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3 Lessons HBCU Presidents Can Learn From Dr. Walter Kimbrough

January 23, 2015

He’s among the youngest college presidents in the nation and goes by the name of @HipHopPrez on social media and not because he’s just a big fan of Hip Hop. With more than 9,400 Twitter followers, nearly 12,000 Tweets, and more than 7,00 Facebook followers, Dr. Walter Kimbrough, the seventh president of Dillard University in New Orleans, is known for his active use of social media and uses it to engage students and connect with Dillard supporters and the HBCU community at large. It’s not unusual for a college president to be active on social media, but Dr. Kimbrough’s use of it has been remarkable for branding Dillard University and offers best practices that HBCU presidents and administrators can learn from and implement.

1) Accessibility is key to engagement. Why is Cory Booker known as the Twitter Mayor? Because he goes where the people are to have meaningful dialogue and show that he is accessible. Similarly, Dr. Walter Kimbrough does an excellent job of showing that he is relatable to his student body, is open to innovation and creativity, and wants to create a culture of openness and sharing. It doesn’t hurt that his Twitter handle is @HipHopPrez and shows that he’s trying to connect and engage with millenials. This is critical considering the struggles that HBCUs across the country are facing with enrollment and making a case for their relevance.

2) Your brand story must have multiple layers. The reality is that HBCUs struggle to rethink their story and make it relevant for today’s students. However, Dr. Kimbrough’s use of social media is not only helping to raise the profile of his university but is also reshaping Dillard’s brand story by engaging the brand with audiences who normally would not be engaging with Dillard on a regular basis.

3) You are the brand. Dr. Kimbrough clearly recognizes that as the chief leader he is the university’s biggest ambassador and that confidence in the leadership also reinforces confidence in the university particularly through these trying times.

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