The purpose of the Communications Strategic Plan is to support the objectives and goals of the University’s Strategic Plan as well as the objectives and goals of the Office of University Communications.
It represents a framework for managing and coordinating internal and external communication regarding the university. In addition, this document seeks to achieve a communication environment conducive to accomplishing the following: distributing clear and consistent messaging; articulating the University’s mission, values, and strategic goals; representing and celebrating the diversity found within our University community; and adopting a culture of transparent communications as viewed by internal and external audiences.
All communication processes and initiatives should be aligned with “Building a Better Brockport: A Strategic Plan for the Future 2017-2022,” the University’s current strategic plan.
The University’s varied audiences include both internal and external constituents. Identifying and understanding these audiences, their relationship to the University, and their communication needs is essential to creating and implementing a well-organized and successful communications plan. Following are brief descriptions of identified University audiences.
Students: As of Fall 2019, the University had approximately 6,670 undergraduate students and 1,250 graduate students. Of the undergraduate population, approximately one-third live on campus, one-third live in or nearby the Village of Brockport, and one-third are true commuter students.
Faculty/Staff: The University has more than 1,100 employees, comprising faculty and professional/
Alumni: The University has more than 90,000 alumni, with approximately 35,000 living in the Greater Rochester area. In addition to University Communications efforts, alumni receive regular email and other communication from the Office of Alumni Engagement.
Emeriti: The University’s emeriti (retired faculty and staff) are an important part of our community and receive the Daily Eagle and Port, among other communications efforts.
Donors: The University has a vested interest in communicating with current and potential donors. Most of this communication is done through Advancement, with some assistance by University Communications.
Parents of current students: It is important for the parents of our students to receive timely information and stay connected to the University. They often raise questions and concerns on behalf of their offspring and we can’t assume information shared with the student is passed on to the parent.
Prospective Students: A vital audience for targeted communications are those high school students and transfer students we hope to attract to Brockport. While many recruiting efforts are targeted to this audience, we are cognizant that the parents of these prospective students often have a say in university decisions and may be an audience as well.
Community: The University considers itself both part of the Brockport community as well as the Greater Rochester community. The official Town/Gown committee would fall under this umbrella, as would participation in the FLREDC and the University’s Community Advisory Board.
Elected Officials: The University is directly represented by one member each of the New York State Senate and Assembly, and is in regular contact with several other elected officials on the local, state, and national level.
Media: Traditional media has lessened as an important communications outlet for the University. Local media currently includes the Democrat and Chronicle daily newspaper, the Rochester Business Journal weekly newspaper, television affiliates for ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox, Spectrum News, and numerous radio stations.
University website: The University’s public website, www.brockport.edu, is the primary marketing recruitment tool. It also is used by students and employees as a repository for information and as access to learning/working tools, such as Blackboard and Banner. University Communications updates the majority of the site’s content and creates new pages as needed.
Email: Every Brockport faculty, staff, and student has a unique email address. Several University personnel, including within University Communications, have the authority to send emails to all employees and students. This is to be done in special circumstances where other communications methods won’t be effective. Emeriti keep an active Brockport email account.
Daily Eagle: The Daily Eagle is the primary way to communicate campus news consistently with faculty, staff, and emeriti. A daily email is delivered at 7 am each workday to the inboxes of these individuals. An electronic bulletin board of sorts, the Daily Eagle provides information such as upcoming events, faculty publications and presentations, job openings, benefit updates, etc. The content is submitted by the campus community and approved/published by University Communications.
The Port: The Port is the University’s electronic magazine, and is the way the University reaches its widest audience. It is sent via email to every faculty, staff, student, emeriti, members of volunteer boards, and other friends of the University on the first Thursday of every month during the academic year. It typically features a lead story, four-to-six other feature stories, and updates across numerous areas of the University (Athletics, Academics, Student Life, Fine Arts, etc.). Twice a year (winter and summer) a printed edition is created, collecting highlights from the past semester’s editions. This version is mailed to a select group who may not have access to or frequently don’t read email. Editors of The Port meet monthly with an advisory board comprising major areas of campus to glean story ideas. The Port allows the University to deliver a consistent message to all constituents.
