Understand what a “crisis” is.When we think of a public relations crisis, we’re inclined to think of major scandals like Jerry Sandusky at Penn State or Larry Nassar, a former sports doctor at Michigan State. But the idea of a crisis goes beyond moral failures. The word “crisis” comes from the Greek word krisis which means “a decision.”
cri·sis /krīsis/ “a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger” or “a time when a difficult or important decision must be made.” – Google DefinitionsFor marketers, the term “crisis” should mean any kind of major change or decision, both good and bad. Not just scandals or breaks of trust. Any change can evoke fear or suspicion. A change of presidents. Retiring a long-held policy. Cutting an academic program. Any one of these changes has the potential to create negative brand perception for your school. By expanding your definition of what a crisis is, you can jump into action to assure your audience of the benefits or sound logic of the decision before your institution’s actions can be misinterpreted. With this in mind, any public-facing administrative, facility, policy or financial change should be accompanied by a well-executed marketing strategy to try to head off any potential negative reactions to the news.
Teach & enforce corporate values.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Your corporate values should be more than a list of virtues on a piece of paper.
Pause major marketing campaigns.In most cases, when your education brand is being questioned, or there are massive changes happening, put the brakes on any new marketing initiatives. Especially long-term campaigns that depend on audience engagement and response—like capital campaigns. I highly recommend that the campaign committee, or you as the marketing team, take some time out to reevaluate where your brand stands with your audiences. What kinds of questions are they asking that need to be answered first before you embark on this initiative? What fears or doubts need to be laid to rest before launching your campaign? What brand distinctives need to be bolstered or rebuilt in the minds of your audience before you begin your new initiative?
Focus on listening, healing, and restoring.Education marketing at its best is like a conversation. You’re listening to your audience’s questions, and you’re bringing them answers. But during times of change, you have to listen even more. The very act of listening is in itself sending your audience the message that you care. Conduct focus groups. Respond to comments on social media in positive, yet discreet tones. Make improvements where you can based on feedback. Report on progress made based on your audience feedback. Change is hard for your audience, but listening is a tremendously effective way to bring your audience closer to you through your marketing messaging during the transitions.
Silence is not an option.Of course, we all hope that you’re never faced with the difficult situation of defending your brand. But keep these things in mind as you market your school, because… Total, ongoing silence is not an option for education marketers. In today’s connected, highly-informed world, you may not be able to control what everyone’s saying about your brand—but you must be your school’s advocate through your marketing.
Click here to read this article on the Caylor Solutions website.