As a higher education administrator, you know better than anyone the importance of timely communication on a campus, especially in a crisis.
In 2018, we saw schools across the country suffer from violence, and together we had to accept that campuses are targets for what was once the unthinkable.
Then there are other risks such as severe weather conditions or even day-to-day communications that need to be addressed. The one thing that is clear is the importance of having effective communication strategies in place to ensure campus safety.
Don’t assume that your campus is immune to crisis. The number of shootings on or near college campuses increased by 153% between the 2001 and 2006 academic years.1 And shooting incidents are predicted to increase during the next decade Take action in 2019 to improve communication with your many stakeholders, including students, faculty and staff, families, community members, and others.
We have the tips you need to make better communication a reality for your campus in 2019.
Tip 1: Deliver a Consistent Message
Consistency is key to an effective communication strategy. Delivering a consistent message will help tamp down panic and impulsive reactions when a crisis occurs. You can steer your messaging by following these tips:
- Establish the facts – Emergencies generate rumors quickly. Get the facts before you issue any statements.
- Protect sensitive information – In a crisis, you can’t always release all the information right away. Tell the media and your stakeholders only what you can and when they may expect more details.
- Remember your mission – Stick to your institution’s values during an emergency. End all press conferences with a statement that ties back to your institution’s mission.
- Share the message internally and on all available channels – Trust is a must when dealing with an emergency situation. Keep your stakeholders in the loop by communicating accurate information to them via email, text messaging, website updates, social media and other channels.
Tip 2: Anticipate a Crisis
While you can’t predict every situation that might take place, you can prepare for a threat by knowing how to identify various issues. Equip your campus with knowledge and preparedness by thinking through different threats that could result in a larger crisis. Do you know how you’ll respond in the event of a shooter? A fire? A hurricane? By anticipating a crisis and including it in your crisis communications plan, you’ll be able to act quickly when an emergency occurs and reduce the impact that an incident has on your campus.
Tip 3: Conduct Regular Training
To be sure you and your campus community are fully prepared for a crisis, it is important to practice and regularly test your communications plan. Train every member of your campus community and run drills so that everyone is familiar and comfortable with the protocol. Don’t wait until a crisis hits to see how your campus responds; give your campus community the information and training they need to stay safe.
Tip 4: Prepare Crisis Notification Templates
Prepare mass crisis notification templates to avoid having to craft messages when a crisis hits. When creating your templates, remember that unclear or lengthy notification messages will only fuel the confusion during a campus crisis. Ensure that your messages are as clear and concise as possible, generally not exceeding 918 characters. Create notification templates before a crisis to ensure that the right people receive the right information at the right time.
Establish an effective communication plan to steer your campus through a crisis and ensure the safety and security of your stakeholders.