Crisis Management, public relations, Reputation Management

Filling the “Perception Hole”

The Black Hole at the Center of the Universe (public domain photo courtesy of the Smithsonian)
The Black Hole at the Center of the Universe (public domain photo courtesy of the Smithsonian)

The “Perception Hole” or “Perception Gap” occurs when your organization begins developing a negative reputation about an issue and refusing to take the time to respond to the incoming attacks. This is a situation that many organizations, large and small, will have to deal with in the future if they haven’t already. Especially in an online world where anyone with a Chromebook and a Smartphone can logically argue that they are a part of “The Media.”

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public relations

“We have met the enemy…”

.. “and s/he is us”

I was talking with a co-worker a couple of days ago about all of the great stuff I learned at the PRSA and CASE conferences. Our conversation, as it does sometimes, veered into the number of alumni/a/ae/aeiou/eieio who start trashing the university upon graduation, and how that has been affecting our brand. It’s almost as if, in addition to the degree, we give them a card that tells them they can start talking about all of the stuff they didn’t like about the institution.

I could have, and have at various times, gone into “evangelist mode” talking about the great things going on around campus, or the really cool research our profs are doing. My view is, when talking about the university, I tend to talk about good people (students, staff, etc.) doing good work at a good school. My co-worker said that I was one of the rare exceptions, I graduated from the college I work at now, and I’m fired up about the school in general. (although not this fired up…)

Instead I started taking time to think about what our grads are saying. There’s the usual talk about the food or the facilities around campus (computer labs are always full, library’s not open 24-7) or that some of our faculty aren’t available at the necessary times or aren’t receptive to student concerns. These are all factors which have hurt the university’s brand, especially since we are not holding up our end of the bargain and addressing these students complaints when brought up. In the past we’ve tended to “shield up” when these concerns come to light and that is being reflected in the response of our alumni when they graduate. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of alumni out there who are proud graduates, and maybe this is nothing more than an expected percentage of students who were not happy with their experience in college.

Our uni. president mentioned this during his webcast last week to present his strategic plan for the next five years. One of the first things he addressed was openness and transparency with the public, our students and employees. This might be the opening our office is looking for to add blogging and more podcast/video work to our efforts. The key is going to be transparency, and if we can get everyone on board with facing our detractors and telling them what we are doing to improve the university, we might be able to reverse some of the negative feelings people have towards our university.

True? False? Indifferent? What do y’all think?