October 11, 2010

Mount Allison University Branding Campaign

As I mentioned in an earlier post I participated in a student focus group as part of a new branding campaign led by Mount Allison's director of marketing and communications Tony Frost. For two hours I sat with a few other American students and we talked about...well...what you'd expect at a focus group: When we first heard of Mount Allison, what we first thought of it, what other schools we looked at, what the admissions process was like, what factored into the decision to come here, discussing a photo we chose that symbolized Mount Allison for us, choosing from a list of positive school attributes which most matched Mount Allison, and then critiquing other schools' (Atlantic Canadian, Ontario, and small liberal arts school in the eastern US) brochures. Hopefully all the information they gathered will be put to good use.

I'm generally supportive because I think Mount Allison deserves a lot more attention than it has gotten...especially (as I have noted a few times already) in US news about Canadian universities. Mount Allison is on par academically with a lot of $40,000+/year schools in the US but is virtually unknown outside of Canada and that's really unfortunate because a lot of people are going to not so great state schools when they get a much better education at Mount Allison for not much more.

The only thing is that I'm concerned that in the strive to get noticed what's special about Mount Allison might be lost...especially if student enrollment continues to increase without an appropriate increase in services and quality residence accommodations. That can be seen in the website redesign that I've previously mentioned. The new website is more of the 'popular' and presentable kind but it is obviously more commercial and directed to parents of new prospective students with half of the screen decicated to a campus beat which is news stories about Mount Allison and press releases by the school. I think this xkcd comic might express it best.

Besides those small concerns I think it's a great idea and it's even better that it is all being funded by a Mount A alum. Here are the details:

The Mount Allison Brand

  • Mount Allison University has set itself an audacious goal: to be considered one of North America’s best undergraduate universities.

    To help achieve this objective, the University has begun a brand positioning project that will help define that which differentiates us from our peers and competitors. This initiative will enable us to articulate our vision, values, stories, and unique attributes in clear and intentional ways.

    This site is intended to keep the University community apprised of the project’s status and contain links to any and all information related to the Mount Allison brand. I would invite you to visit the site regularly to stay up-to-date with this exciting and important initiative.
  • Tony Frost
    Director of Marketing and Communications

The Mount Allison Brand

  • About Brand Positioning Programs
    A brand positioning program (“branding” for short) involves the discovery and consistent presentation of verifiable strengths and attributes that make an organization unique to its competitors. While such programs are most often associated with the private sector, they are becoming much more prevalent in the post-secondary education sector. The reason for this is the recognition that they can be a strategic driver for sustained institutional success.

    In Canada such programs have been completed or are underway at UBC, Wilfrid Laurier, Guelph, York, Saskatchewan, Ottawa, and Carleton. In each case, their goals were the same: Identify that which makes them unique and leverage it to create greater awareness and brand preference.

    As with other universities, Mount Allison communicates with many audiences (prospective and current students, faculty, alumni, donors, businesses, the media, etc.) and for a variety of reasons. However, when looked at collectively, they vary significantly in terms of their look, voice, and messaging. Some even conflict. While our audiences all have different needs they should be engaged with in a consistent manner that strengthens our identity and reinforces our competitive advantages. In this way, all of our interactions with our constituents become what may be called “reputation-defining” opportunities focused on achieving the University’s strategic plans.

    Mount Allison’s brand positioning project has been structured as three phases, each building on and informing the next: (1) reputational research; (2) brand strategy; and (3) creative design. In order to create a sustainable marketing and communications program, measurable performance indicators will be developed. As well, the process will include a review of communications needs, tactics, structures, resources, and training for the University community.

    To ensure that the results meet the needs of our community and accurately reflect the University, the project will gather a significant amount of input from students, faculty, staff, alumni, and key external audiences.  As well, a Brand Council, made up of representatives from across the University, will be directly involved to provide insight and review of the project’s deliverables.

