Steve Virtue (@SteveVirtue) — who once upon a time worked in our world of higher education marketing — recently pointed me to a nicely done article about the PR business in higher ed. It’s a brief op-ed by Léo Charbonneau, the deputy editor of University Affairs, titled Spare a thought for university communications offices.
It’s a refreshing look at the work we do in higher ed marketing and PR, and I’m glad that Mr. Charbonneau took the time to spare some words about us. He points out how the PR problems we face can be “silly or just irksome” — and shares some examples of both. He points out that the job is becoming more complex, thanks to social media and myriad stakeholders, and how it can be a frustrating job due to “competing interests and the diffuse structure of [a university’s] governance.” But his conclusion — that all in all, higher ed PR is a pretty good gig — rings true to me.
Charbonneau’s thoughts focus mainly on the public relations side of our business — probably because, as a journalist, he’s dealing with our institutions’ media relations officers more than marketing managers or graphic designers. Still, I suspect that some of his key points hit home with other disciplines that find themselves as part of the higher ed marketing/communications enterprise amalgam — photographers, writers and editors, graphic designers, user interface designers, videographers, and so on.
His conclusion certainly hits home with me.
In my experience, there have been some very good, and some very bad, university communications departments. At one university that shall remain nameless, the constantly revolving staff was legendary and their default attitude towards the media was always suspicious. At others, there are familiar names who have been there for many years unfailingly doing their best to attend to the media’s requests.
Earlier this week, I began my 25th year in this business, all at the same university. And while some days on the job make me crazier than others, I still love this gig and hope I will for years to come.