I often hear deans make statements such
as "Our school is not as visible as it should
be," or "We need to engage more broadly
with the business community." One key
way for them to move the needle on these
points is to make sure faculty participate in
But too often, schools not only fail to
encourage faculty engagement in public
outreach, they disincentivize it. In their book
Most Likely to Succeed, Tony Wagner and
Ted Ointersmith note that most schools
base tenure decisions on two factors:
research output and politics. As a result,
activities such as blogging, doing press
reviews, or even writing books for a general
audience can be viewed at many institutions
as deviations away from serious research.
To overcome these barriers, a school's
leaders and communications teams must
shift their institutional culture. The following
tactics are great first steps:
Model public communications.
Whether it is engaging with the press, blogging,
or using social media, deans should
be communicating regularly with the public.
By modeling this behavior, they and their
marketing teams are in better positions to
encourage faculty to do the same.
Highlight contributors. Send out
regular, perhaps monthly, email notifications
that praise faculty who have been
mentioned in the media or have used social
media to make a positive impact. Although
the communications team can help by
ghostwriting, editing, and disseminating
the email, these messages should be sent
from an academic leader's email address,
not via an automated message.
Leverage physical spaces. When I
worked as director of public relations for
a business school, one of my first actions
was to display print copies of the press
where faculty had been mentioned on
boards in strategic locations throughout
the school. We also periodically would
assemble a press clippings booklet and
distribute it to faculty.
Reinforce the message at faculty
meetings. During every in-person meeting,
take a few minutes to highlight faculty
engagement activities, particularly those
tied to the school's mission.
Give awards. Many schools give out
teaching and research awards to professors.
Why not also give awards to professors
who have made an impact through
their communications efforts?
Deliver a robust learning program.
While speaking at an academic conference,
I asked the 200 or so professors
in the room how many had been trained
during their PhD studies to communicate
their research to academic audiences.
Every hand went up. I then asked how
many had been trained to communicate
the ramifications of research to external
audiences. Every hand went down. That's
why I believe schools should offer ongoing-
Schools see far greater engagement with content when it is shared by individual faculty.
Schools can bring in communications
specialists to offer experiential workshops
where faculty can learn and apply best
practices. They also can set up an interactive
communications channel where
individuals can ask questions and share
best practices with each other.
Another idea is to schedule monthly
brown bag lunches, where professors can
take turns sharing their experiences with
colleagues, whether they have done a major
television interview or written a viral blog
post. Marketing staff could explain how
faculty can share their research with larger
audiences using new social media tools.
Create an ambassador program.
Schools see far greater engagement when
content is shared by individual faculty than when it's shared under the institutional
logo. That's why one of my clients has
formed a team of faculty ambassadors who
highlight the school's thought leadership
on LinkedIn. The communications team
can provide the content; the ambassadors
need only copy it or tweak the language to
interject some of their opinions before they
disseminate it on their channels.
Change the system. The ideal solution,
of course, is to ensure that public
communications efforts are accounted
for in the tenure process. One creative
approach to this might be, for example,
bundling public communications activities
into the category of citizenship or service.
All of the above tactics are about changing
the culture. So, don't just talk to faculty
about why engaging in external communications
is important. Demonstrate it, recognize
it, and reward it on an ongoing basis.
Kevin Anselmo is the founder and
principal of Experiential Communications,
a consultancy providing communications
services and training to higher
education institutions. Previously, he
worked in full-time communications
roles for IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland,
and Duke University's Fuqua School of
Business in Durham, North Carolina.