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First things first

August 11, 2009

I work for the PR arm of a major university, and today many of our campus communicators (PR folks from various departments and programs) attended a Webinar on social media. It’s the way of the future! It’s what we HAVE to do to keep up with the times!

And yet… all the new communications initiatives in the world can’t solve the people problems inherent to the OLD communications.

Yesterday I called up the Grad School to ask if everything is in place for my degree, using the number at the bottom of this page. “Elena is out of the office,” says a voice that is clearly not Elena. “If you need assistance, please dial [main Grad School number].”

Now, I work in the same building, and I haven’t actually seen Elena in quite a while. I call the other number and say, “I understand that she is out of the office. Is there someone else available?”

“Um… yeah, she’s been ‘out of the office’ since November,” says the woman on the other end.

She sounds a bit baffled. I don’t blame her. Of course, there’s an interim worker, but that doesn’t change the fact that nobody’s bothered to update what is arguably a pretty important piece of contact information — at least for the harried students who just want their degrees.

Like me.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve run into this situation. One guy who coordinates deliveries retired in January and didn’t tell me how to get in touch with any replacement; I called his number and got the same thing. Actually, let me amend that: when I found out the name of his replacement, I looked him up in the directory. No e-mail; the only phone number listed was that of the old guy, with the same old “I’m out of the office” message. Oh, you’re out of the office, all right.

So… think about the hard work done by the campus communicators, and imagine how it might be easier to keep people excited about the university if everyone else just paid a little more attention.

Our best efforts at PR can’t — and shouldn’t — make up for basic failings.

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