U news service turns to e-mail

Liz Kohman

There were 700 million different impressions of the University floating in the collective consciousness of Minnesotans last year, according to University Relations statistics.

These impressions came from the 3,200 print stories written about the University in newspapers across the state.

The University depends on these articles to deliver messages to the public; however, the way the University chooses to communicate with its audience is changing.

This year, University Relations, which handles communication for the University, began sending the electronic newsletter eNews to approximately 17,000 people.

“The real goal is to keep people informed about events, initiatives and activities at the University of Minnesota and its coordinate campuses,” said Amy Phenix, the editor of eNews.

The bi-weekly newsletter focuses on general interest news stories about the University and is sent to alumni, donors and friends of the University.

It allows the University to tell its stories from its own perspective.

The newsletter is meant to supplement the news about the University from other news sources, not supplant it, Phenix said.

“It allows us to speak more personally,” Phenix said.

The University’s news service is nothing new, but the way it operates is beginning to change.

Nora Paul, director of the Institute for New Media Studies in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said this trend has followed technology improvements.

“It’s like a wire service coming out of the ‘U,'” Paul said.

She said the e-mail could be effective because it provides subscribers with information about the University and because e-mailing offers information in an unobtrusive way.

“It’s promotional information being sent to people who have an interest,” Paul said.

Paul also said the audience would have to consider the credibility of the source. She said eNews wouldn’t be the place to look for hard-hitting investigations about the University.

It’s not bad for somebody to have an agenda, Paul said, it’s only bad if the audience isn’t aware of the agenda.

University Relations is focused on targeting information to specific groups and creating a consistent message across campus, said Sandra Gardebring, vice president for University relations.

After last year’s legislative session, the University has felt greater pressure to offer evidence of efficiency to the Legislature and to the people of Minnesota.

Gardebring said the University’s message has changed since then.

“We were concerned the public felt the University was not in good shape,” Gardebring said.

 

Liz Kohman welcomes comments at [email protected]