Communications Director with a taste for challenges
It’s been over four weeks since she started the position as LiU’s new Communications Director. “I wanted this job. And my impression is that I’m sought after, and there are great expectations for me,” says Mariethe Larsson.
She likes that. The task she’s facing is a big one, and she likes that too.
“I like this type of challenge; it’s most fun to work on because you have to be really creative to move forward.”
Since Larsson started, there have been many, many meetings. The university is a complex organisation.
“I realize it will take time for me to get into this. If I don’t manage to get back quickly enough to everyone who wants to meet me, that’s the reason.”
At the same time, the world of academia is not new to Larsson quite the opposite. Besides her own university studies, she was Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the Östergötland County Administrative Board, where many issues have an academic connection. She was also part of planning the KSM (Culture, Society and Media Production) programme in Norrköping, where she also taught.
In addition, she spent a year at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, where she was public relations officer for the 2008 Linnaeus Jubilee.
“I’m really comfortable with academia, that’s why I applied here. It’s a fun, exciting environment. Research and curiosity are personal interests; they’re who I am. I like to challenge thinking.”
Communications in all its forms is something she’s used to. Long ago, she worked as a journalist, including 20 years at Radio Sweden, ending up as a managing editor. With that background, both as a journalist and a CIO at a government agency, her position regarding openness and clarity is discernible.
“My goal is for us to deliver open and quick communication; it’s an issue of democracy. We work at an agency funded by the state; this belongs to all.”
In the middle of all the chaos in starting a new job, Larsson has still managed to create a structure for how she wants to work this autumn. As Communications Director, she has several major issues to work on. One issue is reviewing internal and external web communications.
“My experience in working on national coordination of the communications efforts of all the county administrations in Sweden will be of use here.”
Today, all 21 county administrations have a common web platform and a common intranet.
Another priority issue is charting make up of the resources that concern communications at the university.
“I see a need to create totality in the work; that we all move in the same direction. There are many skilled people in the field; I want to find out whether the resources are being used correctly and get the work coordinated.”
Over the autumn, the university management will be working on a new strategy map. It will be adopted at a committee meeting in December and will be the starting point for a communications plan, which is a third major issue to work on.
“Based on that plan, we’ll then continue to work on strengthening the university’s brand.”
And what do you mean by that diffuse word?
“It’s a question of what people think and feel when they hear about, or think about, Linköping University. Is it positive? Are they curious? Enticed? Do they think about cutting-edge research? Excellent education? Something else? Have we reached out with the message of who we are? If the people of Linköping, or Östergötland, or Sweden, Germany, or Japan don’t know what LiU is, then yes, we have a problem. They should know what we stand for.”
In this work, Larsson points out, there aren’t just four thousand employees who have opinions and convey their image of the university.
“We also have 27,000 students; they are all important bearers of our brand.”
Besides all the major structural issues Larsson will be taking on, there are also a number of significantly smaller issues to deal with. The pictures in her workspace, for example. One of them is by her favourite artist Ulf Lundkvist.
“I like it, but I don’t really know where to put it,” she says (pictured).
Larsson is 55 years old with two grown daughters; she is President of HSB Östergötland and sits on the board of Linköpings FC; she herself played football until she injured her cruciate ligament. She lived for a year in Australia with her family, enjoys painting when she has the time and unexpectedly can stand on one shoulder.
“It’s a yoga thing,” she explains.
Last updated: Mon Sep 24 10:29:57 CEST 2012