Winter Issue 2016

Winter 2016

New Year—New Opportunities

Preparing for Opportunities through

Patouillet Consulting’s Career Management Services for Higher Education Professionals

 

By Susan Stewart, Senior Communications Consultant 

Patouillet Consulting, LLC (PCLLC)

 

As we approach the midpoint of the first quarter of 2016, some of us are struggling to keep New Year’s resolutions—so often related to exercise, healthy eating and other crucial pillars of health and well-being. However, among the many things competing for our attention and focus are the economic realities of a volatile stock market, world turmoil, and a changing job market across all arenas, including higher education.

 

As anyone looking for a job or a job change in higher education might sense, the number of positions in this field has declined in recent years. In addition, it is widely cited that individuals today make an average of twelve job changes in the course of their working years; even more if they change career focus multiple times. Professionals in higher education are increasingly in a job search mode whether voluntarily or not. Many are not ready for the rigorous process.

 

Dennis Barden, senior partner for the higher-education division at the executive-search firm Witt/Keiffer and Patouillet Consulting Advisory Board member stated, “We definitely see a need for resources to assist higher-education candidates in navigating the employment process. Individuals often ask us for help with interviewing skills and resume review. As a search firm working for hiring institutions, we are not equipped to assist individuals. Affordable outside career resources tailored to the particular industry with a menu of services from which the individual can choose, however, can be very useful in helping candidates prepare to navigate the process more successfully and more thoroughly than they are generally able to do on their own.”

 

[Read the Full Article]

Consulting Services

 

Patouillet Consulting, LLC, established in 1983, helps college, and university leaders with their career development needs. The firm also works with educational leaders to assess, strengthen and customize approaches to expand the support from alumni and friends while increasing constituent engagement.

 

PCLLC serves as a strategic partner in assisting our clients in the following areas:

Patouillet Consulting, LLC enjoys the involvement and support of a global advisory board comprised of industry leaders with more than 500 years of collective experience. Additional information about the firm is available at www.patouilletconsulting.com.For further information, email Mary Patouillet. e: mary@patouilletconsulting.com

 

Workshops & Seminars

  • The Integration of Alumni and Development in Fundraising and Capital Campaigns
  • The Role of the Board Member in Resource Development
  • The Role of the Alumni Association as a Strategic Partner in Advancing the Institution
  • Key Metrics and Dashboards in Development and Alumni
  • Strategies for Diversifying your Revenue Stream in an Era of Funding Cuts
  • International Alumni Relations (New)

 

 

  “Think not of yourself as the architect of your career,

  but as the sculptor. Expect to have to do a lot of hard

  hammering and chiseling and scraping and polishing.”

 

   Bertie Charles Forbes (1880-1954)

      Founder, Forbes Magazine—1917   

 

 

        

DID YOU KNOW…HIGHER ED JOBS DECLINING

 

According to The Higher Education Employment Report, existing jobs in higher education declined by more than 21,000 positions during Quarter 3 of 2015 alone. This represents the largest single loss in a quarter since 2007.

 

 

 

 

       Complimentary

       One-Hour Session

 

PCLLC offers a complimentary

one-hour session to discuss

your career needs and to

explore ways in which we can

help achieve your goals.

 

The following services are

offered in packages to meet

individual needs/budgets:

 

*  Executive Coaching

*  Career Counseling

*  Professional Document

    Review

*  Workplace Personality Test

    Implications

*  Interview Preparation/Practice

 

For more about these services

contact Mary Patouillet:

e: mary@patouilletconsulting.com

w: www.patouilletconsulting.com 

p: 865-281-5732

Comments from Recent Clients

 

Ms. Jennifer Gajewski, Chief of Staff, President’s Office, Towson University

 

Towson University engaged the Patouillet Consulting, LLC (PCLLC) group to conduct a thorough review of our alumni operation and we are very pleased with their work. They took the time to meet with countless stakeholders and developed a very detailed action oriented report. The university will be much better moving forward for collaborating with PCLLC.”

