December 6, 2019

Guest Commentary: Integrating marketing and communications to advance Webster’s reputation

By Barbara O’Malley, Associate Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for Webster University

It’s been six months since the former administrative offices of Marketing and Public Affairs were brought under one roof. As our role and responsibilities continue to evolve and grow, we’d like to take this opportunity to explain what we do and why we do it.

Global Marketing and Communications is a Webster University administrative division created in June, 2011. It combined two existing administrative areas, Public Affairs and Marketing, and embraced the new name to more accurately reflect the global nature of its work. It leads a unified effort to advance the university’s global mission and coordinates multiple aspects of the university’s institutional and administrative unit strategic communications and marketing. It includes four strategic offices: Creative Services; Digital Marketing and Communications; Strategic Communications; and Public Relations.

The purpose of this division is to build reputation and brand awareness for Webster by telling consistent and compelling stories through various communication channels including print, online, social media, advertising and traditional media. As awareness of Webster increases, so too, will the value of a Webster degree. Webster graduates will be more competitive in the marketplace and Webster will become more attractive for prospective students, community members and corporations. As this new integrated division launches, processes and procedures are being implemented to improve efficiencies and effectiveness and to stay current with how higher education marketing and communications is changing. Here are some of the changes:

— Creative Services

This unit is comprised of writers, designers, photographers and videographers. These professionals are developing a new creative brand platform for the institution, reflecting the powerful dynamics of the Webster brand: St. Louis, Global, Metro, Military and Online. This brand will be reflected in future advertising and on the Webster University website. This office will unify a consistent creative approach and develop brand guidelines for all Webster colleges, schools and locations.

— Digital Marketing and Communications

Development of the new Webster Website is underway. A new content management system is being implemented and all colleges, schools and locations will reflect a consistent and unified Webster University brand. This office also manages the University’s social media sites and authors/monitors Webster’s Social Media Guidelines.

— Strategic Communications

With campus locations around the world, internal communications and human resource communications are vital to Webster. This office produces Webster Today, the dynamic university blog, telling the stories from the diverse perspectives and locations that make Webster a great place to work and study. Strategic Communications drafts and updates Webster’s Editorial Style Guide. Use of the Editorial Style Guide helps to ensure consistency in how the University communicates.

— Public Relations

This office manages media relations on behalf of the University and works to ensure that members of the media have access to accurate and consistent information. Members of the media are encouraged to go through this office in order to access the appropriate subject matter experts for the stories they are writing. The Public Relations office also writes media stories and works to ensure media exposure for Webster in local, regional, national and international media venues.

In January, the institutional office of Public Relations initiated an office policy for media relations. It is meant to respect freedom of speech and academic freedom and encourages Webster faculty, staff and administrators to speak to the media regarding their areas of expertise. Webster faculty, staff and administrators are also encouraged to direct media calls to the Public Relations office where Public Relations professionals will handle media inquiries in an efficient and effective manner.

Barbara O’Malley is the Associate Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for Webster University.

This practice is standard within the higher education industry and intended to streamline contact with members of the media in a manner that maximizes media relationships and opportunities for Webster University while helping to ensure accurate information is communicated. Feel free to contact me directly at barbaraomalley@webster.edu if you would like to discuss.

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