Marketing means creating and serving a market, and that may not sound suitable for a Catholic institution. But it is.
Without a market with which to interact universities would have no steady stream of enrolments and without these, we are like the symphony orchestra playing to itself in an empty Opera House. So how do you market in a way that respects the position of Ex Corde Ecclesiae on universities, faith and reason?
The first step, as always in the Catholic university, is truth. Marketing involves communication, and marketing departments often include comms functions. Communication should always be of the truth. That does not of course mean saying the whole truth, and in the same way, to every person and in every context. But it does mean that what we do say must be true; that if we are not sure, we shouldn’t say it; that if it sounds misleading or ambiguous, we should rephrase it; and that marketing staff, and all staff, should aim at being truthful in their work.
“Good marketing involves just about every skill of human intelligence and imagination. First, there are words and messages.”
Truthfulness means literally being full of truth – having truth in you so that your first thought is not how to sell but how to draw attention to the truth so as to sell. Truthfulness has to be worked at. None of us is as truthful as we would like to be. Truthfulness is built up by qualities such as personal honesty, striving for accuracy, valuing objectivity, scrutinising our first or most compelling thoughts, allowing others in to express their view, developing grace at accepting critique.
Good marketing involves just about every skill of human intelligence and imagination. First, there are words and messages. In our news-cycle driven age, with social media having chopped down drastically the capacity of people to follow a lengthy or complicated line of reasoning, messages have to be short and concise – which can make it harder to be accurate, and which certainly requires greater imagination. Catholic university marketers can get their message down to short, memorable, truthful statements – and then recall ‘and I must somehow convey Catholic faith or ideals in this.’ It is obviously much easier, and probably more effective, to include the Catholic dimension in the thought and phrase from the beginning.