Virginia Institute of Marine Science — Senior Director of Communications & Marketing

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), one of the largest marine research and education centers in the United States, is seeking a strategic, passionate, and collaborative Senior Director of Communications and Marketing (SDCM). The SDCM will report to the Director of VIMS and Dean of William & Mary’s School of Marine Science (SMS), Dr. Derek Aday.  The SDCM will join a vibrant, nimble, and forward thinking leadership team in guiding the institute’s work across scientific research, advisory services, education and public engagement.  The SDCM will be charged with developing and executing communications and marketing plans and initiatives which enhance the institute’s national visibility, foster a cohesive brand across a complex organization, and spark engagement across a wide variety of constituents.  

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VIMS will confront societal challenges in coastal and marine systems through innovation, research, and discovery, translating our findings into practical solutions and training the next generation of scientists and citizens.

As we look to the future: the Vision for the Virginia Institute of Marine Science

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The Opportunity:
As the Senior Director of Communications and Marketing (SDCM), the selected candidate will craft and implement an inspiring and inclusive communications and marketing plan that will grow VIMS’ brand recognition as a global leader in coastal and estuarine science and education. The SDCM will collaborate with units across VIMS to lead the development and implementation of cohesive but flexible, multi-channel communications and marketing strategies focused around institutional goals and priorities. Using contemporary and innovative strategies, they will work to expand VIMS’ reach and connect with new and existing stakeholders, supporters, partners, and underrepresented populations. The SDCM will ensure that communications and marketing strategies are coordinated across units to maintain institutional communications that are up to date, reflective of best practices, and promote cohesive brand awareness. They will use data to analyze communications and marketing efforts and trends and adapt plans and tactics to optimize success.

Reporting directly to the Dean & Director, the SDCM will develop and implement internal communication plans and will serve as advisor to the Dean & Director regarding internal and external communications and marketing matters. The SDCM will develop a social media strategy for the Dean & Director and will direct content production for the Dean & Director’s office (presentations, videos, print materials, webpages, etc.). They will also lead efforts to strategically update the VIMS website.

The Senior Director of Communications & Marketing will work with the Dean & Director and coordinate with the Executive Director of VIMS/SMS Advancement (on advancement-related issues) to lead a team of communications and marketing professionals to meet the strategic needs of the institute. They will also work closely with the Dean & Director to build connections with William & Mary on shared communication and marketing where goals, priorities, and initiatives overlap.

Duties and Responsibilities:
Strategic Institutional Communications and Marketing

  • Conceptualize, develop, and implement a comprehensive communication, marketing and public relations strategy focused around VIMS’ goals and priorities, ensuring brand recognition and message continuity.
  • Develop innovative approaches and initiatives to engage existing audiences and reach new audiences to increase the VIMS/SMS profile – fostering an increased awareness of the missions of research, education, and advisory service.
  • Foster and reinforce strong collaborative and mutually supportive relationships within VIMS/SMS (including Advancement, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and other units) and affiliated organizations (including W&M communications and marketing colleagues) to promote the unique initiatives of the individual areas and ensure cohesive and unified communications.
  • Coordinate ongoing market research to understand the perceptions of key constituencies and more closely align them with the VIMS/SMS goals, aspirations, and initiatives.
  • Coalesce formal and informal communications partners across the organization in sharing ideas, amplifying stories, and purposefully distributing content.
  • Establish technology, systems and processes related to branding, marketing and communications that serve the communications and marketing team and the broader community supporting outreach and engagement.

Strategic Communications for the Dean & Director

  • Serve as the communications and marketing ambassador/liaison for VIMS; participate on various VIMS/SMS and W&M committees related to overall communication, branding, marketing, and messaging.
  • Execute a social media strategy for the Dean & Director.
  • Provide strategic oversight and/or content production for communication pieces relating to the Dean & Directors office, including, but not limited to, internal and external emails, print materials, presentations, videos, and webpages.
  • Serve as an advisor to the Dean & Director on all matters relating to internal and external communications, marketing, and public relations.

