It’s no secret that I’ve been critical of a number of President Potter’s decisions. When I heard that President Potter hired a California marketing company to improve SCSU’s image, I got upset. Here’s what President Potter said in announcing that hiring:
As some of you probably know, we have been working with Earthbound Media Group to create a new branding strategy. This California firm has deep expertise in social media and a keen eye for the truth. They are helping us to identify the words and images that will tell Minnesota and the world what makes St. Cloud State special. Strategy, which comes before the development of specific marketing campaigns, serves as a decision making framework for every aspect of how we tell our story. Thus, it is imperative that we get the strategy right before we begin craft the campaigns that will address each of our important audiences.
In their study of media and social media and through conversations with students, faculty and staff, alumni and community partners, the Earthbound folks discovered that we, especially students, are saying positive things about St. Cloud State. And yet many refer to us as a “Quiet giant”, that we’re hiding our light under a basket, so to speak.
Even more concerning, they found that negative perceptions from many outsiders who control the “blogosphere” are not grounded in reality. In their language, we have a “brand gap”, a gap between perception and reality.
First, the people that participated in EMG’s focus groups weren’t randomly selected. They were hand-picked. Next, I’d love hearing President Potter explain why morale is so low if “students, faculty and staff, alumni and community partners” are “saying positive things about” SCSU.
Make no mistake about it. Morale on campus is low. The faculty isn’t happy with President Potter, either. That was verified when faculty essentially gave COSE Dean David DeGroote a vote of no confidence. I’ve heard that the vote wasn’t close, either.
If the things that President Potter said in that speech are verifiably false, what other things should be questioned? Was EMG hired to ‘verify’ a predetermined outcome through rigged focus groups?
If they were hired with that intent, then it’s justifiable to think that the money SCSU spent in hiring EMG wasn’t money well spent. It was money spent on a CYA operation.
At a time when budgets were being cut, how could President Potter justify paying more than $500,000 for EMG’s services?
President Potter made that speech in August, 2011.
A closer reading of EMG’s statement indicates that they aren’t great communicators. First, there’s this paragraph:
Earthbound Media Group’s (EMG) Co-Founder and Chief Visionary Officer Damien Navarro recently spoke at St. Cloud State University’s (SCSU) Fall Convocation ceremony where he unveiled the universities new “Education for Life” branding campaign created by the interactive communications agency in partnership with the school’s marketing and communications department. The event also saw university President Earl H. Potter III and President of Student Government Samantha Ivey join Navarro in the addressing the audience consisting of faculty and students and provided for the unveiling of the branding initiative that hopes to change external perceptions of on-campus realities.
Not to be nitpicky but the grammar in that oversized paragraph is, at minimum, unprofessional. If I had written their press release, it would’ve looked like this:
Earthbound Media Group’s (EMG) Co-Founder and Chief Visionary Officer Damien Navarro recently spoke at St. Cloud State University’s (SCSU) Fall Convocation ceremony, where he unveiled the University’s new “Education for Life” branding campaign.
The branding campaign was created by the interactive communications agency in partnership with the school’s marketing and communications department.
University President Earl H. Potter III and Student Government President Samantha Ivey joined Navarro in the addressing the audience consisting of faculty and students. The event served as the official unveiling of the branding initiative that hopes to change external perceptions of on-campus realities.
Nothing says ‘Don’t take me seriously’ quite as effectively as a statement filled with misspellings, poor punctuation and long sentences and oversized paragraphs.
That’s just one more reason why it’s impossible for me to justify paying EMG hundreds of thousands of dollars for a marketing plan.
Taxpayers deserve to be treated better than that.