 

Mr. Keener Fry Jr., Executive Director, University of Wyoming Alumni Association

 

“When the UW Alumni Association began developing our six-year business plan for future engagement with alumni, we knew we wanted to get it right the first time. That is when we decided to partner with Lee and his team of consultants at Patouillet Consulting. They took time to listen and understand the unique aspects of our culture. With their personalized and customized approach for the University of Wyoming, we completed, and have begun implementing, a comprehensive strategic plan that ensures we provide critical and relevant support and services to alumni, students and the University of Wyoming for the future.”








 

Mr. Stan Key, Executive Director, University of Kentucky Alumni Association

 

“The University of Kentucky Alumni Association just celebrated our 150th anniversary and we wanted to engage a firm to help us in developing a strategic plan to chart the course for the foreseeable future. We had worked with Patouillet Consulting, LLC in the past and we knew they would help us with this challenging task. Our staff and board are very pleased with their work and I would highly recommend them to others looking for strategic planning assistance. They are experts in understanding best practice and being customer focused.”   

 

PCLLC Clients, Staff, Strategic Partners and Advisory Board Members

2016 CASE Summit, New York City
[Read more…]

Preparing for Opportunities through Patouillet Consulting’s Career Management Services for Higher Education Professionals

By Susan Stewart, Senior Communications Consultant, Patouillet Consulting, LLC (PCLLC)

As we approach the midpoint of the first quarter of 2016, some of us are struggling to keep New Year’s resolutions—so often related to exercise, healthy eating and other crucial pillars of health and well-being. However, among the many things competing for our attention and focus are the economic realities of a volatile stock market, world turmoil, and a changing job market across all arenas, including higher education.

As anyone looking for a job or a job change in higher education might sense, the number of positions in this field has declined in recent years. In addition, it is widely cited that individuals today make an average of twelve job changes in the course of their working years; even more if they change career focus one or more times. Professionals in higher education are increasingly in a job search mode whether voluntarily or not. Many are not ready for the rigorous process.

Dennis Barden_D_250x300Dennis Barden, senior partner for the higher-education division at the executive-search firm Witt/Keiffer and Patouillet Consulting Advisory Board member stated, “We definitely see a need for resources to assist higher-education candidates in navigating the employment process. Individuals often ask us for help with interviewing skills and resume review. As a search firm working for hiring institutions, we are not equipped to assist individuals. Affordable outside career resources tailored to the particular industry with a menu of services, from which the individual can choose, however, can be very useful in helping candidates prepare to navigate the process more successfully and more thoroughly than they are generally able to do on their own.”

After conferring with PCLLC advisory board members, other colleagues involved in executive search, talent management and human resources, Patouillet Consulting is responding to the higher education job market by expanding the firm’s Confidential Executive Coaching and Career Management Services. Working with experts in human resources from both the private sector and from within higher education, we are pleased to introduce the following services offered in various packages to meet individual needs and budgets.

  • Executive Coaching
  • Career Counseling
  • Professional Resume and Document Review
  • Implications and Interpretations of Workplace Personality Test Results
  • Interview Preparation and Practice

Mary Persky - Executive Coaching and Career Management ServicesPCLLC’s Executive Coaching and Career Management Services practice is led by Mary E. Persky, a seasoned Human Resources practitioner and a certified Senior Professional in HR (SPHR) and Global Professional in HR (GPHR) with more than 30 years of experience. Ms. Persky has worked in both higher education and the private sector. From her perspective she states that higher education, in recent years, is facing hiring and career issues that are similar to what corporate America has dealt with for a longer time. Both higher education and the private sector currently experience sometimes drastic budget cuts, the need to update approaches to competition, the process of staying current or ahead of the technology curve and dealing with the changes and opportunities that social media brings to the workplace.

PCLLC Clients, Staff, Strategic Partners and Advisory Board Members

2015 CASE Summit
[Read more…]

Summer Issue 2013

  Summer 2013

Patouillet Consulting, LLC (PCLLC) Celebrates Banner Year

and Announces Plans for FY’ 14

PCLLC Doubled the Number of Clients from 17 to 34 in One Year

Members of the Patouillet Consulting, LLC Advisory Board and staff met at the Georgia Tech Foundation on June 19, 2013 for the firm’s Annual Meeting

“We wish to thank our clients for their ongoing loyalty and support.  In an effort to meet the needs of our growing number of repeat and new clients, the firm will engage the services of more Advisory Board members in FY’14 as consultants on selected projects,” said Lee Patouillet, Ph.D., President of PCLLC. 

