From the world of science to the theatre
Maija Palonheimo graduated as a special class teacher from the University of Turku in 1975. She worked ten years as a teacher and took over administrative duties in 1986. After a few years in the municipal department of the State Provincial Office Ms Palonheimo drew up a plan for the City of Turku on establishing Turku Arts Academy and then worked as the Principal and Director of the Academy. At the turn of the millennium she worked for about a year in Helsinki in the development of the Arabianranta design cluster, but returned to Turku before long.
"Keijo Virtanen, the Rector of the University of Turku urged me to apply for the vacancy of the Communications Director of the university. I got interested, as I still had my home and family here in Turku. I started at the post in 2001, so I've been there for ten years."
The two leaders of Linnateatteri, Theatre Director Mikko Kouki and Administrative and Financial Director Arto Valkama are gradually starting in their new jobs in heading the Oulu City Theatre and will be working there full time by the beginning of March. At the same time, Maija Palonheimo will start work as the new Managing Director of Linnateatteri, and actor-director Kari-Pekka Toivonen will take the role of Artistic Director.
Linnateatteri is an association, and Ms Palonheimo has acted as the Chairwoman of its Board. So she is not taking a jump into the great unknown. Nevertheless, it was not an easy decision, although she was at once interested when first asked about it.
"The theatre is in good shape. The debts have been paid, the organisation is efficient, and the overhead costs have been successfully kept to a minimum. Linnateatteri is probably the only cultural institute in which public subsidies account for only around 20 per cent, or even less, which means that the share of own financing is 80 per cent, while the figures are often the other way around", Ms Palonheimo says.
A decade at the heart of academic communication
Major events during Ms Palonheimo's work in the university included the merging of the University of Turku and the Turku School of Economics, and the new Universities Act. She thinks that she is lucky to have been there to experience the new Universities Act that entered into force at the beginning of 2010. If the university and the rest of the world have changed a lot within a decade, the change has been even greater from the point of view of communication. One-way information services have been replaced by interactive communication in which new technology and its opportunities and challenges play an important role.
"When I started, there were two information officers working in the main building of the university who focused on sending press releases by fax and editing the Aurora magazine. Today, the combined communications services of the university and the school of economics employ 12 people. They are multi-skilled experts whose task is to work as day-to-day support service of the university that is able to produce content to different media."
"As for internal communication, the biggest effort is the new electronic desktop being prepared for the university. It's a project that means complete remodelling of Internet and intranet. I gave the first speeches on the project at the beginning of 2009, and piloting will start within a few weeks."
Marketing and communication have gradually become increasingly interlinked. Similar development can be seen in educational establishments. In the wake of universities of applied sciences, universities have also more systematically begun to create an attractive employer and study place image for themselves. Therefore the staff of university communications has to be able to think more and more often from the point of view of marketing communication.
"The importance of communication to stakeholders has increased in external communication. Alumni activities, mentoring, children's university, and our big effort, fund raising, have expanded the field of communication. The number of staff has increased, but the workload has grown even more with the expanded job description."
Maija Palonheimo starts as the CEO of Linnateatteri in March.
Strongly networked theatre
Linnateatteri is also a good example of a community that has succeeded in its marketing communication and co-operation with its stakeholders. The audience has found its way to the theatre performances, but the theatre also has a broad network of partners: Theatre Emma in Naantali, Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova museums, Turun Palloseura football club, and the Mikael parish, to name just a few. The rock musical Kakola produced together with the Turku City Theatre will have its premiere in the spring.
"As there are interesting projects in the pipeline, it was easy to think that the new job is my own and suited to my thinking. The job calls for openness in all directions and a wide network of contacts. I believe I have both."
"Nothing is likely to change right away as a result of my appointment. The programme for 2012 is already fixed, so I can affect more the 10th jubilee year of Linnateatteri in 2013."
"The Oulu City Theatre will probably be a natural choice for co-operation as Mr Kouki and Mr Valkama will be working there. As Kari-Pekka Toivonen will start as the Artistic Director of Linnateatteri, it is obvious that co-operation with theatres in Helsinki is not going to decrease."
Maija Palonheimo has also created networks outside work. She was the president for Turun Linnan Rotarit club last year and is a deputy member of the City Board of Turku. As for culture, in addition to theatre she is intrigued by music as she also chairs the Board of the Turku Music Festival Foundation. Despite four children and nine grandchildren she can also find the time for physical exercise.
"I go to gym and jog and do group exercise. Physical exercise helps keep me going", Ms Palonheimo assures.
- Born in Kullaa (presently Ulvila) in 1953
- Special class teacher from the University of Turku in 1975
- Managing Director of Linnateatteri as of March 2012
- Previous posts include e.g. Communications Director in the University of Turku 2001-2011, Director and Principal of Turku Arts Academy 1991-2000
- Lives in Pääskyvuori, Turku; four children and nine grandchildren