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UI in $170,000 marketing consultant partnership

BY KRISTEN EAST | OCTOBER 13, 2011 7:20 AM

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The University of Iowa is spending thousands to find new ways to reach out to prospective students and secure more funding.

According to documents obtained by The Daily Iowan through a public-records request— UI officials signed a contract with Mind Over Media, a Pittsburgh-based market-research company — in March. Tysen Kendig, the UI vice president for Strategic Communcation, said the company will conduct quantitative and qualitative research for the UI.

The contract is worth $170,000 for one year of work and includes an additional amount not to exceed $15,000 for miscellaneous expenses such as travel. The research will be entirely funded by private dollars, Kendig said. No expenses will be taken from student tuition fees or state appropriations.

Though officials have yet to outline specific plans for the campaign, the benefits of this partnership will be "across the board," and they include reaching out to prospective students, attracting more private funding sources, and improving the image of Iowa across the country, Kendig said.

"Many people think Iowa is fly-over country," he told the DI. "We really are a high-powered institution here, and we need to be more aggressive and proactive in telling that story."

Mind Over Media partners with many national businesses, universities, and sports teams. The company has worked with such schools as the Colorado School of Mines, Penn State University, and Temple University.

David Tauchen, a public-relations specialist at the Colorado School of Mines, said the school hired Mind Over Media as a vendor rather than forming a partnership.

"It helped us with advertisements and rebranding," Tauchen said.

Roy Cheran, Mind Over Media's director of business development and a consultant for the UI, said Mind Over Media focuses on involving the other party as much as possible.

"We're certainly working in conjunction with everyone there on the university's team," he said.

UI officials thought the university could benefit from a partnership with Mind over Media, "especially during these fiscal times," Kendig said.

"Colleges and universities are in a more competitive marketplace than in any point during our history," he said. "State-funding resources are diminishing, and the UI is being forced to be more entrepreneurial and generate private support, all while maintaining a high-quality image."

And a partnership such as the one between the UI and Mind Over Media is not uncommon.

The number of universities seeking marketing consultants is becoming an increasing trend in higher education, said Raymond Betzner, an assistant vice president of university communications at Temple University and president of the board for the Association for Communicators in Education.

"Thirty years ago, when [the association] started, we didn't have anyone from marketing in our group," Betzner said. "It wasn't part of the mix that you found in higher education. But it's become a trend."


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