Communicating a University
The field of education is experiencing a paradigm shift from providing isolated services for students with special needs to collaborating within schools to include all students… Simultaneously, teaching is evolving from an isolated act to one requiring increased interaction. (Walther-Thomas et all, Collaboration for Inclusive Education: Developing Successful Programs, Pearson, London, 2000, p. 113)
There are several reasons of why a communication strategy is important to education in general and to a university in particular. First of all, the purpose of a communication strategy is to support the university’s work to achieve the goals of its Corporate Strategic Plan. At the same time, it focuses on making the university be perceived as a coherent organization with a clear message.
A strong communication can increase the awareness of the university’s activities, provide a clear and representative view of its programs and values, while creating and maintaining an open dialogue with its diverse audiences/stakeholders (staff, current and prospective students, parents, press, business, alumni and local/international community).
The university’s communication channels, including social media, should respond effectively to international student enrollment interest. Consequently, one of the goals of the communication strategy must include reaching, informing and communicating with its international students.
Today’s university places great emphasis on internationalization. Its vision is to become a pre-eminent institution of higher learning at the forefront of education on a universal level. The communication strategy should address the challenges of communicating to different cultures issues such as prejudice, different languages, different ways of constructing messages and different values and beliefs while being loyal to its core values and in connection to its social and cultural environment.
Regarding external communication via social media, it is important that the needs of the target stakeholders are taken into consideration when determining in which language the material should be available in. Thus, different language versions of for example a text must not always contain the exact same information. To attract new students, it's not just what we say, but how we say it that counts.
In particular, social media are included in the communication strategy by being an interactive communications channel for staff and students; and acting as a collaboration tool for project work. Through their messages, social media empower social activities, interactions, giving an opportunity to share or comment, where the university and students (current and potential) can interact making communication more “human-to-human” communication rather than “organization-to-staff-students”.
To this aim, several methods can be proposed such as gathering real examples and stories from across the university, be consistent and monitoring the users' needs on a regular basis. These methods would
be identified by answering questions such as:
How can we ensure that our content actually resonates with people so that they don't hit the delete button?
How can we personalize and make it relevant, engaging and useful to those with whom we need to reach?
Nowadays, we hear a lot about 'channels of communication' but an effective communication strategy shouldn't start with thinking about channels, but with thinking about people, how and why they interact, engage with organizations and with each other. The successful communication strategy should be balanced between the university’s values, mission, goals.