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.
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:
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?
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.
In what is becoming an annual exercise, Lisa and I reviewed the past year of trends collected in The Scan to forecast what might be coming in 2018. Our resulting essay appears in Inside Higher Ed today. While the developments affecting higher education are sobering, we also offer practical advice for action steps college and university leaders can take to get ahead of the curve. We welcome your thoughts and additions to our list.