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By: Mark Mashaw

Mark Mashaw Shares Insights from Almost a Decade in the Higher Ed Marketing Sphere

With 8 years of higher ed experience in roles like EVP and Head of Marketing, Mark Mashaw has a thing or two to tell us about higher ed marketing. 

Lessons From the Field /
By: Mark Mashaw

3 minutes

Mark Mashaw is currently the head of marketing at StraighterLine, where they’re working to help students reduce the cost of their education by delivering incredibly affordable, online, gen-ed level college courses. His experience in higher ed started in 2012, when he joined 2U as EVP of Marketing. He was with the company through its IPO in 2014, helped build up the marketing team and launch nearly 20 graduate school programs. Before that, he was the head of marketing at Hooked on Phonics and also served in a variety of roles at Civic Entertainment Group a strategic marketing agency where he got to work with a range of clients in sports, media, entertainment and government.

I wanted to work in higher education because…

I had the opportunity to join 2U in its early days and I thought it would be a great chance to learn (it was), and I was excited about being a part of something that would truly improve how people could receive a world-class education. 

The marketing tool I can’t live without is…

Hubspot. And while not we’re not a Hubspot shop, I appreciate and use all of the great marketing content they create.

The best marketing I’ve ever seen is…

I’ve always been a fan of what Southwest Airlines does. And not just from a marketing perspective but I love how they infuse their brand across all parts of the company. In the early aughts, post-9/11, they participated in a non-scripted cable TV series called Airline. I think every other domestic airline declined the show fearing how they’d look under all the attention. But Southwest agreed because they trusted their employees to do the right thing even in negative situations. Now, I’m not saying the show was great, but I think Southwest came out looking pretty good.

I start my day at…

It varies depending on the time of year and when the sun comes up. But whatever time that is I almost always take my dog for a long walk and try to make my kids breakfast before school.

The secret to a student succeeding at StraighterLine is…

Self discipline. 100%. At StraighterLine, our courses are completely asynchronous and there are no deadlines, so students move completely at their own pace. You have to have the discipline to propel yourself forward.

The biggest challenge facing higher education marketers is…

The same challenges they’ve always faced: standing out from an incredibly crowded field, adapting to new technologies, attracting an evolving demographic, financial pressures and the inherent skepticism of marketing from within many corners of higher ed.

My biggest professional achievement is...

I don’t think of any specific “achievement” rather a collection of big and small wins that I’ve been able to be a part of while working with the hundreds (if not more) of co-workers that I’ve had over the years. Every new piece of client business won. Every new product launched. Hitting an enrollment goal for a particular quarter or year. The afterglow of a successful event. Reading a thank you letter or testimonial from a student we’ve been able to help.

The future of higher education will be...

I feel like this is a question for an entire conference (or at least a breakout session). But I think the future from a student perspective is great. Maybe not as a great from the university perspective. With the number of students expected to decline over the next decade, schools are going to have to compete more for enrollments, and that should mean schools will have to focus more on the needs of students. And I do think the expansion of online, should – and I repeat should – help the costs go down for students choosing that mode of education.

The biggest difference between higher ed now and when I started is…

I’ve really only been in higher ed since 2012. But what’s changed from my perspective is that there was an enormous stigma on online higher ed and there were few, if any, really great universities doing anything online at the kind of scale that the web allows for. That’s of course changed. More obviously on the graduate school level, but the move online, at all levels and segments of higher ed has evolved dramatically over the last five to ten years.

One thing I’ve learned about managing teams is…

To be as candid, honest and open as possible. Good news. Bad news. Good performance. Bad performance. People generally want to, and I think deserve to know what’s going on, where they stand, why they’re being asked to do things, and what you’re trying to accomplish. If your team can trust you to be upfront with them, you’ll generally be a lot more successful.

Mark Mashaw

Mark Mashaw

Head of Marketing at StraighterLine

Mark Mashaw is a higher ed marketer who has held several C-Suite positions in a range of companies including StraighterLine, Hooked on Phonics and Civic Entertainment Group.

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