Begin adds student perspective to Babson PR

This fall, on a leafy college campus in Wellesley, MA, students will be walking to class wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the words "This is why I'm hot" on the front and "Babson College - Newsweek's 2008 Hottest Business School" - on the back.

This fall, on a leafy college campus in Wellesley, MA, students will be walking to class wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the words "This is why I'm hot" on the front and "Babson College - Newsweek's 2008 Hottest Business School" - on the back.

Among the state's many prestigious colleges and universities, such as MIT and Harvard, Babson may fall a little under the radar. However, its business programs repeatedly appear on major rankings lists for top-tier publications like The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.

Babson is also well-known for its entrepreneurship program, with US News & World Report placing its MBA program number-one on its list for 14 years straight and its undergraduate program number-one for 11 consecutive years. (Newsweek's ranking is for its undergraduate school.)

"Prospective students and parents point to [the rankings] as a reference," says Gene Begin, undergraduate school marketing director at Babson. "We [aren't] driven by the external rankings, but [we'll] use them in our promotional materials when necessary. We drive internally our own standards and measures of success."

The T-shirt's front-facing slogan, a reference to a popular hip-hop song, is meant to resonate with the co-eds who attend the school, rather than prospects who are checking it out. Last year, Babson had about 3,300 undergraduate and graduate students from all around the world. While it's important to appeal to prospective students, ensuring the happiness of the ones already on campus is an equally vital goal.

"Over the years, Babson has received lesser feedback on student life," says Begin. "We wanted to bring a modern way of thinking in connecting with the students."

Begin knows how Babson students think since he was one himself. The 30-year-old got his MBA from the college while working there. He began as the assistant director of MBA alumni relations and was promoted twice while still a student. He has filled the marketing director's role since July 2006.

"I fell in love with the community and the mission of the school," he explains. "Going to work and school here at the same time [put] me on campus probably 18 of 24 hours. I'm able to leverage the experience of graduate school [with the] staff perspective."

The "hottest business school" designation came, coincidentally, at a time when communications with the students was a focus.

For an initiative called "Business Casual... and Connected," Begin worked with the student body and government association to add amenities to campus life, such as new flat-screen TVs in the campus center, increased shuttle service to Boston, and late-night dining. The T-shirts are available through campus events and have been so successful, more are on order.

While Begin has been immersed on the inside, Michael Chmura, PR director at Babson, does a lot of his work with off-campus media. He sees an obvious distinction between how he and Begin must communicate to their audiences.

"Our product is intellectual expertise," says Chmura. "Reporters like to find new businesses that are either started by current students or recent alums. We [can] supply them with names and interesting stories. When you make a T-shirt and work with the student government, the needs are different than a reporter working for a magazine or a 24-hour business show."

"The expertise we have in entrepreneurial education, international business, and the unique blend we have of business and liberal arts differentiates us," adds Begin. "[But] it's fun here at Babson, not just all business."

Gene Begin

July 2006-present
Mktg. director, undergraduate school, Babson College

July 2005-June 2006
Marketing manager, client operations, Babson College

July 2003-June 2005
Manager of alumni online comms, Babson College

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