Social Media: University Communications uses a variety of social media platforms to engage with the campus and beyond. These include but are not limited to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube. Social media has the advantage of more direct and immediate connections and interactions. The downside is we are limited in most platforms to communicating with those who intentionally follow us. We do monitor the various platforms to better understand the questions, comments, views, and opinions people may have of the University.
RAVE: This is the official method to share emergency communications. One message can be delivered via phone, email, text, and social media. All students are encouraged to sign up to receive RAVE alerts, as are faculty and staff. RAVE is often used to communicate around weather events.
Video: University Communications helps the campus create video content on a limited basis, depending on staff capacity. These videos are shared through multiple means, such as YouTube, social media, the website, etc. The demand for video content continues to grow annually and we focus first and foremost on videos that help the University recruit and retain students. This can be done through videos for events such as open houses or for use with digital marketing efforts.
Recruitment Collateral: Hundreds of print and/or electronic recruitment collateral are created each year and either sent directly to prospective students through mail, email, Slate (the university’s current contact management system), social media, and more. While much marketing has moved to a digital format, there remains a need for printed collateral.
Digital Signage: There are many digital signs positioned around campus that are used to deliver information. Currently there is limited coordination between the “owners” of the signs, so there is an opportunity to better harness the communication opportunities these strategically disperse signs hold.
Annual Report: The University summarizes the good news and successes of the previous academic year in a stand-alone annual report. The content is usually formatted around the goals of the current strategic plan. The annual report is shared with the SUNY Chancellor and others within the System, University volunteer board members, elected officials, and others in the community, and provides a high-level summary of the past year’s successes.
Press Releases: This is a way to share news about the University with the media and wider audiences officially; however, the value of press releases has greatly diminished during the past several years and University Communications has greatly diminished the use of releases. We continue to issue press releases for significant occurrences, such as major hiring announcements, large-scale events, etc.
Town Hall Meetings: Town Hall meetings are held sporadically during the year, often hosted by the President when she has a specific topic to discuss. Town Halls also have been a way for the Vice President for Administration and Finance to deliver budget updates.
Strategic Campus Partners
Academic Affairs: University Communications works with Academic Affairs leadership to help promote the success of faulty and programs. CC staff also meet with Deans and Chairs to update collateral and websites and to identify programs around which to target marketing. We will look to improve our capacity to promote the accomplishments of our faculty though Port profiles, Daily Eagle updates, video, and more.
Advancement/Alumni Engagement: We partner with the Division of Advancement to help promote events, produce videos, and promote the University to our alums. We also help in creating and promoting fundraising initiatives. We also partner with Advancement to produce The Port.
Brockport Student Government: University Communication works with representatives from BSG to help promote events and to communicate information to students that is useful and important. During the 2020-21 academic year, we will look to investigate ways in which we can more effectively communicate with our students.
Emergency Manager: Staff in University Communications work with the school’s Emergency Manager to help share vital information with the campus community and beyond.
Enrollment Management and Student Affairs: University Communications works closely with the many departments found within EMSA, including Student Affairs, Athletics, Rec Services, University Police, Res Life, Community Development, and more. We will partner with EMSA in order to promote more aspects of student life such as events and activities.
Facilities: University Communication partners with our facilities team during construction projects for items such as wayfinding signs, maps, and progress updates.
Human Resources: University Communications partners with Human Resources on messaging to employees regarding updates to policies/procedures, training opportunities, and at when needed before and during crises.
Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: University Communications works with OEDI to promote relevant events and activities to the campus community, such as the Diversity Conference and Community Conversations. We help update OEDI’s website content and to highlight important initiatives. We also work with the office to better understand how we can market to underrepresented prospective students/staff and how we can promote Brockport as a welcoming campus for all. We will work with OEDI in 2020-21 to better understand the needs of underrepresented student, faculty, and staff campus.
Office of the President: One of the primary responsibilities for University Communications is to support the Office of the President. This can range from writing speeches, creating websites, producing videos, and much more.
Undergraduate and Graduate Admissions: From a volume standpoint, the two admissions offices are our biggest partners on campus. The majority of our office’s work is involved in some way with the recruitment and retention of students.
The purpose of an emergency crisis communication plan is to enable effective coordination and direction of available resources to warn or alert the SUNY Brockport community of hazards and threats, and to communicate actions to take (or not take) before, during, and after an incident.
The operational priority is to effect appropriate action from community members in order to reduce injury and death, minimize property damage and loss, and to continue business and academic operations to the extent possible.
The emergency crisis communications plan works in conjunction with SUNY Brockport’s Emergency Operations Plan, as well as following and adhering to the standard operating guidelines established within the Office of University Communications and the Communications Manual for SUNY Brockport.
The University has many communication tools that may be employed to provide warning and information to the Brockport Community, both on and off campus. These tools are described in detail earlier in this plan.
Resources: A lack of human resources, particularly on the Web/Programming operations within the department, limits what we are able to accomplish. A potential issue in the future is around resources dedicated to making and keeping information on the university’s website accessible. Similarly, projects involving the website, such as implementing an events calendar, have been delayed.
Dwindling Media Opportunities: One of the biggest changes – and challenges – experienced over the past several years is the decline in proactive media opportunities. Television and newspapers have smaller staffs and don’t offer as much coverage as in the past, even for what used to be solid story pitches. This change resulted in University Communications restructuring to become more content driven, allowing us to better tell our own story. This is important as traditional media now focuses more on what we might consider negative stories.
Brockport vs. SUNY: There are times when the best interests of the university conflicts with, or at least diverges from the best interests of SUNY. This can limit the effectiveness of the university’s communication efforts. We need to collaborate better with SUNY on campus success stories so the System can promote when appropriate and, conversely, keep System in the loop on negative news.
Communicating to Students: While every student receives the Port, there is no consistent way to communicate with students. There is the ability to send email to all students but evidence shows that not all students pay attention to their University email account. Signing up for RAVE is strongly encouraged so that emergency messages are received. A project for 2020-21 is to work with BSG to identify ways/methods of better communicating to this audience.
Communicating with Parents: Currently, there is no consistent way to communicate important information to the parents of our students. A “Parents of Brockport Students” Facebook page was created several years ago and acts as a clearing house for parents to ask questions of other parents. The site is somewhat monitored by several different campus offices and staff answer or moderate as appropriate. A goal for 2020-21 is to collect parent email information and create a newsletter so relevant information can be shared directly with parents.
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: As the campus saw in Spring 2020, not everyone believes Brockport is a Great Place to Learn or Work. One of the challenges for University Communications is to help foster an inclusive and welcoming campus environment. We need to work strategically with the CDO and OEDI to do a better job of promoting and positively portraying all members of our campus community. EDI is now intentionally and strategically infused into University Communications operational plan and individual performance plans.
Responding to external events: One of the biggest challenges is when to comment on local, national, or international events. Our practice is to limit official comments to events that have a direct impact on our community; however, sometimes this is difficult to define. The main reason to restrict comments to local or specifically impactful events is that responding too often lessens the impact of the message and creates message fatigue. It also sets expectations that the president/University will comment on everything. The need to respond to any specific event will be looked at on a case-by-case basis. Guidance will be sought from the CDO, Cabinet members, and others. Ultimately, the decision to respond or not belongs to the President.
The following policies are “owned” by University Communications and are updated on a scheduled basis.
A review of communications-related policies will take place during the 2020-21 academic year to determine if any need to be housed under University Communications.
Goals for 2021-22
The following are high-level University Communications goals for the 2020-21 year:
- Determine ways to improve process/functionality of the website.
- Continue to push the SUNY Brockport name/brand to the campus and beyond.
- Continue to use social media platforms to deliver content and respond to the community.
- Launch newsletter/email template for use by campus.
- Collaborate with campus stakeholders to determine a better way to communicate with students.
- Collaborate with campus stakeholders to determine a better way to communicate with parents.
- Partner with the new CDO to help build trust with and bridges to all members of the university community.