Vice Chancellor for Strategic Communications & Public Affairs - 22437BR

Vice Chancellor for Strategic Communications & Public Affairs

Public Affairs
University of Kansas Lawrence Campus
Work Location Assignment: 
Employee Class: 
U-Unclassified Professional Staff

Position Overview

The University of Kansas seeks an inclusive, collaborative and innovative leader to serve as vice chancellor for strategic communications and public affairs. Reporting directly to Chancellor Douglas A. Girod, this reimagined chief communications and marketing officer role will take the university's storytelling to a new level of inspiration, promote a differentiated brand through carefully constructed campaigns, and increase audience and community engagement. The vice chancellor serves as a key member of the chancellor's leadership team and works closely with the provost and the executive vice chancellor for the Lawrence Campus and the executive vice chancellor for the KU Medical Center developing and carrying out a strategic communications agenda that advances the university's status and aspirations, both internally and externally.

The University of Kansas (KU) is the state’s flagship university, an R1 institution and member of the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU). KU has five campuses including the Lawrence campus, the Edwards Campus in Overland Park, and medical branches in Kansas City, Wichita, and Salina. KU’s residential campus is located on beautiful and historic Mt. Oread in Lawrence, Kansas, and offers programs at eight other locations across the state as well as online through Jayhawk Global. Home to nearly 100,000 residents, Lawrence is a vibrant and culturally-rich community and quintessential college town - just 45 minutes west of Kansas City and 30 minutes east of Topeka, the state capital.

The vice chancellor will serve the marketing, communications and public affairs needs of the flagship's comprehensive enterprise with responsibility for primary internal and external communications and the integration of messages across all KU campuses, affiliates and partners. To this end, a key priority is to align university resources and communications strategies supporting and achieving leadership’s objectives at the international, national, state and local levels. The vice chancellor integrates communications, strategic messaging and outreach to enhance coordination among those areas and to elevate the university's reputation and presence across all key constituencies, including the media, alumni, donors, policy makers, opinion leaders, community-based organizations and the business community.

The vice chancellor must be a strategic thinker as well as media-savvy, and have a proven track record of leading an innovative, proactive and effective communications and marketing division that advanced an institution’s or organization’s brand and position in the marketplace. The vice chancellor will have thorough knowledge of marketing and communications best practices, brand and reputation management, public relations, crisis communications, creative development and new program marketing. The ability to communicate effectively with diverse audiences with proven success in developing traditional and digital multi-channel/multi-segmented messaging is essential.

The vice chancellor will be an executive with humility and respect. A courageous and collaborative leader with a record of support and advocacy for individuals from diverse identities, histories, backgrounds and experiences is paramount. A Master's or professional degree is required. Preferably, the vice chancellor will begin the appointment no later than mid-September 2022. For fullest consideration, candidate materials should be received by Friday, July 8, 2022

Job Description

Responsibilities and duties include but are not limited to:
  • Senior adviser to the university's academic and administrative leadership on issues of strategic communications and public affairs.
  • Responsible for the university's state, regional, national and global communications strategy and for raising the university's national profile. This includes creation of relevant metrics and targets to ensure success of strategic communication plan.
  • Develop an understanding of the marketing and communications requirements of all key stakeholders (university, departments and schools) to successfully drive the development of strategic plans that enhance the university's brand reputation and achieve both long and short-term objectives. Areas of emphasis include media and public relations, crisis communications, executive communications, digital engagement, paid media and advertising, content marketing and internal/employee communications.
  • Responsible for leadership, guidance, review and coordination of brand use and publications from all units on all campuses to ensure quality and consistency of messaging and communications.
  • Supervises the offices of Strategic Communications, Marketing and Communications, and Event Management and Protocol.
  • Management of oversight of the budget for the Office of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs to include marking and communications, strategic communications, and event management and protocol.
  • Provide leadership, coaching and active management for the marketing and communications team to increase the capabilities and improve the effectiveness of this group. Evaluate the structure and capabilities of the team and other campus marketing and communications professionals against the goal of providing a unified, proactive, and client-focused resource for the University. Develop a process that allows the team to optimize their partnerships with all stakeholders throughout the University.
  • Develop a coordinated communication plan and partnership with university parties such as KU Endowment, KU Alumni Association, and Kansas Athletics.
  • Develop a robust crisis communications plan that ties to the University’s Enterprise Risk Management and strategies.
  • Responsible for the creation and oversight of developing and maintaining quality university wide, public and private events such as Commencement and University Research Awards.
  • Develop tools and metrics to assess outcomes of strategic communication initiatives and for future visioning initiatives.
  • Other duties as assigned.

