The Daily Gamecock

New VP: ‘Find something that sticks’

Communications guru Lawrence has major plans

It was a savvy marketing strategy that increased the University's prestige nationally and eventually garnered an award for being the best social media strategy in the country from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. It integrated photos, Facebook, Twitter and the OSU website into a cohesive, user-friendly platform.

Public relations consultant Michael Stoner called it "the most comprehensive university social-marketing campaign that we've seen to date," and its brainchild was Luanne Lawrence, USC's new vice president for communications.

With fiery red hair and trendy, chic fashion, Lawrence is undoubtedly USC's youngest vice president. She came with an impressive pedigree, a record for change and a $230,000 annual salary, which puts her in the top-25 of highest paid employees at the University according to state records. It's the most USC has ever paid a communications specialist.

The position was created in 2009 and held by Charles Bierbauer on an interim basis. The University previously had an associate vice president for communications, and President Harris Pastides is quick to note he didn't create an entirely new position.

"I wouldn't want your readers to think that," he said.

In this era, it's vitally important for the University to promote itself through Facebook, Twitter and other means, Pastides said.

"The outstanding work being done at Carolina will not have its high impact if we don't communicate our message effectively and to a large audience," Pastides said.

Lawrence is admittedly fascinated with Facebook. She's on her smart phone constantly. Because her family hasn't moved from Oregon yet, she Skypes with them every night at dinner.

She rarely doesn't return an e-mail or phone call within an hour.

"My policy is you return every phone call and every e-mail, even if you don't have an answer then," she said. "It's just respectful."

Lawrence just might change how people see USC.

At OSU, she brought together a fragmented staff, said Mark Floyd, a current media relations professional there. He praised her creativity, innovativeness and sense of humor.

"We have a lot of good, talented people working in advancement," Floyd said. "What she did was provide some cohesiveness to what we were doing."

At USC, Lawrence is now responsible for marketing, media relations, Web communications and publications, and she wants to make change quickly.

First, Lawrence said you have to be known for something. USC needs to decide how it wants to market itself, looking for three or four special traits it can really emphasize. Sure, you want quality work at every level of your institution. But people need to have a few special superlatives in their brains.

"You have to find something that sticks," Lawrence said.

She's also interested in branding. Currently, the logos of certain schools don't match. For example, the Darla Moore School of Business has an entirely separate design. That will be changed soon. Lawrence is also determined to ensure USC uses the same shade of garnet across campus.

She's hoping to attract more national media to USC. In the upcoming months, her communications team will devise a plan to market the University nationally.

Local coverage is important, too. She sat down with editorial boards across the state. There, she's admitted the University's previous failures with Innovista and admitted the previous negative coverage was justified.

"But I've told them we're changing that, and it's becoming successful now," she said. "I believe in admitting your mistakes when you make them."

So far, she loves South Carolina and the hospitality. There's an allure to the warm weather, as she recently Tweeted and posted on Facebook. For the first time in years, she might get a tan.

One aspect, though, isn't so great.

"HUGE Palmetto Bug on my BR Ceiling," she Tweeted in mid-November. "Help. Gulp."