It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

by Jeff Ebbing
Southeastern Community College
West Burlington, IA


We’re only halfway through 2020 and it really does feel like it’s the end of the world. I don’t know about you, but I’ve already had to deal with more crises this year than all of my last 15 years.

It’s to the point that I don’t expect anything will match up to what I left the day before. I used to love how no two days in the office were the same but if they would stop moving the goal post another mile away every 24 hours, that’d be great.

Any ONE of these items would have been a career-making moment a year ago:

  • COVID-19
  • Staff up in arms that we’re under-reacting
  • Staff up in arms that we’re over-reacting
  • Campus closing comms plan
  • Carol Baskin
  • Graduation canceled
  • Creating a virtual college visit using only your phone
  • Finding the *perfect* Zoom background
  • NCMPR Orlando canceled
  • Scrap summer recruitment plan
  • Build a COVID-friendly fall campus reopening comms plan
  • Homeschooling your kids using the new math
  • George Floyd and subsequent marches and demonstrations
  • Drafting the college position statement on racism
  • Staff up in arms that we’re under-reacting
  • Staff up in arms that we’re over-reacting
  • REVISED fall campus reopening comms plan, Diversity Edition
  • Murder hornets
  • Apocalyptic fall enrollment projections
  • Salvaging the big scholarship fundraiser you’ve been working on since last year
  • Canceling that big vacation to that crowded place your family’s been planning since last year
  • Laboring for two hours on a Tuesday night to respond to a social media post calling your college out for [insert college decision here] and crying tears of joy that all you got back was a “whatever”
  • NCMPR district conferences canceled
  • Chucking your beautiful 2021 marketing plan and starting again from scratch
  • Pulling off whatever it was you called a commencement with only minor hiccups

So what advice can I possibly offer that’s remotely useful? [I started to add “in these unprecedented times” but I nearly gagged as I typed it.]

An answer eluded me for weeks. As the deadline approached, I had to dig deep. Like, real deep. I explored the darkest regions of my 15 years of experience in search of a single nugget of wisdom.

Then, hidden under some sock lint stuck between my toes, I found something.

Here it is in all its profound, slightly funky glory:

You don’t have to go it alone.

I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “Really, Marketing Guy? This is how you follow up your epic Newtonian trilogy read by your tens of adoring fans?”

Hear me out.

For the first time in modern history, I can say without a doubt that everyone on the planet is winging it right now. Literally everyone.

Sure, there are tried-n-true steps you can take to address the insanity with a certain amount of confidence. But perhaps with the exception of Dr. Fauci, we’re all pretty much learning how to navigate this circus together in real time.

I know this because one of the brightest spots I’ve experienced over the past few months has been the amazing sharefest and problem-solving-palooza among this tribe. I mean, did you tune into any of the NCMPR webinars? They were amazing (even better: they were free!). And all the sharing on the listserv and the social groups? Wow.

You guys aren’t just sharing half-baked hacks, either. You’re freely sharing your best stuff. I’m talking Paragon-level work. A crisis comms template here. An enrollment metric there. A timely social media campaign.

My biggest takeaways: I’m not alone, we don’t have to be together to learn from each other, good ideas spread, and sharing ratchets good ideas into great ideas.

Something I learned years ago as a wee Marketing Guy is that everybody has something to contribute. No matter how unqualified or small you think your idea is, there’s a good chance you’ve just come up with a solution someone else desperately needs.

In fact, as I was working on this post, I remembered a blog that my younger self wrote back in 2012 about that fabled doomsday myth (ah, simpler times). It was about how the ancient Mayans were so advanced compared to neighboring societies, they started phoning it in instead of building on their successes and thus became ill-equipped to repel the conquistadores. [Read it here]

Little did I know that 2012 me would have advice for 2020 me: get over yourself. You’re not as smart as you think. And you’re not as dumb as you think, either. Step up and join the conversation. Share your ideas, borrow others’ ideas. Our world (and our profession) will be better for it. That’s how you grow.

Now, no matter whatever the rest of this year throws at us, we all have a secret weapon that will ensure our mutual survival: each other.

And you know what? Even if it is the end of the world as we know it, I feel fine.

Jeff Ebbing is the director of marketing and communications at Southeastern Community College in West Burlington, Iowa, and NCMPR’s District 5 director.

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