October 17, 2018

Webster’s Public Relations office responds to chess billboard backlash

By Barbara O’Malley, Webster Chief Communications Officer

From a Global Marketing & Communications (GMC) perspective, we juggle many opportunities. Ultimately, we work hard to raise awareness of Webster University so students continue to want to attend, donors and friends continue to want to connect, and our communities continue to want to engage with us. These things combined create a sustainable institution. We do this through:

• Creative services that help us stand out in the marketplace – sometimes these are global activities and sometimes these are very local activities;

• Creating a digital experience that adds value for our many audiences;

• Internal communications that bind our Webster community together; and

• Public relations and media relations that tell the stories of our diverse and global institution.

While the billboard featuring the chess players might be viewed as a “win” on the public relations front from the standpoint of national media attention and creating buzz – it has offended some members of our internal Webster community. This was not our intention.

In today’s environment, “expected” creative is overlooked – or forgotten. The billboard’s creativity was meant to be “surprising” and capture attention on a crowded highway of University of Missouri billboards. It did that within the context of one stretch of highway outside of St. Louis.

Please remember, this particular billboard is just one of many GMC initiatives and should not be viewed in a singular manner. Through our many integrated efforts in creative services, digital marketing, internal communications and public relations, we take great strides to be collectively inclusive of all academic disciplines and initiatives in order to reflect Webster’s diversity.

We will continue our work to strike the balance between our many opportunities so that, overall, we market and communicate the many aspects of this great University, while calling out Webster’s distinctions in the marketplace.

 

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