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New communications program designed
to position University in increasingly
competitive environment
February 2, 1998

A strategic communications program designed to help the University attract more high-achieving students and first class faculty and staff, and compete more effectively for state dollars, federal grants and private resources, is being implemented immediately, says Edward T. Allenby, vice president for institutional advancement.

The program is reorienting the public relations/communications functions by establishing a marketing and strategic communications approach for the University, he says.

The program will position the University to function in what has become a highly competitive environment, and will emphasize that the University should be the first choice for Connecticut students. It will also work to increase recognition of the University as a resource for the state, and to improve the University's national reputation.

The program will be managed by University Communications, formerly called University Relations, and will continue to be headed by Scott Brohinsky, who is also director of government relations. It will have a new focus on effectively communicating the academic, research, and student quality that already exists at the University.

The program will rely on modifying and focusing communications techniques and adopting strategic communications practices, Brohinsky says. A major strategy will be to integrate marketing and public relations.

"Although this is a relatively new approach on college campuses, private institutions, and now some public institutions, are implementing such programs," Brohinsky says.

The program will be guided by a communications plan developed by the University in conjunction with New York public relations firm M. Booth & Associates.

The plan was developed in a participatory process with input from a wide variety of individuals associated with the University, and is supported by the trustees, the administration, the deans, and the regional campuses and Health Center, Brohinsky says.

It focuses on key audiences, including students and prospective students, faculty and staff, public officials, donors, alumni, and business leaders, and those who influence these audiences. It also identifies for each audience key messages, strategies, and tactics to use in implementing the objectives.

"This represents a sea change in the way the institution thinks about communications and markets itself to its constituencies," he says, noting that the plan will include a new visual identity program for the University.

"We will play an integral role in shaping how the University is regarded and perceived," Brohinsky says. "UConn is an undervalued franchise. Our market research shows us that many of our key audiences say the University is a real asset and worth much more than many people realize. Our mission will be to change perception to meet reality."

"We will focus on key messages, such as the quality of our faculty, programs, students, and institution," he says, "and must be certain to stay on message."

Brohinsky says an important component of the plan is to present the University as one institution with one voice, an institution that includes the Health Center, the regional campuses, the professional schools, and the main campus. "The sum is greater than the parts," Brohinsky says. "We are a total entity, not just a collection of different programs."

To accomplish its mission, University Communications will form strategic partnerships within the University, the state, the region and the nation.

"We must develop cooperative working partnerships with key offices, operations and stakeholders of the University," Brohinsky says.

Periodic market research will be used to determine what key audiences think of the institution and what success the strategic communications program is having.

To implement the plans most effectively, University Communications was reorganized, with effect on January 26, so that the structure will concentrate media relations work on programs, faculty, and staff that represent the height of academic excellence at the University; use editorial pieces to influence opinion leaders; support a series of new and enhanced marketing communications vehicles and programs; use the University's web page to market the University to prospective students and faculty; and create, manage and sustain a variety of important University events, says John M. Barry, associate director of University Communications.

"With this plan, we are attempting to establish a communications program that provides an appropriate framework through which we can better tell the UConn story, and in so doing positively impact the University's reputation at both the state and national levels. Of course, the plan cannot and will not substitute for the need to make substantive improvements in our academic programs or quality of campus life for students, faculty, and staff," Barry says. "But University Communications staff must, and will, do a better job in strategically communicating the remarkable value that already exists at UConn, as well as the improvements and accomplishments that are destined to occur," he says.