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Sherry Knight, former reporter, named interim associate vice president of CMU communications

Sherry Knight

Sherry Knight has been appointed interim associate vice president of communications at Central Michigan University, University President George Ross announced Tuesday.

Knight, a former editor at Central Michigan Life, has led her Saline-based executive communications firm, Knight Writers, since 1996. She will be on campus Tuesday through Friday to meet with administrators and faculty.

“I need to get a good idea of what needs to improve,” Knight told CM Life Tuesday. “I’m pretty aggressive. We’ll be moving swiftly, with lots of openness and integrity. My entire communications process is through openness and integrity.”

Knight, 48, said she and Ross had been in preliminary conversation since late April about “helping to expand the university’s communications efforts.” Renee Walker resigned from her job as associate vice president of university communications Friday. A 1986 CMU graduate, Knight credits her journalism background and previous role at CM Life for her relationship with university officials. She served as editor of CM Life in 1985-86 and went on to report for the Jackson Citizen Patriot and (Annapolis, Md.) Capital Gazette.

“He was certainly aware of it,” Knight said of Ross’ knowledge of her background. “To those who have known me to date, they can’t miss the fact that I’m a journalism alum and I wear that very proudly.”

Knight said she’s done a lot of research on CMU in the last couple of weeks, but considers herself familiar with the impending College of Medicine. McClaren-Central Michigan has been a client of her communications firm for about two years now, Knight said.

Knight is under contract for six months, paying $1,500 per day of work in Mount Pleasant. She may not be at CMU every day of the week, but will do work from her Saline office as needed, she said.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, university officials said Knight will be responsible for building strong relationships, both internally and externally, and “building awareness and support of the university through a full spectrum of communications vehicles and opportunities.”

“CMU needs to be top of the mind across the state among students, parents and alumni,” Knight said. “We need to have strong consistent communications to achieve it.”

25 Comments

  1. Is the salary a typo? $1500 per day???

  2. So if her contract is extended and she works the entire year her salary will be $390,000 annually!  That’s almost as much as the President.  Yep, nothing fishy going on here!  Nothing to see here!  Move on everyone!

    • P_housley says:

      Always the negatives!  I get so tired of this line of thinking. This is the same as the complaints made about faculty salaries.  People are always going to complain about what faculty member makes because they have no idea what a faculty member does. So the salaries over $100,000 for those who teach three days a week (or two) and not at all during the summer are too high, some say. It’s a cushy job and the same ole fishy stuff as has been going on for years with faculty getting paid for not working except 2-3 days a week.  Are those true? No, but people like you would work it out and say that anyway.

      Do you actually know what her job will entail and the hours it will require or the expertise and experience that it needs?  Do you know if she gets any benefits? Is her salary a contract worker, not a FT person with benefits? Did you even bother to ask?   She is interim, right? She’s under a six-month contract. She’s not getting paid for seven days a week. Unless she applies for FT and that means a national search with other candidates, this is interim and won’t last.  Take some time to get to know her before you try to drag her down to a number. She brings a very strong set of skills to this position that have been sorely needed for a long time. The office will get a fresh start that will help the whole campus community. She is a leader and a darn good one.

      • She’s a public employee/contractor.  Making close to $400,000 a year is too much for a public employee/contractor.  Especially for PR/Communication stuff.  Give me a break.  Even if I knew her closely my opinion wouldn’t change.  This is just a rotten deal.  Period.  

        It’s also interesting you quote faculty salaries and perceptions regarding their workload.  Average faculty salaries are almost 1/10 of what she will be making as an Administrator.  How is that right P_housely?  Is the mission of CMU one of education or one of administration?  Based on salaries, I would say administration. 

        As many of CMU administrators are fond of saying “CMU would be a great place to work…but the faculty are here…”

        • P_housley says:

          If she were hired full time, her salary would have been stated as an annual rate including benefits. Contract workers, it’s my understanding, do not get benefits. It’s jumping the gun to slam her before finding out the full details.  Who among the administrators talks like that?  I was making a comparison that any criticism of faculty based upon salaries is just as unfair as this one of her.  Why did you assume I was criticizing faculty?  People have no idea what a faculty job entails and how much work goes into extra hours per week. I believe that’s what I expressed, but they get blasted for this all the time and that’s totally unfair. Your implications are incorrect.

