Branding the “wow-academy”: The risks of promotional culture and quasi-corporate communication in higher education
Keywords:branding, public relations, promotional culture, quasi-corporate communication, university communication, social media, hybrid media system, higher education reforms
This article examines the branding of the new Tampere University in Finland and the reactions it evoked in Finnish social media and news media between 2018–2020. The merger of the University of Tampere and Tampere University of Technology into a new foundation-based university provoked considerable public debate and sparked uproar over the communication style and practices of the university’s new management. The main reason for the outcry was that the new governance model of the university ignored the traditional democratic way of running a university. Our article contributes to the growing literature on public relations communication in higher education by focusing on promotional culture and the role of the changing media landscape in university branding. We analyze how and why the brand messages were contested and transformed into memes and satirical commentaries on social media. When the university’s management tried to restrain this subversive play with legal sanctions, the issue escalated into the news media. Our qualitative analysis demonstrates the possible repercussions of a quasi-corporate style of communication on the credibility of the university as a higher education institution in a hybrid media environment.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Esa Väliverronen, Tanja Sihvonen, Salla-Maaria Laaksonen, Merja Koskela
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