The Mount Allison Brand

  • Current Student Focus Groups
    1Monday, Sept 20th4-6pm1st year students from Atlantic region
    Mix of program areas including NB Francophone students
    2Monday, Sept 20th6-8pmUpper year students from Atlantic region (2nd-4th year)
    Mix of program areas including NB Francophone students
    3Tuesday, Sept 21st4-6pmInternational (non-US), mix of years
    Mix of states
    Mix of private/public/ IB program
    4Tuesday, Sept 21st6-8pmOther Canada (non-Maritime) mix of years
    Mix of countries
    Mix of private/public/IB program
    5Tuesday, Sept 21st8-10pmUS, mix of years
    Mix of provinces
    Mix of private/public/IB program
  • High School Student Focus Groups

    6Wednesday, Sept 22nd5:30-7:30pm
    Grade 12 students
    Halifax, NS
    Sept 23rd
    7:30- 9:30pm
    Grade 12 students
    Oakville, ON

The Mount Allison Brand

  • Q: Why are we doing this?
    A: Currently, much of the University’s communication efforts differ in terms of their look, feel and voice, and conflict in terms of their message. Additionally, many are out of alignment with the institution’s strategic goals. This project will help the entire community understand what the Mount Allison brand stands for and ensure key audiences receive a clear and consistent brand experience.
    Additionally, the University is facing growing pressure due to regional, national and global competition in the PSE sector, a declining Atlantic Region population, and increased student mobility (students could go anywhere, so why here)? The University must position itself for long-term success and strategic branding initiatives are a key driver for this.
    Q: Is this about developing a news logo and tagline?
    A: No, logos and taglines are expressions of a brand. A brand is the sum total of all that is known, thought, felt and perceived about an organization. Other expressions of a brand include:
    • The actual product
    • Advertising/promotional activities
    • A Name
    • A package
    • Corporate colours
    The goal of branding is to purposefully influence the perceptions of an audience and create an understanding of value in their mind and motivate audience(s) to see an organization as not just the best in its class but the only one that provides a solution to their particular problem or need. The value in the Mount Allison brand resides in the promise that the University will deliver what is expected – time after time.
    Q: Who is leading the brand position project and how will decisions be made?
    A: The Marketing and Communications Office is leading the brand position project with the assistance of an external firm: The Strategic Counsel. The program also involves a University committee called the Brand Council, which is made up of internal and external representatives. We have attempted to include individuals who will provide a diversity of perspectives, allowing those with marketing and branding expertise to partner with those who have a good understanding of the institution’s history and culture.
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  • Q: What is the Mount Allison Brand Council and how does it work?A: The Brand Council was formed to ensure that a wide University perspective was given to the brand position project. When the project is complete, the Brand Council will continue to meet regularly to plan, promote, support, and facilitate brand- related decisions for Mount Allison University.
  • Q: Who is on the Brand Council?