  3. PissedOff says:

    This university pisses money away like it’s going out of style.

  4. Michmediaperson says:

    To P Housley:  I can’t allow your comments go without a challenge.  You illustrate the problems CMU has.  An A-plus PR release and campaign would have avoided the negatives that you indicated.

    Let me illustrate the poor job CMU did in this inaugural announcement.  And, your comments illustrate my observations.

    CM LIFE is doing their job by printing she’s going to make $1500. I assume that’s accurate.  I’m going by the story.  One person has calculated she is going to make $390,000.  I doubt that’s true but it’s CMU’s job to avoid such calculations from happening.  It’s easy to do a “Negative PR campaign” against CMU because they allow it to happen, P Housley,  I could name one that you’re probably aware of about 7 years ago.  It made national headlines and international headlines in Canada.

    If I were taking this job, I wouldn’t have taken the job unless all the details about consulting fees, hours are released and have the media there to ask and answer questions.  I would have asked George to meet with the local media and get all the questions answered… I assume you want her at all home football games especially MSU and Homecoming.   Does she get paid $1500 for the football game?    Expenses?  That may be a better deal than Dan Enos, the head coach, has for that day.

    First mistake and it shows in this story—-get everything on the table and answer all the questions.  George should have explained everything going forward about her duties, pay, hours, etc.  In case of a PR crisis, is it $1500 a day?  Get it out in the open so no one is dwelling on it.  P Housley, that’s how you avoid “Negatives.”  Everything she does, she will be referred to as the “$1500 a day Manager.” 

    Personally, I don’t see much changing.  It’s going to take someone stronger than the Board, George and Company.  CMU has had one PR mess after PR mess since Mike Rao arrived in town.  It has continued with George here.  No one has been strong enough to stand up to the Administration.  Although, Rao has done a much better job down at VCU riding the wave of his outstanding men’s basketball team.

    P Housley, instead of criticizing the taxpayers, students, the paper, etc., why not question CMU in its methods.  They always seem to put themselves behind the eight ball.

    Professor salaries?  That’s their job to show us what they do for 40 hours a week, 48-49 weeks a year.  Being a public institution, they work for the taxpayers.

    • P_housley says:

      The announcement of her salary is public information – all salaries are. As far as PR objectives, this would be the first thing they would make public. Your evaluation is not exactly fair, is it?  I’m not criticizing taxpayers, students or the paper – I am not sure how you got to that conclusion. However, I do say that automatically criticizing someone before you even see what it all entails – what we’re actually paying for – is not fair.  Do you know if this includes benefits at all? Contract workers, it’s my understanding, do not. If she were full time, her salary would have been expressed as an annual rate, according to what I know about contract work. Perhaps you should give this more consideration. It’s my understanding contract workers get paid for the actual days they work.

  5. Yes, the salary seems extreme. However, if Ms. Knight truly acts with openness and integrity as she says she will, that is exactly what the university needs. She has some tough tasks ahead. Let’s hope she performs her job with sincerity and that she finds a sense of cooperation from all.

