The goal of this project is to enhance effective communication of Western's quality initiatives to stakeholders, such as community leaders, parents, counselors/teachers, prospective students, alumni, faculty/staff and students. Communicating quality will focus on sharing the achievements of Western's faculty/staff, alumni, students and programs, especially in the areas of student engagement and applied learning. Western will communicate its quality message through a variety of ways including public relations, special events, advertising, and publications. By telling Western's story, focusing on quality, Western can better attract targeted student cohorts, build stronger connections with alumni, and build pride of the greater community.
Related AQIP Criteria
2-Accomplishing Other Distinctive Objectives
3-Understanding Students' and Other Stakeholders' Needs
6-Supporting Institutional Operations
9-Building Collaborative Relationships
Related AQIP Principles
A - A mission and vision that focus on serving students and other stakeholders
F - Collaboration and a shared institutional focus
G - Agility, flexibility, and responsiveness to changing needs and conditions
H - Planning for innovation and improvement
Rationale for Action
This project is derived from Western’s five-year strategic plan. Through this strategic vision, it has identified a focus on quality outcomes, applied learning, and student engagement as differentiators that set Western apart from others. Communicating all of these quality initiatives in an effective manner is critical to Western's future. As the college moves forward with our strategic vision, it is essential to communicate this message to stakeholders so they can support and understand our mission. For example, communicating about the quality of Western's student engagement initiatives will help attract the targeted student cohorts and retain both students and faculty.
Institutional Advancement; Admissions; Western Institute; Academic and Student Affairs; Executive Administration; and Governing Boards
Public Relations and Marketing; Recruitment; Partnership Creation; Alumni Relations; Donor Relations; Scanning and Assessing the External Environment; Scanning and Assessing the Internal Environment; Evaluation; and Governing Board Relations
For the process measures, the committee plans to track information to determine the effectiveness of communication strategies as well as campus involvement with them. Specific examples of process measures that will be used include: tracking media relations placements and stories attempted; tracking event attendance/impact; tracking advertising budget/placements; audit of internal publications including tracking frequency of quality messages in publications, communications, etc.; and measuring involvement by faculty/staff students, alumni in the project.
To determine the effectiveness of communication, the college plans to track internal, quantitative and qualitative measures. Internal measures include tracking all types of recruitment inquiries from the primary service area, and alumni involvement and giving rates. The college is in the process of completing baseline quantitative studies regarding student, faculty/staff, prospective student, and community perceptions of Western's quality initiatives. This information is also supported by qualitative studies such as interviews and focus groups of students, alumni and community members. These quantitative studies will be completed again in year three to measure the effectiveness of the communication to targeted stakeholders. The qualitative studies will be completed in year two and three to determine effectiveness.
Quantitative and Qualitative Stretch Targets
Complete remaining baseline surveys with prospective students and community members. Determine baseline alumni giving and recruiting numbers. Create specific levels of increase for year three stretch goals. Finalize the mix of tactics to communicate Western's commitment to quality. Use broad-based support of the campus community to communicate Western's quality initiatives. Identify key faculty, staff, alumni, and students to communicate the impact of this focus on quality.
Expand communication, including focused quality messages in existing publications and communications. Review process measures and adjust communication strategy. Complete all qualitative focus groups to review changes in opinions based on communication. The goal is to see an incremental increase in identifying quality themes associated with Western and recognition of communication activities.
Expand and adjust communication tactics to share Western's focus on quality. Review recruitment inquiries and alumni giving rates to see a sense of increase. Measure sense of involvement of alumni through qualitative focus groups. Meet stretch goals in increasing alumni giving and recruitment inquiries. Complete quantitative studies, comparing the results to baseline studies. Look for increased recognition of Western's quality-focused messages and perceptions about Western.
The institution has identified the need to communicate Western's strategic focus. To work to achieve this goal the campus has identified an Image and Advancement Implementation Team as well as a Public Relations and Marketing Committee. These groups represent faculty, staff and student involvement across campus. Over the past year a consultant worked with the campus community to identify ways to communicate Western's message of quality. This process was embraced by campus and recognized as a need. This project will build on that momentum. As we are using alumni, faculty, staff and students to share the impact of Western's quality initiatives, it will create an ongoing sense of interest and excitement. In addition, the PR and Marketing Committee will continue to involve the campus in this initiative and create a sense of collaboration and excitement.
