NO! not keystone cops again

It’s true: a campus-wide project requires a coordinated set of communication activities. Too often on our campuses, we decide to get feedback at the end of a process (yep, your committee is about to make a decision and you need to be able to say you asked people what they thought). Or, you need to provide updates on your progress, so you have a bunch of people doing a bunch of communication-like stuff in a random and ineffective way.

When you get right down to it, people want to be informed and they usually want to be involved.  In my experience, the best way to communicate about web redesigns (or any other currently undisclosed initiative under consideration on a gem of a campus in Virginia) is to build a relationship with stakeholders and constituencies.

Here’s what you do:

  • You communicate early and often. When you do, you establish trust and they hang with you for the tough and sensitive decisions.
  • You divulge the good, the bad, and the ugly. When you do, you end up educating your constituents; not only that, they respect you for the candid approach.
  • You take the time to explain the complexity. When you do, you make it clear that your task is not as straightforward as it appears and they are glad you’ll be the one who has to lead the effort or make the final choice.
  • You tell them in a lot of different ways – you hit ’em in the campus newspaper, the website, the listservs and whatever other glorious combination of communication vehicles you know about.

I presented these thoughts at a meeting on campus today and it went over pretty well. Left out the reference to groups making lots of mistakes after a great deal of energy and activity, and the lack of coordination among the members of the group. But I’m saying it here:

DON’T play Keystone cops. It’s tiresome and doesn’t work.


Author: susantevans

Susan T. Evans is director of corporate and foundations relations at the College of William & Mary. She is a proven strategic leader with deep expertise in advancement, communications, brand management, marketing, digital strategy, technology, administration and organizational development. She is known for creative and strategic approaches to challenges within higher education, nonprofits and business.

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