  6. An observer says:

    Sorry, but this Sherry Knight hire is VERY awkward and full of mystery. Not surprising, considering CMU’s senior management. But awkward.For a communications “professional” she strangely has NO web presence. Her company has no website. No physical address or contact information. Her firm is mentioned NO WHERE on the internet except this (likely self-written, certainly self-promotional) “article” (re: advertisement) that makes it sound as though she may actually work part time from home. http://www.concentratemedia.com/innovationnews/knightwriterssaline0194.aspxAlso, if her “company” is so successful, how will she have time for a full-time job working for CMU for the next six months? Does any part of this add up? I am sure we’re missing something and I hope CMU-LIFE will be able to, in future articles, help fill in some of the gaps.CMU is paying Ms. Knight almost 200,000 for SIX MONTHS. Yet she has no experience working with or for universities in this capacity. But just to see how corporate America values people in that field, here are selections of yearly salaries for corporate communications consultants:http://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/communications-consultant-salary-SRCH_KO0,25.htmNotice they run between about 67,000 and 109,000 PER YEAR. So the question remains, why is a private PR consultant (her actual vocation) with no university communications experience being paid so much? Could it be the president requires the services of a personal PR consultant? And wouldn’t it be nice if Ross could find a way to have the university pay that person? If the president has a problem with *his* public image (maybe the understatement of the year), it is because of his own willful mismanagement of CMU, and perhaps he should pay for his public image refurbishment out of his own pockets. Instead, he appoints a private PR consultant to be his interim VP of communications, thus saving himself having to pay her retainer as his own personal PR guru. There may be other interpretations. I hope CM-Life will find find and share some.Speaking of retainers, this is from Business Week regarding PR consultants:”CALCULATING A RETAINERThe retainer model requires clients to pay a monthly amount to cover the consultant’s ongoing work. Determine your retainer by settling on an hourly rate and then multiplying it by how many hours per month you will devote to a particular client. For example, a typical public relations consultant charges $150 an hour, Rhodes says, and the average monthly retainer is between $3,500 and $5,000.”That’s 30,000 dollars for six months. Why is CMU’s interim getting six times the going rate?Why, even HBO only pays their Vice President of *International* Communications 233,877 per year, and HBO produced Game of Thrones!!!Of course, there may be very good, very sensible answers as to why Ms. Knight is receiving such an inflated salary while the students have to stomach another increase in tuition, and the faculty have gone without raises this last year. If there is a good answer, perhaps the office of the president would like to COMMUNICATE that to the rest of CMU…

    • Michmediaperson says:

      To Observer:
      I thought it was just me…but I noticed the same thing last night.
      If this gal is so good to justify $1500 a day, then where is her website????
      Considering CMU is going through a website crisis, then why would you hire someone who doesn’t have a website???
      Also, is she the highest paid public PR employee in the state of Michigan now???  Does the chief spokesperson at UM, MSU, the Governor’s spokesperson….make $1500 a day????  
      She worked at Ameritech???  Hmm. Didn’t we once have a Board member from there??  Or, am I wrong on that.  Phone companies are constantly changing names.
      Also, CM LIFE needs to check.   Does she work for McClaren?   If there is any work to be performed between McClaren and our School of Medicine, who gets the PR bill??? 

      By the way, P Houseley, when you’re making $1500 a day, you’ve got plenty of money for a Blue Cross, Blue Shield health and dental insurance plan.  Since she already has a business and handles other accounts, any consideration of benefits at CMU is economically speaking, a “sunk cost.”   It’s already accounted for.   This is simply all profit!

      Some great comments, Observer!!!

    • P_housley says:

      Where do you get your information?
      Facebook has information: http://www.facebook.com/SherryKnightWriters.
      LinkedIn was easy to find: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sherry-knight/7/143/96a  Twitter: @WritingKnight:disqus 
      fully identifiable as Sherry Knight, Saline, MI.

      CMU graduate. She started out as a news reporter in Maryland and then at the Jackson Citizen Patriot. Then started her own business consulting firm after working in corporate communications for ATT. Has been guest speaker in CMU classes for years. Regular board member on the JRN Hall of Fame committee. Been active in fundraising for the J-Department and college programs.  Staunch supporter of CMU – all unpaid services, I might add.
       
      Her email is listed on Facebook. Oh, I’m sorry, you’d have to let her know who you are if you wrote her, wouldn’t you? I don’t understand the anonymous posts about this.

      • UrsaBean says:

        Yes, she has a personal Facebook page that seems active.  But, look up the Facebok page for her company.  Look up the website for her company.  Shouldn’t a PR and communications specialist with a 16-year-old company have more of a presence in the media than this?

      • PR Pro/CMU Alumna says:

        I found her LinkedIn page quickly, but no website for her company. And, why does her business not have a Facebook page? Or her company? 

        I’m not saying that she is a terrible choice, but I agree with some of the others where it seems this is fishy. How can PR firm not have a website even? (Or, if she does have one, it has such poor SEO that it cannot be found). It is a legitimate question. 