    A: Dr. Jeff Ollerhead, Dean of Science
    Dr. Andrew Nurse, Canadian Studies
    Dr. Rosemary Pollegato, Commerce
    Samuel J. Gregg-Wallace, SAC president
    Gayle Churchill, Director of Student Life
    Chris Parker, Registrar
    Tony Frost, Director of Marketing and Communications
    Mark Fraser, Alumni
  • Q: Will the University community be involved in the branding position program?
    A: Yes. There will be many opportunities for the Mount Allison community to participate in the process by providing input and feedback.
    Q: Will the University’s visual identity change?
    A: The last phase of the project will involve creative design, which will include a review and development of the University’s visual identity. How much it will change will be based on the first phase of the program which is a survey on how the University is perceived by key audiences — students (prospective and current), faculty, alumni, and opinion leaders. We will also research our strengths and areas of differentiation. From that research a brand strategy will be developed that will guide the look, voice and messaging of the University’s identity.
    Q: What is Mount Allison University’s strategic purpose?
    A: The Mount Allison’s broad strategic objective is to position it as among the best primarily undergraduate universities in North America. We want to be known for academic and program excellence, and be identified as a distinctive and top quality university in a number of concrete areas and ways. Our aim is to be the destination place for lively, imaginative, creative and talented students, faculty, and staff, and for our alumni to characterize it this way after they graduate.
    Our mission is to work together to make the Mount Allison experience a unique and creative one, which integrates an excellent academic program with compelling and lively extracurricular activities, in a series of communities that students establish amongst themselves and with faculty, staff, and the local community. There is no one single Mount Allison experience but, rather, a series of rich and compelling experiences, opportunities, and possibilities that reflect students’ interests, decisions, and choices.
    The Mount Allison experience is more than a degree: it is a stepping-stone to a larger world, whether to further graduate or professional studies or employment. This experience aims to help students — and faculty and staff — to develop their capacities and their potential as fully and widely as possible, from the intellectual and the social, to the physical and the creative, so when they leave Mount Allison they have the personal capacity to make a successful, meaningful intervention into and contribution to their society and the world.
    Q: What will the project deliverables be?
    A: Deliverables are to include:
    • Comprehensive, written and public summary of the research findings;
    • Strategic assessment and recommendations for brand opportunity areas;
    • Strategies for maintaining, monitoring, and measuring success of the branding process;
    • Brand strategy composed of a brand definition, positioning statement, brand promise and articulation of distinct brand personality and attributes;
    • Messaging platform identifying specific positioning statements, messages and functional/emotional benefits for key audiences;
    • Basic brand incorporation strategies for University entities with specialized messaging needs (e.g. faculties and departments);
    • Marketing and communications plan
    • Recommendations for resourcing/structure needs;
    • Identification of key performance indicators;
    • Brand guide;
    • Graphic identity materials (e.g. logo, symbols, typography, key messages, colour palette;  
    • University stationery (letterhead, envelopes, business cards and labels);
    • Masthead and page design for the University’s alumni magazine;
    • Collateral materials such as exterior and interior signage, banner, clothing, advertising for magazine, poster, newspaper (brand, recruiting and classified);
    Q: How will the University pay for the project?
    A: The project is being financed completely off budget through the generous donation of a Mount Allison alumnus.

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    Q: What agencies are working with Mount Allison on the brand position process?
  • A: The Strategic Counsel is developing qualitative and quantitative research to Identifies the core strengths, characteristics, attributes, and values that make up the University brand and set it apart from other institutions. They will also help to
    Measures awareness, knowledge, perception, and favourability (brand preference) of Mount Allison.
    Trajectory is working with the University to develop brand strategy.
    Partners and Edell is performing a review of the Marketing and Communications function, structure, resources, and tactics.
    Q: How long will the brand position project take?
    A: The project is expected to be completed by winter of 2011.  Once that is done, communication projects will begin using the new brand guidelines. However, one of the key outcomes of the project is the establishment of key performance indicators for ongoing brand management and measurement.
    Q: I would like to provide feedback. Who should I contact?
    A: Contact the University’s Marketing and Communications Office at 364-2345 or send an e-mail to:tfrost@mta.ca.

    The Mount Allison Brand

    • Mount Allison University Brand Research/Strategy Request for Proposal



      Mount Allison University has established itself as one of Canada’s top primarily undergraduate universities, but it is not as well known as many of its peers. In order to pursue its objective of being considered one of the very best undergraduate universities in North America, it must identify, articulate, and utilize the attributes that make it unique.
    • This request seeks proposals for research that is specifically designed to provide the requisite market intelligence and recommendations to drive the development of a brand strategy for the institution. Such research will help the University expand its reputation among business, government, media, and opinion leaders and support its objectives for attracting high-achieving faculty and students, fundraising, alumni engagement, as well as fostering community support.

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      II. PURPOSE 

      This project may comprise two phases. Phase one is split up into two components, each with their own set of deliverables. In the first phase, Mount Allison University will require the contracted firm to accomplish four objectives:

      Identify brand strengths that provide strategic marketing advantages, and provide recommendations on how to use these advantages to enhance the Mount Allison brand and help the University reach its strategic goals. These goals include increasing donor support, attracting high-achieving students and faculty, enhancing the University’s reputation, and other goals already known or identified through the branding research process.
      Establish a distinct brand message that will generate interest and excitement and position Mount Allison as one of the very best undergraduate universities in North America.
      Provide guidance on how faculties, centres, and units can more effectively leverage the Mount Allison brand to reach their respective goals, while also strengthening the overall perceptions of the University’s brand.
      Provide a launch plan for an immediate effort to spread the word about why Mount Allison is a desireable place to study, teach, and do research

      The above objectives will be reached through a review of existing research and by conducting new research, both quantitative and qualitative. The successful firm will work closely with university leaders and Mount Allison’s Director of Marketing and Communications to produce final recommendations and a plan with milestones and outcomes that align with the University’s goals and expectations.

