DIA Director Rikus Delport explains department’s name change

Posted on January 31, 2020

The University of Pretoria’s (UP) Department of University Relations underwent a name change late in 2019.

It is now known as the Department of Institutional Advancement (DIA) and is still located in the Marketing Services building on the Hatfield Campus. Director Rikus Delport said the name change is in line with accepted norms at higher education institutions. “The name was changed to be more inclusive and representative of the role of the department, which entails marketing, communications, alumni relations and fundraising. This all amounts to advancement.”

The move also comes in the wake of UP’s new leadership (Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe who took office on 14 January 2019), which is taking the University into a new direction.

Delport is responsible for marketing and communications, fundraising and alumni relations. As a former financial journalist, editor and general manager, he worked for Media24 for more than 15 years before joining Edelman, the world’s largest communications marketing firm.

He was group account director there and later deputy managing director. He is a skilled financial and corporate communications strategist with extensive experience in crisis and reputation management and media strategy development, including digital and social media. During his time at Edelman he worked with companies including PwC, Tata Africa, Symantec and M-Net. 

A holder of a Master’s degree in Executive Coaching from Stellenbosch University, Delport is tasked with the responsibility of raising the public profile of the University as well as protecting its reputation. “My vision for DIA is that we are a professional service department that supports the University in achieving its goals and objectives. We are the heart and soul of the University in that we look after some of the key elements that contribute to its reputation.” Furthermore, DIA’s aim is to support the sustainability initiatives of the University as it focuses on fundraising as one of its main responsibilities. “In the process, we make sure that we are at the forefront of new developments/technology to advance the interests of the University.”

The Department of Institutional Advancement team

Delport explains that universities face stiff competition for donor funding. If the institution has a high-profile and is well regarded nationally and internationally, it is easy to attract the best people and that’s why a strong reputation is so important. “It takes years to build an organisation’s reputation and this needs constant work. Everybody has the responsibility to live the UP brand and contribute to the institution’s reputation.”

However, the department cannot go it alone, he muses. What is needed is the achievements of staff and students and their amazing contributions to be out in the public domain. “This builds our reputation and adds to our credibility. We need to ensure that we get the information out to donors, the government, employers, alumni and potential students. UP has a good story and communications is a very important way of doing this,” said Delport.    

He explained that, “When we get amazing staff achievements and research findings into the public domain, the University shines and this impacts on its reputation and to some extent on its global rankings.”

Some of DIA’s major achievements last year included leading publicity around capturing the first image of a black hole, the launch of the Future Africa institute and campus and the inauguration of the Vice-Chancellor. The department was also involved in the production of UP’s latest corporate video and launching an above the line advertising campaign. The department also conceptualised and launched THE UP WAY campaign, which has become an important rallying call for students and staff.

Delport’s team includes Thembi Tlale, Deputy Director of Marketing and Communications; Isabel de Necker, Senior Marketing Manager; Hernan Finkel, Deputy Director of Relationship Management and Fundraising, Samantha Castle, Senior Manager: Alumni Relations; and Sieraaj Ahmed, Newsroom Editor.  

- Author Primarashni Gower

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