        It is great that she is an alumna and has been involved with the university. I think that always is a huge help. 

        Also, I am staying anonymous because I am still in the beginnings of my career. But, as a CMU alumna, I feel I have the right to voice my concerns. 

    • PR Pro/CMU Alumna says:

      At first I was excited because I thought, “Good, maybe with Renee Walker gone, things will improve” (from what I heard, communications at CMU haven’t been all that great lately). 

      However, I did the same and was disappointed. I immediately searched for her firm and her name on the Web. I found absolutely nothing. Her Twitter page shows that she is really not very active online. I’m a PR professional and I rarely meet anyone who lacks an online presence these days. Even students have a good presence. Anyone who expects to have a successful firm would have a website. It’s entirely possible that she is great at what she does. I do not know her, so I won’t knock her. But, it seems fishy to me because I’m absolutely certain there are many much more qualified people for this job…who would probably take less pay. 

      • P_housley says:

        You are really inept at searching the Internet, aren’t you?  I leave you to your insane ideas here. The only fishy things are all your comments are anonymous and that you can’t seem to locate any reliable information. I look forward to having Sherry on board!

        • Q_housley says:

           Why are you so busy shilling for Sherry Knight? Is it your job?

          “I don’t understand the anonymous posts about this” says P_housley, as if that pseudonym isn’t effectively anonymous as well.

        • PR Pro/CMU Alumna says:

          I know that I am very good at searching the internet, as research was once a large part of my job. Show us her website, please. 

    • Dissident says:

       It seems you’re on the mark. George is a bumbling idiot when it comes to communication and she’s being paid piles of money to try to train him.

      According to the article, ‘Knight said she’s done a lot of research on CMU in the last couple of weeks’.

      It seems she isn’t very good at doing research:
      ‘“I need to get a good idea of what needs to improve,” Knight told CM
      Life Tuesday. “[...] My entire communications process is through
      openness and integrity.”’

      Her ‘entire communications process’ is incompatible with George’s process of lies and obfuscation.

  7. J8iddetroit says:

    CMU is all about politics — whom you know, who likes you, not what you know or how good you are. People with influence are hired here all the time. What expenses will Sherry get? Are they a certain percentage of her base pay of $1,500 a day? Is she going to get her hotel paid for when she is in Mount Pleasant because she doesn’t have a home here? Is she getting a travel allowance from Saline to Mount Pleasant? What are her professional accomplishments? What did she achieve in any of her positions? She was quoted as saying that leaders are great communicators and she helps them become that. Whom has she helped? How successful were they? Is she George Ross’s personal communications consultant? Does the president hope to lessen CM Life’s coverage of his inept administration by having a highly paid consultant who is a former Life editor? Let’s hope CM Life continues to scrutinize this administration that throws money around where it likes and fights like hell to keep it out of the hands of the faculty.

  8. Anon 4.0 says:

    P_housely, are you in the administration at CMU?  Certainly sounds like it.  You don’t want us to question the hire, you don’t understand why people might be skeptical of a $1500 a day contract, and you are mad at us for not blindly accepting the hire and “towing the CMU line.”  That is exactly the attitude of CMU adm.  They don’t understand why students, the public, faculty, staff, etc. do not blindly accept whatever decision they make.  This place is horrible!

  9. These are some interesting points about Ms. Knight’s salary, lack of a company website, etc. But the decision has been made to hire her. There’s more to a person than just a website. AND, it’s an interim position. Let’s allow Ms. Knight to do her job (which in addition to the nuts and bolts of websites and formal communication also must involve fixing broken relationships and building cooperation and trust.) As far as contract details, office budgets, spending, etc., I trust CM Life’s reporters to stay on top of things.

  10. P_housley says:

     Actually I’m a faculty member. :)

  11. Looks as though Ms. Knight is coming in as a consultant for the interim period based on the “per day” comment in the article. I have no idea how the contract was written but could it be that the per day amount includes travel (mileage/hotel/etc). Maybe CM Life can clarify it’s statement of “$1,500 per day for day of work in Mount Pleasant”. That seemed like a strange way of stating pay.

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