Contact Person Information:
Director of Public Relations
Annual Update: 2004-09-13
Describe the past year's accomplishments and the current status
of this Action Project.
Significant progress has been made on the objectives outlined for Year One. The remaining baseline surveys were completed by May 2004. Admissions (fall 2003) and alumni giving data (FYE 2004) will be used as internal benchmarks. Baseline data was collected for the two areas, and stretch goals are being set.
The Public Relations and Marketing Office (PRMO) with the 20-member Public Relations and Marketing Committee (PRMC), a strategic planning sub-committee, focused on communicating Western’s quality initiatives to faculty, staff and students through events, departmental presentations and posters and flyers this spring. This was very successful and reached the majority of employees. Western hosted a spring semester contest with more than 80 responses from faculty, staff, and students. This increased participation in the project and ensured the office was receiving a diverse mix of stories and achievements by some of its strongest advocates.
In May 2004, the PRMO launched the external communication strategy with a variety of advertisements. An advertising budget and plan for communicating quality at Western was created over the summer. The Strategic Plan Implementation Fund provided $100,000 to fund the plan, and the plan has been reviewed by the PRMC. The advertising focus will be mid-September through April 2005.
B. Describe how the institution involved
people in work on this Action Project.
In planning the implementation of this Action Project, the Director of Public Relations and Marketing made a concerted effort to share information on this project and to involve the campus community in the project. During the launch of the communication campaign, the director and her staff spoke to more than 200 individuals at promotional events and members of 28 out of 51 individual departments. In addition the Discover Gold contest resulted in 80 stories regarding how Western makes a difference in the lives of students, faculty and staff. Memos, posters, flyers, magnets were also used to communicate during the launch. The PRMO has created a website (www.missouriwestern.edu/discovergold) that continues to communicate Western’s activities regarding this project. The PRMC, which represents a broad range of faculty and institutional departments interested in promoting Western, has served as the primary implementation team for this action project. They have been involved in a variety of activities supporting the project.
C. Describe your planned next steps for
this Action Project.
The college needs to complete several steps as it moves into Year 2 of this project. The first step in September will be to finalize the stretch measures for the Admission and Alumni benchmarks. Also, the PRMO will monitor the advertising plan to ensure maximum effectiveness. The PRMC will discuss and create a plan to communicate the progress and continue involving the campus (especially the students) in the Action Project. The PR & Marketing Director will meet with Admissions, Alumni Services and other key stakeholders in the project to determine ways to partner with the departments in communicating Western’s quality through targeted publications or other activities.
D. Describe any "effective practice(s)"
that resulted from your work on this Action Project.
In this Action Project, many of our processes are just being developed. The communication process used in Year One to introduce the project to faculty and staff was very effective. It may turn out to be a best practice. This was a very broad-based strategy that touched every department on campus in some way. The PRMO contacted every administrative group, including the Cabinet, Deans’ Council, Directors, and Chairs of all departments, to share a 15-minute presentation on the Communicating Quality Action Project and Discover Gold strategy. Then the PRMO office contacted and scheduled a 10-minute presentation for departments, reaching 28 of 51 departments. Those departments not meeting received written materials and give-aways for each member of the department. In addition, two HTML emails and one written document were distributed to all employees the week prior to these activities. This approach truly penetrated campus and allowed the office to send its message to the majority of employees. Since that time, the same communication model, to a lesser extent, has been used to communicate other issues.
E. What challenges, if any, are you still
facing in regards to this Action Project?
Determining the internal benchmark data to use in measuring the outcomes of this Action Project proved challenging. To determine the Admissions and Alumni benchmarks, the PRMO looked at how other institutions were benchmarking communication strategies and consulted the college’s branding consultant as to the best way to measure the impact of the communication. We have now determined the benchmarks and received the data. Due to the initial challenge of identifying the specific benchmarks, the project director has not yet set stretch goals; however, those goals will be completed by the end of September.
A second challenge will be to create channels of communication to continue communication to the campus community about this Action Project. Determining effective ways to communicate to the entire student body continues to be a challenge. The PRMC will focus on this challenge in the next two months and plans to talk with other institutions about strategies for sustaining and enhancing communication about the Action Project, ultimately resulting in increased involvement. From this research, the PRMO will create a communication plan for the next two years of the project.
F. If you would like to discuss the possibility
of AQIP providing you help to stimulate progress on this action
project, explain your need(s) here and tell us who to contact and