015. Launched in 2009 in honor of our late founding partner Christopher Simpson, the program supports the professional development of promising higher ed marcomm practitioners. This year’s scholars, chosen from 27 nominees, are:

Kevin Bersett, copy editor/writer, Illinois State University
Kevin was nominated for his impressive work for ISU’s alumni magazine, as well as his strong work ethic and determination to continue growing his skill set—for example, pushing himself to use multiple media to tell stories and increasing his social media expertise. University Marketing/Communications executive director Brian Beam and associate director Susan Blystone both specifically commented on Kevin’s work covering the biology department’s study abroad trip to Costa Rica—writing the cover story for the alumni magazine, shooting photos and video, blogging about the trip and compiling photo, video and sound files for use in social media. You can see some of Kevin’s work on ISU’s Stories website and the @ISUResearch Twitter feed he manages.

“It is an honor to be accepted for such a selective program. I’m looking forward to gaining access to CASE’s resources, including the InfoCenter, and attending the summer institute. I think this opportunity will be a boon to me and to my employer, Illinois State University.”

Shana Heinricy, director of marketing and communications,
Trinity Preparatory School
, Winter Park, Florida
Shana previously worked as a professor and researcher of communication, publishing 11 research articles and presenting 26 conference papers on public communication. As an executive board officer of the Women’s Division of the National Communication Association, she mentored young women communication scholars. Although Shana comes from a different area of communications work, Carolyn Wisniewski, director of development at Trinity Preparatory, nominated her because she sees Shana as a potential leader, one who would take full advantage of the opportunities the SimpsonScholarship program would offer her. Follow @shanaheinricy on Twitter.

“I’m so honored and excited to be a SimpsonScarborough Scholar. This program will provide access to the tools, resources and mentors that I need to grow in communications in the education sector. It feels wonderful that a prestigious organization like SimpsonScarborough is investing in my future.”

Jessie McHeffey, advancement communications associate,
Stony Brook University

Elizabeth Craz, advancement communications director at Stony Brook, recommended Jessie for her work over the past two and a half years, noting that she has “developed into an accomplished communications professional with a particular interest in and talent for developing and delivering content for electronic and social media channels.” Among Jessie’s many responsibilities are alumni and donor communications, website development and maintenance, copy editing, and print production. Follow her @jessmcheff on Twitter.

“It is an honor to be included among this talented group of advancement communications professionals, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to learn from others who share my passion for communications. As a member of the Stony Brook University advancement communications team, I love sharing the compelling stories of our students, alumni and donors each day, and I feel honored to have this opportunity to grow as a storyteller and digital communicator. As Stony Brook embarks upon a comprehensive campaign, I am thankful to CASE and SimpsonScarborough for access to all of these wonderful resources and for all the knowledge I will gain from these thought leaders and pioneers in higher education communications.”

Nicole Smith, digital media specialist, Drake University
Nicole began her career with Drake in 2013 in the Office of Alumni and Development, where she started the University’s Social Media Ambassador program, communicating with and training alumni to be ambassadors for the university on social media. She also helped lead digital efforts for Drake’s All-In 24-hour online giving campaign. Now a digital media specialist in the Office of University Communications, Nicole develops and executes strategy for Drake’s top-level social media accounts and works to coordinate efforts across campus. Explore Drake’s social media library and follow @njobst on Twitter.

“By nature, working in the higher education industry ensures you are constantly learning. What attracted me to the SimpsonScarborough Scholarship is that this personal development opportunity for me will ultimately advance the image and reputation of Drake University. In my professional and personal life, I am constantly seeking ways I can help the world fall in love with Drake as much as I have. I can’t wait to see how being a scholar will benefit both myself and Drake.”

Strategically Speaking 2015 Webinar Series
by Deb Gere on January 9th, 2015

SimpsonScarborough offers a series of five webinars designed to empower higher ed marketers to build and strengthen brand and marketing initiatives. You can sign up to attend just one webinar or all five in the series. Full descriptions of each webinar are below. Registration will open in early February, and each webinar is scheduled from 1 to 2:30 p.m. ET.

March 12: Key Steps to Building an Enduring Brand Strategy
A college or university’s brand is an asset. Like any other asset, it needs to be managed carefully in order to help an institution achieve its strategic goals. Who are we? What do we stand for? How can we communicate our differentiators in a clear and compelling way? These are the types of questions that often lead an institution to embark on an institution-wide branding effort. But what should such an effort look like? What steps are necessary? Who should lead it? Who should be involved? What outcomes can you expect?

