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This week I am pleased to be on the faculty for back-to-back conferences sponsored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. The first is for senior marketing communications professionals, many of whom hold the title of vice president, and the second is for those new to a vice presidency under the advancement umbrella.

While preparing my slides -- yes, I still use slides, because I believe words matter, especially when attendees use slide decks as reference materials after the presentation -- I created a list of advice to share with the new senior leaders, and I asked my fellow faculty members to weigh in with their best tips and practices as well.

Here’s my list:

  • Regardless of how good you are at your job, you cannot communicate your institution out of a leadership void. Often we are asked for a silver bullet to solve big issues on campus solely with words, but those words can only reinforce leadership decisions and actions. If the tough decisions aren’t being made, then it is impossible for us to reach communications goals that require a leadership stance.
  • There is never a perfect time to be a leader. You may have to send a message or make a decision without having all of the information you want, and the timeline may be dictated by the situation rather than by you. Do your due diligence, research how others have reacted to similar situations, rely on the input of your team, line up your advocates and make the decision that is in the best interest of your institution.
  • Update your résumé and LinkedIn page each year immediately after completing your self-evaluation. I received this tidbit from a former boss, and it has served me well. It is difficult to remember accomplishments when put on the spot and after their impact has faded. Doing so yearly allows you to summarize your successes while they’re fresh and the metrics are top of mind, rather than when you need to use your résumé or when you are put on the spot about the impact of your work. I’ve gotten out of practice with this tip but am hopeful this is the year I return to it.
  • Include your physical and mental health among your priorities. Burnout in marketing and communications jobs is high. I know -- I’ve been there. I also know I didn’t carve out time for exercise or activities that allowed me to clear my mind. And I realize this sounds impossible when looking at your to-do list and your calendar, but it is critically important for you to be at your best at work. My fix is a studio-based high-intensity interval training program I can attend at home or while I travel, and I created a network of people who will keep me accountable for meeting my exercise goals. However you maintain your well-being, find the best way to achieve it at home and on the road, along with the support you need to accomplish it.

And the advice from my conference faculty colleagues:

  • Binti Harvey, vice president, Scripps College: “Your most important relationships are those you build with the other members of the senior leadership team. Strengthening those relationships will determine your success in achieving your team’s objectives and your ability to advance the profile of your institution. Cultivate those relationships and invest in maintaining them.”
  • Rob Zinkan, vice president, RHB Global: “First, trust is your most valuable currency (and certainly takes time to develop). Amidst the constant pressures and challenges, stay focused on the long term and creating value that will endure -- whether you’re building trusting relationships on campus or building an institutional brand strategy. Second, always bring an intimate understanding of the constituent to the table.”
  • Lori Bachand, associate vice president, California State University, East Bay: “Say yes! Every time you are presented with an opportunity, be sure to accept it. You never know what the experience is going to bring or the knowledge you will gain.”

Finally, please be sure to follow along with the conferences through my tweets (@tvparrot) or with the conferences’ hashtags (#CASEscmp for the Institute for Senior Communications and Marketing Professionals, and #CASEnewvp for the Bootcamp for New Vice Presidents) for additional insights and advice.

Teresa Valerio Parrot is principal of TVP Communications, a national public relations agency solely focused on higher education.

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