PROTOCOL FOR COMMUNITY-WIDE MESSAGES, STATEMENTS OR MEDIA RESPONSES FROM THE PRESIDENT*
DePauw’s president will communicate regularly with the community through a variety of formal and informal mechanisms, including faculty/staff institute, faculty meetings, the alumni magazine and emails to students, faculty and staff. It is vital for DePauw’s president to know what is on the minds of faculty, staff, students, families, alumni and the local community. Comments and suggestions are always welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org and will inform the work of the president and the president’s cabinet.
The president receives many requests to speak about specific issues. The voice of the institution’s leader is a powerful tool for communicating during good times and bad and the president will use this voice when appropriate. However, the “overuse” of the president’s voice can lead to an expectation that the president should personally respond to a broad range of issues or national and world events, even those that do not directly affect the DePauw community. Such frequent presidential messaging may undermine the regard and importance of a president’s message in times when it is especially needed and warranted and create an expectation that the president “should” respond to every situation, thereby de-emphasizing the importance of other voices in the community.
The following are examples of some, but not all, the situations that may merit a statement directly from the president:
1. Crisis situations directly affecting the university’s campuses and/or our people (faculty/student/staff).
DePauw’s campuswide crisis communications protocol guides processes and procedures during emergency situations on campus, including a serious crime, a weather-related situation or a major disruption to operations. RAVE Alerts are typically the first communications, with a followup message from the president largely to provide a broader update and share additional key information and emotional support, when warranted, during response and recovery. At times, a message from the vice president (or dean, director or coach) who oversees the area most closely connected to the situation is more appropriate. A decision as to when and how to send messages or statements from the president is advised through the emergency management/crisis incident response structure.
2. Matters that affect or are related specifically to the university’s core mission of teaching and scholarship, or where significant national or world events have occurred (i.e., the Sept. 11 attack; the death of George Floyd).
3. Matters that are related specifically to our institutional and/or the president’s strategic priorities (e.g. liberal arts education, educational access and equity, city of Greencastle, other institutional and presidential priorities).
4. A tragedy that involves direct impact to individuals or groups in the university community. Consideration should always be given to whether other university administrators can and should serve as primary messengers. This applies especially when a situation involves a specific audience in the university community and the area vice president or dean is the most informed source of information. For example, in situations related to the academic enterprise/faculty, the vice president for academic affairs likely will serve as messenger. On matters specific to the student body, the vice president for student affairs or a dean of students may serve as messenger. It is expected that administrators, senior leaders in particular, will share plans and draft communications prior to messages being sent to broad constituencies (i.e. university community, students, faculty, parents, etc.).
In any situation when members of our community may be anxious or affected, our expectation is that Student Affairs will reach out directly to students to make sure that they have the support they need; we expect the same response from Human Resources when faculty and staff members are directly affected. Events or other gatherings to demonstrate support and concern and to share perspectives are supported and encouraged. These events often will be organized at the “local” level and organically by university or student groups, though there may be instances when an all-university gathering is warranted and appropriate (e.g., 9/11). Vice presidents and/or department/program heads may wish to share communication with their respective communities; the dean of the School of Music with the music students and faculty; and a coach to share with a particular athletic team. Any such communication is permitted under this protocol; a copy should be shared with the vice president for communication and marketing as an FYI to disseminate to cabinet and other campus leaders.
5. The President’s Office will notify the campus community (including faculty, staff, trustees, alumni and students as appropriate), in consultation with an individual’s family (when feasible), about the death of a retiree, trustee, student or faculty or staff member.
6. Student (or other) media responses or interviews. The president is committed to maintaining a strong relationship with student media reporters – befitting their preparation as future journalists and with the belief a student newspaper is an important campus voice – and external news media, and will be available to discuss important matters or situations (i.e., strategic planning, broad presidential priorities, presidential decisions directly related to the student experience, news features pertaining to presidential leadership, major initiatives and decisions, etc).
However, to provide the most helpful and timely information, in many cases the president will refer a question to another campus leader or expert most closely associated with the topic. To best determine whether the president should comment or is available to comment, or if a reporter is unsure whom the best contact may be, the reporter should contact the Office of Communications and Marketing (communicate@DePauw.edu) to assist in quickly finding the best source for information.
Unless necessary due to a quick deadline, rapidly unfolding situation or the inability of the reporter to reach the correct contact, the Office of Communications and Marketing’s goal is to connect media with the best campus source of information whenever possible, rather than issue a statement or respond through the spokesperson.
When other voices are appropriate
It is important for other leaders throughout campus, all of whom are essential members of the president’s team, to be represented when a supportive, caring or unifying voice is necessary. Following are examples of situations or circumstances when the president will defer to other campus leaders:
● When a preliminary, or “holding,” message is needed in advance of an important presidential communication.
● Day-to-day media requests that are more appropriate for subject or topic experts or departmental leaders.
● Questions or requests from the community Discuss@DePauw email address (the community email is not for conducting business; the president’s email is President@DePauw.edu).
● When an alumnus, student or employee is involved in a national incident or suspected of wrongdoing; DePauw will respect due process and the privacy of individuals involved.
● Reporters should contact the campus expert most closely associated with the story topic; if they are unsure whom the contact should be or need an immediate response, the Office of Communications and Marketing can assist (communicate@DePauw.edu).
CHANNELS OF PRESIDENTIAL COMMUNICATION
Multiple channels of communication are available for sharing presidential messages, statements or other responses. Not all channels will be necessary for every message; email, for example, is reserved for instances when a message must reach every member of a stakeholder community (i.e., all alumni, all staff and faculty, all students or parents), whereas social media may be used to further disseminate an important message or for the president to share personal thoughts or observations, recognitions or good news about DePauw).
● Universitywide email (or video in specific circumstances) directly from the president.
● Statement issued through the Office of Communications and Marketing for attribution to the president.
● News release on the university webpage.
● Other channels managed by Communications and Marketing, such as DeBrief faculty/staff e-newsletter; alumni e-newsletter; weekly student e-newsletter; parents e-newsletter.
● Message posted to the president’s webpage (major messages will be archived on the president’s page for ongoing reference).
● Tweet and/or Instagram post from the president’s personal Twitter feed (@DrLoriDePauwU) and university social feeds (@DePauwU twitter or Instagram; DePauw Facebook page).
*Adapted with permission from the Washington University of St. Louis presidential communications protocol.
Posted January 11, 2020