      Measurable Outcomes:  

      Through the branding process, Mount Allison University intends to enhance its reputation, raise its visibility, and increase engagement among key audiences, all in measurable ways.

      To achieve these goals, the University will pursue the following results:

      1. Clear articulation of the University’s unique position and brand identity in the Post Secondary Education marketplace among key audiences, all based on qualitative and quantitative research.
      These audiences include:

      1.  Prospective students;
      2. Current students;
      3. Faculty and staff;
      4.  Alumni;
      5.  Donors;
      6.  Business leaders;
      7. Guidance Counsellors;
      8. Government officials;
      9.  Elected officials;
      10. The General public;

      1. Development of a well-defined brand position and supporting brand architecture that reflects the University’s mission and unique character and differentiates the University from its peers
      1. Strengthened brand preference for Mount Allison to increase actions such as:

      1.  Successful recruitment and retention of high-achieving students, faculty, and staff;
      2. Financial support by alumni, parents and donors;
      3.  Positive responses from students opinion leaders in reputation surveys;
      4.  Increased involvement of alumni and friends in University activities and events;  
      5.  Increased awareness of Mount Allison University, its areas of strength and its contributions to society and the economy.

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      Phase IA: Research and Discovery
      Description: The research and discovery phase is to provide an evaluation and assessment of current perceptions and recognition of the University through research with key audiences as listed above. This information will be combined with existing research to form a body of background research from which an informed and comprehensive approach to brand development can occur.

      Components of the research and discovery proposal should include the following:

      1. On-campus meeting(s) with University personnel to discuss and define the University’s goals for marketing and communications; 
      2. Review of current Marketing and Communications efforts;
      3. Analysis of existing University research;
      4. Competitive landscape analysis;
      5. Qualitative research, such as interviews with key internal or external constituents or in-person focus groups;
      6. Quantitative research to provide data for the brand position and a benchmark for future assessment;
      7. Compare and contrast Mount Allison’s marketing and communications efforts with those of two Universities seen as similar in type, two universities considered to employ branding best practices and three key competitors;

      Deliverables: Deliverables should include but are not limited to the following:

      1. Comprehensive, written summary of the research findings, including an analysis of the data collected in each component of the research process and the implications of the findings for the institution’s brand position;
      2. Strategic assessment and recommendations for brand opportunity areas and key messages to be further explored and tested with great precision in Phase II;
      3. On-campus presentations to internal constituents outlining research findings and recommendations for messaging and branding;
      4. Recommend strategies for monitoring and measuring success of the branding process, and maintaining support for the branding process among internal constituents.

      NOTE: All data, information, recommendations, and reports will become the property of Mount Allison University.
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      Phase IB: Brand Positioning and Strategy 

      Description: The brand positioning and strategy phase should build on the research findings and recommendations completed in the research and discovery phase.

      Components of a brand positioning and strategy proposal must include, but are not limited to, the following:

      1. A brand strategy for the university composed of a brand definition, positioning statement, brand promise and articulation of distinct brand personality and attributes;
      2. A complete messaging platform identifying specific positioning statements, messages and functional/emotional benefits for each key audience;
      3. Basic brand incorporation strategies for University entities with specialized messaging needs (e.g. faculties);
      4. Testing and validation of the brand strategy and key messages if needed;
      5. Development of marketing and communications plan to meet the short-term and long-term goals of the University. This is to include a plan for how the brand experience will be delivered to the internal audience (e.g. Launch event that creates excitement and awareness on campus and motivates internal community to be brand champions). It will also include a plan for how the brand will be deployed to the external audiences across a broad range of channels. This plan should include options for non-paid brand exposure-creative ways to promote and develop brand awareness, recognition and retention.
      Support Infrastructure: The firm will be required to assist the University in determining the support infrastructure needed to execute the marketing and communication strategies in the following ways:
      1. Make written recommendations for the appropriate staffing needs for the plan that is created. 
      2. Assist in the development of an acceptable budget and timeline to roll out the integrated marketing and branding plan over a period of time. 
      3. Help determine the most effective organizational structure to deliver the plan and support its sustainability.   
      4. Develop a metric of success guideline that measures the performance of each element of the integrated marketing and branding plan, recognizing that various components will have very individual metrics for measuring effectiveness and efficiency.  All components should demonstrate a capacity to contribute to improvements made in the University’s image, awareness, reputation and support from the marketplace.

