Did you know that the jobs ‘communication advisor’ and ‘spokesperson’ are not protected? Anyone can do it, it doesn’t matter if you have a PhD in communication; or a two-day SkillShare degree in dishwashing. In times of crisis communication, you can see it very well. But do not be mistaken, the degree says nothing.
For example, your favorite columnist has published quite some advisory reports on student-communication over the past few years. How do you establish a change in behavior? How can you appeal to their sense of responsibility? All those questions were answered in that document. Next to these answers, I added a list of ‘don’ts in student communication’.
The corona communication of the last few weeks disappointingly created the impression that the list with ‘do’s’ was sent on a one-way trip to the shredder. And the list of ‘don’ts’ was apparently promoted to be a to-do list for the communication departments of the University. That is not only clumsy, but it also degrades the respect students have for the corona measures. It shows that these people are not ‘in-control’ of their communication and thereby decreases the authority they have in our community.
The main advice of ‘Things you absolutely shouldn’t do’ is speaking to students out of an institutional or authoritarian position. Especially not when the urgency of your message isn’t felt any longer. Authoritarian communication distances students from the University, it leads to incomprehension.
Let’s be honest. How does it come across when a board member of the University or municipality- who called for you to set your social life on hold and to lock yourself up in your 11 m2 room, far away from the social life – drives himself home after a day of work to a spacious country house or apartment in the luxurious neighbourhoods of Groningen? Exactly, it sucks.
Look, if you really want to make a difference, you need to start taking students more seriously. It doesn’t work to give a speech on responsibility as a big shot from the institutional ivory tower. Show the real stories. Tell the story of the tenths of medical students whose residency had to be cancelled, as a result of the pandemic. Do show us how all the beta-students could not finish their research, because the laboratories were needed for medical research into the new coronavirus. At least show us how thousands of students were affected by stress, debt, and study delay.
To continue, a positive campaign is needed. To have students actively participate in solving the problem. Think about all the student pubs who now are very actively controlling the corona measures. That’s a good start!
Start building on a positive message and the sense of responsibility. Students are the solution, not the cause.
But if the communication department had read that report from 2018-2019, they would have known already.