UMass seeks to boost reputation with marketing agencies

By Marie MacCune

The University of Massachusetts has hired four marketing agencies in order to boost its reputation in the commonwealth and across the country.

Juliette Sandleitner

“We have embarked on a broad campaign to promote the university,” said Executive Director of News and Media Relations Ed Blaguszewski.

“We need to articulate the value, importance and contributions of UMass Amherst as a flagship campus,” he added. “We are a research institution promoting the commonwealth in the innovation sector. We need to remind people of that.”

Blaguszewski said that one of the goals on the campaign was to “inform the state legislature and the general public about our commitment to public service.”

The University has done community outreach throughout the state, not just in the valley, and Blaguszewski hopes that by highlighting this in the campaign, UMass will gain greater recognition and importance. The University is also seeking to attract more attention from the state legislature and executives with the new campaign.

In partnership with the State House, UMass has committed itself to a 50/50 plan, which means that the state will provide 50 percent of the academic expenditures of the University and students and their families will contribute the other half.

In order for this goal to be reached, there needs to be enhanced funding from the State House.

The University is hopeful that the new marketing strategies will heighten its reputation amongst key players in Massachusetts politics and reaffirm the state’s commitment to higher public education.

Blaguszewski also said that the campaign aims to create a stronger alumni network with UMass Rising, the $300 million fundraising campaign aimed at alumni.

UMass Rising is the biggest fundraising campaign organized in university history.

“As students graduate, the value of their degree will increase as UMass’s standing in the commonwealth and the world rises,” said Blaguszewski, explaining why promoting the University is not just in the interest of current students here on campus but to anyone in connection to UMass.

Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications Inc., Element Productions, Petta Ryan and Co. and Gravity Switch have all been hired as part of the project.

Rasky Baerlein is a Boston-based public relations agency focused on strategic communications. It is working in tandem with Element Productions, who, according to Blaguszewski, has done “impressive video work.”

According to a press release put out by Rasky Baerlein, the two contracts with the University are worth $500,000 and run until May of 2014.

Rasky Baerlein, Element Productions and Petta Ryan and Co. will be working on media strategies and public relations to promote the University as a whole for $450,000.

Gravity Switch, whose contract is worth $50,000, is focusing specifically on the Stockbridge School of Agriculture. Their newest television ads are available on the University’s website and are being shown in the Boston area.

“We want to connect with all different constituencies, especially those in and around Boston,” said Blaguszewski. “This campaign is helping us to tell our story; tell our story to the state government, the general public and even private contractors who might be interested in our research.”

The campaign is not directly tied to admissions or enrollment; however the University hopes that by better promoting itself it will be able to attract even more of the best and brightest students as their first choice school.

According to the Office of Institutional Research, in 2013, UMass had an acceptance yield of only 20.5 percent. This means that of the students who applied and were accepted to the University, only about a fifth choose to enroll.

Blaguszewski is optimistic that this will change and UMass admissions will become more competitive as word spreads about the quality of a UMass education.

Petta Ryan and Co. is a media placement firm helping the University get the best deals when buying advertisement spots. This is important, Blaguszewski said, because “we want what we do to have the biggest impact it can. They can help us leverage the effectiveness of our dollar.”

Most recently, the firms helped organize Stand for UMass in Boston a few weeks ago.

Blaguszewski said their role is to help plan the day, help in brokering key interviews with Boston media and help encourage the “very effective” use of social media.

The University wants to “build enthusiasm and a community of followers [on social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter].”

UMass received very positive feedback after the event in Boston and Blaguszewski believes the campaign is “off to a great start.”

Marie MacCune can be reached at [email protected]