- Posted by Christen Engel
- On September 6, 2022
- college, media relations, PR, prsa, public relations, students
As inflationary pressures, political divisiveness and employee burnout continue to rise at colleges and universities, our higher education practice is preparing for increased activity on the policy, legislation and social justice fronts.
These trends recently have borne out in faculty protests of stagnant salaries, an increasing number of staff resignations, student data privacy concerns regarding reproductive health, divisive tensions over the Biden administration’s student loan relief plan, allegations of racism on campus and the Supreme Court’s pending arguments this fall over the legality of using race as a factor in admissions decisions.
This month we attended the Public Relations Society of America’s Counselors to Higher Education Senior Summit in Washington, D.C., which offered a glimpse into the most poignant of these issues. Campus administrators must begin to address these immediately or risk becoming irrelevant.
How Poston Can Help
The issues above can bring surface many emotions for many different people including administrators, students and campus staff. We are able to help administrators and other campus leadership communicate about these issues without risking political fire. This month, we presented to one of the country’s largest public university systems on how to build a content strategy that helps build trust and improve response in the face of public criticism, and we share this guidance with you here.
As current and former university practitioners, we understand the sensitivities and nuances of taking public positions. We support leaders who feel compelled to speak out, but more often we help leaders who want to be responsive to their constituents but are limited in what they can say, for one reason or another.
The plans we devise for college leaders guide them in:
- How to build trust prior to a crisis through social impact storytelling
- How to build a social impact content strategy
- How this approach can improve crisis response and build leadership credibility
Further, our strategies have proven successful in:
- Raising awareness of issues in your community
- Bringing your mission, vision and values to life
- Providing a glimpse into the lives of campus constituents
- Inspiring people to act
- Bringing about change
The minute a crisis hits is not the first time to show your campus constituents how much you care – which can hardly be conveyed in one- or two-paragraph statements. Those statements instead should reinforce and bring attention to existing messaging and content strategy.
University content strategies are often frontloaded with information and data to illustrate academic prowess. It is essential to have this available in the right form at the right time. But a university’s need to educate and instruct, even in times of crises when we should lead with empathy, can be off putting to constituents, especially if we aren’t in tune with what’s important to them.
How do institutions demonstrate to their communities that they care? How do they determine what’s important to them?
- Conduct an Audit. Find out what’s important to your campus. These and other tangential issues are the ones that are certain to crop up in a crisis.
- Listen. Don’t offer a solution before you fully understand the problem.
- Emphasize Commonalities. What problems, concerns and passions does the university share with its audiences?
- Choose the Right Time, Place and Method to Communicate. To emphasize your concern and care for the other person, reach them where they are and in the form they prefer.
Remember, your role is convener. The problems of the world are too large for universities to solve on their own. Your goal is to move people to become part of the solution, which is how we differentiate our strategic communications solutions.
If you would like assistance developing a customized plan for your college or university, we would be happy to work with you. Contact Poston Communications Senior Vice President Christen Engel today at [email protected] or (404) 875-3400.