Last fall, during one of my client visits, I pulled onto campus and easily found the Admissions Visitor parking spots. For two reasons, I’m always careful to pay attention to how many spots a school has dedicated for visitors. First, I can offer an assessment of whether the placement and allotment of spaces is adequate. And second, to make sure my vehicle won’t unnecessarily occupy a valuable parking spot that was truly intended for a prospective family.

But I’ll also admit that it never gets old seeing my name on an official sign designating a spot just for little old me. And like many families and students, I took the time to snap a picture and post it to my Facebook page:

Mystery Sign

The personalized parking sign can make a memorable impression. What do you want to be remembered? What do you want to be shared?


Responses to my status update and picture came in from Pennsylvania, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Florida. Sadly, not a single person knew where the image had been snapped. Why? Because even though the school had taken great care in presenting my name and making me feel very welcome, they forgot to think about the next step…how would the content they made, i.e., the parking sign with a personalized name, be used. How would prospective families and students interact with that content?

Every time a prospective family pulls onto a campus and sees that parking sign with their daughter or son’s name, chances are good they’ll take a picture. Chances are also good that they’ll share that picture—with their friends who also have kids looking at colleges and/or their fellow students who are also doing college visits.

It’s the exponential effect. And it often doesn’t cost a dime.

Part of my role as a consultant and “connector of the dots” is to mention this kind of thing to clients, and I did. However, more important than suggesting how to revise a parking sign is to offer an over-arching reminder: the entire institution needs to think about how each aspect—from telephone hold music and grounds to the library and special events–is experienced, and used, by prospective families, students, alumni, and visitors.

Once you start thinking through the eyes of who is being served – the families, students, alumni, even the daily dog-walker – every interaction is an opportunity.

And every opportunity holds the potential to be exponential.

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Karyn Adams is vice president & creative director for H·A ThirtyOne. She’s got her thinking hat on. Karyn can be reached at | @karynadams | 865.207.6944