Jason Cook, who is 39, was Texas A&M University's vice president for marketing and communications from 2008 until April of this year, when he became senior associate athletics director for external affairs. He helped the university enhance its image through athletics and early adoption of social media. For his work, he was named the "2012 International Brand Master" by Educational Marketing Group, and the university was named as the most influential college online by Klout, a social-media ranking Web site, in 2011. Here's his story, as told to Jake New.
In 2008, when I joined Texas A&M, we were still battling perceptions that we were a regional, all-male military institution, which is certainly no longer the case.
To change that, we decided to jump into social media with both feet. We looked at it as a way to engage directly with our audiences. With everything that we do from a social-media standpoint, we ask, How does this contribute to our community spirit? How does it engage people or give them an opportunity to share this information?
Outside of social media, our first step was to really figure out what our brand is. If we develop a print ad or an institutional commercial, we would ask, Would this be any different from another university if you remove our name and logo?
We then went through an extensive process to center everything around one logo. We're now one of the few schools in the country that has the same logo on the side of our football helmets that also represents the university and all of our colleges. It's a very corporate branding approach from a consistency standpoint.
Another big component is how we leverage athletics. In academe, we realize athletics is high risk, high reward, but our recent transition from the Big 12 Conference to the Southeastern Conference was a means to increase the visibility of Texas A&M not just athletically, but academically as well.
There's this saying that athletics is the front porch of a university. The hard part is to get people to go past the porch and through the front door. We've been very intentional in how we've used athletics to create conversation about academics. For example, this past football season when we played the University of Florida, we identified similarities between Texas A&M and Florida. We highlighted collaborative research projects between the two universities and our faculty in all of our media-relations efforts and e-newsletters.
I look back at this five-year period, and I'm proud of what we accomplished. We now have other universities contacting Texas A&M to learn more about what we have done to rebrand ourselves and elevate our social-media efforts. That's the ultimate tribute.