“Patouillet Consulting enjoys the involvement and support of a National Advisory Board comprised of industry leaders with more than 500 years of collective experience. This is one of the distinguishing characteristics of our firm. Very few organizations in the higher education and nonprofit consulting space have this level of expertise to call upon when addressing a given assignment,” says Mary Patouillet, PCLLC Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer (COO). To learn more about the company please visit www.patouilletconsulting.com.

Mary Patouillet has been overseeing the day to day operation of the firm since July 1, 2013. Patouillet has an extensive background in communications, higher education consulting, and health care. She has worked with her husband Lee in the firm since its establishment 1983. Now as COO, Patouillet works very closely with PCLLC’s staff to manage the business, financial, technical, and creative aspects of the company in addition to working with clients to match their needs with the expertise of the firm’s consultants.

Dr. Lee Patouillet assumed the role of Associate Vice Chancellor of Alumni Affairs at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville on July 1, 2013. “I look forward to serving my alma mater and supporting the institution in its journey to become a top 25 public research university by 2020. I am confident the firm will continue to provide real value to our clients by developing a very custom approach to each assignment” says Lee Patouillet.  “Mary and I will maintain oversight of all PCLLC consulting engagements, and I will be directly involved in select projects.”

Board Member Highlight: Paul Gangi

New-Media Consulting Services Available through PCLLC

Paul Gangi is an advisory board member for Patouillet Consulting LLC, and former President of the Internet Services Division at Harris Connect.

Gangi’s experience as a new-media pioneer includes an early-career focus on the optimization of email, chat boards and e-commerce on the original online Prodigy Services. During the more recent 15 years of his career, he led the strategic efforts of Harris Connect in migrating the print-directory business to the internet. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Boston College and a Master of Business Administration from Pace University.

Currently Gangi is helping Canterbury School with its capital campaign. Gangi, like a growing number of other board members, is available for higher education consulting through PCLLC. Contact Executive Vice President Mary Patouillet, mary@patouilletconsulting.com, for more information. 

Board Member Highlight: Scott Atwell

Scott Atwell has served as President and CEO of the FSU Alumni Association since 2008, where he has grown the budget by $1 million and expanded recognition programs, board initiatives and communications platforms for the university’s more than 300,000 alumni.  A communicator by training, Atwell launched FSU’s flagship publication, VIRES magazine, as part of the association’s centennial celebration in 2009, and has since added a quarterly e-newsletter called Alumin@tion, featuring a video news recap and variable data based on the recipient’s academic discipline and zip code.  As part of a young alumni initiative, Atwell added a new awards program for graduates under the age of 30, while expanding and enhancing the association’s other recognition programs.  Atwell championed a more transparent process for board selection and voting, resulting in vibrant and influential volunteer leadership for the organization. Atwell holds a degree from the University of Miami and is enrolled in FSU’s graduate program in higher education.

Consulting Services

Patouillet Consulting, LLC helps college, university and nonprofit leaders generate additional support and increase constituent engagement.

The firm, established in 1983, serves as a strategic partner in assisting our clients in the following areas:

Patouillet Consulting, LLC enjoys the involvement and support of a national advisory board comprised of industry leaders. Additional information about the firm is available at www.patouilletconsulting.com.

For further information, 

Workshops & Seminars

Higher Education
  • The Integration of Alumni and Development in Fundraising and Capital Campaigns
  • The Role of the Board Member in Resource Development
  • The Role of the Alumni Association as a Strategic Partner in Advancing the Institution
  • Key Metrics and Dashboards in Development and Alumni
  • Strategies for Diversifying your Revenue Stream in an Era of Funding Cuts
  • International Alumni Relations (new)
  • Keys to Establishing an Effective Social Media Strategy for your Institution (new)

Recent Comments from Patouillet Consulting, LLC Clients

Ms. Cathy Sweet, Vice President, Institutional Advancement, University of Maryland University College (UMUC)

“Looking for consultants who have experience with advancement operations in large, on-line institutions can be a challenge. Dr. Patouillet’s consulting model allowed him, through his impressive advisory board, to gain the insight, knowledge and expertise needed to assist us. Spending a great deal of time understanding the culture of the institution and its unique position in higher education, he and his colleague produced an impressive final report which I have already used extensively with staff and university leadership including the Board.”

