UF campaign building buzz about top 10 drive
Published: Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 6:16 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 6:16 p.m.
“UF Rising” is catching fire.
It started a couple of weeks ago with social media sightings, including the hashtag #UFRISING on Twitter, along with the launch of the UFRISING website.
In recent weeks, nearly full-page ads have appeared in the Independent Florida Alligator aimed at students and faculty. One asks students what they taught their professors. Another asks faculty if they are glad they chose UF over some God-forsaken state college in the frozen North.
There's even a 90-second YouTube video called “Rise and Shine, Gators.” Accompanied by a jangling, guitar-driven soundtrack reminiscent of early U2 songs, the video shows students heading to class by foot, by bus and by bike, filling up seats in lecture halls, swimming in the O'Connell Center pool and running the steps at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Accompanying the video is this text: “The University of Florida is on the rise. We've set a goal to achieve recognition as one of the nation's top public research universities. You'll learn next week about the plan to take us to the top. We'll need your support and input to succeed.”
The social media blitz dubbed “UF Rising to National Preeminence” is part of a coordinated effort by UF campus groups that include University Relations, the UF Foundation, the UAA and marketing and creative staff. The goal is to generate buzz about UF's plans to become a top 10 university, and to get students, faculty and alumni to support those efforts.
UF's plan for national distinction was outlined by President Bernie Machen and approved by the Florida Board of Governors last week in Miami. It includes investing $15 million a year in recruiting and hiring nationally recognized faculty and building on several of UF's research strengths.
“The goal is to establish ourselves as one of the nation's best public research universities,” said Chris Moran, director of communications at UF.
UF's social media staff started generating the buzz before the plan was formally approved by the Board of Governors, and was accompanied by the website and media buys in the Alligator. There are plans to advertise in the Chronicle of Higher Education and other national publications targeting academia, Moran said.
“UFRISING is our branding of the preeminence initiative,” he said.
Legislation passed in the spring set up a 12-point criteria for establishing state universities as preeminent, a designation that comes with $75 million a year in extra funding over five years to use toward meeting administrative goals to achieve national standing.
Florida State met 11 of the 12 criteria, qualifying for preeminence. UF met all 12 criteria, making it the top preeminent public university in Florida, with the added responsibility of creating an online baccalaureate program, which will launch in January.
UF has committed to raising matching funds for a total of $150 million to spend on recruiting top research faculty with national standing. The UF Foundation has started a campaign to raise $800 million to support that effort.
UF is already ranked 10th or higher in 22 of 29 categories Machen picked to compare UF to other peer institutions in the Association of American Universities. Of the seven categories where UF is 11th or lower, Machen and his administrative team decided to focus on the four categories related to faculty, which influenced how they will spend the new money.
The first $13.3 million, released to UF by the Board of Governors last week, will be spent on big data, neurological research, plant genomics, and the law. The big ticket items are:
$3.8 million on computer research, using HiPerGator to crunch numbers on life sciences, medicine, education and social science.
$2.2 million on neuroscience and the brain that builds on established research at the McKnight Brain Institute.
$1.45 million on food security, safety and distribution systems to help find ways to feed the world's exploding population.
$900,000 on drug discovery and development.
$900,000 on metabolomics, or the chemistry that goes on inside our cells.
“We have been looking at how to package preeminence and top 10, and all that,” said Dan Williams, assistant vice president of marketing at UF.
Preeminence is a difficult word to market because it means different things to different people, and very little to people outside academia. And top 10 makes people think of specific rankings and polls, like the annual U.S. News and World Report rankings.
“What we decided was important is to let people know that UF is on the move,” Williams said. “That is what builds enthusiasm and attracts the attention of researchers and faculty.”
People around campus can expect to see more outreach and marketing starting in January, he said. The next couple of weeks marketing and creative staff will be brainstorming other ways to push the UF Rising campaign, which serves as a bridge to a full-on rebranding effort to launch in the fall, Williams said.
UF has hired 160over90 to help with the rebranding campaign, something UF hasn't done in years because of budget shortages. The last big branding campaign was Go Gators in 2005.
“Our hope is that it will build some momentum among all these targets,” Williams said. “By the time the brand launches, people will be excited about it, and supporting it.”