Digital Disruption with Michael Schinelli

Digital Disruption with Michael Schinelli from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


Michael Schinelli, CMO at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, presented the opening keynote on University Marketing and Communications in the Age of Digital Disruption at Converge 2017. Michael is an experienced speaker and fierce advocate for what is new and next in digital.

His session shed light on the complex landscape facing our industry today. Prospective students are finding your school or program through digital channels, which means their journey to enrollment is far more fragmented. Michael offered many helpful insights during his keynote, but these three takeaways stood out to me.

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Customer Centricity – Focus on Insights, Not Agendas

Michael’s first strategy to combat digital disruption resonated with me the most. He shared a video by Valspar Paint where they partnered with EnChroma, maker of color blindness-correcting glasses, to help people experience colors for the first time. By creating an emotional connection with their brand, they will forever be first in my mind when I consider what brand to purchase to paint my home.



Students are no longer enrolling at your institution simply because they’ve heard of it, or even because of your brand’s clout. It’s time to dig deeper and find ways to connect with them on a personal level. How do we make them care?

Digital Agility – From Data to Decisions

Personalized emails—where content is customized based on information provided—see 30 percent higher open rates and 40 percent higher CTRs. Students today receive automated confirmation emails for every inquiry they submit. How can you use the information you’re requesting to create a personalized experience for them?

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Among several examples, Michael referenced LinkedIn Dynamic ads. This ad type pulls in the user’s LinkedIn picture and auto-populates your university logo, allowing them to picture themselves alongside your brand.

Creative Clarity – Visual and Written Language

The average person processes images 60,000x faster than they do words. In a culture where the average attention span is eight seconds (and that’s rounding up), it’s more important than ever to capture a person’s imagination and ideas. Every student knows that your MBA curriculum is flexible and that your faculty is dedicated. How can you reach them quickly, before you lose their interest?

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UNC launched a digital app for their alumni magazine—and it’s launched or opened six times per user, on average. This is driven by interactive, visual content.

How do we turn disruption into opportunity?

All of Michael’s points remind us to put the user first and live out our authentic story in a way that helps us build real connections. The bottom-line is always more leads, inquiries, applicants or enrolled students. Let’s reframe the discussion when it comes to engaging our students, alumni and communities. Start by asking yourself and your team:

  • How do we make them care?
  • How can we make the experience more personalized?
  • How do we keep them engaged with us?

You can view Michael’s presentation in its entirety on Prezi.

Michelle Rhatigan
Michelle Rhatigan
March 7, 2017