Melinda Ashcraft, Chair, Chattahoochee Tech Foundation Board of Trustees

“I appreciate very much your conducting our planning session recently.  I thought it was fantastic and there were a lot of wonderful comments from our trustees at the reception. You did a great job relating to our situation and that made everything very focused and relatable to our new and seasoned trustees.”

Recent Assignments and Presentations

1. Institutional Advancement Review and Campaign Readiness Study

University of Maryland University College (UMUC)

Contact: Cathy Sweet, VP, Institutional

Advancement, cathy.sweet@umuc.edu

2. Strategic Planning

James Madison University Alumni Association

Contact: Ashley Privott, Executive Director, Alumni Association, privotae@jmu.edu

3. The Role of the Board in Fundraising (Workshop)

Chattahoochee Technical Foundation

Contact: Chris Knife, Executive Director, Foundation, cknife@chattahoocheetech.edu

4.  The Role of the University of Central Florida Alumni Association as a Strategic Partner in Advancing the University and Enriching the Lives of Students and Alumni Worldwide (Webinar)

University of Central Florida

Contact: Tom Messina, Executive Director, Alumni Association, tmessina@mail.ucf.edu

5. Executive Coaching

Robert Morris University

Contact: Jay Carson, Sr. VP, Institutional Advancement, carsonj@rmu.edu

Note: The list above is a representative sample of the kind of work the firm has recently completed. Two of Patouillet Consulting’s most requested services are advancement/association reviews and strategic planning. For further information, please contact Mary Patouillet, Executive Vice President at mary@patouilletconsulting.com.

The firm offers a one hour complimentary session to discuss your needs. 

A View from the Belly of the Beast: Lessons Learned from the Penn State Crisis

By Susan Stewart, PCLLC Senior Consultant

Arguably the greatest challenge faced by an academic institution, the Jerry Sandusky arrest has brought negative attention to Penn State University, and left colleges and universities everywhere wondering how they would handle a crisis of similar magnitude. Although the situation is far from over, there are positive lessons to be learned from the Penn State Alumni Association.

A gain in members, revenue and trust

At a time when it may be expected that the country’s largest dues-paying alumni association would lose members and revenue, the Penn State Alumni Association experienced growth.  

Membership increased 2.4 percent in comparison to the year prior to the crisis, dues revenue increased 2.7 percent, and the Sustaining Life Member Program increased 21.9 percent. In addition, recent member surveys reflect a relatively high level of trust for the organization, compared with the university’s governing board and administration.

In the beginning: Listening

“At first there was an onslaught of phone calls and emails from members,” said Roger Williams, D.Ed., Executive Director of the Penn State Alumni Association.

Williams, a three-time alumnus of the university, led the association’s efforts to answer more than 4,000 emails, calls, letters and social-media postings. A strategic hands-off approach to social media encouraged alumni to freely express their opinions.

Williams said that listening to members, including responding to letters and emails, was especially important when the Penn State Board of Trustees was not responding to communication from alumni.

“We needed to be a port of entry for alumni…we needed to hear their comments,” he said.

All alumni communication was immediately forwarded to the Board of Trustees and to Penn State Administration, but Williams said that it unfortunately took three weeks before an actual meeting occurred between University Relations and the Alumni Association. 

A letter to members

In the meanwhile, Williams did not wait to communicate directly with the alumni membership, and he wanted to be straightforward.

“Above all, I wanted to be sure we sustained and protected our own credibility…the trust of our alumni…and we wanted to tell it like it is,” Williams said.

No sugar coating

Considering that many alumni were, and still are, understandably angry and resentful of the negative publicly directed at their school, how did the Penn State Alumni Association accomplish such increases?

The answer to this question lies with the leadership and direction of the Penn State Alumni Association. From the start, the association insisted on honest, open and non-sugar-coated communication, as part of an extensive crisis-management plan. 

