The spring 2020 semester was one of the most challenging and tumultuous that higher education has faced in recent memory. As you lead your campus community into the new academic year, you have a unique opportunity to be a source of direction, clarity, and vision in a harrowing time. Your communication practices will set the tone for how your campus community weathers this challenge. Here are three principles that should mark your communication:
Be proactive. Uncertainty abounds in these days. Don’t leave your campus community to the caprice of speculation. Be regular and intentional in your communication. That may mean communicating before a decision has been made and explaining the process. Your faculty, staff, students, and their families will value your transparency and availability.
Be strategic. Regular patterns have been disrupted during this time. Be thoughtful and consistent in the medium you use to communicate. People need to know where to find the answers to their questions. Communicating through email and then posting communications in a centralized landing page, clearly linked from the homepage of your website, are the current gold standard. Your constituents should not be expected to check your Twitter feed daily to get updates. Reach out to them directly and then place messages online for easy reference.
Be personal. Your communication should not only be informational; it must be relational. The upheaval of this pandemic has taken an emotional toll on the members of your community. Do not just give them the facts they need, but express your empathy and compassion for their situation and experience in this difficult time. Connect your community to the mission and vision of your institution to ground them in this season and beyond.