Leadership and Management

  • Develop, supervise, mentor, and advocate for a team of 4-5 communications and marketing professionals to meet the strategic needs of VIMS/SMS. 
  • Provide direction and oversight for VIMS/SMS communication and marketing channels, including media relations, web design & content development, social media, print and news media, newsletters, etc. Ensure compliance with brand style guidelines and university policies.
  • Inspire excellence and provide accountability for team deliverables and establish clear, well communicated expectations that are related to the goals and objectives of the unit.

Qualifications of the Successful Candidate:
Candidates must possess a bachelor’s degree, preferably in communications, marketing, a natural science, or related field; or equivalent combination of education and experience. A master’s degree in communications, marketing, or related field is preferred. The ideal candidate will have significant professional experience, in progressively responsible roles, in communications and marketing, and demonstrate substantive responsibility for strategic implementation and experience leading a team of communications and marketing professionals. Direct experience in higher education or non-profit marketing and communications preferred. In addition, the following job-related qualifications represent the knowledge, skills, and attributes an individual must possess:

  • A passion for the mission of VIMS, deep appreciation for the scientific process and community, and authentic respect for the research and educational environment. 
  • A practiced storyteller with the ability to understand and articulate the outcomes, hallmarks, and achievements of the institute’s scientists, staff, faculty, and students.
  • A skilled listener with exceptional oral and written communication skills, with the ability to connect with a variety of audiences.
  • An enthusiastic strategic thinker with an honest, transparent approach to discussions and problem solving.
  • Ability to work collaboratively as part of a team and build strong professional relationships.
  • Demonstrated ability to work autonomously to manage multiple projects and prioritize competing demands to meet deadlines.
  • Knowledge of industry best practices and current and emerging technologies, trends, and approaches used to deliver a brand message that resonates with targeted audiences.
  • Proficiency with industry-relevant software and platforms (i.e. social media platforms, content management systems, etc.)
  • Demonstrated strategic planning skills, with the ability to envision, develop, implement, and evaluate communication and marketing programs following market research and best practices.
  • Commitment to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion principles into team leadership, professional relationships, and institutional communications and marketing strategies. 
  • Demonstrated ability to develop and analyze metrics to assess and inform strategies and tactics. 
  • Proven ability to build consensus and strong collaborative partnerships across large and matrixed organizations.
  • Ability to travel as needed.

Preferred competencies and experiences include:

  • Working knowledge of science communication is a plus.
  • Experience with website analysis and design.
  • Communications and marketing experience in a STEM, marine science, environmental, or related field/organization.
  • Savvy in fostering positive, mutually productive working relationships with established programs with unique public identities and areas of expertise functioning within a larger organization.
  • Experience communicating effectively with underrepresented and underserved audiences with cultural competency and sensitivity.
  • Experience executing social media strategies around thought leadership and name recognition for organizations and/or individual leaders.

Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Chartered in 1940, William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) has a three-part mission to conduct research in coastal ocean and estuarine science, educate students and citizens, and provide advisory service to policy makers, industry and the public. VIMS provides these services to Virginia, the nation, and the world. The School of Marine Science (SMS) at VIMS is the graduate school in marine science for William & Mary which offers outstanding education and research opportunities for students who seek advanced careers in academia, government or the private sector.

Research & Services
The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) is mandated by the Commonwealth of Virginia to conduct research and provide sound scientific advice concerning the often-contentious issues surrounding the use and conservation of marine resources.  In the years since our founding in 1940, we have developed unique capabilities in people, practices, and infrastructure that allow us to provide the honest, unbiased science and guidance needed to help address the pressing issues facing our rivers, estuaries, coasts, and ocean.  

Education
The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) plays an important role in marine-science education for a wide variety of audiences and age levels. VIMS offers graduate education in marine science through its School of Marine Science (SMS), a component of William & Mary—a world-class university.  The SMS provides a quality education with outstanding resources, faculty, and opportunities for students pursuing M.A., M.S., and Ph.D. level degrees in marine science. Graduate success is facilitated by providing students with comprehensive programs that place the principles of marine science and marine-resource management in the context of society and global change in coastal and marine systems. Students also enjoy close interaction with faculty who are actively involved in research, education, and management issues in Virginia, the mid-Atlantic, and beyond.

