10 Reasons Why Internal Campus Communications Are So Difficult

A mismatch between communications supply and demand.

September 28, 2015

10 reasons why our efforts at internal campus communications are falling short:

#1. Message Saturation:

There are already too many campus messages. We operate in a marketplace of ideas, and the supply of ideas is outstripping demand. We have a glut of ideas, a glut of messages, and a glut of communications. How many groups and people on your campus are vying for your attention? How many events can you attend? How many messages can you absorb and process?

#2. E-Mail Overload:

E-mail has become the default method to share information. We e-mail about new programs. We e-mail about new opportunities. We e-mail when we have new requests for proposals. We e-mail about our events. We e-mail about the reasons behind our initiatives. Everyone is e-mailing everyone all the time. It is up to the recipient to sort through and prioritize this tsunami of campus e-mail. This is not working.

#3. Our E-Mails Are Too Long and Sub-Optimally Designed:

E-mail is a problematic communications medium in even the best of circumstances. Unfortunately, we don’t know how to use e-mail effectively. There seems to be both an art and a science to writing persuasive e-mails, e-mails that break through the information clutter. We are, however, largely ignorant of these effective e-mail techniques. In theory, we get the need to write a persuasive subject line. To keep e-mails short and punchy, with the key information at the start of the message. Why is it so hard to turn e-mail theory into e-mail practice?

#4. People Think In Stories:

How often have we heard that people don’t think in terms of data and abstractions, but in terms of stories? We all know that narrative is king. The best communicators get their messages out by telling simple yet powerful stories. But we went to graduate school. We weren’t taught how to tell stories. We were taught how to make arguments with evidence. We were rewarded for our ability to think abstractly.

#5. The Power of Visual Thinking:

Great communicators seem to understand, and utilize, the power of visual storytelling. They understand that an image, a graphic, or a video clip is more powerful than lots and lots of words. How does someone who thinks in terms of sentences gain fluency in visual communication? What are the the skills that can be learned that enable traditional academic folks to harness the power of images?

#6.  Nobody Will Go to Your Website:

We all pour enormous efforts into our web presence. The problem is that it is very difficult to get anybody to go to our websites. Yes, folks will visit our website - but they are mostly going to get specific information. They are searching for a phone number, an e-mail, an address.  The need some specific information about the people or services in your academic unit. They want just in time information, and they want it now. They are not going to your website for the same reasons that they go to their favorite community, news, or social site. The odds that they will first learn about your programs and initiatives from your website are scant.

#7.  Websites Are Hard to Design, Maintain and Update:

One of the reasons that people on campus don’t go to your website is that really good websites are really hard to create. And creating the website is only the first step. A good website needs to be constantly updated. Few of us have the time or skills to create a dynamic web presence.

#8. Social Media Is Where the Conversation Has Moved:

Campus communities have moved much of their conversations to social media. I don’t know of any successful social media efforts where membership was restricted to a single campus. The challenge is that our goal is to reach people on our campus. The folks that we want to have a conversation with are busy having conversations with everyone else.

#9. We Don’t Really Understand, Or Effectively Utilize, Social Media:

We know we need a social media strategy. Unfortunately, we don’t have the knowledge, skills, or ability to develop or execute a social media strategy.

10. Digital Outreach Only Goes So Far:

There is a limit to the effectiveness of digital communications. We are coming to the conclusion that a strategy of simply walking around and talking to people might be more effective. But how many discussions can you have? How many coffees can you share? At what point does the retail politics of effective communications run up against constraints of time?

How would you add to, dispute, correct, or refine this list?

What are the enablers, as well as the inhibitors, of effective internal campus communications?



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