If you’re ready to build your corporate university, one of the next best practices revolves around creating sponsors, obtaining buy-in, and building a marketing plan. This is an important best practice, as a corporate university with no traction is basically going to be a training department in an ivory tower. The idea here is to get people involved, get them talking, and get them excited about what the corporate university will have to offer. And you can do all of this with a well-planned marketing campaign.

The first step is to create sponsors, or the people who will drive the corporate university’s public face. It’s understood that your Learning and Development department will be a major sponsor, but we are talking about people outside of L&D. This group of sponsors can be your stakeholders, learners, and executives, and preferably a mix of all of these groups. But how do you “create” sponsorship? Show each group how the corporate university will benefit their departments, the organization, and their careers. Tailor this message based on the group you are courting. For example, career benefits are perfect talking points for learners, because the discussion starts on a personal level. When you line up sponsors who will “talk up” the university, you’ll see how the news catches on.

In regard to sponsorship, let’s take a deeper look at executive sponsorship. Getting an executive sponsor means obtaining buy-in and support from an executive or C-level person. You may have one built in if your organization has a Chief Learning Officer or Human Resources Executive who oversees Learning and Development. But this sponsor could also be an operations or financial officer. Or, you could gather a couple of executive sponsors. Remember that most executives are interested in how the project will impact the organization at bottom line levels, such as financially, operationally, and in terms of meeting the organization’s overall goals and mission. Let’s move on to marketing.

Marketing means that you are going to attempt to obtain buy in from the rest of your organization. The first thing to do is get involved with your marketing department in order to plan the branding, “look and feel, and the overall message for the corporate university. This type of marketing can be modeled after just about any successful commercial marketing campaign. In other words, the organization should be able to hear a few words and think about the corporate university and its benefits. Your marketing department can even help you create color palettes and material designs, such as Power Point slides, online learning templates, and even print materials. This type of uniform delivery will add an extra dimension to the organization’s perception of the corporate university.

Now that you’re on board with your marketing department, begin to plan the campaign. Keep in mind that you are selling a product, because no matter what happens you want people to access the university, use its services, and talk about it in a positive way. If you have no customers, you won’t be successful. So plan marketing that follows the phases of your build out. For example, marketing may need to be heavy during the roll out and then lighter as the university gets off the ground. When new initiatives roll out, such as new courses, you’ll want to plan more marketing.

Also, remember to keep your marketing fresh and vary the methods you are using. For example, if your organization uses social networks, try to get the university involved. Consider appropriate marketing activities such as in-person “roadshows”, the organization’s internal network, and even signs or print materials. And also consider placing marketing where larger groups will see it, such as meeting rooms or even company cafeterias. In other words, in conjunction with your marketing department, fashion several different marketing methods and channels.

Finally, keep all of your sponsors informed about the corporate university. You don’t want sponsors “swinging” with no information. For the build out, make sure that each sponsor, no matter what his or her level in the organization, knows about the roll out dates, courses, and events. And keep them informed going forward.

Next, we will discuss the creation of an efficient staffing model for the corporate university.

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