In her five months at Temple, Karen Clarke has noticed an attitude she wants to change.
“Temple shares somewhat of a lack of awareness about how good it really is,” said Clarke, the university’s first vice president for strategic marketing and communications. “I come in with fresh eyes and say, ‘You all have no idea how good you really are.’”
It’s that self-deprecating attitude that Clarke said she wants to mold into a sense of “pride, enthusiasm and genuine love of Temple” by students and faculty through the way the university brands and markets itself.
Clarke’s position was created by President Neil Theobald when he assumed the presidency in January in an effort to more effectively brand the university, something he said was a weakness of Temple.
“We do not do nearly a good enough job of telling our story,” Theobald said in an interview shortly after he took over as president. “If you’re going to recruit new students, recruit new faculty, they have to know what a wonderful place this is. It’s not bragging, it is letting people know the return they will receive by coming to school here, by being a faculty member here, by donating money here. This is a really important place and people need to know that.”
Clarke was named to the cabinet position on April 1 after a nationwide search chaired by Senior Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Ken Lawrence. She started at Temple on May 1.
Prior to taking the job at Temple, Clarke spent seven years at the University of Houston, where she was the associate vice president for marketing and communication. She also worked in a marketing and communications role at the University of South Florida and as a reporter in Florida before heading to Houston.
As vice president, Clarke is responsible for “setting the overall strategic and creative direction of the university’s branding, marketing, and communications efforts,” according to the university.
Clarke’s position brings together communications duties that were once housed in two different areas. Previously, University Communications, which handles internal, media and public relations, would report to Lawrence’s office, while Marketing Communications would be run through Institutional Advancement.
Clarke now oversees these communications responsibilities, a job which Lawrence said earlier this year will “bring these two lines together and become the focal point for communications at the university.” Lawrence said Clarke’s past experience set her apart from other candidates because she had worked with both communications and marketing and was able to successfully combine the two.
Clarke said a coordinated approach with communications and marketing will allow the university’s message to stick with its audiences.
“The way you get your story out is that you have to repeat the message appropriately so you’re telling the same story the same way over time to different audiences, so it starts to resonate,” Clarke said. “That’s why a coordinated approach is going to make a difference.”
Though this will take the communications duties away from Lawrence and Tilghman Moyer, interim senior vice president of Institutional Advancement, Clarke said she will be working “hand in hand” with those offices.
Along with facilitating a coordinated approach to communications, the university will be focusing on promoting the role Temple plays in the city, Clarke said.
“Temple has a unique role as Philadelphia’s public university,” Clarke said. “In many ways our mission and success are intertwined.”
By showcasing the university’s position in the city, Clarke said the university will be able to distinguish itself from the peer institutions Temple is often compared to.
“If you’re always trying to compare yourself to Penn, then that’s not an appropriate comparison,” Clarke said. “Our role, our mission and what we’re all about is so very different that it’s not a realistic or very helpful comparison.”
“We are not Penn State, we are not Drexel. We are not Penn, and that is a very good thing.”
Sean Carlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @SeanCarlin84.