On Wednesday Nov. 7, leaders from all areas of the University of Maine community converged at Wells Conference Center to partake in the UMaine Communicators Summit with the goal of universalizing the UMaine brand and integrating various departments to best represent the university.
The Summit was built out of Pathway 3 of UMaine President Paul Ferguson’s Blue Sky Project, which is “Embracing a Culture of Excellence: Promoting Spirit, Community and Collaboration.”
“This is really the beginning. This is the beginning of a whole new way of communicating through the University of Maine,” Ferguson said, addressing the room of 300-plus attendees, which included members of Academic Affairs, the Alumni Association, athletics, Auxiliary Services, the Career Center, Cooperative Extension, Office of Human Resources, the Multicultural Center, the UMaine Museum of Art, Residence Life, Student Affairs, the Wabanaki Center, as well as a number of academic departments.
Ferguson opened his address with a quote from the late Steve Jobs’ biography, written by Walter Isaacson. Using Apple as an example of how a brand and a trademark can inspire more than just the product, Ferguson preached that the university should take the same steps.
“You will hopefully walk away from this gathering today not consumed by what colors we are, what brand it is [or] what font it is, but how do we embrace the institutional identity. That is our goal here today,” Ferguson said.
“We are a university. I realize we are not putting out products,” Ferguson added, stressing the differences between Apple’s marketing and the university’s. “In this day and age, we have got to do a better job of ensuring our institutional identity is fostered and nurtured in the best possible way so that when people see it, they can begin to identify with the quality of who we are and what we do.”
Ferguson stressed that this wasn’t an attack on anyone who wasn’t using correct branding, because no process was implemented to ensure this structure. Putting that formation in place was the Summit’s goal, according to the president.
“Sometimes we need a little guidance, we need a little structure,” he said. “This is not the brand police. This is about guidance, structure — in order to get excellence. That is our goal.”
Ferguson talked about the success of the Blue Sky Project thus far, citing the university’s coming together to achieve progress.
“To see your participation today is heart-warming because it shows you do want to communicate well for the good of the University of Maine,” Ferguson said. “We all are communicators, we all are creative [and] we all have competitive ideas. All the division of marketing and communications is doing today is asking you all to come together.”
A slideshow played in tandem with the speeches. One slide featured at least three dozen UMaine logos that had no resemblance to one another. Each logo represented a different department or club at UMaine. Julie Hopwood, senior advisor to Ferguson, stressed the need to have all UMaine insignia convene under the “umbrella” of the UMaine logo: a shield with three sails, “1865” written above it and “The University of Maine” written next to it.
“This is how we see ourselves. This is perhaps how others see us,” Hopwood said, referencing the abundance of different UMaine logos on the slide. “There’s nothing wrong with the majority of marks here, but the majority of them aren’t seen with [our logo]. We’re not suggesting we wipe the slate clean. What we’re suggesting is that [the UMaine logo] acts as the umbrella, so that everybody knows that under this umbrella exists this excellence.”
One of the concepts Hopwood introduced was the UMaine Brand Standards, which was constructed to help departments and groups associated with the university maintain the institutional identity and message of UMaine.
“The goal of the Brand Standards is not to make all UMaine print and online communication look identical, but rather members of the same family,” Hopwood said.
The other big transition was the reorganizing of the department of university relations into the division of marketing and communications, which is what the summit was built from. In addition to working with various UMaine departments and constituencies, and members of the media and the public, the goal of the division of marketing and communications is to provide counsel and services to various departments in the form of news writing, marketing writing, graphic design, multimedia, photography and video production.
“We have a lot of expertise and a lot of experience that I think we can share and save each other some time and energy,” Hopwood said. “Each of us in the UMaine community is working toward the same goals, whether it’s state and federal appropriations, research dollars, foundation grants, private gifts, rankings, identity, reputation, market share, student recruitment or student success, what we want to do is pool our resources.”
Hopwood introduced Director of Marketing Communications Jubin Kwon, who talked about how best to market the university. He also introduced members of his department.
“Most of what you see can be boiled down to two things: proper planning and reporting,” Kwon said.
Kwon went into detail about what marketing and communications can offer, including Internet and new media strategies, market research, concept creation and production, print and traditional marketing pieces, and social media recommendations.
“Facebook is already 8 years old and approaching ubiquity,” Kwon said. “How can we leverage its strengths to reach out to our audiences? Do we know what it’s not ideal for?”
Kwon went through a number of print and display designs that marketing and communications can offer university departments, as well as a number of designs they already have a hand in, including the public safety vehicles and the pole banners lining Orono. Kwon also brought up licensing approvals for UMaine products and that “royalties directly fund UMaine scholarships.”
After briefly introducing manager of visual media Ron Lisnet and UMaine photographer and videographer Adam Küykendall, Kwon informed the audience of the UMaine photo database, which is now accessible for members of the UMaine community. You can call 207-581-3758 to request a username and password access to the images. For images between 2000 and 2010, you can schedule an appointment with marketing and communications. Fogler Library holds a special collection for photos prior to 2000.
“If you’re thinking about incorporating photo and video into your promotion, Ron Lisnet, Adam Küykendall and our marketing team will bring your project to life,” Kwon said.
Kwon then introduced Senior Director of Public Relations and Operations Margaret Nagle, who briefly introduced the web office staff and the UMaine news and UMaine Today staffs.
Nagle stressed the importance of converting UMaine websites to WordPress, which is much easier to maintain and operate when all are operating under the same process.
“An important advantage of UMaine-branded websites is that they are finally accessible to any of our users,” Nagle said.
After an intermission, attendees examined three case studies on how cooperating with marketing and communications can implement a campaign or fix a convoluted one.
The first example was with UMaine Cooperative Extension, which reached out to marketing and communications when — according to executive director of cooperative extension John Rebar — it became apparent they had to commit “logo genocide.”
“We had people enrolled in our program for years and had no idea they were associated with the University of Maine,” Rebar said.
Rebar used a recent example of partnering with marketing and communications to display how UMaine Cooperative Extension helps the state of Maine’s food production.
“How do you explain who you are? If you see our [logo], it doesn’t tell you who we are,” Rebar said. “But cooperative extension does more for the Maine food system than any other entity in the state of Maine, and we wanted to convey that. We went to marketing and communications and they came up with an image used to convey a feeling.”
The image was created from photos of a number of different types of food shaped into the state of Maine with the UMaine Cooperative Extension logo above it. According to Rebar, the image has become so popular that, in addition to conveying the message, people want to hang it on their wall.
“What a brand does is it creates a feeling, and that feeling of value matters,” Rebar said.
The other cases used were the transition of the human resources site and the teamwork between marketing and communications and the business department and enrollment management, which helped recruit students to the university.
“It was an unmitigated success,” said Judy Ryan, associate vice president for human resources and administration. “What HR gained was a new partnership with marketing and communications. The project took about four months, and it would have probably taken HR just about a year [on our own]. And it was no cost to HR.”
As the summit finished, guests were given a tote bag filled with the Blue Sky Project and executive summary, a number of business cards of all marketing and communication specialists on campus, a printed version of the UMaine Communications Summit powerpoint, a copy of the UMaine Brand Standards guide, a copy of the marketing and communications policies and procedures handbook, and the first edition of the UMaine directory.