Our Training Wheels Are Coming Off at CUPRAP

Volt is officially a sponsor at CUPRAP next week. This momentous occasion got us thinking about how sponsorships should fit within a marketing mix.

By: Tom Kegelman
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Do you remember the moment your parents finally took the training wheels off your first bike? Sure, there was that wobbly moment where you contemplated the feeling of your ass hitting the asphalt far below, but then you cranked on your pedal, built momentum, and finally gained speed.

At Volt, this is when our training wheels come off — we’re officially a sponsor at CUPRAP next week. It’s a crazy acronym, but a cool organization. CUPRAP members are higher education professionals working in public relations, media relations, marketing, publications, sports information, web and graphic design, and more. Founded in Pennsylvania in 1980, CUPRAP members now come from many states with 350 members from 100 institutions. You know, soon-to-be Volt fanatics.

Sure, we’re only one month old, which in doggie years puts us at approximately seven months, but we figured it’s time to get out and kick it up a notch. This momentous occasion got us thinking about how sponsorships should fit within a marketing mix. Why incorporate them? How do you stand out professionally and as a brand? What’s necessary to be successful? Is there value in networking? What can we do to shake things up?

Here’s what we came up with:

Is Networking a Waste of Time?

You know you’ve been there before. You attended a conference or a networking event with the best intention of forging real relationships, but as you walked around uncomfortably trying to meet new people you instead started to look for people who you already knew. It then dawned on you that this self-imposed masochistic courting ritual is rather silly. This holds true to introverts and extroverts. So why go at all? According to a Harvard Business Review article entitled Go Ahead, Skip That Networking Event, Author David Burkus echoes our sentiment that these events can be fruitless. He advocates for a more experiential activity to break the proverbial ice, rather than forcing shallow conversations and relationships. Makes sense. As a sponsor, perhaps we can design an experience that helps bring y’all together.  

Tinder Best Practices

Unfortunately, you can’t swipe left or right yet to form great connections at conferences. But like two rocks aimlessly floating in space, you’ll inevitably run into someone at an event that forces you to start up a potentially awkward conversation. What do you do? The first rule of thumb: try to smile. It works. Also, think ahead of time about interesting topics or subjects that could help you stand out among all of the other conversations. Like Thanksgiving dinner with your crazy uncle, we recommend staying away from the big 3 (religion, politics, and sex) Instead, reference interesting podcasts, articles you’ve read on Volt, or anything about the state of the industry that will help you be memorable in a positive way.  

Keep the conversations short, preferably to three minutes or less. And the following day, shoot your new acquaintances a note and connect on LinkedIn. Don’t ghost them.

What’s on the Pull-up Banner?

If you’re considering sponsoring an event, or perhaps you’re thinking of recruiting at a student fair, invariably someone will ask, “Are we going to have a pull-up banner?” The question should be: What are we trying to accomplish? Advertising should ladder up to your larger engagement strategy. What is your audience looking for? How are you positioning yourself from the competition? How does it connect with your brand, and how do you make sure you’re not too gimmicky? How are you interacting with the audience to break the ice? Perhaps it’s a rock solid strategy to put a big image of a golden retriever puppy on the banner advertising free puppies if they pass your engagement challenge. The point is, how can you quickly draw someone’s attention while connecting authentically with your brand. It’s tough to do, but at Volt, we find that a quick brainstorm session where we challenge one another to break convention actually works. Give it a try.  

What’s More Valuable Than Time?

Nothing. If you’re spending time and energy attending a conference, make the most of it by utilizing our tips and planning in advance which sessions you want to attend. (Our editorial team has unanimously pegged the upcoming Campus Sonar session.) Please come see our booth and evaluate our engagement strategy. Tell us if the training wheels need to be put back on.  We can’t promise free puppies, mostly because it would be cost prohibitive to put down so much plastic and because of our high ethical bar, but we can promise to help you break the ice.  

Tom Kegelman

Tom Kegelman

Volt Editor in Chief & Managing Director of Higher Education

Tom is Editor in Chief of Volt and Managing Director of the Higher Education Division at eCity Interactive. With over twelve years of higher education experience at Villanova and Temple, it would be hard to miss Tom’s creative and strategic impact on the market. Both institutions saw a significant increase in enrollment due to Tom’s exceptional abilities in strategic marketing, branding, admissions and enrollment management. Additionally, Tom has significant experience outside of higher ed working within a portfolio of companies including Diageo, the world’s largest wine and spirit company. Tom’s achievements were recognized by the Philadelphia Business Journal, where he was a recipient of the PBJ 40 under 40 award.


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