Customer Service, Social Media and a glass of wine: Reuben offers tips at #hewebROC

It’s okay to be a little bit jealous of Rachel Reuben.  She’s got a staff of 36 people helping her promote and market her employer, Ithaca College.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Thirty. Six. People.

Sweet fancy Skittlebrau, that’s a lot people-based assets.

But once you get done wrapping your head around that number, you can realize that the messages she brought to the podium as the keynote speaker for the first regional HighEdWeb conference held in Rochester can apply to any operation, big or small.

Reuben’s keynote presentation, “Reflect, Repurpose, Restructure and Re-energize Or… Everything I know learned from marching band and McDonald’s” discussed the value of changing and challenging traditional approaches to both the Web and marketing, but also noted the value of principles from “old school” companies such as McDonald’s. That’s where Reuben got her first job and she says still applies many of the ideals she learned there.

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“You need a foundation of customer service first,” Reuben told 120 attendees from 36 schools and seven states.That’s one thing that will never change, Reuben says, despite the mountains of change going on in all corners of the web.

In the 90s, there was a wild west attitude that prevailed on the web. Some of that attitude is coming back as social media emerges, she said.

“Two years ago, social media was little risqué,” now nearly every school calls out a social media presence on their home page. But schools, are still figuring out exactly how to handle social media, just like they had to figure out the web early on.

Social media is a “team sport,” Reuben said.

“Media relations staff, crisis communicators, student affairs professionals need to be social media savvy,” Reuben said.

She encouraged attendees to take a hard look at how their operations are structured to address the changing landscape. And when it comes to finding talent to help in that regard, she noted that layoffs in the media are creating deep pools of talented writers looking for work.

“Change is needed, and change can be really good,” she said.

However, Reuben cautioned against falling victim to “O.S.S” or “Oooh Shiny Syndrome” – lunging into whatever the new tech toy or service of the day might be. Instead, always ask “what’s in it for me?”

Reuben readily acknowledges the demands of Web jobs in Higher Ed can wear a person down, and left her audience by encouraging them to find ways to recharge their batteries.  Ways to do that include taking on side work, finding a hobby, starting a blog, or just carving out a little time for yourself with friends or a bottle of wine.

Tomorrow’s marketing and web professionals must be diplomats, politicians, patient and know when to use common sense. And they must be persistent, Reuben said. Some people have told Reuben that she’s lucky or must be incredibly talented to push through some changes that she’s pushed through at places she’s worked.

“I don’t think of it that way at all,” she said. “I’ve just been persistent. Persistent as hell.”