Your Public Relations and Communications Community

CHE May 2014 Newsletter

Inside this Issue

Chair’s Message
Watch the Senior Summit Presentations
Matt Nagel to Chair 2015 Senior Summit in New Location
Partnering for Success: PR and Development
Live Webinar on Managing and Communicating Higher Education Crises
June 5 Google Hangout With Executive Communicators
Two Appointed to CHE Executive Committee; Three Others Named to CHEAG
Pass It On
Share Your News
The Counselors to Higher Education Executive Committee
Welcome New Members


Chair’s Message

Dear CHE Members,

It was great to see so many of you last week at the Senior Summit in Washington, D.C. Kudos to Matt Nagel and his team of volunteers who organized a fabulous three days of learning and networking. Mark your calendars now for next year’s conference in D.C., April 15–17, 2015. Please bring a friend or colleague — we’re changing hotels and will have plenty of room for a larger crowd.

Our Section’s membership continues to grow. We’re now up to 468 members, an all-time high. Let’s keep growing, because the more people who join the network, the more valuable it becomes to all of us. Please encourage your contacts in PRSA to join.

CHE also needs volunteers to help make the Section go. Please drop me a line at if you’re interested in pitching in.

Joe Brennan, Ph.D., APR
Chair, CHE Executive Committee

Watch the Senior Summit Presentations

If you didn’t get an opportunity to attend the Counselors to Higher Education’s Senior Summit held in Washington, D.C., April 9–11, please read the address, “Proving Public Relations Value,” presented by Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities, at the annual Pat Jackson Lecture and Dinner; watch the other Senior Summit presentations online; and check out this photo gallery.

Matt Nagel to Chair 2015 Senior Summit in New Location

Matt Nagel, APR, director of media relations and issues management and institute communications at the Georgia Institute of Technology, will serve as chair of the 2015 Senior Summit, which will be held April 15–17 at the Fairfax at Embassy Row, 2100 Massachusetts Ave., Washington, D.C.
Nagel, a member of the CHE Executive Committee, chaired the highly successful 2014 Senior Summit, which attracted more than 100 public relations and other higher education professionals.

Partnering for Success: PR and Development

Charlie Melichar, Senior Consultant, Marts & Lundy

Just as PR isn’t an “end in itself,” to quote Pat Jackson (via CHEAG member Don Hale), neither is fundraising. Both disciplines are intensely focused on the bigger picture of institutional success.

If your public relations program doesn’t include development communications, you’re missing out — and so is your institution.

Effective public relations and development programs are symbiotic levers of institutional success, but they often operate independently of each other. This brief essay is an argument for partnership between these functions, elevating the relationship from transactional to cooperative. Public relations leaders should invest themselves in fundraising success, and as such be invited to discuss strategy at the earliest stages of planning, particularly around a campaign.

One plan
An institutional strategic plan is the foundation of public relations strategic planning. From the core messages to the statements made about the institution’s future through the priorities that were selected, the strategic plan is the roadmap for a college or university’s success. Visit your development colleagues’ offices and they are having the same conversations. In building a campaign plan, they are translating the strategic plan to campaign priorities organized around key themes and attached to key messages.

By being involved at the early stages of campaign planning, a public relations leader can help position and shape priorities based on understanding of key messages and constituents. The later in the process public relations gets involved, the more likely it is that the opportunity to provide strategic direction has been missed. This leaves the office in a fulfillment role, weakening the position of the team and its relevance to decisions regarding the engagement of constituents around institutional vision.

One message
Core campaign messaging must be developed far in advance of the campaign launch. The “quiet phase” of the campaign is anything but. Leaders are out testing messages with key insiders, gaining valuable insights into campaign themes that will ultimately become the campaign message. If public relations is getting involved after this happened, it’s too late.

The campaign message is an iteration of the institutional message. As the champion of the institutional message, public relations should play an important role in shaping the campaign message. These messages need to be integrated as you make a compelling case for the college or university’s future. Conversations about campaign identity (written and visual) should focus either on how to play off the primary college or university identity or can be used to drive a refresh of the primary identity.

One community
Today’s communication strategy, driven in large part by social media, has no tolerance for “siloed” messages. In response, colleges and universities are speaking to their community of students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff, using one voice. Public relations is the hub of this effort, a connection point for offices that may be organizationally separate but must deliver crisp, consistent messages that are relevant to all.

Key donors, volunteers and friends have stepped forward to invest in the future of the college or university. Given the full spectrum of an institution’s publics, these are perhaps the most interesting to work with. They bring passion, understanding of the brand and, importantly, a willingness to help. They can help as focus group participants, campaign advocates and partners who lead the way in celebrating success.

(No) one structure
There is no one reporting structure that ensures success. Each institution is going to have a system that works best for it, based on leadership style, needs and personnel. Too often the structure conversation consumes so much time and energy, the work itself suffers. Instead, start with the broadest institutional goals that support the strategic plan, identify those critical partners across the institution, craft a plan and build in measures of success.

All of this hinges on the leaders’ ability to proactively engage in open conversation. No matter what the reporting lines are, public relations leaders should ensure that the partnership between public relations and development is exactly that — and they should expect the same from their development colleagues. Neither should assume that the other fully understands their business, so each should take the initiative to explain strategy and listen to the perspectives of the other.

