Members of PRSA’s Counselors to Higher Education Section will meet April 11–13 in Nashville, Tenn., for their annual Senior Summit. Ahead of the event, PRsay asked three Section members about the state of their sector. (Read the other entries here and here.)
These questions were answered by Tasha Neumeister, communications manager at Loyola University Chicago and a member of the Senior Summit Planning Committee.
What are the biggest challenges that communications leaders in higher education face today?
Technology, generation gaps and FOMO (fear of missing out) are a few of the challenges facing higher-education communicators. We need to stay on top of how prospective and current students, alumni, faculty, staff and donors are consuming news and information, so we can continue to reach them in a timely way.
We also need to recognize that Gen Z, millennials, Gen X and baby boomers are our audiences as well as our co-workers. We serve as translators to help bridge divides and improve relationships. Finally, there’s FOMO. Institutions are questioning their own worth, asking themselves “What’s our story?” and “How do we tell our story in the face of increasing competition?” At public and private institutions, communicators should regularly assess their own institutional brands and value.
Given the increasingly polarized state of college campuses today, how does a university communicator remain balanced?
Our CHE Senior Summit keynote panel will address this question head-on. Our work is indeed under scrutiny from all sectors and industries. Issues such as fluctuations in funding, how to treat student conduct — from defining sexual assault to student protests — and the need to reassess our business models all impact our work as campus communicators and senior administrators.
We often have to referee multiple opinions, from within and outside our institutions, on how to handle social and political issues that affect our campuses. Our keynote panel will offer varied perspectives from policy advocates, journalists and communicators on these issues and some current and potential policy changes that may influence our work.
What other issues will be foremost during the CHE Senior Summit?
Crisis work tops the list. How are we both proactive and reactive to challenges that may arise while also balancing free speech, safety and climate? From violence and activism to mass celebrations turned bad, we’ll discuss how to strategize and institute best practices.
We’ll also talk extensively about social media and collaborations across campus and beyond, including strategies that work best for various social media platforms and how to leverage partnerships on and off campus.