In this session, we kick off our webinar series with an overview of a branding initiative. We’ll talk you through such an effort from soup-to-nuts, providing you with a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to developing a brand strategy that will endure over time and form the foundation of your integrated marketing program.

May 7: Harnessing the Power of Research and Data to Build a Brand
Comprehensive market research is required to develop a brand strategy that will endure over time and unify your institution’s marketing effort. There is no substitute for high-quality market data that describes your institution’s existing brand and charts a course for a future positioning that will support long-term marketing, enrollment, fundraising and image-related goals. What type of research is required? What audiences should be targeted? What are the pros and cons associated with qualitative and quantitative research? How should a study be structured to ensure the resulting data are clear in determining an effective marketing strategy?

In this webinar, these and other questions will be addressed to provide a detailed understanding of the research required to support a branding initiative. We’ll discuss ways to use the research process to engage internal audiences in the branding initiative and how to turn the findings into a powerful brand development tool.

July 9: Principles of a Strong Positioning Strategy
A seminal point in any branding process is developing the positioning strategy. What does a good positioning statement look like? How do you negotiate what it includes and excludes? What role should research play in the process? What format is appropriate for a college or university? How does it relate to your campus mission, vision or strategic plan? Is it possible to develop a strategy that works for all the units of your campus? How can you appropriately address your brand architecture?

In this third webinar of the series, we will address these and other issues related to developing the actual positioning strategy. We will clarify the relationship between the research, brand positioning and creative strategy that will ultimately be developed to bring the positioning to light.

September 10: Creatively Expressing Your Brand Strategy
You’ve done your research, developed a positioning strategy and brought your campus along for the ride. But bringing it to life and expressing it creatively is where the rubber meets the road in a branding initiative. How does an institution effectively move from brand strategy to creative concept and expression? What are the key elements that need to be addressed? How—and should—you touch your school’s logo or logo guidelines? Where does a good idea come from? What does it take to build a case and support for a big idea?

These are among the critical questions in the creative development process. They are answered in the fourth webinar of our series, which will explore the key elements of developing a powerful, moving creative strategy that is authentic to your brand.

November 12: Effectively Measuring Marketing ROI
Now more than ever, higher education marketers need to be able to measure and track brand strength over time and report on marketing effectiveness. What should be measured? What metrics accurately capture the outcomes of the marketing effort? How do you account for the impact on recruiting and fundraising?

These are important and tricky questions that need to be answered in order to help you create a systematic process for measuring marketing outcomes. In this session, we will discuss metrics that should be used to measure your brand strength over time. We will also describe metrics that should be used to monitor the marketing effort in order to support future decision-making and help leadership understand marketing’s impact.

Introducing Our New Strategically Speaking Webinar Series
by Deb Gere on January 8th, 2015

We are excited to introduce our new Strategically Speaking 2015 webinar series! Designed to be watched individually or collectively throughout the year, the series features five distinct webinars that will empower higher ed marketers to build and strengthen brand and marketing initiatives.

Led by SimpsonScarborough’s leadership and drawing on examples from a wide variety of colleges and universities around the country, we will lead you through the complete process of developing a strong and enduring brand, from baseline market research and strategy development to creative execution and measuring return on investment. The Strategically Speaking 2015 webinar series topics include:

March 12: Key Steps to Building an Enduring Brand Strategy
May 7: Harnessing the Power of Research and Data to Build a Brand
July 9: Principles of a Strong Positioning Strategy
September 10: Creatively Expressing Your Brand Strategy
November 12: Effectively Measuring Marketing ROI

The Strategically Speaking webinar series is designed for institutional marketing and communications professionals of all levels. Registration for each session is $295 and includes a unique link to access to the live webcast (invite your whole team!) and a link to the webinar recording. Sign up for all five webinars to receive a discounted rate.

Visit our blog to read an overview of each webinar and for full details. Registration will open in early February, and each webinar is scheduled from 1 to 2:30 p.m. ET. Stay tuned for an update from us. If you are interested in receiving a link to register when it becomes available, email Wanda Hoath at

SimpsonScarborough Adds Creative Division
by Deb Gere on November 5th, 2014

by Elizabeth Scarborough

Since our company’s founding in 2006, we have worked very hard to build a reputation for being truly committed to our clients’ success. We’ve worked on branding research projects for more than 150 colleges and universities in less than a decade and are proud to say that many of those clients have come back to us multiple times, digging deeper as they build their marketing strategies.

But there’s always been a challenging moment for us, that point where we’re asked, “What should we do with all this great data? Can you help us build out a creative concept that brings to life the brand strategy you helped us create?” And many clients have been disappointed we couldn’t keep moving forward together, nervous that something may get lost in the hand-off to another firm or that the momentum built by bringing stakeholders together might be lost.

