Hawai‘i Pacific University

In 2016, Hawai‘i Pacific University (HPU) announced John Gotanda as its fifth president. The change in leadership marked the beginning of a significant transformation for the university as it set its sights on being recognized as a leader in innovative higher education.

From its bold plans to make Aloha Tower a dynamic campus center and community gathering place, to advancements in research at Oceanic Institute and its commitment to re-energize the University’s athletic programs, HPU continued to make a profound impact on its students, faculty, alumni and all of Hawaiʻi.

While there were many exciting initiatives in progress at the University, internally, necessary changes needed to be made that, unfortunately, impacted HPU staff. Public perception of the university was also relatively negative due to questions about the financial stability of the university and a recent consolidation of staffing and resources. The changes included replacing and restructuring the existing communications department – a critical move to ensuring that HPU is strongly positioned for future success.

• Position Hawai‘i Pacific University as the leading private university in the islands – one that offers uniquely attractive attributes.
• Begin to develop a clear brand for Hawai‘i Pacific University that defines what sets the university apart, including the most diverse learning environment in the state, robust academic and extracurricular programs and a community that cares about community.
• Build an understanding of and create support for Hawai‘i Pacific University’s mission and vision in Hawai‘i among its various stakeholders, including students, faculty, alumni, donors, elected officials and the community at large.
• Create a strong communications team equipped to handle media relations, social media and internal communications as a first step.
• Highlight the new leadership at HPU to underscore the vision for the future.

• Proactive media relations resulted in coverage of HPU’s Campus Master Plan, new tenants added to Aloha Tower Marketplace, enrollment and recruitment, HPU’s vision for the future and President Gotanda’s leadership.
• Stories were positive, or at the very least fair and balanced, placed in all major O‘ahu media outlets, including 3 broadcast stations, the largest and only statewide newspaper, business and community media.
• Bennet Group crafted 6 presentations and 18 speeches for President Gotanda, helping to position him as a leader in the community. 38 percent of faculty/staff say their opinion of HPU has improved over the past year. Almost every response mentioned either the president or changes in leadership. 28 percent of undergraduate students say their opinion of HPU has improved over the past year.