      NOTE: All data, information, recommendations, reports will become the property of Mount Allison University.
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      PHASE II
      Description: Phase II involves the development of a wide range of creative materials. This implementation may be carried out with or without the assistance of a subcontracted firm, depending on the resources and expertise of the primary contractor. The bidding for this section is for all creative development and the work managing the implementation; it does not include any costs associated with media purchase or other means of implementation. The bidding firm must clearly state whether it would use subcontractors and, if so, under what circumstances.

      Deliverables: Components of this phase should include, but are not limited to, the following:

      1. A document outlining the tested and recommended brand strategy and messaging platform;
      2. Development of a graphic identity standards manual for print and web;
      3. A suite of graphic identity materials (e.g. logo, symbols, typography, key messages, colour palette, tagline(s)). Electronic and original files, must be provided of all the graphic identity materials;  
      4. University stationery (letterhead, envelopes, business cards and labels);
      5. Development of masthead and page design for the University’s alumni magazine;
      6.  Collateral materials such as exterior and interior signage, banner, clothing, advertising for magazine, poster, newspaper (brand, recruiting and classified);
      7. On-campus presentations to internal constituents outlining recommendations for brand positioning and strategy as well as creative.
      8. Templates must be provided in electronic file format for Adobe inIndesign;
      9. Letterhead, stationery and labels should also be provided in Microsoft Word;
      NOTE: Deadline for delivery of all creative materials is December 1, 2010.

      NOTE: All data, information, recommendations, reports, and creative development will become the property of Mount Allison University. 

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      1. RFP Release Date: March 19, 2010
      2. Question and Answer Period Deadline: March 26, 2010, 2:00 PM ADT 
      3. Question and Answer Addendum Posted: Week of March 29, 2010
      4. RFP Response Deadline: April 9, 2010 4:00 ADT 
      5. Oral Presentations: If required, to be determined


      Proposers may make written inquiries concerning this RFP by mail, fax or e-mail to the
      person below. All inquiries must be received by the Question and Answer Deadline above.  Individual questions will not be answered directly to submitter.  All questions submitted shall be responded to as an addendum to the RFP.  The addendum will be e-mailed to each potential responder of record. The identity of the submitter of any particular question will not be disclosed.

      Direct all questions to: 

      Dale Creelman, Purchasing Manager
      Tel/Voice: (506) 364-2294 | Fax: (506) 364-2216 | Email: dcreelman@mta.ca

      The project has a budget of $165,000 (including applicable taxes.)

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      All proposers must submit RFP responses in the following format, responding to each item in the order presented.  The University recommends responding in open text format directly below each question or numbered item, without changing any of the identifying headers or letters.

      A. Executive Summary 
      Proposals are to include a two to three-page document that summarizes the firm’s relevant experience and expertise as it relates to comprehensive market research and brand positioning services.

      B. Company Profile 
      Proposals should include relevant information about the firm and include an organizational chart, business model (e.g. services offered, even if outside the scope of this RFP), number of staff, their status (e.g. full-time, part-time, contract), and an overview (sufficiently detailed to be evaluated) of experience in strategic research management consulting in higher education.
      C. Assumptions 
      State any assumptions that the firm has made that may affect this proposal. Assumptions may relate to issues not specifically mentioned. For example, assumptions related to implementation timing, involvement of Mount Allison personnel, or technological issues that were not specifically mentioned in the RFP document should be listed.

      D.  Project Approach and Detailed Project Plan 
      Describe the firm’s approach to projects and explain the methodology to this project based on the information provided in the RFP. Proposals must include a detailed project plan including work breakdown by major milestones and tasks as well as timing and the expected involvement of company personnel and University team members.

