Making the Most of Leadership Transition

I’ve overseen three university presidential transitions, and now in our consulting roles Julie and I have advised several in-house teams as they plan for a new president or chancellor.

It’s an important time in the life of an institution, and strategic communications planning is critical – both to ensure a smooth transition and to create a solid foundation for a new leader’s future direction. The most effective communications efforts happen with careful pre-planning and coordination among several college units. When this works well, everyone comes together to craft strategies that celebrate the legacy of where the institution has been, and excitement about the next chapter.

After facilitating quite a few in-house planning sessions with colleagues and clients, I offer some guideposts for making the most of leadership transition:

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Harnessing Your Own Community

I came across an interesting article in The Atlantic recently, and noted it for further reflection. The story, “Employers Are Looking for ‘Influencers’ within their Own Ranks,” looks at the trend of companies tapping their employees to serve as brand ambassadors and social media influencers. Although the context is for-profit business, the concept is directly relevant to college and university marketing.

Higher ed communications typically focus on external promotion: media placements, enrollment marketing, videos and photos for social media campaigns. When internal communication is considered, it’s usually in the context of a problem: addressing a lack of trust or campus concerns around a specific issue. Rarely has it been a strategic and intentional part of a broader communications program.

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We’re two years in, and PRG is expanding

As we approach the second anniversary of our founding, Peterson Rudgers Group is growing! In addition to our two founding partners, Lisa Rudgers and Julie Peterson, we’re delighted to announce that four talented and highly valued colleagues—Steve Kloehn, Colleen Newquist, Grant Schexnider and Sandra Mars—have signed on as associates of PRG. They’ll allow us to expand our reach and impact while maintaining the same high level of expert counsel our clients expect from us—plus they’re smart and creative and a complete joy to work with.

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Expect Respect

Every Sunday morning, I curate a roundup of the most important recent higher education news for our e-newsletter called The Weekly Scan. Last week the task was especially depressing.

At a University of Florida commencement exercise, a marshal used physical force to rush graduates off stage, especially members of an African American fraternity. At Colorado State University, campus police pulled two Native American high school students away from an admissions tour. At Yale, a white graduate student called campus police to report a black graduate student had fallen asleep in a residence hall common area.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that a police officer said this when the black student was then detained: “You’re in a Yale building, and we need to make sure you belong here.”

What are we to make of such deeply troubling actions, and what can we do about it?

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Combating Misinformation in the Era of Fake News

A trio of news articles in February and March on the reach and impact of the global fake news machine completely blew my mind, and I’ve been ruminating on them ever since. It struck me that these developments have huge implications for higher education, both for college and university leaders and for the communications people who support them. Continue reading