A Day with... Frank Rapp
Director of Online Marketing, Studiengemeinschaft Darmstadt and Wilhelm Büchner Hochschule
8:55 a.m.: Frank Rapp's typical workday starts with – what else? – a cup of coffee. As he fires up his computer, he takes a few minutes to touch base with his team. It's not uncommon for Frank to see new faces during his morning routine. Since he arrived at Studiengemeinschaft Darmstadt (SGD, a leading distance-learning institution in Germany) in 2016, his online marketing team has grown from just three members to eight. “I love developing areas and assembling teams,” Frank confesses.
Frank's online marketing team is responsible for all of SGD's digital channels, along with those of Wilhelm Büchner Hochschule (an affiliated distance-learning university). “In our activities, the focus is always on the customer,” he reports. While he points to SGD's website as its most important instrument, social media and marketing efforts based on e-mail and Google also have roles to play. Or, as Frank puts it: “If people are looking for something that we offer, we want them to find it!”
9:15 a.m.: Frank usually spends his mornings handling various organisational tasks. Today, he starts by taking a look at the statistics from the day before. How many enquiries and registrations did the SGD website receive? And how's the budget looking? “To do this job, you need a certain understanding of numbers,” Frank points out. “It's always possible to quantify how successful our activities are, after all.” Once he's finished, it's time to plan resources and discuss task assignments as a team.
10:00 a.m.: Next up is the team's weekly meeting with SGD's executives. Frank describes communication as a big part of his responsibilities, be it with his team, other departments at the company, or external partners. “Meanwhile, we’re driving our company's digitalisation,” he adds. “This involves drumming up internal support for our ideas, as well. Luckily, our company's culture is very democratic, and we always find open ears on the management board.”
The education sector is essentially about dreams. People who are learning new skills are usually looking to advance their careers or develop on a personal level. This comes with benefits for society, as well – and to me, it's more interesting than selling chewing gum.
On this particular day, Frank is set to present a new project that will keep his team busy for the next several months. It involves what he calls a “customer journey map”, which is meant to illustrate the points of contact where potential customers can interact with SGD's educational offerings. “A customer's journey doesn't start at the moment he or she visits our website,” Frank says. “It begins quite a bit earlier with the desire to learn something new.” It's this desire that makes the education sector so intriguing to him. “It's essentially about dreams. People who are learning new skills are usually looking to advance their careers or develop on a personal level. This comes with benefits for society, as well – and to me, it's more interesting than selling chewing gum.” Frank's passion for his field goes back a number of years. While he was still a student, he started expanding his university's online marketing efforts. After earning his master's, he then took over the entire marketing department. Following a period as head of communications at an American company, Frank felt drawn back to the education industry. His position as director of online marketing includes both SGD and Wilhelm Büchner Hochschule. “All in all, we have a great combination of activities that cover the entire education cycle,” Frank affirms. “We appeal to a wide variety of people, as well.”
12:30 p.m.: Frank spends most of his lunch breaks in the canteen with his team. Today, however, he has a date with a colleague from accounting. Every month, colleagues from different departments are matched up in random pairs to have lunch together, which gives them the chance to get to know one another and learn more about each other's work. “I’ve done it every month so far,” Frank says. “It's always a lot of fun to meet colleagues you might never have crossed paths with otherwise.”
2:00 p.m.: Frank and his team sit down to look at proposals for the impending brand relaunch of Wilhelm Büchner Hochschule and gather feedback for the agency that created them. Here, they can build on the experience they gained in a similar relaunch for SGD, which they completed just a few weeks prior. A new logo, a new corporate design, and corresponding adjustments in all the company's print and online media: It took them just four months to turn their ideas into reality. “We're used to working in agile ways,” Frank explains. “Competition is fierce online, and ours is a fast-paced industry; we can’t spend months devising strategies and then decide to stand pat.” He notes that his team also has plenty of experience in trying things out on a small scale before scaling them up – and in getting on with it when things don’t work as planned.
4:00 p.m.: Frank has set aside part of his afternoon for some conceptual work. His responsibilities as the head of his team include keeping an eye on the latest developments in online marketing and analysing how his company could apply them. Here, Frank always tries to think a step ahead. “We want to make sure SGD is ready to take on the future,” he says. “That means laying the proper groundwork today.” Just recently, for example, SGD introduced an online video identification process for registering course participants. Those interested in its study programmes can now sign up using their smartphones instead of having to print out, sign, and mail in a registration form.
6:00 p.m.: Frank is ready to call it a day. It takes just under 40 minutes for the father of one to commute from Darmstadt back to his home in Heidelberg. “We really like living there, so I really don’t mind spending that much time in the car,” he says.