University Relations changes reflect importance of aligning communications

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University Relations changes reflect importance of aligning communications
University Relations changes reflect importance of aligning communications

Tracy Vosburgh has been named vice president of Communications and Marketing, reporting to President Tim Sands and Vice President Charlie Phlegar in a new role designed to elevate, align, and integrate marketing and communications work across the university.

Vosburgh has served as Virginia Tech’s top communicator since 2015 when she joined the university as senior associate vice president for University Relations, reporting to Vice President of Advancement Charlie Phlegar. With this appointment, University Relations now will be known as Communications and Marketing and will remain part of the Advancement Division.

Vosburgh’s new position was created by Sands following a comprehensive, campuswide review of communications and marketing that included interviews with more than 200 people, including deans, vice presidents, communications professionals, and other key stakeholders. The review was conducted by an outside firm.

“The review confirmed the success of our Advancement model and highlighted that University Relations is a high-performing, well-respected team made up of communications and marketing professionals with deep skills and experiences,” Sands said. “It also revealed that our organizational model for communications – with some units reporting into University Relations and some not – can create inconsistencies. Elevating our chief communicator to a vice president, deepening the role as a cabinet-level position providing counsel to leadership, is an important step in aligning communications campuswide with top university priorities.”

Phlegar, who recruited Vosburgh to leave Cornell University to join his new Advancement leadership team at Virginia Tech, strongly endorsed Sands’ decision to elevate her position.

“Virginia Tech has so many great stories to tell. Our success in Advancement shows the power of aligned communications,” Phlegar said. “Clear messaging and a strong brand have never been more important. Expanding our best practices across campus will help us meet our strategic objectives and elevate our profile as one of the nation’s top research universities.”

In her new role, Vosburgh is charged to develop a five-year campuswide communications and marketing plan that will bring both the internally focused and externally targeted communications into alignment. She will also lead an implementation team commissioned by Sands and Phlegar to implement findings and recommendations of the report endorsed by the president. The team will include senior leaders from colleges and units across campus.

Recommendations in the report include:

  • Aligning campus communicators through organizational dual reporting lines with fiscal responsibility shared by the units and Communications and Marketing. This would include a new, direct reporting line to Communications and Marketing for the lead communicators across other university leadership areas.
  • Leveraging this newly aligned communication structure to improve clarity and alignment between internal and external communications.
  • Providing college deans the discretion to decide if their senior communicator should report directly to the dean or the college’s chief advancement officer, with the goal of ensuring college communications that meet the needs of Advancement and, more broadly, the college and the university.
  • Creating a senior position within Communications and Marketing to provide additional shared central support to colleges and units, thereby enhancing available resources in an efficient manner.

During her time at Virginia Tech, Vosburgh created and led an integrated communications operation that supports Advancement goals and aligns to presidential priorities.

“Our brand awareness, university reputation, engagement, and fundraising success have all marked new levels of success each year, under Charlie’s leadership, the power of aligned communications and marketing is clear. The divisions of Human Resources and Advancement have set a standard and model that can be leveraged across the university,” said Vosburgh. “We have a lot of work ahead. I’m energized by the potential of this new model and look forward to engaging with colleagues across campus as we develop the plan and review our alignment, policies, procedures, and resources to meet the needs of campus.”

Under Vosburgh’s leadership, University Relations has:

  • Refreshed the Virginia Tech brand.
  • Launched VTx, a new web presence and a video platform.
  • Created a Media Relations team that helped facilitate more than 5,000 top-tier media mentions last year, a 100 percent increase from 2017-18.
  • Launched an annual State of the University address to elevate presidential priorities.
  • Expanded the central university’s social media team and developed a social media policy (Policy 1030) for campus.
  • Launched the brand and supported communications for an 18-month long celebration of the university’s Sesquicentennial
  • Supporting key priorities such as reaching 40 percent representation of underrepresented minority students (Pell-eligible, first generation, and veterans) in the entering class by 2022.
  • Led a campuswide COVID communications team to elevate key messages to students and employees.
  • Launched the Boundless Impact Campaign.
  • Reached the 22 percent participation goal set by the president in 2016 as a member of the Advancement Integrated team.

Prior to coming to Virginia Tech, Vosburgh served as associate vice president of university communications at Cornell University and held broadcast management positions at Penn State Public Broadcasting, ABC/Kane Productions, National Geographic Society, and McNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.

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