This is a guest post by Mandy Miller. Follow her on Twitter at@MandyMayM.
In case you haven’t heard, there are a few sex scandals going on in the world of collegiate sports lately. The national media first placed the spotlight on Penn State and later on Syracuse, not to mention others that likely popped up consequentially. Sad news continued with the recent shooting at Virginia Tech which wasn’t the first tragedy to strike the university in the past decade.
While the stories at hand are truly sad, it poses an interesting question of how university officials handle university image beyond a crisis situation. Does negative media drastically affect enrollment? After all, even though an academic environment, higher education is a business and has to meet a bottom line. Of course, a vast majority of income flows from the athletic department of universities and colleges, but there is also the thousands that pour in through tuition and fees. Given the challenge of ‘selling’ a school to student (and the likely paycheck parents), how can universities best position themselves as a safe and enriching environment following the close of a negative news cycle (or cycles for Penn State)?
It doesn’t take a degree to notice that the bad media and negative attachments of crisis situations sticks with a university for some time. Should staff ignore the negative image attachments in hopes of going away? Should they change their brand and position entirely?
It’s a tough spot to be in given that in cases of shootings or scandals, officials don’t want to ignore the issues at hand, making it seem that the community doesn’t care about the accusations or tragedies, but at the same time, it’s not exactly a bruise they want to flaunt to the public.
I believe it comes back to branding, however drastic or minimal it is. As much as many would like to quickly move on from these situations, it’s not a realistic goal to assume a quick turnaround with branding. Engagement is also key, especially in very delicate situations such as those listed above. This provides a prime spot for an organization to utilize social media, especially give the college population is so active and engaged on these channels. That being said, staff will likely want to evaluate the level of engagement, depending on the situation.
What are your thoughts? Is there a solve-all for these situations? Do you feel any of these universities or others in similar situations have handled their challenge in an ideal way?