Marketing Our University

I remember when I was interviewing to join the Web Comm team to work on iTunes U, one question they asked me, as many employers do, was “Why do you want this job?” I responded, “You want to pay me to tell people how awesome The University of Oklahoma is. I already do this for free. Plus, it will better our students’ learning experience? What better job could there be?” (Answer: there isn’t one.)

It sounds so simple, but once that responsibility actually gets written out in a job description, becomes tied to a salary, and has some real-life expectations tied to it, it becomes a bit different.

When we are responsible for the representation of the University at an ‘official’ level, we need to be intentional, responsible, and conscious of what message it is we’re trying to express. When we hold the image of the University in our hands, that responsibility takes on a new meaning. We want to tell the WHOLE story of the University, because the whole of the University is great. Our students do amazing things; our faculty provide incredible benefits to our community through their research and through their teaching; our staff devote themselves to the development of students and to the operation of the enterprise – we need to let people know about these things!

With this responsibility in mind, here are some questions I think are useful to ask when we wish to tell our story:

What story are we telling?
This one is pretty easy: we all have amazing things going on; let’s tell the world! Did you know that we have students performing world-leading (literally) research right here on campus?! Did you know that we have faculty members who have worked for the UN?! Did you know that we have faculty and staff members who are presidentially-appointed to federal committees!? This stuff is ridiculous! If WE don’t even know this as a university community, why should we expect people beyond Norman to know? This is where we come in as marketing professionals at a university. Our students, faculty and staff deserve this recognition, and the University deserves to receive the accolades that come with such high-profile people and activities. Something is going on in your department that the world needs to know; tell the story!


Whose story are we telling?
Obviously, the university is made of numerous departments, colleges, etc., but each of these individual units are a part of the Sooner family. Our individual stories are but pieces of the whole, and they all tie back to the university. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts – but the whole isn’t complete without any of those parts. As pieces of the university we should always tell our stories, but always within the framework of the university. As much as we deserve glory for the wonderful work that goes on in our units, this is all done as a part of the University of Oklahoma, an institution we’re lucky to be associated with!

And finally:

Why are we telling the story?
The main reason I think we tell the story of the university is because it benefits our students, and they’re the entire reason we exist. Without our students, there would be no University of Oklahoma, and we wouldn’t be here! We tell the story because we build the reputation of the University, which opens up opportunities for our students. We tell the story because we gain more support from the community, which again opens up opportunities for our students. Our students need to know the blessing they have to be called Sooners, to understand the history of what it is to be a University of Oklahoma student, and why they should care. It’s our job to help them recognize this.

We tell the story because it’s a story worth telling. The University of Oklahoma is an amazing place, with awesome people, awesome projects, and awesome stories to tell. Let’s make sure the world knows it just as well as we do!

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