Q&A: Find out how Southwestern University is trying to increase brand recognition

Published in Community Impact Newspaper on May 15, 2017

Tim Cobb began serving as vice president for integrated communications at Southwestern University in July. He is an award-winning marketing strategist who most recently served as a senior marketing strategist and creative director at DHX Advertising in Portland, Oregon.

Cobb has held a variety of leadership positions at marketing agencies from Manhattan to Portland. He also previously served as president of the Portland Advertising Federation and the Oregon Marketing Association.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Oregon State University and a master’s degree in management from Purdue University.

GEO-2017-05-19-01Why did you take this job?

I’m specialized in branding in the marketing agency world. Some of my past clients included Florida State and Willamette universities. I loved the energy and people I worked with for those schools. But there’s also just these layers of bureaucracy and roadblocks that keep them from doing any sort of meaningful change. You don’t have those here. Everyone supports our vision, and there’s consensus and enthusiasm for change at Southwestern.

So what are you looking to change?

Quite a lot. Southwestern has always been well-respected in the academic community. But there’s been virtually no outreach. We’re finding we have low awareness for this wonderful institution throughout the state. It would be a shame if there’s a student who would have been perfect for Southwestern sitting in Abilene just because we didn’t introduce ourselves to them. So this year we reached out to kids on their terms, moving to a completely digital strategy. It paid dividends for us.

Have there been any major reorganizations in the communications department?

We’ve reorganized to function like an agency that serves different clients instead of dedicating staff to different marketing aspects. Staff members now act more like account supervisors assigned to each one of these ‘clients,’ like prospective students, current students, alumni and the local community.

How are you trying to enhance communication with the community at large?

There’s room for a tighter relationship with Georgetown. The city is part of the college experience and a
consideration for students before coming to Southwestern. I want the people of Georgetown to take pride in the university. But you can’t be proud of something unless you understand what makes it unique.

Are there any new initiatives with social media?

Our Facebook shares now average 1,500 engagements per post. Our retweets are up 138 percent over last year. This office will soon be doing much more video content. We just finished a drone video overlooking the campus. The other big initiative is [revamping]our website, which was originally produced in its current version in 2008.

How do you plan on changing internal communications?

Some students working on their capstone projects came to us because they wanted to improve internal communication at Southwestern. The research returned professionally done and thoroughly analyzed. They created six dynamite conclusions for new directions the marketing department should take—which included a new app for getting university alerts. These initiatives will be in the works soon after completing the website.

How has your expertise in branding for agencies played a role in your new position?

It’s what is required right now because the university has never been positioned correctly. Part of the appeal for deciding to take the job was that they’d even consider hiring me. In academia, you don’t hire outside of academia—which is really to their detriment. I don’t think someone that came from a background in academic marketing could do what was necessary here.

Spotlight on Southwestern

  • The Princeton Review ranked Southwestern University No. 11 in the nation on its “Best Schools for Making an Impact” list in 2017.
  • Forbes named Southwestern as the No. 1 undergraduate liberal arts college in Texas in its 2016 “Grateful Grad Colleges” list.
  • Kiplinger ranked Southwestern University No. 72 in its 2016 ratings for “Best College Value.”
  • Washington Monthly ranked Southwestern No. 67 among Texas liberal arts colleges based on their contribution to the public good.

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