An essay published by the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania captured our attention: “Overlooking Communication: Why Strategists are Missing a Trick.” It is true in almost every organization we’ve experienced that leaders underestimate how much, and what kind of, communication is needed to move an organization toward a strategic vision.
Authors Mark Leiter and Jeff Pundyk write: “Executives crafting strategy often miss a powerful trick — instead of making communication a top priority throughout the entire strategy development journey, they typically focus on communication only as they approach the final stages of their work.
“This may have worked when things moved slower. With every passing year, however, the available ‘time to decision’ is shrinking while executives are buried in a daily communication avalanche. Cutting through the clutter requires strategic content that is crisp, compelling and inspiring at every point in the strategy process and beyond.”
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.
Let’s face it: change is usually hard for everyone. Yet, in light of the competitive pressures facing colleges, universities, and nonprofit organizations, both the need for productive change and the pace of change are growing rapidly. Some observers have even argued that constant change is the new normal for institutions in every sphere of life.
Change is especially hard for mission-driven organizations. This is in part because they have complex matrices of stakeholders, and they depend upon faculty, staff, and volunteers who believe fiercely in the mission and culture. These organizations also exist, as a colleague of mine once astutely observed, not only to break new ground and challenge the status quo but also to preserve and document the past. The sense of tradition runs deep. Continue reading →