Julie and I carefully monitor trends in higher education media coverage, and we continue to be impressed with the way in which college and university leaders use their bully pulpits to address not only institutional and sector challenges but also issues of deep societal concern — in their own strong and authentic voices.
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.
PRG has a particular interest in helping college, university and nonprofit leaders to articulate their vision effectively and find their individual “voice.” So we were delighted to see this piece by Bret Stephens of the New York Times offering tips for aspiring op-ed writers.
Lisa and I follow media coverage of higher education closely and publish a wide range of leadership op-eds in The Scan, our free daily and weekly newsletter. (You can sign up here.) We’ve observed an explosion of channels where academic leaders, administrators and faculty members can share their expert opinions on a wide range of topics.
The Washington Post writes about a new documentary film opening next week in DC titled “Starving the Beast: The Battle to Disrupt and Reform America’s Public Universities.”
This film should spark an interesting debate about the threat to public universities, and what to do about it. Public universities make key contributions that can’t be replicated elsewhere. Just for starters, they educate huge numbers of students compared with private institutions. Although most colleges and universities embrace a public mission in some fashion, these schools are uniquely dedicated to the wellbeing of their cities, states, region and the nation. Leaders across higher education–both public and private–are deeply concerned about the erosion in public investment and assaults on the mission of these very important institutions.