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Integrated Marketing and Communications

Campanile in the evening time.

Integrated Marketing and Communications Task Force
June 2020

This report provides an overview of the process undertaken by the Task Force, key data and decision points considered, guiding principles, and an overarching structure for integrating marketing and communications across the University to promote a cohesive voice and message to all constituents.

The Integrated Marketing and Communications Task Force was charged on July 26, 2019 to conduct a comprehensive study of the marketing and communication strategies, processes and structure at South Dakota State University. The Task Force worked to ensure alignment and enhance the University’s relevance and position with multiple stakeholders. The outcomes expected of the task force included:

  • Research and define higher education best practices for marketing and communication strategy and structure as it applies across the university.
  • Review existing efforts, initiatives, processes and structures across the University, their role and effectiveness in promoting SDSU.
  • Review existing funding allocated to marketing and communication efforts across the University.
  • Prioritize key areas and audiences that should be included in an integrated marketing and communication strategy for SDSU.
  • Develop an integrated marketing and communications plan that is comprehensive in nature and will guide strategy and resource decisions across the University.
  • Prioritize the initiatives in the plan based upon impact for the University.
  • Recommend a university structure and funding model for marketing and communications to the President.

The Task Force was asked to consider feedback from other individuals and areas on campus in order to recommend to President Dunn a plan and proposed structure for the future. The initial timeframe for the Task Force’s work expanded base on the need for a more in-depth efforts to gather information. The expanded timeframe was critical to creating buy-in to the recommended direction for integrated marketing and communications at South Dakota State University. 

  • Becky Degen, Director of Continuous Improvement
  • Mike Lockrem, Director of Marketing and Communications
  • Michaela Willis, Vice President for Student Affairs
  • Anna Atteberry-Gustafson, Interim Director of Nursing Student Services
  • Lora Berg, Director of Marketing and Communications,
    College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences
  • Ian Charnley, Recruitment and Outreach Coordinator, College of Natural Sciences
  • Wendy Cradduck, Director of Technology Support and IT Programming
  • Andi Fouberg, CEO of SDSU Alumni Association
  • Shawn Helmbolt, Director of Admissions
  • Kristen Kponyoh, Coordinator of Graduate Student Services
  • Tyler Merriam, Associate Athletic Director for Communications
  • Kris Muhl, Program Assistant I, Research and Economic Development
  • Jenna Nelson, Coordinator of Marketing and Communications,
    Continuing and Distance Education
  • Carissa Redenius, Human Resources Generalist III
  • Rich Reid, Associate Dean, Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering
  • Heather Solberg, Instructor, School of Communication and Journalism
  • Todd Stricherz, Director of Nursing Student Services
  • Kristina Stulken, College Grant Program Specialist,
    College of Education and Human Sciences
  • Karla Trautman, Director of SDSU Extension
  • Kristy Ullom, Assistant to the Dean,
    College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions

The Task Force began meeting in August 2019 with work concluding in April 2020. The following outlines the timeline and process to achieve this final report:

  1. Defining Scope of Integrated Marketing Plan

    1. Areas of focus identified
    2. Structure at SDSU currently reviewed
    3. Prioritizing and recommendations of current marketing and communications initiatives against available resources
  2. Task Force Retreat

    1. Conducted Current State analysis
    2. Completed Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results (SOAR) analysis
  3. Data Gathering and Assessment

    1. Kaizen Events for Internal Communications, External Communications, Recruitment
    2. Recruitment Communication Plan Mapping Completed
    3. Combine It: Narrowed Kaizen Maps into challenge and opportunity buckets to focus efforts
    4. Name It: Labeled each bucket with associated challenges and opportunities
    5. Solve It: Developed draft strategy document
  4. Structure Analysis

    1. Research on Structural Models in Higher Education
      1. Centralized
      2. Cost Recovery
      3. Decentralized
      4. In-House Agency
    2. Categorized each communication type (internal, external and marketing & recruitment) by Managed Centrally, Managed Locally but Approved Centrally and Managed Locally – developed consensus
    3. Answered following questions regarding who we are today:
      1. Are we premier in marketing and communications today?
      2. What is preventing us from being premier?
      3. If we were to look at a future different from today where we are premier, what would that look like?
    4. Presented Draft Structure with a team-based approach: Marketing and Recruitment, Strategic Communications, Public Relations, Internal Relations
    5. Presented Draft Guiding Principles
    6. Gathered feedback on three key areas from all Task Force Members:
      1. Guiding Principles
      2. Buckets and Bullets
      3. Structure
  5. Development of Recommendations

  6. Development of Assessment Metrics

The goal of the Integrated Marketing and Communications Task Force is to achieve premier integrated marketing and communications across the University. Being a premier land grant university is our vision for the future of SDSU and the Task Force is in agreement that while we do see pockets of premier, overall our marketing and communications efforts across the University have not reached that premier level that is indicated in our vision.

