VP candidate stresses branding, even marketing at universities

BY EMMA WILLIS | JULY 12, 2013 5:00 AM

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One candidate vying for the position of vice president for Strategic Communication at the University of Iowa says the university should market itself as a great brand, giving equal attention to many facets of the school.

Jeff Iseminger, the current interim vice president for the University Advancement and Integrated Marketing at Minnesota State University-Mankato, addressed the topic of “Communicating the Value of Public Teaching and Research University in the 21st Century” for the search committee and various university officials on Thursday afternoon.

In his presentation, the UI alum described several strategies on how to bring the UI brand into the forefront.

Aspired by Apple Corp.’s ability to gain customers regardless of price is a part of marketing Iseiminger believes is important for the university.

“Commodities are chosen for price, convenience, proximity,” he daid. “That is not what you want the university to be chosen for.”

Describing his management style as more coaching than guiding, he said he provides the big picture, focusing on outcomes and not tactics.

Expressing the need for the university to divulge information of transformation in the way of personal stories about alumni, Iseminger wants to highlight the benefits of attendance rather than simply the features of a university.

“Stats are helpful if you combine them with a human face,” he said.

Iseminger also said it’s important that all good qualities about the university are accessible, with one aspect not receiving too much attention over another.

“You are on very thin ice when you emphasize one thing over another,” he said.

Mark Braun, UI President Sally Mason’s chief of staff, has served the role on an interim basis after former Vice President Tysen Kendig accepted a position at the University of Connecticut in December 2012.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said the job will be very demanding. With a lot of direct reporting to different officials across campus, the new VP for Strategic Communication will have to juggle quite a few jobs, all while ensuring the attractiveness of the university for aspiring UI students takes top priority.

“We need somebody who can tell the story of the university,” he said. “They have to be a visionary.”

Brian Gilbert, a creative media specialist for university marketing & media production, is still in need of convincing.

With two other candidates to visit campus, he said, he is unsure what to think of the first candidate.

“[Iseminger] had a great focus on certain marketing aspects,” he said. “But I’m going to have to let it digest.”

Vice President for Student Life Tom Rocklin, a co-head of the search committee, agreed.

“He had a lot of interesting priorities,” he said. “I’m very excited to see the rest of the candidates as well.”

The starting date for the position is still unknown, as is the salary. However, Moore expects the numbers to be similar to Kendig’s, around $200,000.

The remaining candidates will make their presentations on July 15 and 17, with a final decision date still unknown.

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