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Strategy, Marketing and Communications team celebrates awards, milestones

This year, the team supported a number of COVID-19 efforts and told the MSU Denver story to an even larger audience.

By Lindsey Coulter

August 20, 2020

MSU Denver flag.Earlier this summer, the Metropolitan State University of Denver Strategy, Marketing and Communications team took home two top industry awards, capping a busy summer dedicated to growing enrollment, legislative advocacy and disseminating critical health and safety information to thousands of Roadrunners.

After celebrating its PRSA Colorado Public Relations Team of the Year Award in 2019, the SMC team accepted the national-level CASE Circle of Excellence Gold Award for video and the national-level PRSA Bronze Anvil in the Online Newsroom category. The awards are further proof that the team’s rapid pivot to simultaneously navigating a global pandemic and nationwide conversations about systemic racism and reimagining power structures provides a blueprint for fellow higher-education institutions.

Prior to the COVID-19-related campus closure in March, the SMC team had successfully launched a refreshed University brand campaign and related advertising, hosted U.S. Senate candidates and high-profile events, increased exposure to University experts and initiatives, and made important legislative strides. When health precautions moved University operations online, however, the team quickly retooled marketing and communication efforts for an unexpected era of higher education.

Throughout the spring and summer, the team developed countless communications related to COVID-19 health, safety and economic impacts as well as how the University is advancing in its anti-racism goals. While much of this work was directed at the internal campus community, it also required sharing the MSU Denver story broadly with the Denver and Colorado communities. The team produced dozens of RED stories featuring faculty experts, which led to many media placements and generated opportunities for University leaders to contribute to and lead essential conversations in the higher ed space. The University’s success in quickly and safely addressing the pandemic and taking concrete steps to address systemic racism has also drawn the attention of peer institutions whose leaders have reached out for advice and guidance.

“These efforts would not have been nearly as successful had the team not dedicated months to researching and understanding the University’s reputation qualities,” said Cathy Lucas, vice president, Strategy. “Almost overnight, we went from working on longer-term strategic planning to marketing new gap-year experiences, hero fields and reskilling opportunities, all while remaining true to our University values.”

The team also doubled down on studying metrics and exercising best practices as well as continued efforts to put MSU Denver at the forefront of higher-education conversations – promoting not just diversity and affordability but also opportunity, excellence and innovation. These ideas were captured in the bold and memorable “Reimagine Possible” campaign in 2019, which engaged the entire campus community and reintroduced the University as a higher-education leader.

That campaign proved its value and adaptability as MSU Denver transitioned messaging quickly for the COVID-19 era. The new targeted marketing campaign highlights MSU Denver’s reputation for supporting students as well as programs such as Social Work and Nursing. Additionally, the University website was revamped with tailored messaging and resources in a matter of days. The team also collaborated with campus partners to support new retention efforts and continued to advocate for higher-education funding, policy and direct financial relief for students.

As higher-education institutions across the country grapple with the future of education delivery and attracting and retaining students, these and other efforts are helping to push MSU Denver to the front of important conversations.

“I’m very proud of how this team deftly shifted focus to increase support for our outstanding student programs but also to tell a new story about what is possible at MSU Denver because this University is more vital than ever,” Lucas said.

Looking ahead, the SMC team will continue its work to raise the University’s profile and reputation. Roadrunners can expect a redesigned and enhanced website; thoughtful, targeted and enrollment-driving marketing efforts; and continued legislative advocacy on behalf of the University and its students. These efforts will ensure MSU Denver is increasingly recognized as a local, regional and national higher education leader.

Topics: CADRE, Events, Excellence, Strategy, Marketing and Communication

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