Archive for the ‘1 of Many’ Category

| posted by Joe Hice |

How Marketing and Public Relations Can Save Universities

From time to time I’ll see something that raises my hackles and a recent column in The Chronicle of Higher Education did just that. And I’m not alone. Here’s my response with my friend and colleague Grant Heston to a recent ditty in The Chronicle:

By Grant J. Heston and Joe Hice

In his July 9 Chronicle essay â€œHow Marketing and PR are Corrupting Universities,” Lee Vinsel describes how communications and marketing are “bullshit” to be banished from our colleges and universities.

Having held communications and marketing leadership roles with a half dozen colleges and universities in our careers, our response to the more than 2,000-word takedown of our profession is simple.

We agree completely. 

Spin, fabrications and deceptions — bullshit, in other words — have no place in higher ed or any industry. Fidelity to finding and sharing the truth about institutions is the foundation of the best communications and marketing work. 

Truth telling is our objective because telling our authentic, distinctive truth is how we build confidence in our institutions. In higher education, that means confidence for outstanding students and faculty to join us. For alumni and friends to give to us. For political, community and policy leaders to support us.

The reality is that the most recognizable higher education “brands” consistently attract the best students, staff and faculty; secure the most funding; gain the greatest accolades, and receive the most recognition in the press. All of which are critical factors in an institution’s health, growth and long-term success.

We believe the only enduring way to generate confidence is to tell the truth. Spinning a fiction may result in short-term success, but that success will be fleeting and ultimately self-defeating. Our constituencies are too savvy to settle for anything less than the truth.

Dr. Vinsel’s essay is particularly timely, as higher ed is suffering from a crisis of confidence. But burying our heads in the sand by not telling stories — shunning authentic, impactful communications and marketing work — is a bridge to nowhere. 

John Hitt, who spent 26 years as president of the University of Central Florida, often said “we like our story best when we tell it ourselves.” Colleges and universities must tell their stories, for today nothing less than the very future of the industry is at stake. 

A 2019 analysis by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce shows that the 40-year return on investment on a four-year degree earned at Virginia Commonwealth University is to $892,000 in today’s dollars. The national average is $864,000.

With that the case, how can an April poll from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, a philanthropic foundation, find that nearly half of the parents surveyed said they did not want their children to go straight to a four-year college, even if financial barriers to enrollment were removed?  

More than ever, we need to combat the growing narrative that tells of higher ed’s irrelevancy. As an industry, and as individual institutions, we must focus on improving the stories we tell.

For decades, colleges and universities have promoted how an undergraduate degree impacts your career earnings. We’ve pushed value in terms of dollars; we need to talk more about the values a degree instills. 

According to the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, college graduates are more than twice as likely to volunteer in their communities than those without a degree. They also contribute nearly 3.5 times more money to charity and vote in presidential elections at rates more than 20 percent higher than those without a degree.

We also need to open our doors to all who want to earn a degree, then do all we can to support their efforts. Too often, higher education looks for the students in the same old places — but talent is not restricted to people with particular income levels or backgrounds. 

That’s why it’s so important to tell inclusive and diverse stories, as the University Innovation Alliance does, about enrolling and graduating students across the socioeconomic spectrum, first-generation students and students of color.

Stories are the foundation of how we interact with each other and the world around us. And there are few industries that boast more compelling stories than higher education.  

From medical school graduates who meet patient needs in unusual ways to understanding the origins of our galaxy to research that predicts 21st century life expectancies, our stories inform, inspire and delight.

Truthful storytelling can help lead higher education out of the darkness and into a future that is relevant and impactful.

That’s how Marketing and PR can save universities. And that’s no bullshit. 

Grant J. Heston is vice president for University Relations for Virginia Commonwealth University and the VCU Health System. He has held communications and marketing leadership roles at the University of Central Florida and Florida Southern College. 

