This week our topic of discussion was on crisis communication via social media. Working on a college campus means that crisis communication is a frequent topic of conversation and at least once per year, the University where I work holds a day-long crisis communication workshop. Given the nature of the work that I do, I haven’t been included in those meetings, so I thought it would be interesting to see what information I could find related to crisis communication on college campuses. I came across a great blog post, 5 Crisis Communication Tips Every Higher Education Institution Needs. The tips were simple:
Although these things may seem obvious to people from other industries, I think it is important to break these down, one-by-one, for those not in higher education. # 1- Obviously you want to have the best team in place to handle a crisis, but that’s probably more difficult in higher education than in other industries. Most small to mid-sized universities aren’t going to have large budgets that allow them to have expansive teams, so making sure that you have the right people is critical. In higher education communication teams, most individuals wear many hats and are responsible for more than one aspect of communication. Therefore, it is crucial that everyone knows their role. # 2- Decision-making in higher education is notoriously slow and usually involves multiple layers of approval. This would hold true for a response to a crisis, so it is important to plan ahead and be ready for any type of crisis that might arise. # 3- Since you already will have planned out responses to specific situations, you must make sure that you fully and completely assess the situation so that you know which response is appropriate. Unlike many other industries, there are many stakeholders in higher education- from the Board of Trustees, Administration, Faculty, Staff, Students, Parents, Alumni, Donors and Prospective students, it is important that you know and understand the crisis and quickly response. # 4- As we learned this week, social media plays a critical role in crisis communication and that is no different in higher education. Most of our students are now digital natives and their primary method of communication is social media, so it makes complete senses that this would be part you the approach. In addition, as one article stated, “social media can also serve as a way for schools to gain an understanding of the sentiment on campus, and what students, alumni and media are saying, allowing them to effectively respond to unrest and address issues before they take on a life of their own”. # 5- Although compassion is important to many industries during crisis communication, given the many stakeholders in higher education, its importance is significant. As I continued to read more articles, it seemed like the consensus was that having a plan in place ahead of time is probably the most important aspect of crisis communication. Kenya Faulkner, from the University of Cincinnati said, “Now, crises are not a matter of if, but when. The more quickly and thoughtfully a school can react, and react well, to a developing situation on campus, the better the chance they’ll have of containing and minimizing the fallout.” Lastly, as a Chronicle of Higher Education article points out, “the major crises that can happen on campuses publicly or internally are well known, so leaders should be preparing a playbook for each plausible hypothetical and agree on a course of action”.
Vorhees, Alyssa, 5 Crisis Communication Tips Every Higher Education Institution Needs, https://www.lexisnexis.com/communities/lexisnexis_biz/b/bizblog/archive/2018/01/30/5-crisis-communication-tips-every-higher-education-institution-needs.aspx
Olsen, Zach, Don’t Let Crisis Become Your Legacy, Inside Higher Education, https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/call-action-marketing-and-communications-higher-education/dont-let-crisis-become-your-legacy
Perlmutter, David, A Crash Course in Crisis Communication, Chronicle of Higher Education, https://www.chronicle.com/article/A-Crash-Course-in-Crisis/242443