This article offers an in-depth exploration of university communications practice by describing and analysing a publicity and recruitment campaign, called ‘Challenge Everything’, carried out by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in 2018. By providing insight into internal sense-making around the campaign it contributes to literatures in science communication and communication management.
This qualitative research uses semi-structured interviews and informal organisational ethnography, mobilising concepts of sense-making and auto-communication to guide analysis. The focus is on how organisation members made sense of the Challenge Everything campaign.
The analysis focuses on four key themes within organisational sense-making about the campaign: the openness of the campaign meant that it was readily picked up on and personalised by university staff; its meaning was always contextual, shaped by organisation members' roles, interests, and concerns; its controversy seems to primarily derive from questions of representation, and specifically whether organisation members recognised within it their own experiences of university culture; and its development points to the rise of new forms of expertise within university organisation, and the contestation of these.
The research offers only a partial snapshot of one instance of university communications. However, in demonstrating how public campaigns also operate as auto-communication it has important implications for strategic communication within complex organisations such as universities.
The research has particular value in offering an in-depth qualitative study of university marketing practices and the effects these have within an organisation.
I am extremely grateful to all those who were interviewed as part of this research, and to the many colleagues and acquaintances with whom I had informal conversations about the campaign. Special thanks go to Johanne Færevaag Nome, Margrethe Aune, Brit Moen Tjørstad, Odin Drønen, colleagues to whom I presented an early version of this work, and to the reviewers for their helpful comments.
Davies, S. (2020), "University communications as auto-communication: the NTNU ‘Challenge Everything’ campaign", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCOM-08-2019-0120Download as .RIS
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