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:
In our work with higher education leaders, we help college presidents and other leaders identify compelling topics and make their voices heard through op-eds, speeches and written communications. Doing so benefits their institution, contributes to the sector, and can influence both policy and public opinion in powerful ways. And given the coarsened nature of our public dialogue, these carefully considered perspectives become even more important.
As we noted in our recent essay about trends for Inside Higher Ed, the past year saw a number of leaders speaking up strongly on relevant issues. We reviewed the past year’s worth of presidential communications, and we offer below those contributions we thought were among the most interesting and impactful.
Higher ed insights on our company’s one-year anniversary
We’ve learned so much.
This year we fulfilled a long-held dream after decades in higher education: We launched our own company. Now we consult with presidents and senior leaders on strategy and communication, and our work has been a joy: fulfilling, exciting, creative and launched at a critical time in higher education. Though our client base is quite broad—public and private, large research universities and small liberal arts colleges, associations and boards—these institutions share many common challenges and opportunities that are affecting higher education in 2017. Here are some of the most prominent themes and trends we have observed over the past year:
Summer is retreat season — time for colleges and universities, schools, departments, and centers to go off for a few hours (or days) and plan for the future. While some people enjoy this exercise, many others roll their eyes and anticipate hours of fidgeting while surreptitiously checking their phones.
But suffering is not inevitable. Facilitated well, a retreat can be inspiring, clarifying and productive.