Our Work In Practice

The University of Miami (UM) came to us at a critical moment in their institutional history. President Donna Shalala, after nearly 15 years of highly successful stewardship, was leaving the University to helm the Clinton Foundation. Not only was a monumental leadership shift underway, but the faculty had also recently approved a dramatically revised general education strategy called Cognates, which allows students to curate their gen ed requirements by specific interests, topics or complementary themes. While we were initially contracted to help communicate the value of Cognates to prospective students, it soon became clear that there was a larger question we needed to help answer as well: How could UM identify its true place among the nation’s great schools?

While the University of Miami certainly doesn’t suffer from a name recognition problem, thanks to the attention—both positive and negative—paid to its storied football program by outlets like ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, it does suffer from some perception problems. Early in our working relationship, it became clear to us that the exceptional and noteworthy academic offerings at UM had not garnered the same level of attention or spirit as the athletic program had. Similarly, the University’s location and standing in such a vibrant, future-oriented, global capital was taking too much of a backseat to the nostalgia associated with “The U” as well.

Photo credit: University of Miami.

In our visits to campus to meet with faculty, staff and key administrators to talk specifically about Cognates, and in subsequent visits wherein we conducted Circles of Influence with UM students, we observed ample evidence to suggest that there is a lot more to be excited about at The U than football alone. Students told us about incredible research, scholarship and internship opportunities. They talked, with enthusiasm and appreciation, about the freedom they felt to explore their different passions from within the University’s 11 distinct colleges. And we were able to observe firsthand how the particular symbiosis of that freedom combined with life in a city as vibrant as Miami provides students with an unparalleled collegiate experience.

Out of this research we developed a positioning strategy that highlights the University of Miami as an academic powerhouse offering students a depth and breadth of learning opportunities within a vibrant, multicultural environment. In a new positioning statement and key messages, we articulated the value of the University’s academic offerings, the tremendous cultural and professional opportunities afforded by its location and the advantages presented by its relative institutional youth (UM was founded in 1925, which makes it more than 100 years younger than many of its closest competitors). We helped identify UM, based on its culture, location, offerings and opportunities, as the premier educational and research resource for the Americas. Our work has empowered the internal marketing team to promote all of the wonderful qualities that make a University of Miami education distinctive.

“Of all the different firms I’ve worked with over the years, RHB stands out for its unique research approach that allowed for the development of a coherent positioning statement and an authentic value proposition that resonates with high school students and families.”

—John Haller, Vice President of Enrollment Management

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