By Johnna Wiens (HSBC Prosperity Hall)

We have spent the last few months exploring City University’s 2010 – 2015 Strategic Plan, from the plan as a whole to individual efforts such as the Campus Planning and Development and Globalisation goals.  But now let’s take a look at what some have said the plan is really about: the Branding, Image and Culture strategic focus. 

According to the Strategic Plan, “A carefully-considered marketing and communications strategy and a proactive public relations plan are essential to improve the recruitment of faculty and students and to increase donations and other forms of support for the University.”  To accomplish these objectives, CityU has set four sub-goals as a means for systematically enhancing its brand image:

  • Goal 1: Elevate City University’s visibility and reputation through creative and effective communication;

  • Goal 2: Invigorate our promotion and external relations to raise our public image and community support;

  • Goal 3: Develop a long-term marketing, communications and branding plan to support the University’s strategic vision; and

  • Goal 4: Formulate a long-term development strategy for generating sustained support and major donations to pursue a culture of excellence.

Let’s break down those goals and objectives and take a closer look at how they fit under the guise of “Branding, Image and Culture”.  The first important aspect to consider is how the objectives of recruiting more students and faculty and procuring more donor contributions actually fit under this heading.  That is not difficult to see: CityU hopes that if its brand image and perceived culture are augmented, so will recruitment, enrolment and donation numbers.  Easy.  But will its four goals actually help it get there? 

If we break the overarching focus into three categories (Branding, Image and Culture) we can analyse this more easily.  Goal 1 and Goal 3 easily fall into the “Branding” category.  Goals 1 and 2 lean more toward the “Imaging” side.  But what about Goal 4?  And what about the “Culture” category? 

Well, Goal 4 does contain the word culture, but if it were replaced with, say, “tradition”, would it be as obvious?  I do not think so.  This is the aspect this part of the Strategic Plan starts to feel forced.  CityU wants to increase funding?  And they want to do it by formulating strategies for “generating sustained support and major donations”?  And this somehow relates to the university’s culture?  It funds a part of CityU’s academic culture, undoubtedly, but is it (or really, should it be) the major focus of developing the CityU culture? 

As someone who has been worked in a local PR firm for over a year, I understand the basic importance of using one’s brand image as a mechanism to communicate its culture.  But, I wonder if this is the culture that CityU truly wants to communicate, one that relies on donations and sponsors, rather than one that is based on the determination and commitment of its faculty and students to be the best academicians they can be.  Maybe they should have simply stuck with their overarching vision statement to communicate City University’s desired culture:

“City University of Hong Kong aspires to become a leading global university, excelling in research and professional education.”

As always, you can access the complete version of the City University 2010 – 2015 Strategic Plan at and decide for yourself.

ResLink Issue No.34
April 2011