First UI Vice President Finalist Visits Campus

By Diane Heldt, Reporter

IOWA CITY -- The University of Iowa must have a plan for communicating during a crisis and the most important thing is to show responsiveness rather than going dark, a finalist for the UI's vice president for strategic communication position said Thursday.

Jeff Iseminger said his philosophy is to show that you are trying to resolve the problem or trying to procure the necessary information, rather than hiding from public scrutiny and questions. Crisis communication should not be done by "winging it," and the university should have a plan in place to handle such incidents because there will always be another crisis to handle, he said.

"The going dark is disastrous, even when you don't know anything," he said. "Just to be able to communicate shows good faith effort."

Iseminger, the interim vice president for university advancement and marketing at Minnesota State University in Mankato, was the first of three finalists to interview on campus for the vice president position. The other two finalists will interview Monday and Wednesday next week and be announced in advance of their visits.

The vice president for strategic communication is the chief communication officer responsible for conveying, internally and externally, the university's mission and vision; the post also oversees the Office of University Communication and Marketing, the UI Alumni Association and Hancher Auditorium.

Iseminger said his management style is "coaching, not top down."

Marketing is often the "advance scout team" for people who have little interaction with the UI other than attending a football game or coming to the hospital, Iseminger said. Good marketing provides the framework to express the university's story through evidence and facts, not through spin, he said.

"It's providing a frame for thinking about you that's true, it's not artificially constructed," he said. "What marketing can do exceptionally well is ... bringing horses to water."

When there is a message already out there about you, such as the notion the UI is a "party school," it's impossible to rebutt or erase it, he said. What Iseminger prefers to do instead is "create something that transcends it," and becomes the larger message the frames all conversations about your institution.

Marketing is one of the most powerful tools the university and President Sally Mason has, Iseminger said, especially in a changing higher education environment.
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