Required Qualifications

The success of University of Kansas is the direct result of the contributions and commitment of its people and outstanding visionary leadership. This starts with the vice chancellor's ability to demonstrate a commitment to KU's vision, mission and values and provide evidence of success in building a thriving, diverse team. The vice chancellor must also possess the following required qualifications:
  • Master's or professional degree in marketing, communications, higher education, law, or related discipline.
  • 10 years of progressively responsible experience in strategic communications for a large organization.
  • Demonstrated experience in leading teams in the areas of strategic communications and/or brand strategy.
  • Demonstrated experience effectively communicating with a diverse group of constituents to include faculty, staff, students, donors, alumni, elected officials, and community members.
  • Evidence of proven success leading public affairs and strategic communication strategies at the executive level.
  • Successful record of accomplishment leading a collaborative process to develop a strategic brand platform.
  • Proven experience and skill in hiring, developing, managing, and supporting a diverse team.
  • Expert communications skills both oral and written.

Preferred Qualifications

In addition, the university seeks a leader with some or all of the following experience and/or competencies:
  • Previous experience in higher education is not a requirement, but individuals must embrace the mission of the university, appreciate its culture and history, and have the ability to understand higher education issues. The successful candidate will desire to become an active member and positive spokesperson for the University of Kansas community.
  • A successful track record of driving integrated marketing strategies and programs that utilize digital and direct marketing, SEO/SEM, social media, content marketing, web presence, mobile, channel selection and optimization, creative direction, and/or public relations to grow and enhance a brand to a global market.
  • Demonstrated acquisition and audience engagement experience with an excellent understanding of how to build relationships between an organization and targeted constituents.
  • A passionate, perceptive, inventive and energetic leader who can initiate and manage change and be a champion for the KU brand.
  • An effective leader who can build relationships with people from diverse areas of the university and inspire/influence those outside their direct sphere of control.
  • A results-oriented leader with the presence to inspire and the ability to develop a collaborative culture.
  • A work history/career demonstrating strategic and creative thinking, entrepreneurial and innovative leadership behind the development of marketing strategies and communications programs that engage a variety of diverse stakeholders.
  • Understands and is engaged in the evolving digital marketing and communications landscape.
  • Knows how to balance short-term objectives with long-term visioning and can work simultaneously with both.
  • Innovative and creative thinker who proactively identifies opportunities and is motivated by challenges.
  • The ability to provide an external perspective by having or gaining an understanding of consumer trends and marketplace demands.
  • Proven experience working with and advising people in high-level positions with public visibility.
  • Excellent team player and individual performer.
  • Good listener and relationship builder who will collaborate cross-functionally and work effectively with various levels of the university.
  • An effective negotiator with vendors and other third-party affiliates to ensure the best use of financial resources plus the ability to hold these entities accountable to exceptional high-performance standards.
  • Confident decision maker and self-starter with high energy/drive.
  • A positive attitude, strong character and integrity.

Additional Candidate Instructions

All applications, nominations and inquiries are invited. As WittKieffer is assisting the University of Kansas in this search, nominations and inquiries can be directed to:

Melissa Fincher, Bree Liddell and Jenna Brumleve

Applications should include, as separate documents, a resume and a letter of interest addressing the themes in this profile.
For fullest consideration, candidate materials should be received by Friday, July 8, 2022. Preferably, the vice chancellor will begin the appointment no later than mid-September 2022.

Contact Information to Applicants

Nominations and inquiries can be directed to:

Melissa Fincher, Bree Liddell and Jenna Brumleve

Advertised Salary Range

commensurate with experience

Application Review Begins


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Posting Information
Posting ID:
Public Affairs
Primary Campus:
University of Kansas Lawrence Campus
Work Location Assignment:
Employee Class:
U-Unclassified Professional Staff
Application Review Begins: