At a time when there is an aggressive digital evolution in the communication landscape, when literally everyone has access to a digital device to create and disseminate content, it’s harder than ever to break through the noise. As a result, some of the best ideas of our time are trapped in PDFs, spreadsheets, clunky websites, or in technical jargons that most target consumers and end users don’t comprehend.
According to Ms. Noella Mutanda, the Secretary,, Public Relations Society of Kenya (PRSK), Kenyan universities risk being casualties of this digital evolution if they don’t wake up to the global changing trends.
Ms. Mutanda was speaking, Tuesday, November 23, 2021 at the annual Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) during the Professors Luncheon, where she was the Chief Guest.
The professorial luncheon is an annual event in honour of JKUAT professors in appreciation of their outstanding academic and research achievements and services to the community. It also serves as a platform of welcoming new professors to the elite club of academic success.
“Many universities take a very casual approach to building their brands and invest little or nothing in branding and reputation management, yet they expect maximum results. Most have established PR and Communication Departments but they are often underfunded, and their placement isn’t at the Centre of the institutional decision making,” she decried.
Ms. Noella further postulates that with colleges and universities mushrooming at a rapid pace, it has become imperative for academic institutions to differentiate their brand in the market and build strong reputations for themselves.
This is especially important in the face of dwindling government funding to universities, and the need to innovatively and sustainably generate income internally.
To survive and keep the competition at bay, she adds, Kenyan universities must seek to build strong brands and establish themselves as leaders in the sector. This begins by elevating communication functions to strategic levels.
“The Corporate Communications Department should therefore be considered a priority department in the organization and the leadership included in high-level management discussions and not just brought in when things go wrong,” she submitted.
To the professors, being the apex of academia in the university, Ms. Mutanda passionately made an appeal for them to speak, live, talk and dress the JKUAT brand.
“You are the academic cream of the institution, but how well do you communicate what you do in your respective area of specialization? Does it end in the technical jargon and terminologies in your journal publications, or can it be broken down to the end consumer and beneficiary, who in many cases just want to know the bottom-line?”, she posed to the professors.
“You must work closely with the Corporate Communications Office to amplify the brand of the University, to disseminate your research, innovations and milestones. And you must realize that you belong to the University. That means you must align your personal brands as professors with that of the University,” she opined.
Her sentiments were echoed by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi, who urged the professors to be the University’s brand ambassadors.
“To the new professors, you have joined a very prestigious club. This comes with a lot of responsibility, and there is no going back. JKUAT is a brand, and we all have a responsibility to maintain that name and live up to our reputation,” she said.
Prof. Ngumi also made a rallying call to the professors to accelerate their research efforts by applying for more grants and writing proposals to further boost the University’s research environment.
On her part, the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research Production and Extension Division, Prof. Mary Abukutsa, called on the professors to participate more in webinars, workshops and public lectures in their respective areas as a way of growing the research community. Her Academic Affairs counterpart, Prof. Robert Kinyua, appealed to the professors to actively participate in the building of the University.
“We find ourselves at a time when most universities across the country are dealing with a lot of challenges. As professors you are the best we have to offer, so I urge you to be like the biblical Nehemiah; actively participate and spearhead the building of this wall called JKUAT, rather than retreating to the sidelines to criticize the builders,” said Prof. Kinyua.
The University currently has a total of 136 professors, out of which 53 are full professors, with 83 Associate Professors.
The Professors Luncheon took place ahead of the University’s 37th Graduation Ceremony, slated for Friday, November 26, 2021, where a total of 5, 171 students will be conferred with degrees and awarded diplomas.