Gerry McGovern could not have been a better choice to set the scene for EUPRIO’s 2018 annual conference in Sevilla, Spain, writes Nic Mitchell.
EUPRIO’s Sevilla conference – taking place from 3-6 June under the banner of ‘The Digital Transformation: A challenge for communications in Higher Education’ – is the perfect platform for Gerry McGovern as keynote opening speaker.
The founder and CEO of Customer Carewords has worked for over 20 years with some of the biggest names in the business, such as Microsoft, Cisco, NetApp, Dropbox, VMware, and IBM on delivering a better customer experience. He has also consulted with the European Union, US, UK, Dutch, Canadian, Norwegian, and Irish governments.
His Top Tasks Management research methodology helps commercial organizations and government bodies better understand the most important needs of their customers and employees in the digital age.
In reviewing his latest book ‘Transform: A rebel’s guide for digital transformation’, The Irish Times described Gerry as “one of five visionaries who have had a major impact on the development of the Web”.
His approach is to show that digital transformation is far more about culture change than technology change and his arguments have direct relevance to everyone working in higher education communication and marketing.
Gerry recalls talking to staff and academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia who were trying to create a more common look and feel for the university website. He asked his audience: “What is an organization if it is not organized?” After a moment’s silence someone shouted: “A university!”
Very amusing, but Gerry points to many university websites that are “a jungle of ego and a desert of usefulness” which struggle with even the most basic task of letting you know what courses and programmes are available, or how much it really costs to go to university.
Instead, they too often show “cliché images of happy, multicultural students and use bombastic language” and give the impression that it is a privilege for a student to be accepted by such an august institution, he says.
Giving attention with digital communications
Gerry argues that traditional communications and marketing is about getting attention. Digital communications and marketing is about giving attention.
“This reflects a shift in power structures on the Web. People have much more control because of the Web. They can search, they can compare, they can move from one website to another with a click. They are bombarded by fake news and false promises and are becoming increasingly sceptical and cynical.
“The rise in influence of the current customer is an important phenomen, particularly with regard to social media, where people share stories about their actual experiences with products, services and brands.
“The rise of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Slack, are just a few examples of digital brands that have grown, not through traditional marketing and advertising techniques, but rather by being useful and delivering genuine value to current customers.
“Increasingly, in digital, it is not about the promise but rather the delivery. It’s not about what you say but what you do…. Brands that are succeeding today are constantly proving their usefulness.”
Gerry says there is a growing recognition that organizations “need to do less promising to potential customers, and instead focus on delivering a much better experience to current customers.”
As for higher education communications, Gerry says: “The very best marketer for any university today is a truly happy current student.
“University marketers and communicators should consider doing less selling and more serving. Focus less on the message of how great things will be if you enrol, and more on helping to actually make things great for those who have enrolled.”
Conference organizer José Javier Tejada said: “We are very excited that Gerry has agreed to be our opening keynote speaker. We’re looking forward to hearing his thought-provoking ideas for helping us meet the challenges of the digital transformation in higher education communications.”
- For more information about EUPRIO’s 2018 conference, see