Crisis Communications at IU

When you’re as big as Big Red (aka Indiana University), there’s limited worrying about brand recognition. But crisis communications? That’s another matter. Indiana University’s Mark Land spoke at the Hoosier PRSA luncheon recently in a brief give-and-take with Inside Indiana Business Host Gerry Dick about the challenge of every day and crisis communications for a Big Ten university.

Land, who is the associate vice president of public affairs and government relations, spoke frankly about university communications – sometimes a very cumbersome boat to steer in choppy waters.

Here are some soundbites from the event:

“Everything we do is fair game and we get a lot of public records requests.”

“Whatever influence you have you get by being a good partner.”

“Regional campuses are the best ambassador of the brand.”

“Politics and PR sometimes have to compromise.”

Here are some Q responses:

On IU opposing a gay marriage ban in Indiana: “The issue was so central to what we stood for. We had a lot at stake. We’d done the math. We felt it we come out in strong opposition, others would come with us.”

On using social media: “It was a bit of an afterthought. Now, we’re drafting a strategy that has social media in it from the beginning.”

On using social media at IUPUI: “We starting using it here (in Indianapolis) to build communications and run student engagement campaigns.”

On responding to social media critics: “My instinct tells me – know when to take a deep breath and let the onslaught of tweets wash over you.”

Asked about the pressing issue of sexual assaults reported and handled on campus: “The challenge is (that) it’s just a charged emotional issue. We’re not set up to be judge and jury. It’s so hard to have honest conversations. It’s enormously complex and there are no simple answers. We don’t have the patience for nuance – almost none.”

Asked about working with the diverse schools on all campuses: “I sometimes remind them to look at their paychecks and see who signs it. It really is a challenge. It almost is door-to-door salesmanship. As the IU brand succeeds, everyone succeeds. But there needs to be a little bit of room for originality. You try to provide a brand framework with a line that can’t be crossed.”

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