Public relations and development are drivers of institutional success, building community and support to ensure a vital future. Each of these offices understands that they are not an “end in itself,” and therefore share a great deal of common ground. By taking the time to forge a strong partnership, the professionals who lead these important functions will benefit, as will the institution.

Live Webinar on Managing and Communicating Higher Education Crises

John L. Sygielski,
president, Harrisburg Area Community College, and Linnie S. Carter, APR, vice president of college advancement, Harrisburg Area Community College, will present at “Managing and Communicating About Higher Education Crises: Two Months, Three Crises,” from 3–4 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, May 6.

Hear how a community college’s team effectively managed and communicated about three major crises: a student abduction, an accreditation warning and embezzlement, within a two-month time period. You will learn about:

  • Transparent crisis communication plans that strengthened support among external stakeholders.
  • The many tactics and channels you can use to communicate key messages.
  •  The deepened commitment of current donors to the HACC Foundation.

    Register here.

June 5 Google Hangout With Executive Communicators

Lisa Rudgers, vice president for global communications and strategic initiatives, University of Michigan, and Michael Warden, vice president of institute communications, Georgia Institute of Technology, will participate in the second of a two-part Google Hangout on Air discussion with executive-level university communicators at 11 a.m. EDT on Thursday, June 5.

To register, please contact CHE Executive Committee member Dana Fair, APR, senior marketing communications specialist at the University of Michigan, at

In March, CHE held its first Google Hangout on Air discussions with executive-level university communicators. The conversation focused on the role of public relations in responding to the evolving higher education landscape. Panelists were Joseph A. Brennan, APR, vice president for strategic communication, University of Iowa; Lisa Ann Lapin, associate vice president for university communications, Stanford University; and Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, Duke University.

Click here for the playback.

Two Appointed to CHE Executive Committee; Three Others Named to CHEAG

Kent Cassella, assistant vice president of communications and brand strategy and director of media communications, Michigan State University, and Jack Martin, APR, director of strategic communications, University of Kansas, have been appointed to the Counselors to Higher Education Executive Committee.

Cassella and Martin are filling the terms of veteran Executive Committee members Charlie Melichar, APR, senior consultant, Marts & Lundy, and Randell Kennedy, president and founder of Academy Communications, who are joining the Counselors to Higher Education Alumni Group (CHEAG). In addition, Susan Davis, a communications specialist at The Annenberg Retreat of Sunnylands and a former CHE Executive Committee member, has been appointed to CHEAG.

Pass It On

The Counselors to Higher Education is always looking to enrich its membership with senior-level practitioners eager to learn, to share their expertise with peers and to contribute to the profession. If you know someone who should be a member of CHE, please send that person’s name and contact information to Nancy Collins, APR, at We’ll do our best to persuade your colleague to join.

Share Your News

Did you get a new job, earn your Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) or win an award? If so, CHE wants to hear about it and share it in the newsletter. Please send your news to

The Counselors to Higher Education Executive Committee

Executive Committee Members:

  • Kent Cassella, assistant vice president of communications and brand strategy and director of media communications, Michigan State University
  • Nancy Collins, APR, communications strategist, Collins Communications
  • Jeanette DeDeimar, Ph.D., associate vice president of university relations, Florida State University
  • Lori Doyle, senior vice president for university communications, Drexel University
  • Tom Eppes, APR, Fellow PRSA, chief communications officer, University of Mississippi
  • Dana Fair, APR, senior marketing communications strategist for information and technology services, University of Michigan
  • Don Hale, ‎vice president for public relations and marketing communications, Georgia State University
  • Jack Martin, APR, director of strategic communications, University of Kansas
  • John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations, Quinnipiac University
  • Matt Nagel, APR, director of media relations and issues management for institute communications, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Steve Roulier, director of marketing and communications, Springfield College

Welcome New Member

The following members joined the CHE Section from Apr. 1– 30, 2014. You can view the entire Section roster in the PRSA Member Directory.

Molly Andersen, Collegis Education, Bloomington, Minn.
Laurie Bick, Wilmington University, New Castle, Del.
Peter E. Bickel, Villanova University, Villanova, Pa.
Karyn Lynne Brown, MA,  Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Miss.
Maral Chalian, American University of Armenia, Los Angeles, Calif.
Catherine G. Divis, OSU-Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Kellee P. Edmonds, National Association of College and University Business Officers, Alexandria, Va.
Katheryn Michelle Edwards, University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Chicago, Ill.
Susan Falvo, Dallas County Schools, Dallas, Texas
Ethan Grove, Chicago, Ill.
Jonathan Joseph Gust, Villanova University, Villanova, Pa.
Loretta Chilcoat Jergensen, 2U, Inc., Baltimore, Md.
Elizabeth Cline Johnson, Purdue University- MFRI, West Lafayette, Ind.
David Kenneth Joplin, MA, OSU-Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Heather Kay, OSU-Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Chris Moran, University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla.
Bill Nevin, West Virginia University Foundation, Morgantown, W.Va.
Victoria Nguyen, University of Oregon Foundation, Eugene, Ore.
Stacey Lynn Osburn, National Collegiate Athletic Association, Indianapolis, Ind.
Laurie Ann Pine, Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J.
Cynthia G. Pollard, CP & Associates, Reno, Nev.
Diane Rezendes, The Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.
Stepheni Lynn Schlinker, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich.
Kandace Nicole Taylor, OSU-Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Julie Waters, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
Chris K. Wooldridge, OSU-Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City, Okla.

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