College/Universities: Best Practices During COVID-19

Goals

To identify best practices that colleges and universities are implementing to be proactive when connecting with their audiences to generate positive sentiment and take a leadership stance during coronavirus.

Early Findings

Our initial research on best practices that colleges and universities are implementing during coronavirus revealed insights. Here are key pieces of information we found:

Colleges/Universities: Best Practices During Coronavirus

  • According to Harvard Business Review, a best practice that colleges and universities are implementing to be proactive when connecting with their audiences to generate positive sentiment and take a leadership stance during coronavirus is to communicate early and often with key constituencies throughout the crisis.
  • Another best practice that colleges and universities are implementing is to be as transparent as possible when communicating with audiences by being empathetic, honest, and open to maintain credibility.
  • Creating a team for centralized communication is also a best practice that colleges and universities are implementing as a crisis-response team that can proactively respond very quickly. This team is recommended by industry experts to be small, with five to seven people that will include a member of the leadership team, someone from corporate communications, an HR executive, and an expert in a particular area of concern. This team is also recommended to: Meet regularly to monitor the situation closely as it continues to evolve; Be the main source of information about the crisis; Give regular updates to key constituencies; Be as transparent as possible by explaining what is known, what is not known, and sources of information; and Be succinct and avoid long messages written by health professionals or lawyers that may not be read or easily understood.
  • Specifically when communicating with employees, industry experts advise recognizing that employees are the most important constituency when acting as ambassadors in the community. Therefore, a best practice that colleges and universities are implementing is to proactively communicate with their employees by: Posting information regularly in a highly visible location such as a physical location or a virtual one like email, the college or university intranet, or a Slack or Facebook channel; Describing how decisions were made about issues such as travel and working from home; Communicating no less than every other day; and Trying to provide timely information rather than waiting until all of the answers are known.
  • When being proactive in communicating within their communities, a best practice that colleges and universities are implementing is to enhance their relationships within their communities and generate postive sentiment by: Providing resources such as cleaning supplies or food for those in quarantine, Providing information to the local media to help to calm communities down while also enhancing their credibility, and Providing transparency about what is happening within their college or university rather than remaining silent.

Proposed next steps:

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We recommend additional research to provide 2-3 case studies of colleges or universities who are proactively implementing at least one of the best practices to connect with their audiences to generate positive sentiment and take a leadership stance that have been identified in early findings of: Communicating early and often, Being as transparent as possible, Creating a crisis-response team, Proactively communicating with employees, or Enhancing their relationships within their communities. For each case study, we will provide the name of the college or university, what best practice(s) each college or university is implementing, and why they have chosen to implement it, with any success metrics as available.
We also recommend additional research to provide 5-7 specific insights on: How are colleges and universities implementing best practices to stay connected to accepted students (who haven’t yet enrolled)? How are they implementing best practices to keep the pipeline full of prospective students during coronavirus?How are they implementing best practices to market to and give prospective students access during the pandemic?