The Task Force recognizes the need for change in order to achieve premier and is committed to leading the necessary changes. Additionally, they have identified challenges to becoming premier and what a future different from today might look like. All of these discussions have led us to our recommendations for premier, integrated marketing and communications at SDSU.

Recommendations from the Integrated Marketing and Communication Task Force focus on two key areas, strategy and structure. Recommendations for each area will be described in detail in this section.

In order to achieve premier, a standard set of guiding principles that provide direction to our integrated marketing and communication efforts across the University are needed. The following guiding principles are being recommended:

  1. South Dakota State University is one University and one brand;
  2. Lead premier communications as a team with core values and base upon best practices, strong processes, effective strategies, and impactful content;
  3. Create messaging that is consistent but flexible to adapt to different stakeholders and audiences;
  4. Utilize technology to create efficient and effective communications and eliminate roadblocks for all stakeholders;
  5. Develop transparent processes that also prevent barriers to timely communication;
  6. Identify priorities and resource them accordingly; and
  7. Assess audience, outcomes, and model to understand if we are on the pathway to achieve premier.

The guiding principles will inform our assessment of the effectiveness of our premier integrated marketing and communication efforts.

Through a SOAR analysis, review of our current state at SDSU, and subsequent Kaizen events, strategies began to emerge that require attention in order to achieve premier. Three primary areas of focus were identified through our data analysis stage of work to include internal communications, strategic communications (which we have rebranded from external communications) and recruitment and marketing communications. Within each area, opportunities and challenges were assessed and strategies emerged to fill gaps identified from the Kaizen events. Strategies being proposed include the following:

  1. Implement an Integrated Marketing and Communication Council (IMCC) to provide guidance to achieving the Integrated Marketing and Communications Plan, meeting regularly to develop protocols, best practices, and assessment measures for effective communications

    1. Implement teams focused on specific types of communication under the IMCC
    2. Recommend each college and division identify one individual to lead communications work for their area with a dotted line reporting relationship to UMC to increase effectiveness
    3. Implement a more centralized funding model for UMC to minimize fee for service operations and strengthen the services provided to the University
    4. Develop and implement assessment plan to evaluate all strategies and promote continuous improvement
  2. Develop strategic, efficient, clear and concise communication for targeted audiences

    1. Implement standards for communications by type of communication through University Marketing and Communications Office
    2. Utilize the communication maps developed through the IMC Task Force and address gaps in our communications
    3. Identify roadblocks to effective communication and implement solutions to overcome these roadblocks
    4. Highlight high impact stories in our external communications through the establishment of criteria to determine what qualifies as a high impact story to guide how stories are communicated, or not, externally
      1. Targeted strategies to higher education influencers across the nation to increase our brand and perception of academic excellence with a focus on improving ranking
    5. Streamline timely information from one organizational level to another across the organization
      1. Identify meetings that require meeting minutes to be published to Inside State
      2. Develop best practices for meeting outcomes to include what needs to be communicated and what needs to remain confidential
      3. Develop best practices to support outcome-based meeting management
  3. Provide training regarding knowledge and access to resources, technology tools, and best practices to empower people to be effective communicators and provide exemplary customer service

    1. Enhance training around technology tools available to communicate with audiences in multiple modalities (in person, online, tips and tricks resources, etc.) promoted through a centralized website and communicated to employees
    2. Identify key individuals across the University with responsibilities in their position description for communication (internal, external and/or recruitment and marketing), ensure they are adequately trained to perform this work, and develop accountabilities to meeting University expectations through the performance evaluation system
    3. Invest in professional development for staff and a recognition system for premier work in integrated marketing and communications
  4. Utilize technology to improve our effectiveness in communicating with external audiences with an emphasis on accessibility.

    1. Implement a central event calendar that is prominent on to promote all University events
    2. Refine InsideState and MyState as tools for communication strategy in addition to a document repository for internal audiences and train University employees for effective utilization of this medium as a communication tool
    3. Optimize existing and identify additional electronic communication tools that will lead to premier marketing and communications at SDSU
  5. Refer to Strategic Enrollment Management Plan for goals and strategies for recruitment and marketing communication.