Public Programs
The Virginia Institute of Marine Science and its federal partners offer a wide variety of free public programs, both on the VIMS campus in Gloucester Point and at venues throughout Hampton Roads and the lower Chesapeake Bay region. Opportunities for the public include a multimedia resource center, lectures, tours, discovery labs and opportunities to volunteer, in addition to annual programs: the Marine Science Day the Seafood Symposia for culinary professionals.  

Strategic Planning
In 2022 the VIMS community announced the completion of a new strategic plan in which all members of the institution were invited to participate. The plan outlines six strategic priorities: 

  1. VIMS will lead science for solutions to address global change,
  2. VIMS will train, inspire, and empower the next generation of marine science leaders.
  3. VIMS will remain the trusted science advisor to the Commonwealth of Virginia in the area of marine and coastal science, and will respond to the advisory needs of coastal communities worldwide. 
  4. VIMS will foster an inclusive and equitable community that values a diversity of lived experiences, thoughts, and expertise, recognizing the importance of these connections to helping individuals flourish and supporting the robust collaborations needed to solve the grand challenges of today and tomorrow. 
  5. VIMS will expand our societal engagement and global impact. 
  6. VIMS will lead by example in sustainable design, construction, and campus-wide action. 

Campuses
With approximately 500 faculty, staff, and students on three campuses, VIMS provides a dynamic, unique, and vibrant environment for professionals of all backgrounds to pursue their passions.  The 42-acre main campus of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science lies in Gloucester Point, Virginia, at the mouth of the York River, a major tributary and passageway to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. VIMS lies 13 miles southeast of the William & Mary campus in Williamsburg. VIMS maintains a comprehensive suite of research and educational facilities, state-of-the-art analytical instruments and field equipment, and a fleet of both large and small research vessels.

The Eastern Shore Laboratory (ESL) satellite campus, in the seaside village of Wachapreague, serves as a field station for research, teaching, and advisory activities, with easy access to the barrier islands, salt marshes, and lagoons of Virginia’s Atlantic shore.  The Kauffman Aquaculture Center (KAC) satellite campus, on the Rappahannock River, was designed to provide state-of-the-art quarantine facilities for work with non-native species. 

Gloucester Point, Virginia
Gloucester Point graces the southeast tip of Gloucester County, Virginia.  Located 15 miles from Newport News, 56 miles from Virginia Beach and less than 70 miles from Richmond, Gloucester Point offers residents a slower pace of life with access to the bustle of the city.  Without a doubt, proximity to water is the prime draw for the area.  Located on the tip of Virginia’s Middle peninsula, the York River is to the south with the Chesapeake Bay to the east.  Locals and visitors enjoy access to public beaches and boating, with access to miles of shoreline, numerous tidal rivers, and navigable creeks.   

Rich in history and small-town charm, Historic Gloucester Main Street is a “modern take on the classic American downtown”. Enjoy local cuisine with seafood right out of the Chesapeake Bay, craft beer, wine, shopping, art, museums, and entertainment.  

To Apply
NES is assisting the Virginia Institute of Marine Science with the search for Senior Director of Communications & Marketing.  To arrange for a confidential conversation or to nominate someone for this position, please contact Catherine Capolupo (catherine.capolupo@nessearches.com), Laura Robinson (laura.robinson@nessearches.com), or Mary Napier (mary.napier@nessearches.com). To apply, send 1) a resume, 2) a detailed letter regarding your interest in this position, and 3) contact information for three professional references by email to: VIMS@nessearches.com. The search will remain open until the position is filled and resumes will be reviewed beginning January 5, 2023. The expected start date will be in the spring of 2023. All applications and nominations will be considered confidential, and notice will be given before references are contacted.

Position is eligible for relocation assistance, as needed
Click here for details about position benefits & leave 

William & Mary values diversity and invites applications from underrepresented groups who will enrich the research, teaching and service missions of the university. The university is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer and encourages applications from women, minorities, protected veterans, and individuals with disabilities.

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