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UI pays for public relations

BY BEN MARKS | JULY 21, 2015 5:00 AM

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Per student, the University of Iowa spends more money on strategic communication than some of the largest schools in the Big Ten.

On July 14, the UI confirmed it had contracted with consultant Terri Goren of Terri Goren and Associates to oversee the university’s Office of Strategic Communication as current Vice President Joe Brennan prepares to leave in August.

Goren has been hired on a temporary basis, and her six-month contract, which began July 1 and runs until Dec. 31, will cost the university $145,000 plus a $25,000 cap for flights, meals, and other reimbursements.

The contract stipulates the Atlanta-based consultant must be in Iowa City for two days a week, working for the university for three, and on call for any immediate needs.

When adjusted for the six-month time period and size of the student body, the contract places the university in one of the top ranks of Big Ten schools for the amount it spends on senior-level strategic-communication officers.

With Goren, the UI is spending $9.23 per student for strategic communication. This is more than the much larger Big Ten schools such as the University of Minnesota ($2.62), Indiana University Bloomington ($3.74), and Michigan State University ($4.55).

Jeneane Beck, the UI senior director for news-media relations, said incoming interim UI President Jean Robillard selected Goren based on previous work she has done for the university, going back to 2007.

“Dr. Robillard was very familiar with her work, believed in her work, and thought she would be a good person to help guide through the transition,” Beck said.

When not adjusted for the time period, $145,000 is still more than several other full-time university public-relations officers are paid, such as Iowa State University Director of Communications Robert Schweers ($95,975), the University of Minnesota Chief Public Relations Officer Chuck Tombarge ($134,406), and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Assistant Vice President of University Affairs Jaqueline Ostrowicki ($123,000).

This year, Brennan earned a salary of $226,600 plus travel expenses.

Beck said the position was filled on contract, rather than permanently, because the university is waiting for the new president to be selected before making any high-level administrative changes.

The university has three vice-president-level positions waiting to be filled until the new president is selected.

This includes the vice president for Finance and Operations, vice president for Human Resources, and Brennan’s old position of vice president for Strategic Communication.

Currently, both Finance and Operations and Human Resources have UI officials filling them on interim bases. Beck said the strategic-communication position wasn’t filled internally because the two senior directors in the Office of Strategic Communication, including Beck, have been in their positions less than a year.

“I think Dr. Robillard just felt he wanted someone who could guide us through this transition and who had been through this kind of work before,” she said.

According to the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources Administrators in Higher Education Salary Survey, the average salary for a chief public relations officer at a research institution is $188,700.

Fraser Seitel, the president of the public-relations firm Emerald Partners and former director of public affairs for Chase Manhattan Bank, said large companies such as IBM, or Johnson & Johnson often have communications directors earning seven-figure salaries.

For a state university, however, Seitel said, $145,000 struck him as being in the upper end of the spectrum for public-relations officers. He said a communications director at medium-size banks can often make $200,000 or $300,000 a year.

“Part of it has to do with what other communications directors at other institutions get paid,” he said. “If the salary is way out of whack, the obvious question would be, why is our communications director so much more important than the one in Missouri or Nebraska?”


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