    1. Utilize data gathered from the College/Department prospect communication plans to identify best practices that can be implemented in other areas across the University


The work of the Task Force would not be complete without recommending the best structure for achieving premier integrated marketing and communications at SDSU. Discussions around structure began in January 2020 with a presentation of common models in higher education for marketing and communication structures. The following structure will be implemented for a period of 5 years and evaluated at the end of that time to determine effectiveness. From this presentation, the Task Force is recommending a quasi-centralized model which is detailed below: 

Integrated Marketing and Communications Guiding Principles

Integrated Marketing and Communications Council

  • Brand Standards and Management
  • Policies, Procedures and Processes
  • Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility Standards
  • Assessment of Model
Marketing and Recruitment
Strategic Communications
Internal Communications
University Events
  • Marketing Campaigns
  • Content Creation
  • Recruitment Publications
  • Web Services
  • Social Media
  • News Media and Relations
  • Executive Communications
  • Government Relations
  • Community Outreach
  • Donor Relations
  • Industry Relations
  • Research Promotions
  • SDSU Extension
  • University Experts
  • Promote core values
  • Employee Relations
  • Student Engagement
  • Training
  • University Event Calendar
  • Central Event Website
  • Event Promotion and Communications
  • Event Outreach Standards
  • Off-Campus Events

During the discussions regarding becoming premier, a number of roadblocks were identified. These roadblocks included being siloed, fiscal and staffing resources, lack of expertise in marketing and communications within Colleges, schools, departments and units, lack of strong assessment and feedback of what is and is not working, messaging inconsistency, lack of utilizing best practices, inability to quickly adopt new trends, lack of customer service, and lack of trust. In order to move beyond these barriers, effective strategies and structure must be in place and the right individuals must be present on the teams identified above. Providing effective leadership to the teams is critical to continued buy-in as we move forward.

The IMCC will be co-chaired by the Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment and the Director of University Marketing and Communications and serve as an advisory council for integrated marketing and communications for the University. The Council will provide guidance and input on key decisions and strategies for leading integrated marketing and communications for the University. Each team will focus on a particular aspect of integrated marketing and communications and serve in a planning and advisory capacity to the task force and other area of campus responsible for marketing and communications. The Council and each team will meet regularly to share information, collaborate, and provide input into strategic directions related to their areas of focus. Membership on the Council and Teams will include broad representation across the University, but manageable in terms of size to be effective and efficient. Individuals on both the Council and Teams may represent multiple areas and will be responsible for gathering input, sharing information, and facilitating collaboration with all areas they represent to be effective. Changes to membership may be necessary at times to increase effectiveness and will be at the discretion of the Director. Leadership of each team will be determined by the council executive team as well and will serve on the Council.

Annually, the IMC Council will prepare a report detailing achievements related to the strategies outlined above utilizing assessment data. This will be presented to the University community annually. IMC Council will identify opportunities to celebrate successes as they occur and utilize the annual report to communicate successes, opportunities for enhancement, and overall investment. This will promote transparency to the University regarding our integrated marketing and communication activities.

  • Michaela Willis (Co-Chair), Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment;
  • Mike Lockrem (Co-Chair), Director of University Marketing and Communications;
  • Shawn Helmbolt, Director of Admissions;
  • Becky Degen, Director of Continuous Improvement;
  • Jamison Lamp, University Events Coordinator;
  • Lora Berg, Director of Marketing and Communications, College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences;
  • Amber Turner, Communications Coordinator, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences;
  • Kristina Stulken, College Grant Program Specialist, College of Education and Human Sciences;
  • Amanda Mitchell, Assistant to the Dean, College of Nursing;
  • Kristy Ullom, Assistant to the Dean, College of Pharmacy & Allied Health Professions;
  • Shelly Bayer, Director of Multicultural Affairs;
  • Tony Durr, Assistant Professor, Integrated Marketing and Communications Shared Governance Committee;
  • Wendy Cradduck, Programming Manager for Information Technology;
  • Bess Pallares, Registration Officer, Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering;
  • Layne Manson, Program Assistant, College of Natural Sciences;
  • Jana Hanson, Director of Institutional Assessment & Interim Director of Institutional Research.
  • Shawn Helmbolt, Director of Admissions (chair);
  • Carey Kilmer, Assistant Director for Continuing and Distance Education;
  • Andrew Sogn, Marketing and Social Media Coordinator, University Marketing and Communications;
  • Kelly Wendell, Communications Coordinator, Undergraduate Admissions;
  • Pete Roberts, Recruitment and Outreach Coordinator, Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering;
  • Eric Leise, Director for International Admissions;
  • Kristen Kponyoh, Graduate Student Services Coordinator;
  • Erica Quam, Professional Advisor, School of Communications and Journalism;
  • Shelly Brandenburger, Director of Nursing Student Services, College of Nursing;
  • Sydney Meyer, Marketing and Communication Coordinator, College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences
  • Greg Heiberger, Associate Dean for Student Success, Assistant Professor, Coordinator - M.S. Human Biology, College of Natural Sciences.