And that is why we’re excited to announce that SimpsonScarborough is adding a new division focused on developing creative strategies, marketing and communications planning, branding, advertising, digital media and content creation.

Adding a creative division is a natural extension of who we are and positions us to provide an even higher level of service to our clients. This isn’t new territory. All four of our company’s partners have played senior roles in agencies that developed creative. And Vice President Jason Simon, who will head the new division, was the 2013 AMA Higher Ed Marketer of the Year. He led notable creative work and marketing strategies at multiple campuses and prior to that with corporate clients. We recruited Jason for the express purpose of helping the company move in this direction.

We will continue to do amazing market research work and are as delighted as always to work with clients who need only those services. But the research and strategy work we do will now give our team and clients an unmatched confidence in the creative process. Our creative work will not be based on two-day discovery sessions or drop-ins on campus that scratch the surface of our client challenges. There will not be unexpected leaps of faith or ho-hum outcomes. The integrated process we are building will truly allow us to deliver work that leads to real results.

We are going into this audaciously with intentions to do work that sets a new bar for our industry. That’s part of the reason that bringing The D4D on board was an easy decision. Not only has the firm done amazing work, but Creative Director Matt Checkowski and Jason have done that together previously. They developed an award-winning video series on University of California researchers that led to more than a million video views and major awards.

You can expect some updates in the near future on our own brand identity, website, social media and other ways we regularly stay in touch and keep you updated on higher education trends. We look forward to continuing to be your best partner.

Read the press release

Suffolk University applies the brakes to bold new marketing campaign
by Deb Gere on October 3rd, 2014

by Elizabeth Scarborough

Last Friday, Inside Higher Ed reported on a “Provocative Ad Campaign on Pause.” This is an absolutely fascinating case study in the marketing of higher education, and the writer did a great job of capturing many of the thoughts I shared when we spoke last Thursday. But I have a few more observations about the Suffolk University ad campaign that I’d like to share.

Suffolk University is not a SimpsonScarborough client, but I would assume that the very sophisticated marketers at Suffolk went through a lengthy process to determine their brand and campaign strategy. I would not be surprised if they spent a great deal of time and money researching their key audiences to identify Suffolk’s authentic differentiators. I would guess they did not simply hire DeVito/Verdi, their ad agency, and let them run amok with any wild and crazy idea they thought would “get attention.”

After reviewing the campaign, I don’t think getting attention is what it’s about—it’s about shaping the Suffolk brand and communicating the true identity of the institution. If branding is all about differentiating, Suffolk University’s campaign gets an “A.” Sure, they have taken a bold stance akin to the Pepsi Challenge that may be uncomfortable to some, but what’s an institution located in the most competitive higher ed market in the world to do?

The campaign “puts down” other institutions in an attempt to shine a light on Suffolk’s differentiators. I can understand that makes some uncomfortable, but let’s keep in mind which institutions we are “putting down.” I think the Ivys can take it. They’ve been taking a lot worse for a long, long time.

You’ve got to admit that the Suffolk University campaign strikes a chord. It has a distinct tone and personality that I understand is very true to the University and its culture. Suffolk’s marketers and their agency partners seem to have accomplished what so many other universities have failed to do: carve out a brand strategy that is appealing to external audiences, authentic to internal audiences, and different than competitors. It’s a branding trifecta, if you ask me.

All of this is not to say that I would ignore criticism from my new president and others if I were in charge of marketing. But surely, any campaign can be tweaked without losing the core strategy altogether. I would hate to see the campaign watered down to the point that it loses all of its flavor and punch.


How much are colleges and universities spending on marketing?
by Deb Gere on October 3rd, 2014

The Chronicle of Higher Education and SimpsonScarborough recently partnered to conduct a study of higher education marketers. We asked how much you are spending, what your teams look like, and what you are planning for the coming year. The results are in. More than 350 of you participated, allowing us to provide results for institutions in each of three categories: 1) Doctoral-granting universities, 2) Master’s colleges and universities, and 3) Baccalaureate colleges. The official report will be released at this year’s AMA Symposium in Austin, Texas on November 10-13 (register by October 13 to take advantage of the early registration discount). If you aren’t planning to attend the AMA, sign up to receive a copy of the report when it becomes available.