      E.  Proposed Team 

      Provide an overview (sufficiently detailed to be evaluated), resumes and introduction of the proposed team member(s), including their experience with similar projects in higher education organizations. The University reserves the right to make any changes to the contract should the consultant change the project team structure once the contract has been signed. As the strength and experience of the project team is a critical element of the project, the proposed team must be available for the duration of the engagement.

       F.  Project Fees 

      Provide a detailed budget for the project (please note the budget maximum in section VI of this document). Additional costs that are expected to be incurred during the project that are not part of the proposal must be identified along with an estimate for them.

      G.  Project References 

      Provide the names and full contact information of at least three references from other higher education institutions with whom you have worked on a similar project and who are willing to provide a reference for your company.

      H. Additional Information 
      Firms are welcome to include any additional information considered essential to the proposal and not specifically requested in other sections. If there is no additional information to present, state in this section: “No additional information.”

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      Mount Allison will evaluate all submissions and supporting data on the basis of the responses received using the following weighted system:
      1. Executive Summary (10%)
        1.  Company introduction;
        2.  Appropriate references.
      2. Qualifications (30%)
        1.  Considerable direct expertise with similar projects;
        2. Appropriate staffing resources;
        3.  Experience in higher education marketing and in branding complex; organizations with multiple sub-brands, and research driven positioning methodologies;
        4.  Demonstrated ability to perform stated project at the highest level;
        5.  Degree of involvement of senior partner with this project. 
      3. Functional Approach (25%)
        1. Proposed methodology;
        2. Proposed schedule;
        3. Ability to meet project requirements
      4. Project Cost (35%)
        1. Cost of services with details as to the method and basis of compensation;
        2. Breakdown of overall cost.

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      Robert M. Campbell, Ph.D
      President and Vice-Chancellor

      Research, branding, and design for our future
      I am writing to inform you of an exciting project that I hope will strengthen Mount Allison’s ambition to be recognized as one of North America’s best undergraduate universities. This reputational exercise will help us reach our goal of being a sustainable, high quality university.

      Mount Allison has clearly distinguished itself in Canada as an exceptional, top-tier undergraduate university. To maintain and extend this position and our reputation presents us with a challenge. There are many exceptional undergraduate institutions in North America.  To achieve our goal – to build this enlarged reputation – will require that we extend our reach to audiences that may not have heard of Mount Allison, nor appreciate our sterling reputation.

      We are all aware that competition for the best students and faculty continues to grow and intensify, particularly given the demographic decline in the Atlantic region. So, it becomes ever more important that our vision, values, stories, and unique attributes be communicated in powerful and intentional ways, if we are to position ourselves for long-term success.

      To this end, the University has engaged in a brand positioning project that will help us to define and articulate that which differentiates us from our peers and our competitors. For this exercise to be a success, it must reflect the true heart, soul, and reality of Mount Allison through the engagement of all those who comprise our community and its experiences. Marketing is no longer an activity that is solely generated by a Marketing and Communications Office. Clever designs and compelling words and phrases may not accurately reflect the underlying reality of our University – and these would actually work to negative effect.

      For this project to be effective, we must tap into and celebrate the real, verifiable competitive advantages and values that define Mount Allison and make sure that they are directly connected to the University’s mission. In this way, marketing and communications becomes a strategic, instrumental driver as we pursue our institutional plans.

      The project will be led by the Marketing and Communications Office, who will be assisted by a firm with deep experience in our sector: The Strategic Counsel. Well known for their work on The Globe and Mail’s annual University Report Card, we are most fortunate to have them involved in this initiative. I should note that this project will be financed entirely ‘off-budget’ by an external contribution to the University through the JUMP campaign.

      This is an exciting time for Mount Allison University. As a reputational and academic leader in Canada, we are in an extraordinary position to realize our goal of achieving a reputation for being one of North America’s best undergraduate universities. Allow me to thank you in advance for your cooperation and involvement in this exciting project.

1 comment:

  1. Hi

    Great information in this post and I think the new website is more of the 'popular' and presentable kind but it is obviously more commercial and directed to parents of new prospective students with half of the screen decicated to a campus beat which is news stories about Mount Allison and press releases by the school.

    Alan Smith….
    Maths private tutor