University Reputation: a four-propeller engine

El pasado 12 de marzo se celebró en la Universitat Internacional de Catalunya un evento de CASE para instituciones educativas y del tercer sector de España.

El evento reunió a un centenar de profesionales del ámbito de la comunidad, el marketing, el fundraisgin y las relaciones con los antiguos alumnos.

En la mesa inaugural participó Santiago Fernández-Gubieda, director ejecutivo del Centro de Gobierno y Reputación de Universidades, de la Universidad de Navarra.

A continuación, se ofrecen algunas ideas de su intervención en el idioma en el que transcurrió el evento.

University Reputation: a four-propeller engine

Find out how to drive the reputation of your university institution to success.

It’s really not easy to summarize my book «Una experiencia memorable. Cómo cultivar la reputación de las universidades«. However, I would be happy if this book helps clarify what reputation is and how it is formed. So that we can understand what is really important here. And that is: how reputation is managed.

I would like to think that reputation management in universities is like a four-propeller engine. And that is because we need to understand the following four key elements:

  1. To improve performance: In my opinion, the key to a good reputation lies in the quality of our performance. This includes teaching, research, transfer of knowledge, and the services we provide to our stakeholders. This is the best basis for academic reputation. As we know, we must work diligently to improve the indicators of our university’s performance. By doing so, we can ensure that our communication is always credible and effective.
  2. Cultivate intangible assets: Universities should focus on defining their unique purpose. A clear and shared purpose distinguishes them in the market and also fosters a sense of belonging among internal audiences. As we know, the purpose is shaped by the university’s identity, culture, and values which are at the core of the university and should illuminate all our activities: teaching, research, services, student experience, campus life, and also the university governance and communication … For this reason, it is crucial to prioritize and cultivate these aspects which are highly valued by stakeholders.
  3. Listen to stakeholders: It’s essential to listen to all stakeholders when communicating and making decisions at the highest level. To achieve this, we need a stakeholder map that includes indicators of engagement. I think that incorporating stakeholder listening as part of our corporate governance is vital for reputation measurement at the university. By listening to understand their perceptions, we can guide (target) our communication, and make decisions based on their expectations with confidence.
  4. Learn from the context: Understanding the context is fundamental for the university leaders because it affects both: the institutional position and the perceptions of stakeholders. There are many current examples, such as geopolitical tensions (in Russia, the Middle East and so on), open inquiry and freedom of speech issues, and new government regulations around immigration, which are testing universities worldwide. University leaders need contextual intelligence that allows us to learn from political and social conditions. We must recognize that reputation operates in an increasingly volatile context.

I would like to finish this short article with a recommendation for the university leaders. In my opinion, considering reputation as a principle of university governance (just like financial or academic criteria) could save a lot of time and aggravation. Why? Because in fact, the reputation aims to save the integrity of our universities. It is not only an image issue; it’s much more.

I would recommend that the communication practitioners offer university leaders a dashboard with intangible value indicators such as satisfaction, recommendation, trust, and engagement of all our stakeholders.

The time has come for universities to work with stable, rigorous, consistent, and traceable reputation metrics over time, and therefore, evaluate their reputation, and make decisions for improvement and innovation. Here, you have some useful examples published in the last issue of Currents.

From this perspective, reputation guarantees the integrity and the success of our institutions.