Publications Program Improvement: Trinity International University - Silver Medal

Category 29: Publications Program Improvement
Trinity International University

Contact: Melissa Stratis, director of publications, Communications and Marketing, 2065 Half Day Rd., Deerfield, IL 60015, Phone: (847) 317-8113, e-mail:

Objectives of your publications program/reason for change: Trinity’s publications program at this point covers the university’s three major publications: the university magazine, the viewbook for our undergraduate program, and the viewbook for our divinity school. As a university with just under 3,000 students, we produce these publications in-house with limited budgets and staff resources.

These publications looked dated, the university photography library needed to be restocked, and most importantly, the content of the magazine and the branding message of the viewbooks needed to be rethought to ensure that we were connecting to the best of our ability with two key audiences: alumni and prospective students.

As I began this process with our design director, our joint goal was to create publications that communicated quality (through design, photography, and paper choice). We wanted to create pieces that would better communicate with our audiences through providing accurate, interesting, and helpful information as well as a personal connection with the people who make Trinity the special place that it is. We began working toward these changes in late 2003, with the magazine beginning to hit its stride in 2005, the new divinity school viewbook completed in the summer of 2005, and the college viewbook completed in the summer of 2006.

Viewbooks: The previous branding messages for both schools (“Chart a Higher Course” for the divinity school and “College With a View of Eternity” for the college) no longer resonated within the university. For the divinity school in particular, the message felt tied to a past no longer representative of the school today. Additionally, in both viewbooks, the photography was poor, the testimonies buried, and the text provided much information but no clear-cut benefits for the student.

In the end, our design director created looks for both schools that take our university’s blue and add a secondary color—orange for the college and green for the divinity school. To consider the branding message, I spent months getting to know both schools, primarily through in-depth interviews with current students, faculty, administrators, and some alumni. Through the interviews, I listened for a common theme. Among both college students and faculty, it was clear that what excited both groups the most about the college was the personal investment of the faculty and staff in the lives of the students and how these kinds of relationships affected what students were able to accomplish after college. Additionally, this strength tied in nicely with the research regarding the needs of Millennials. The “Dream Big” message of the college viewbook was fleshed out through showing faculty/student relationships, as well as two other ways in which the college helped students in their development—through a lot of opportunity for leadership as well as cross-cultural experiences.

In listening to the divinity school students, it became clear that what caused all of the students to make a decision to go to seminary and then, specifically, to attend Trinity was a felt need for greater depth in their understanding of the Bible. The word “depth” specifically was the word most frequently repeated in my interviews. Additionally, not only was a desire for depth what brought them to Trinity, they universally agreed that one of the divinity school’s greatest strengths is how well it meets this need. This dovetailed well with our faculty’s desire to help students apply their learning to life.

Both viewbooks became flagships of the new brands, quickly translating into brochures, recruiting displays, T-shirts, and other materials.

Magazine: To improve our magazine’s look, we moved to a four-color publication and added $3,000 to the budget for regular photography. To improve our magazine’s content. I created a regular structure for the magazine to follow (letters to the editor, feature stories, faculty articles, etc.). The letters to the editor allowed alumni and others to respond to the magazine. The regular “Engage Your Mind” and “Engage Your Culture” articles allowed alumni a way in which to reconnect with faculty and to keep current on faculty books and research. The regular “Looking Back” feature reconnected us with the institution’s history. By incorporating elements from both the undergraduate and graduate programs, this magazine is not only connecting alumni with information from their school, but sharing a picture of Trinity as a university. Because we have only operated as a university for a decade, that is also an important aspect of the new magazine.

Quantity, unit cost, total production costs, and creative costs for each publication (excluding salaries and postage) produced of each publication

Quantity produced Unit cost Total production costs
(includes photography)
Creative costs
(photography only—design and writing covered by salaries)
Trinity Magazine
32-page fall and spring issues
@25,400/issue $ .43 $11,136 $1,000/issue
Trinity Magazine
48-page winter/annual report issue
@29,300/issue $ .91 $26,560 $1,000/issue
College Viewbook 64,000 $ .72 $46,050 $4,000
Divinity School Viewbook 18,000 $1.71 $30,783.19 $3,000


Viewbooks: $70,000 (over the course of two years—one viewbook completed each year)
Magazine: $65,000 per year

Impact of the changes made/documented results

  • Prospective students are resonating with the message.
    • Several prospective divinity school students, when questioned by admissions counselors as to why they applied to Trinity, said it was specifically because of seeing the tagline “Go Deeper” in our advertising and or when they’d picked up a copy of the viewbook. As one man in his forties said to an admissions counselor as he pointed to the logo, “It’s like you guys say—‘Go Deeper’—that’s exactly what I want to do.”
    • Both divinity and college applicants regularly incorporate the tagline into their essays, which shows, hopefully, that they resonate with it, but at the least that they’ve received the message. One college student referred to herself in her essay as a woman “with big dreams and goals for my life.” Another wrote: “Trinity International University...will allow me to ‘Dream Big.’”
  • Admissions counselors are excited about the quality and message of the publications.
    • They tell us that students like and respond well to the publications and to the messages.
    • They tell us also that at recruiting fairs, other schools regularly tell them how much they like our viewbooks and take copies to bring back to their staff. One admissions director told one of our recruiters that he was taking our piece back with him to ask his staff to do the exact same thing for their marketing materials.
  • Faculty and administrators have embraced the branding messages, even to the extent of wearing the brand by using messenger bags created for them by our Admissions Office and taking viewbooks with them when they travel. Several faculty members and administrators have approached me to express their appreciation for the publications.
  • The divinity school viewbook has earned national attention.
    • Named third among all graduate school viewbooks in the 22nd Annual Admissions Report (2007).
    • Earned a national award from Monadnock Paper Mills for excellence in the graphic arts (2006).


  • We are receiving an ever-increasing number of letters to the editor, alumni news submissions, and requests to reprint our faculty and feature articles in publications produced by our alumni. Churches who give to us call to ask to reprint our materials in their bulletins, newsletters, and in other formats. One issue recently themed around our law school in California generated some interesting letters to the editor, discussing the relationship between church and state. An article about a Palestinian Christian who was able to forgive his Israeli neighbors was used by another of our alumni in the work he is doing in Israel. These examples show us that Trinity Magazine is not only noticed by our alumni, but it is also a helpful tool for them.
  • As our office’s vice president informally surveys alumni whom he meets at various conferences and events, he finds they are regularly and thoroughly reading the magazine and are excited about the changes. As our Advancement staff return from the road, they report similar findings.
  • We have also enjoyed very positive comments from our board members. As one wrote: “The new Trinity Magazine is not only relevant but attractively presented. Keep up the good work!”
  • The magazine won the CASE V gold medal for most improved alumni magazine among schools of our size (2005) and Admission Marketing Report’s gold award (2005).