Monday, April 16, 2012

How social media hasn't changed #highered PR

There's no question that the social media revolution has radically altered the way we communicate in our professional and personal lives, particularly for those of us who work in higher ed marketing and public relations. But though technology has introduced amazing new tools for accomplishing our goals and objectives, many of the fundamental rules of how we work haven't changed:
  1. Strong communication skills still matter. Core to any professional communicator's craft is the ability to write, edit and verbalize concise, cogent messages in a way that's relevant to their target audience. Whether you're writing a news release or posting a social media update, the classic adage of BLUF ("Bottom Line Up Front") remains true regardless of the medium.
  2. Good relationships still matter. While the academic theory regarding organization-public relationships primarily developed in the 1990s, many of the core public relations principles developed by AT&T's Arthur W. Page in the 1930s–40s would make a good foundation for any communications strategy involving social or traditional media today. Social media makes it easier to establish relationships for a longer period, and the comments shared about us will have a more-lasting impact as well.
  3. High ethical standards still matter. As an extension of point #2, the ability to establish trust is key in maintaining good long-term relationships in our interpersonal interactions (on- and off-line) and in our mass communications. Organizations have always been expected to have good customer service — to be authentic, transparent and responsive in their communications — and social media only highlights the actions of those institutions who don't value the people they serve.
What other core skills and abilities do you consider to be timeless in higher ed communications?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhog Day tips for breaking out of a work rut

No matter how awesome your job may be, anyone can find themselves in a rut at work. Though I've been at the same institution for more than 10 years now, I've been blessed to have a job that has evolved over time. Here are a few tips on keeping things fresh in your professional life over the long haul:
  • Aspire to greatness. In the Bill Murray's classic movie Groundhog Day, his character finds his way out of an endless rut by making his world a better place. While most higher ed jobs don't lead to saving lives, setting a high goal that inspires us can make every day more interesting. Consider pursuing a new credential, learning a new skill, or even earning a graduate degree.
  • Serve others. Apply your professional expertise in a volunteer capacity for a nonprofit organization or community group. You'll get a fresh environment with people who appreciate your service, and you may even pick up a few ideas to bring back to your day job.
  • Find new ways to expedite routine tasks. Do you spend too much time sifting through email, looking for files, or dealing with interruptions? Check out the myriad productivity blogs out there for new ways of getting through the monotonous tasks so you can focus on big-picture projects that can take your work to the next level.
  • Connect with peers outside your institution. Expand your network and meet others who do similar work to you. Social networks, local professional organizations and national conferences can all expose you to people and ideas outside your normal sphere.
What do you do to keep things interesting in your work?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Higher Editing: Educate your content contributors

Getting tired of making the same editing corrections to the same colleague's work, over and over and over again? There is hope.

Yes, in the short run, it's easier to just fix things yourself or write a quick proofreading mark. But those microchanges add up over time, and constantly bleeding red ink over others' work won't exactly help your relationship for the long term. Address the core problems — not just the symptoms — to improve the work product and efficiency of your team:
  • Explain why you make your changes. Either through a written mark-up, email message or in person, it helps to coach content contributors on the reasons why you correct their work can help prevent them from making the same mistake in the future.
  • Build your institutional style guide. Setting ground rules for common style issues, such as campus abbreviations, titles and locations, is an important place to start building consistency and consensus among your institution's writers and editors. If you don't already have a style guide, start one. Members of the University and College Designers Association can access an index of style guides from around the country on their website, or a quick web search will yield dozens of examples.
  • Share resources. Read any great newsletter articles or blog posts lately on the issue at hand? Know of a helpful grammar or design resource? Forward these resources on to those peers who might benefit from them. Ragan Communications offers one of my favorite daily e-newsletters on all things PR, and many of their featured infographics are pinned to my office bulletin board. Feel free to add your recommendations to the comments section below.