CASE accepting nominations for 2015 SimpsonScarborough Scholars program
by Deb Gere on October 3rd, 2014

CASE is currently accepting nominations for the 2015 SimpsonScarborough Scholars program. Established in 2008, the program honors our founding partner, Christopher Simpson, who passed away that year after a short battle with cancer.  Well-known in higher ed for his work in the fields of media relations and crisis communications, Christopher was strongly committed to serving as a mentor for young advancement professionals. The SimpsonScarborough Scholars program seeks to carry on Christopher’s legacy by supporting the professional development of promising communications and marketing professionals in the education advancement profession. Visit the CASE website for complete details, including scholarship benefits, eligibility requirements and application instructions. The application deadline is Friday, November 14.

In addition to the SimpsonScarborough Scholars program, CASE offers a wealth of other resources for higher education marketers, as detailed in this blog post from May 2014.

Genesis of a Brand Platform: Wheelock College “Tough Enough”
by Deb Gere on August 1st, 2014

Inside Higher Ed recently featured Wheelock College’s bold new “Tough Enough” marketing campaign in its article “Boston institutions try to grab attention with provocative marketing efforts.”

A SimpsonScarborough client, Wheelock had never before engaged in a comprehensive advertising or marketing campaign in its 126 year history. But leadership knew that competing in the crowded Boston higher education landscape—on the heels of a recession and faced with the demographic reality of a shrinking national pool of high school students—meant taking action.

If those challenges were not enough, Wheelock—a former women’s college primarily known for its programs in the helping professions, particularly early childhood education, child advocacy and social work—wanted to attract a more diverse student body in terms of race and ethnicity, geography, socioeconomic backgrounds and learning styles. And while not the primary goal, they also wanted to attract more males. Despite being a coeducational institution for 60 years, males still represented less than 10% of students, a figure leadership seeks to double by 2020. Meeting these admission goals would mean not just finding more students, but finding the right students, those who shared a passion for the school’s mission to “improve the lives of children and families.”

But there was concern that this focus on improving lives was too narrow and limiting. To find out, Wheelock turned to SimpsonScarborough in 2011 for extensive qualitative and quantitative research. Instead, the research revealed that current students, faculty, staff and alumni all identified this as the institution’s most distinctive attribute. According to SimpsonScarborough CEO Elizabeth Scarborough, “Wheelock College is one of very few colleges or universities I have ever worked with where every single person you talk with can recite a portion of the mission statement.”

This mission statement also resonated strongly with prospective students, who identified it as the most appealing attribute in their decision where to enroll and who strongly associated this attribute with Wheelock. In other words, this mission was not only a point of pride for the Wheelock community, but a clear differentiator in the Boston higher education market. The implication was clear—keep the brand intact and market it more. But how?

The answer came through Wheelock’s work with creative firm Mindpower in late 2012 and 2013. “The Mindpower team told us that in interviews, they were consistently being told that outsiders didn’t understand the extent of the challenge faced by practitioners in the helping professions,” said Wheelock marketing manager Stephen Dill. Wheelock had the opportunity to reinforce its mission and elevate the helping professions. They could show what it means to be “tough enough” to inspire a world of good.

Mindpower began the work of delineating the personality, values, promise and creative expression of what it means to be “tough enough.” Anything new involves a transition,” said Beth Kaplan, communication and external affairs manager at Wheelock. “We had some alumni who were really supportive and some who were very critical. But whether feedback is negative, positive or neutral, it’s important that everyone’s thoughts are heard.” This feedback was essential in refining the strategy over the course of the year leading to the fall 2013 brand launch. In preparation for that launch, the leadership and marketing team worked diligently to explain to the Wheelock community how they arrived at “Tough Enough,” the emotion and intent of the brand platform, and what it meant in terms of creative expression of the brand. Wheelock “tough,” they explained, isn’t about being rough, mean or aggressive, but rather about the inner strength needed to work in the helping professions. As Wheelock President Jackie Jenkins-Scott explains, “It takes resilience, persistence, and patience to help a child learn to read, to advance human rights, or to steer a teenager back on track.”

As noted in the Inside Higher Ed article, the campaign is already showing results. While not wholly attributed to marketing, as the branding changes were being made as a full rebuild of the undergrad admissions process was instituted, campus visits have increased 60% over last year, the class entering in fall 2014 is 35% larger than the fall of 2013, and male applications are up 20%.The influence of the design and implementation of the “Tough Enough” campaign cannot be denied.

“When we started working with Wheelock, the leadership was worried that the focus on ‘improving the lives of women and children’ was too narrow and limiting,” said Elizabeth Scarborough. “But we discovered the opposite. By focusing even more on this positioning, Wheelock opened itself up to so many more people. That’s Great Branding 101—focus your positioning so that people who share your passion and vision can find you.”

To see more of the campaign work visit