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Conference Recap: PRSA Counselors to Higher Education

It’s my first PRSA Counselors to Higher Education Senior Summit, and it shall not be my last. In my new role at True Digital Communications, I lead the education practice, so these are some of MY PEOPLE! It was terrific, and here are five reasons why, along with some commentary.

  • Some universities get the concept of integrated communications, and some do not. Marketing, public relations, community relations, alumni and internal communications should be working together more consistently. Common planning would help a lot, and it would make measurement easier. These things might be out of the communicator’s control – as with a lot of organizations, if you’re a member of the leadership team, you’re in better shape than if not.
  • Universities who feel unprepared for the coming communication convergence know they need help. Integrating comms can be controversial, so stepping through the process of opening up lines of communication, coordinating among the comms functions and collaborating as opportunities avail seems to be recognized as a path forward. We need to watch out for the belief that we, as PR people, are somehow above the marketing function. It’s true that we often have different objectives and audiences, but we also can play a vital role in improving advertising and marketing performance, and contributing to other university objectives. “All marketing is communication, but not all communication is marketing” is a truth, but that doesn’t mean we’re “better” than marketing.
  • Communication measurement is a continuing developmental need. There’s a fair amount of “output” measurement, but still a disconnect (with a few exceptions) with business impact measurement. Attribution of a “lead” is part of the problem. What leads came from comms and what from marketing? Why does that matter? We’re all on the same team, right? We hope we’re on the same team (see above…) Measurement is as much about improving planning as proving value — let’s have clear objectives for our measurement as well as for our programs.
  • Internal communication in universities is an increasingly pregnant problem. (Like it isn’t in other organizations? ROFLMAA!) But who’s responsible for it? Anyone? Anyone? The comms function should include internal in its planning – and find the faculty, staff and administration leaders to partner with to improve it.
  • Crisis preparation and response is probably the dominant issue universities are grappling with. Some universities have well-prepared, trusted advisors, and some neither. Crises occur, and yes, we have to respond. We also should do solid research (including environmental scanning) that help to identify potential crises in advance.

Good information, good discussion — good food and beverages! Thanks for making the True Digital Communications crew feel so welcome. We appreciate it!