America’s college campuses are not immune from, rather prone to crisis. A recent survey by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) reports two-thirds of the institutions studied had an adverse event appear in traditional media (print, television, radio) during the previous 12 months that could have negatively impacted the school’s reputation. The study found a similar percentage of colleges and universities dealing with potentially damaging situations were being discussed on social media sites.
While the vast majority of colleges and universities (85%) report having a crisis communications plan in place, only 59% include utilizing social media as a part of those plans. That gap is a major point of exposure for institutions when immediate and effective communications are key to successfully navigating a very difficult issue.
100% of the institutions in the study had a Facebook page and more than 90% were also on Twitter and YouTube. However, only 26% of the institutions in the study required that individuals officially representing the school on that site to have any training and only 10% had an official social media presence relating to campus safety.
For a university (or any organization) to respond to a situation that could negatively impact its reputation, the Fallston Group recommends the following:
- Immediately establish a social media monitoring system; if you don’t know what’s being said about you, you can’t respond effectively;
- Institute a social media policy; correctly used, social media can protect your brand and reputation;
- Establish a registration system for social media users; a centrally located database of “User IDs and Passwords” not only allows immediate access, but also prevents unauthorized use of your social media site;
- Identify a single department to serve as social media supervisor; this office should be the clearly identified center-point of all social media activity and provide guidance and consistency to other departments who actively maintain the social media sites.
The real-time nature of social media is a powerful tool many colleges and universities are overlooking. A university’s social media site is the “go-to” place for information for students, faculty and the media…especially during a time of crisis. As such, it must be an integral part of any organization’s overall crisis communications plan.
For more information about strategic and crisis communications, call the Fallston Group at 410.420.2001. Send email inquiries to email@example.com. The Fallston Group is a crisis management and communications company.