What you need to know
Shared services is a controversial topic in higher education. To mitigate resistance and limit the spread of negative misinformation, systems must develop robust communication plans that capture constituent attention in a crowded information landscape. While most university systems realize the controversial nature of shared services, systems often underestimate how frequently they must communicate shared services updates with the campuses and community. Systems should utilize multiple modes of communication frequently to ensure messages reach diverse stakeholder groups.
Whether approaching groups or individuals, systems must ensure that messages include both standardized components—used for all audiences—as well as segmented components designed with the specific constituency in mind.
Designating a senior systems leader as the primary spokesperson demonstrates the importance and legitimacy of the initiative. When possible, this system leader should deliver and communicate updates about shared services.
The multi-modal communication planning kit provides systems with:
- A checklist of essential elements of a well-developed communication plan
- EAB's communication planning template
- The Nevada Systems of Higher Education's communication planning template
- Examples and tips for leveraging multiple forms of communication
Essential elements of a well-developed communication plan
- Identifies the stakeholder groups for each issue
- Determines which details to communicate to the different stakeholders
- Designates a mode and frequency of communication
EAB's communication planning template
Nevada System of Higher Education iNtegrate 2-Project Charter
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Examples and tips for leveraging multiple forms of communication
Face-to-face communication is the most effective method for addressing staff and faculty questions, placating staff fears of job loss, and debunking myths about change.
Face-to-face communication can be utilized at any point during the adoption process. System and initiative leaders should use these opportunities to remind faculty and staff of the following:
- Definition of what shared services is and is not
- Rationale behind adoption
- Benefits of shared services tailored to the specific audience and organization
- Implementation steps
- Contact information
Examples of face-to-face communication:
- Faculty senate presentations
- Town hall presentations
- Department-by-department presentations
- Individual meetings
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On-demand communication, resources that individuals seek out themselves if they have questions, is valuable for disseminating project plans, timelines, budgetary information, and responses to common concerns.
Websites are the most common on-demand resource. Model shared services websites are a repository of presentations and implementation and project planning documents. As the system’s main method for communicating with the general public, websites should open to a letter from senior leadership explaining the importance and goals of shared services.
Model shared services initiatives include a webpage to address faculty and staff concerns, answer frequent questions, and dispel myths. Common fears include job loss, relinquishing control of processes, and poor service quality. FAQs should cover topics ranging from what shared services are to the impact of shared services on staff roles and employment.
Building an Effective FAQs page
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Whether the sole focus is on shared services or the posts are part of a larger, system-wide communication, blogs are an effective means of highlighting changes and updates to shared services initiatives. Similar to newspaper articles, the information presented in a blog should be short and interesting to the targeted audiences.
Southern Methodist University utilizes their IT Connect blog to update students, faculty, and staff on IT news. This blog post, written by an IT leader, features the unit’s progress in adopting shared services and updates stakeholders on the next steps.
Video is a distinctive communication medium, with its own strengths and drawbacks. While the production process can be more intensive than most other channels, videos have the advantage of connecting the viewer emotionally to a story—something that can be difficult to achieve through other modes of communication. Our media team has compiled four steps and tips to ensure a video has the intended effect on its audience.
Four steps and tips for making a successful video
Active outreach is the best way to communicate weekly or monthly updates, project changes, or to send surveys. Effective active outreach is short, only covering the most important news, and appeals to a broader audience.
Email is the most common method for reaching all segments of a university system, but too-frequent outreach can significantly dilute its impact. Important messages must stand apart to capture the limited attention of recipients. Increasing the specificity of each message, limiting the number of general, system-wide emails, and decreasing the frequency with which messages are sent, can reduce email fatigue among constituents. When communicating about shared services, the designated system spokesperson should send the emails to maintain consistency of voice and messaging.
As Facebook, Twitter, and other online social networks continue to grow in popularity, social media offers systems the opportunity to reach a broader audience. University systems should utilize the official system social media sites to promote upcoming events, such as town halls or webinars.
Because of the controversial nature of shared services, university systems often draw negative attention on social media as faculty, staff, and students use it as a platform to express concerns and frustrations about the initiative. While it is tempting to respond to negative feedback on social media, it is advisable to address concerns by redirecting attention to official communication on the website. Doing so ensures that the system is communicating a single, uniform message.
Learn more about how to respond to negative social media
Other examples of active outreach:
University of Michigan newsletter
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