As campuses everywhere deal with the ongoing challenges created by COVID-19, one thing they don’t need to be dealing with is fighting intentional misinformation. And yet, just to show we have entered a brand new era, at least two schools were quickly trying to debunk nonsense distributed in their name: Stanford, tagged with fake tips on fighting coronavirus, and Bates College, victim of a hoax letter claiming the college planned to intentionally infect students with the virus.
Nearly two years ago I wrote about the issue of colleges combating fake news in the form of online bots and trolls. I thought it might be useful to reprise this article, which is full of useful tips. Continue reading →
Colleges across the country are announcing plans to cancel in-person classes as “social distancing” and remote instructional methods become the new norm. Our firm has had two client visits and strategic planning retreats converted to Zoom interactions in just the last few days. We expect more hotel and plane cancellations in the weeks ahead as we work to modify our engagements and plan for long-distance communications and strategy sessions.
Most higher ed communications leaders recognize the importance of a strong communications platform for their institution’s president or chancellor. It’s not about self-aggrandizement for the boss, but the understanding that the presidential bully pulpit is a key component of an integrated, comprehensive communications strategy to advance mindshare, reputation and engagement.
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’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: