What EMBA Recruiters Can Learn From Uber CEO

What EMBA Recruiters Can Learn From Uber CEO Travis Kalanick


In the last five years, news mentions of super-startup-turned-global company Uber have spanned the gamut from praise for its disruptive methods to criticisms for its light-speed sprint to the public eye and arguably ruthless path to get there.

But in the last week, public critique of Uber reached a fever pitch due to a series of revelations about the company’s business activities, company culture, workplace ethics, mishandled security and most notably—it’s polarizing CEO.

By week’s end, Mr. Kalanick was on the virtual apology circuit with a statement that was summed up by one quote:

“This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it.”

This admission by a leading CEO was a lightbulb for the higher ed content marketer in me.


Because, Travis Kalanick is a prime persona for Executive MBA programs nation-wide. Think about it. He is the face of Uber, which is a tech startup, but also representative of a kind of millennial-aesthetic lifestyle perpetuated by a connected age.

This makes him the kind of CEO that is a great fit for EMBA programs who: a) hope to attract the best and brightest business leaders and b) struggle to translate how to quantify the ROI of “leadership skills.”

With that in mind, I considered how EMBA recruiters could turn Kalanick’s misstep into a content marketing lesson.

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Solving the Problem with EMBA Recruitment Content

“We need recruitment content that executives actually want to read.”

This is something I recently heard from an EMBA client regarding a long-term lead nurturing recruitment strategy for executives.

Top executives are busy (understatement), but they also need to remain competitive, so an EMBA program has maybe crossed their minds—especially if the program is linked to a prestige benefit of some kind. However, it can be difficult to promote the unique value propositions of your program when the EMBA market is expanding on a global scale.

Couple the reluctance of prospective students with an increasingly crowded marketplace and EMBA recruiters are in a tough spot.

While the interest is there, this means that EMBA programs can generate high-fit inquiries, but have trouble converting prospects into enrolled students in a single admissions cycle.

The solution?

A content-based inbound strategy that relies on relevant, valuable content. But what, exactly, does that mean for EMBA recruiters? Great content marketing requires three simple steps:

  • Know Your Audience

Figure out who your program is for, and dial in on the motivations, behaviors, interests and decision-making process of your personas.

  • Understand Your Position

How do you compare to other EMBA programs? Are you a prestige-EMBA or a post-MBA degree for ladder climbers? Understanding your position in the industry will help you create content with a unique perspective.

  • Work Your Beat

Ok, so you know who you are as an EMBA program, and you know who your audience is, but are you keeping up with the industry? Much like in traditional reporting, you need to keep up with topics of interest to your prospective students, so that you can create relevant content with urgency.


Google Trend Data for Keywords Uber CEO and Travis Kalanick

One tip for building buzz-worthy recruitment is to check out Google Trends for search terms that might be of interest to your audience. For example, last week the terms “Uber CEO” and “Travis Kalanick” jumped considerably.


A gap exists between the bubble of academia and the day-to-day buzz of industry information that prospective students want. Sound content relies on strategic planning but it also needs the energy of timeliness. You content is more likely to be on the radar of prospective students if you are adding to a national conversation that they are already invested in.

[Tweet “A gap exists between the bubble of academia and the day-to-day buzz of info that prospects want.”]

Now, let’s test out the steps for the Kalanick example.

Say, I’m a recruiter for a prestige-focused EMBA program, hoping to attract the highly-confident, innovation-focused executive whose success is only matched by an innate confidence is his or her abilities.

Valuable content for this persona could include:

A top-of-funnel email from a EMBA program with the subject line:

“Even Uber’s CEO Needs Leadership Courses”

Why it works

It’s relevant, timely and it makes the reader—a prospective CEO—feel in the same league as Kalanick. More importantly, it leverages the value of an EMBA to a specific target audience in a relatable way.

Or how about this example:

An inbound blog post from your institution’s EMBA faculty:

“Five Courses We Would Recommend to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick”

Why it works

Kalanick’s name will grab reader’s attention and the post title positions your faculty as experts. This is the kind of title that garners a laugh for the audacity and a click because of sheer curiosity.

These are just two examples, but they bring to light an approach to EMBA recruitment that begins with intimate knowledge of your audience and content strategy with a foundation in storytelling. Ditch the stale testimonials and start creating timely content with a unique institutional voice.

Want to know more about content strategy and recruitment?

Check out the Converge blog for everything #newandnext in higher ed digital marketing.

Brittney Dunkins
Brittney Dunkins
March 10, 2017