UBC's Public Affairs Office, housed within the External Affairs Division's University Relations Department, is responsible for communicating UBC's mission, key messages, and values to both its internal community of students, faculty, and staff, and to the broader external community which comprises multiple and diverse audiences. Public Affairs co-ordinates programs and messages in concert with other units of the External Affairs Division, UBC administration, faculties and departments, and service units.
Programs are built on a layer of communications policies and practices, including the Policy on Communications, approved by the Board of Governors in May 1994, which formally acknowledges UBC's responsibility to keep its many communities informed and ensure two-way dialogue. Programs are also built on the UBC Communications Plan which was developed with widespread campus input and designed to respond to the ever-changing environment in which UBC operates. The plan's five emphases are: critical issues management, public information centre, internal communication, two-way communication, and external communication. These emphases form the basis of Public Affairs' workplans.
This office provides a comprehensive communications program directed toward the campus community, the general public, government, the business community and the media. The primary goals of the office are:
to keep the campus community informed about developments in university policies, its people, research, teaching, and events;
to increase public understanding and support for UBC;
to provide avenues for the on- and off-campus communities to communicate with the university;
to encourage public use of campus facilities and attractions;
and, to promote interaction between the university and the private and public sectors.
The office provides the news media with accurate and timely information about research activities and other matters of public interest, and produces a wide range of publications including the tabloid newspaper UBC Reports, Facts and Figures, speeches, brochures, World Wide Web materials and fund-raising communications materials. Staff also provide public and media relations counselling and other communications services to UBC academic and administrative units.
Public Affairs staff also provide advice and strategic direction for critical issues management.
Several key initiatives and critical issues have been focal points for the Public Affairs Office in 1997/98. Ongoing public issues, such as a proposal to bring the Pacific Games 2001 to UBC, require strategic communications support for internal and external audiences. In 1997/98, the following initiatives and issues were at the forefront of UBC's communications:
Official Community Plan
The landmark OCP--a critical university priority--was approved by UBC's Board of Governors and GVRD's Board of Directors in the summer of 1997. The development of the OCP received widespread public exposure at many levels, including the campus community, GVRD community, activist groups, municipal and provincial governments, and the media. UBC organized a series of community consultation meetings for on- and off-campus stakeholders in April 1997, and provided communications support in the form of media relations and news stories. Direct communications with campus residents--notably Hampton Place residents--has been a priority.
Introduction of President Martha Piper
The introduction to the community of UBC's 11th president, Dr. Martha Piper, was a major focus of the Public Affairs Office in the fall of 1997. Dr. Piper received widespread public attention through targeted news stories in local, provincial and national media--through print, radio and television interviews. The strategic placement of these stories established a profile of UBC's new president in the mind of the community and also set the stage for the Visioning Process.
Research Awareness Campaign--"Think About It"
The UBC Research Awareness Campaign was launched in October 1997 under the banner "Think About It - UBC Research." The mandate of the campaign is to raise awareness of, and support for, UBC research among constituents on campus (students, faculty, staff, alumni) and off campus (the general public, government and private sector). The campaign seeks to put a human face on UBC research, highlight its diversity and linkages among disciplines and illustrate their relevance to societal concerns. This has been achieved through a variety of print, broadcast (radio) and merchandising initiatives, as well as special events. A poll conducted in April 1998 showed 21 per cent of British Columbians had heard or seen information incorporating the phrase "Think About It - UBC Research." The campaign committee is reviewing initiatives to date with the goal of increasing participation among all campus constituents, partners and friends off campus. The campaign has received two 1998 awards in the Public Relations Projects category from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE): a Bronze Award from CASE District VIII and a Silver Award in the CASE Circle of Excellence Program open to schools, colleges and universities throughout North America.
The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' meeting held at UBC Nov. 25, 1997--and subsequent demonstrator and police actions--became an extremely high-profile exposure of UBC to national and international audiences. Subsequent investigations of the demonstrations focused intense public and media scrutiny on UBC's involvement with APEC, a scrutiny that will continue during public hearings into APEC scheduled for September 1998.
The introduction of new Business-Education Partnerships, or strategic business partnerships, to campus raised some serious issues for consideration. Campus consultation and communications were key parts of raising awareness and support for two major partnerships which were finalized in 1997/98--in the financial services and airlines/travel sectors.
UBC's Vision consultation over the winter of 1997/98 has involved extensive consultation with members of the university community, alumni, and the general public. Public Affairs is working to position the university's major goals in local and provincial media to ensure that public feedback is elicited and responded to. Consultation will continue throughout the summer of 1998 as the university moves towards finalizing a Vision Statement in the fall of 1998.
UBC utilizes a variety of means to communicate with--and hear from--its various stakeholders. The major vehicles include:
UBC's main vehicle for communicating with its internal audience on an ongoing basis is the bi-weekly tabloid UBC Reports. Promoting the people of UBC--students, faculty and staff--and their achievements in learning, research and service is a priority of the newspaper. UBC Reports is published 21 times annually, with 12,000 copies distributed on campus and 25,000 distributed to our neighbours in surrounding communities.
In 1997/98, the Public Affairs Office researched, wrote and released 168 news releases for media in the Lower Mainland, BC and across the country. The focus of these releases included publicity regarding on-campus events; updates on university policy; recognition of outstanding achievements in teaching, research and service; and support of other major UBC initiatives. Public Affairs staff also liaised directly with journalists to place UBC experts in the public eye.
Public Information Centre
UBC's Public Information Centre and information line, UBC-INFO (822-4636), are housed in Cecil Green Park House. The centre is staffed on a full-time basis and provides a wide range of information about UBC programs, services and facilities, as well as offering directions to campus and information about events. The information line handles an average of 1,000 calls a month, with the bulk of the calls from journalists seeking information about UBC. Miscellaneous inquiries about UBC, information about UBC Reports and university attractions, directions and referrals to other departments comprise the bulk of the remaining calls.
World Wide Web
The Public Affairs Office Web site, which provides on-line access to UBC Reports, media releases, Facts & Figures, and other communications vehicles, was launched in August 1996. A snapshot of Public Affairs Web site statistics from April 1, 1997 to March 31, 1998 shows:
Building UBC's relationship with the community will be a priority in the year ahead. As the Vision process comes to a conclusion, UBC's communications strategy will define precise messages and means to communicate with, and receive input from, its many diverse constituents. Key UBC initiatives that will be supported through strategic communications in the next year include:
Finalization and release of the Vision Statement for UBC
Governance Study for Electoral Area `A'
Research Awareness Campaign
Official Community Plan/Local Area Plans
On-line UBC Experts Service accessible via the World Wide Web
External Affairs offers a range of communications services to campus, including:
UBC Reports -- tabloid newspaper published 21 times annually; circulation 37,000
Media Releases -- 168 in 1997/98 publicizing research, teaching, people and policy
Phone contact -- 200 calls per day
Placement of UBC's people and stories -- hundreds annually in TV, radio and print media, both in the Lower Mainland and across Canada
Media Monitoring Service -- 200 packages annually, approximately 1,000 items
Facts & Figures university brochure
World Wide Web site
Public consultation/public process
Report to the Community
Contributions to faculty/departmental newsletters
Alumni Chronicle contributions
Media training services
UBC experts contact service
Brochures and other publications
Speech writing services
Personal contact/one-on-one meetings