Joe Hice is the founding partner of Well Strategics Communications, a full-service marketing andcommunications consultancy. He has held communications and marketing leadership roles at the University of Florida, University of South Florida and North Carolina State University as well as in the corporate sector with Harley-Davidson Motor Company, Segway LLC and Bombardier Sea-Doo.

Passion Rules!


| posted by Joe Hice |

To Atlanta and beyond . . .

Just finished our second trip to areas north of Atlanta and back in the new electric car. I tell ya, it gets better every trip. We’ve scoped out just about every Supercharger Station between here and there and know where to stop and where not to stop. Despite the convenience of Superchargers every few hours of travel, some are better than others . . . and faster.

We nixed Ocala forever after our selected charger failed to connect. Then there’s the getting in and out part. Too much trouble when most of the stations are literally right off the Interstate. And no real good area to walk the dogs (three of ’em with us don’t ya know.) We even found a bad charger in Valdosta this trip. So yes, they are being used and we never had to wait for a charge.

Yes, the sleep most of the time although Redford (L) is more nervous. Grits doesn’t even notice we’re on the road.

When it wasn’t pouring down rain on the way back, I spent the drive dreaming about the new Tesla Model S Plaid. I just read the review by Motor Trend and it sounds amazing. Here’s a short clip. And if you don’t understand just how fast 0 – 60 in 1.98 seconds is, well.

When the final “launch control ready” message is displayed, firmly press your noggin against the headrest (trust us), release the brake, and hang on.

“The Model S Plaid zips down the quarter mile in a staggeringly quick 9.25 seconds at 152.6 mph. The run from 0 to 60 mph happens just 1.98 seconds after the brutally hard launch. The Plaid covers distance so quickly, it’s difficult to even register what’s happening. The yoke gets light in your hands, your neck muscles strain as your helmeted head digs into the headrest, and your surroundings blur into mere shapes and colors as a quarter mile of pavement vanishes underneath you.”

The biggest drawback I can see, or hear, is the growl of a high performance engine. Or rather, the lack of the growl of a high performance engine. Even though the new Model S Plaid has more than 1,000 hp on tap, it’s silent. As in electric car silent.

Be that as it may, the sensation you get when you are accelerating hard is impossible to explain. Even our Model Y screams from 0 – 60 in less than four seconds. I’ve never driven anything that quick and it’s a rush. I can’t imagine what it would be like to do 0 – 60 in less than two seconds (that’s a lie, I can imagine it.)

Perhaps we don’t need that second car for the few times both of us need to be somewhere different. We just need a car that’s quick enough to get us to both places at the same time!

One of Many

Passion Rules!


| posted by Joe Hice |

Driving the new electric VW ID.4

We’ve been driving the Tesla Model Y for about two months now and I’ve grown quite fond of the car. Fast, nimble, able to haul more mulch than a weekend can handle and highway range of 300 miles at 75 mph. Plus an incredible network of Supercharger Stations everywhere we’ve been. When I was given the chance to test drive another electric car I couldn’t resist.

The VW ID.4

The VW ID.4 is all new and should compete with the Tesla. It is a mid-sized SUV just like our car and has a big price advantage; around $40,000 before the $7,500 federal rebate available to new buyers. Range estimates are 260 miles, but EPA mileage estimates rarely live up to the claims.

The VW is nicely appointed and is much more similar to a “regular” car than the Tesla. It lacks the wiz bang technology and I found the cockpit busy and hard to understand. Yes, you would get used to all the stems and stalks in the VW but after driving the Tesla it all seems so unnecessary.

It’s not fair to compare the drive between the VW and the Tesla because the VW we drove had a single electric motor vs our two. Acceleration was good, but certainly a far cry from the Tesla. Because of it’s more typical chassis and frame design it did feel more car-like and honestly, over bumpy roads, the ride was very good. The Tesla drives like an old Porsche, taught with good road feel, but hard as a rock. The 20-inch wheels and low profile tires certainly exacerbate the bumps.

We bought an electric car because we wanted a change and the Tesla has certainly delivered. We charge overnight in our garage and stop at Superchargers when we’re on the road. But for those who aren’t ready for such a change, the VW ID.4 may be a good choice. It looks and drives like a regular car … yeah, it’s kind of bland. I’d hold out for the dual motor option which should be available early next year, though it will be about $14,000 more expensive. The acceleration and range should be more in line with the Tesla Model Y.

The VW uses the Electrify America charging network and you can find charging stations everywhere. Most do not charge as fast as the Supercharger Stations Tesla has placed along every major highway and for me, that’s a big negative. It’s one thing to make two stops for 20 minutes each on the way to Atlanta in the Model Y vs two stops for 45 minutes each in the VW.

The Model Y can charge at a rate of up to 250kW when connected to the Supercharger, while the Volkswagen is limited to half that, at 125kW. VW says the battery can fill from five to 80 percent in about 38 minutes. However, charging at any of the Electrify America stations is free for the first three years if you buy a new VW ID.4. If all of your driving is around town, and if you have an Electrify America station nearby, that’s hard to beat. Can you say Drive Free!

So, If you are thinking electric, you need to check out the new VW. It’s certainly going to have an impact on the market and worth a look.

One of Many

Passion Rules!


| posted by Joe Hice |

The Big Haul … or how many bags of mulch can you fit into a Tesla Model Y

The yard has been looking a little ratty around the edges lately and the wife decided we needed to put new mulch down. Now the yard is pretty big, almost 180 feet across in the back and close to the same on the side. Then there is the garden and plantings in the front. Pretty big job.

Now that we are down to just one car, a Tesla Model Y, I was curious to find out just how much our little SUV would carry. The kid at Lowe’s who helped me load the car pretty much summed it up, “This thing carries a lot more than some of the other SUV’s we see in here. I’m impressed.”

25 Bags of mulch with room to spare

Yep, 25 bags in the back and a new wheelbarrow in the front seat. And we didn’t even use the front or rear storage areas. Honestly, the car is still so new I forgot all about them until I got home. Could have easily fit another five bags in there. Two trips and there were 50 bags in the garage waiting to beautify the yard.

Not sure how much mulch weighs, but the car was still fast as hell with a full load. Granted, we’re only about two miles away from the store and really, how fast can you go when the speed limit is 40 🙂

25 Bags of mulch

So the new Tesla continues to impress. I’ve been a gas and oil guy my whole life and battery power takes some getting used to, but in a good way. Fill up at home when you’re around town, fast with instant acceleration, and glued to the road like a sports car. The future of automobiles?

More to come.

Passion Rules!


| posted by Joe Hice |

Bullish on “New” USF logo

Dear USF community:
Last Fall we introduced a new academic logo for the University of South Florida that we believed was a positive representation of our pride and optimism. This new logo featured the image of a bull and was meant to help usher in a new era for USF and to celebrate the incredible momentum we have built over the past 63 years.

As you know, there has been a great deal of controversy over the bull image and the new color palette. We heard this from many of you over the past six months through email, on social media and in person. We know that the feedback comes from a place of great pride and passion for USF, and we have listened. As a result, we have decided to stop using the new bull logo. Instead, we will adopt the “Iconic Bull U,” which has been used by USF Athletics for almost 15 years, to represent the entire university. We will also return to the traditional green-and-gold color palette of the university. Implementation of the changes will begin immediately and continue throughout the summer.

Think of what we have accomplished under the Bull U, the students we have attracted, the faculty we have attracted. We became preeminent and were awarded for our performance. We raised more than $1 billion. We created an ever-improving culture of student success and academic achievement. We are building one of the most significant projects in the university’s history, the new USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute in downtown Tampa, and the story continues.

We wouldn’t be Bulls if we didn’t take risks. That’s part of our nature; to push boundaries; to venture in new directions; to try new things. Even if we have to turn back, we grow and we learn.

And we have learned.

The new “A Future Without Limits” marketing initiative will continue with the “Bull U” logo. It is already paying dividends. Since we launched the effort this Spring, the USF story has been featured in print and digital media throughout the nation and around the world. More than 25 million people have seen our ads. They are taking notice and asking to learn more about USF.

Thank you for your passion for USF. As our most ardent supporters, you play a huge role in advocating for our continued success. We hope we can continue to count on that support through this transition and into the future.

Please let me know if you have any questions, and thank you for all you do on behalf of our great university.


Joe Hice
Vice President Communications and Marketing

One of Many

Passion Rules!


| posted by Joe Hice |

And now the really BIG news: President Genshaft to retire

Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 7.09.14 PM
USF System President Judy Genshaft announces plans to step down, effective July 2019 – University of South Florida
TAMPA, Fla. (Sept. 10, 2018) –Following another record-breaking year and unparalleled stretch of recent achievements, University of South Florida System President Judy Genshaft today announced her decision to step down from her position, effective July 1, 2019.

One of Many

Passion Rules!


| posted by Joe Hice |

USF Branding — Be BULLISH.

So woke up Sunday to page 1A in the Tampa Bay Times, complete with photo on the jump page.

USF works to remake its muddled brand. Right now, ‘it doesn’t really say anything’


| posted by Joe Hice |

So this happened — Go Bulls!

So about five weeks ago I joined the University of South Florida (USF) System as Chief Marketing Officer.  A coming home of sorts, back to Tampa and back to higher education, two things I really love.

Green Ties

I’ve been charged with working with the USF System (Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota/Manatee) to develop a branding campaign that will tie it all together and tell the incredible story of the USF journey over the past 60-plus years.

There will be challenges, but the opportunities are huge.  Stay tuned as we begin the journey.

1 of Many

Passion Rules!


| posted by Joe Hice |

Damn, I just poured gravy on my Cobb Salad

I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll be eating Christmas dinner for the next week. Turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, peas, cranberries, applesauce, biscuits, pies and more.

Not that I’m complaining. My average meal is pretty standard fare but the holidays always put me over the top.


I don’t feel bad though.  The average person eats more than 7,000 calories on Christmas day. That’s more than three times the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommended daily caloric intake.

I try to be good, starting with a healthy breakfast of . . . bacon, eggs and cinnamon rolls. Might have a pancake or two, too.

Not going to eat lunch because dinner will be mid-afternoon, but I end up snacking until then.  Then I pound down the 7,000.

But so much for dinner and now leftovers.

I’ve just poured gravy all over the Cobb Salad I was having for lunch two days after Christmas!

Trying to defeat some of those 7,000 calories, I was going to have salad for lunch. The salad dressing came in a little plastic container that looked just like the container that held the leftover gravy.  Knew I should have left it in the gravy bowl.

And I ate it, nevertheless. And it was good.



| posted by Joe Hice |

Creativity Trumps Big Data

Some marketing execs are having a hard time dealing with Donald Trump’s win and it will take time for the nation to come to grips with change. But as we all know, change is inevitable and it’s generally a good thing.

Change is not always easy. For those of us in the marketing & communications business change is constant. New tools and analytics, big data, small data, snapchat, instagram, sprout, vine . . . not, there’s that change thing.

And this won’t make you feel any better: A Forrester Research Report says at least 30% of CEOs will fire their CMO’s for “not mustering the blended skill set they need personally to pull off digital business transformation.” The report cautions CMOs to “develop their art and science acumen to survive.” Because, the report states, companies “with analytic-focused CMOs underperform, while marketers with both analytic and creative skills helm the strongest companies.”

Forrester just confirms what we all know, creativity is king when it comes to brand development and differentiation.

The report comes on the heels of a great article by brand guru Bob Hoffman which he titles:

The Opposite of Data (

You don’t need an MBA to figure out that most of the really big marketing successes of our time did not come from data analysis or business models or strategy briefs or professional marketers. They came from daydreamers with a hunch:

Steve Jobs
Walt Disney
K. Rowling
Mark Zuckerberg
The list could go on for weeks.