As PR professionals we are often guided and instructed on how to re-brand an organization or a company. More often than not, we resort to changing the current logo and developing a new ad campaign. However, the University of Southern Mississippi has done much more than create a new outward appearance. University president, Dr. Martha Saunders, has been more than admit about changing the university from the inside out, “You can change the way a product looks, repackage it, put a new wrapper on it, but to brand an organization requires people. It’s more than just an image. It’s something people want to be a part of.”
In 2007 Saunders took on her role as university president and quickly began plotting the re-branding of the university. Her first act was gauging the opinions of the faculty, students, outside community and fellow administrators on unique attributes of the university. Common characteristics included a sense of tradition, self-sufficiency, diversity, and a unified mentality.
Next step in Saunders’ plan included comprising a committee dedicated to identifying goals in efforts to create an academic environment for the university. Having common goals has created “a nice, positive difference on campus,” states Saunders, “we can’t do all things at the same time, so let’s pick two or three, and we’re all going to get in behind that.”
Finally Saunders wanted to extend efforts outward and utilize the local press. Saunders’ tactic for external coverage included tailoring each story to a particular niche media.
The results show national press coverage jumping 838 percent from the 2008-2009 school year, website traffic more than doubled, and freshman enrollment increased by 14 percent.
The Public Relations Society of America has recognized the university with its Silver Anvil Award.