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Marketers respond to System chancellor’s remarks on university ads

Marketers respond to System chancellor’s remarks on university ads

Marketers respond to System chancellor’s remarks on university ads
March 31
03:23 2016

Adalberto Toledo | Senior Staff


Advertisements from the university often use words like “superb,” “leading” and “top” to solidify its brand image, but in a recent review, UNT System chancellor Lee Jackson advised a change in the language UNT uses.

Having recently received the Carnegie Classification, Jackson advised UNT that as the university or any organization grows, the rhetoric associated with it must also change, to cast UNT in a more prestigious light.

With the “Green Light to Greatness” campaign ending in 2017, UNT will change the university’s voice to reflect that of a university comparable in standing to other Carnegie classified universities.

“Cities, companies, and universities,” Jackson said, “make broader and more aggressive claims laced with superlatives and ambitious expectations when they are weak than when they become more successful and respected.”

UNT’s Identity Guide suggests all advertisements be “written in a way that expresses the university’s creativity and innovation.” The website says to use of words like “confident,” “friendly,” “bold,” and “inspiring” to describe the university.

The online version of the “viewbook” every prospective student receives from UNT have words like “one-of-a-kind” and “incredible,” to showcase the university’s diversity and viability as a freshman’s new home.

Deborah Leliaert, vice president for university relations and planning, said UNT always tries to give an accurate representation of itself.

“Our practice is to provide information accurately and on a timely basis,” Leliaert said. “We routinely freshen the appearance of our marketing and communication materials – print and digital.”

As with all brands, UNT’s image is an evolution. Leliaert said the university must look to the best practices of communication throughout various fields, not just higher education, to establish its brand.

Biology senior Brittney Anderson said the university just wants students to enroll, and mentioned that the language describing the university is often “very cliché.”

“If you express and talk a lot about your accomplishments, it makes you want to look into what they’re saying,” Anderson said. “They should be more specific with the things they advertise.”

Her friend, biology senior Allen Thongrivong, said that while he agrees with many of the things UNT says about itself, the university should focus in on the accomplishments of specific programs and not on the overall “awesomeness” of the university.

“They need to prove [what they say],” Thongrivong said. “You have to live up to what you say, and I personally think they do.”

In the performance evaluation, Jackson said he receives many newsletters and messages from universities that contain their language.

“I am struck by how many of them are more restrained in speaking of their own campus accomplishments,” Jackson said. “The universities with the strongest reputations whose faculty or student achievements are perhaps expected [in particular].”

A look into peer university’s messages to their student body shows this restrained language.

When UT Dallas became a part of universities in “highest research” category of the Carnegie Classification, the announcement did not come with elevated language or even the use of the words “tier-one,” something UNT did.

The announcement’s headline “UNT ranked among nation’s Tier One research universities.” That stands in contrast to UT Dallas, which led with, “Carnegie Classification of Institutions Elevates UT Dallas to Highest Research Category.” In the language of the announcement itself, no mention of “tier-one” exists, though in a sidebar UT Dallas explains the term as “inexact.”

The sidebar also said “Texas currently has three universities that by common consent would be termed as “Tier One”: The University of Texas at Austin, Rice University and Texas A&M University.”

UT Dallas said the announcement comes as “merely a milepost” in its pursuance of their greater strategic plan. UNT, however, marked it as a “significant step” and did not distance itself from language like “top-tier,” and “among the state’s top universities.”

Journalism junior Rand Gowan agreed with Jackson’s criticisms of UNT’s voice.

“Overtalking your brand can be construed as insecurity,” Gowan said. “Rather than say that UNT is great, say what specifically makes it great.”

The Carnegie ranking, Jackson said, gives reason for UNT to adapt its voice and “speak more modestly now.”

“Leaders [at other institutions] are able to speak about their institutions with pride in an understated voice,” Jackson said, adding he would like Smatresk to review the best examples of communications from other respected universities.

Featured Image: Courtesy | UNT

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