By: Yossi Friedman  | 

Dear YU, Focus Here

To gain professional experience relevant to my majors, marketing and entrepreneurship, I found work at the Office of Marketing and Communications at Yeshiva University. As a student assistant, I am motivated to use my creative skills and innovative perspective to develop new strategies for improving the student experience at YU. One of my roles there is to provide content for YU’s social media pages and to train other creators to produce engaging material. My insider access has revealed that many areas within the marketing strategy desperately need improvement. 

Among the marketing strategies that could use improvement is the authorization process for the recently launched Five Torot campaign. While I wholeheartedly believe in portraying core values online and around campus, the new campaign strategy did not take into account the students’ opinions. During the Five Torot campaign approval process, the current student council stated that they did not predict the new campaign would prove successful. Despite the feedback from the student representatives, the marketing campaign moved forward, and the Five Torot were plastered throughout Wilf Campus and consequently mocked by many students. Ignoring the opinions of active students is a flagrant mistake that can lead to a division between the current administration and the students they serve. However, this lapse in judgment reveals a new opportunity for the Yeshiva University decision makers to calculate a new method for approving new initiatives before bankrolling expensive new projects.

Students are not always experts in university matters, but when it comes to improving the students’ overall experience, which will help persuade prospective students to enroll in YU, who knows what the students want better than the students themselves? One student’s constructive feedback may uncover new insights into how best to tackle a significant problem that the administration may have been unaware of or ignored. Providing a platform for students to express concerns and actively help improve the experience for themselves and their friends can add up to monumental change. Implementing outlets for students to reveal their ideas, suggestions and feelings enables YU to communicate that they treasure their students’ opinions, fostering a more substantial and connected community.

When evaluating new initiatives’ potential benefits and risks, data-driven decision-making can minimize wasted resources and lead to success. One of the ways YU can effectively uncover valuable insights is through student focus groups. Gathering a group of students from diverse backgrounds that accurately represent their consumer base to collect feedback on future initiatives can provide numerous benefits. Focus groups offer opportunities to discover unmet needs, clarify and test preconceived notions, and hear feedback from the target market. Great ideas and insights can sprout from executive directors to interns and from deans to students, and any organization willing to listen can obtain a competitive advantage. Student focus group participants can be grouped from passionate volunteers, mandating participation within marketing classes, or monetary compensation. While launching consistent focus groups involves spending precious resources, the benefits overwhelm the potential downsides and can help prevent significant mishaps.

Despite the wasted resources and failed strategies that can potentially accumulate, implementing the proposed focus groups into YU’s current plans is a win-win. Not only can we learn more from our failures than our achievements, but failure is a significant stepping stone on the path to success. To help illustrate the undervalued importance of failure, look at arguably the most renowned inventor of all time, Thomas Edison. Edison spent 14 months executing over 1,200 experiments to produce a $40,000 lightbulb ($850,000 today) that burned for slightly more than half a day before dying out. When asked about his numerous costly failures, he replied, “I haven't failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” To Yeshiva University administrators doubting focus groups, I say this: “If you win, you will be happy, and if you lose, you will be wise.” Either way, it’s a win-win. Additionally, failure forces you to look around and evaluate your current position. When something inevitably goes wrong, avoid the urge to qualify the situation as a total loss. Instead, identify a lesson from the experience and discern the good that can come from it. This positive outlook will get easier with practice. Recognizing merit can be highly challenging in all situations, especially in the direst of circumstances. However, with effort, one can deduce impactful lessons from the most extensive failures.

As a current marketing and entrepreneurship double major and student assistant of the Office of Marketing and Communications, I believe Yeshiva University must utilize the potential breakthroughs that focus groups will provide. Not only will this new strategy provide valuable data from which YU can formulate new strategies, but it will also permeate YU’s culture with a sense of pride and confidence that the administration values students’ opinions. Listening to its students while hunting for positive change will foster a community of self-improvement and open-minded decision-making. In addition, focus groups can reliably improve the success rate of the administrative decisions while demonstrating YU’s commitment to valuing each student’s infinite worth. Finally, focus groups are just one way for Yeshiva University to listen to its students’ needs and find new insights. This strategy enables the marketing and administrative teams to improve the objective value offered to students at this esteemed university. If you desire to express your ideas yet are unwilling to participate in a focus group, I created an anonymous suggestion box for YU students to express their recommendations. Hopefully, a Yeshiva University representative will implement your suggestions as soon as possible.

Photo Caption: Five Torot banners on Rubin Residence Hall

Photo Credit: Yossi Friedman