Read full article

Big Data is a Big Deal

By Jeff Roedel, Managing Partner, RoedelSuper

“Information by Schlüsselbein2007, on Flickr”

If you haven’t heard about Big Data by now, your marketing and IT pros probably have. For now, it’s still a playground for large companies with deep pockets, but it eventually will scale down to a more accessible version. It behooves us to become acquainted with it now. According to Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive officer, the world creates 5 exabytes of data every two days. That is roughly the same amount created between the dawn of civilization and 2003.

Big Data is an amorphous concept. It encompasses the combined effect of

  • the enormous amount of data being generated and stored around the planet,
  • the speed at which this is happening, and
  • the dispersion of this data across myriad systems and data structures. 

There’s so much information out there, it just seems self-evident that it could be useful – if it can be tamed.

Everyone in Advancement uses data of some kind, whether stored in an alumni or donor database or in your own contact software. And if you need more, you can buy it – everything from age to marital status to income to mail order prescription propensity, if you’re interested in such things. And now, Acxiom can sort a database into 50 segments based on online behavior.  Its new InfoBase-X Social product can provide social network information, such as sites used, number of “friends” and last reported activity.

Read full article

New Senior Consultant

Gretchen Dobson, Ed.D. 

Gretchen Dobson, Ed.D., recently joined Patouillet Consulting LLC., as a Senior Consultant. She is a global leader in the field of alumni relations. Her specialty services include strategic planning, campaign management, volunteer management and special event facilitation for clients. Dobson also provides professional coaching.

She is the author of “Being Global: Making the Case for International Alumni Relations” (CASE Books, 2011).  The Chronicle of Higher Education recognized her as one of the leading innovators in internationalization for her work at Tufts University. Dobson received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Boston College, and her Ed.D. in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania.

For more information about Dobson’s consulting services, contact Executive Vice President Mary Patouillet, mary@patouilletconsulting.com.

New Senior Consultant

Susan Stewart, M.A., APR

2015 pic

Susan Stewart recently joined the staff of Patouillet Consulting LLC, as a Senior Consultant. She provides a variety of communication services for the firm, including writing for the website and e-newsletter.  One of the current newsletter’s feature stories, “View from the Belly of the Beast: Lessons Learned from the Penn State Crisis,” was written by Stewart.

She brings more than 25 years of diverse communications experience to the firm, including management positions at a public relations agency, nonprofit organizations and corporate entities. Her higher-education experience includes the University of Florida (University Relations) and the University of Tennessee Research Foundation.

Stewart received a national CASE award and the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) designation. She has a bachelor’s degree from Marshall University and a master’s degree from The Ohio State University.

 

Big Data is a Big Deal

Information

If you haven’t heard about Big Data by now, your marketing and IT pros probably have. For now, it’s still a playground for large companies with deep pockets, but it eventually will scale down to a more accessible version. It behooves us to become acquainted with it now.

Big Data is an amorphous concept. It encompasses the combined effect of

  • the enormous amount of data being generated and stored around the planet,
  • the speed at which this is happening, and
  • the dispersion of this data across myriad systems and data structures.

There’s so much information out there, it just seems self-evident that it could be useful – if it can be tamed.

Everyone in Advancement uses data of some kind, whether stored in an alumni or donor database or in your own contact software. And if you need more, you can buy it – everything from age to marital status to income to mail order prescription propensity, if you’re interested in such things. And now, Acxiom can sort a database into 50 segments based on online behavior. Its new InfoBase-X Social product can provide social network information, such as sites used, number of “friends” and last reported activity.

How Big is Big?

Big Data goes well beyond this, because it includes everything that everyone is doing and saying that is captured digitally.

It includes opinions about restaurants and dishwasher detergent, conversations at happy hours and baby showers, who one’s friends and ex-friends are, dialogues about the merits of the local school tax levy and efforts to recruit volunteers for animal rescue groups. Every day, more information is created about where people are, where they’re going and what they’re doing. Vacations, birthday parties, church mission trips, Thanksgiving dinners, political rallies and arts festivals – the photos, the posts and the tweets – they’re all out there somewhere on massive databases (hopefully protected by state-of-the-art encryption, or a dragon).

A seminal event in early 2012 was Oracle’s rollout of its Big Data Appliance, the first enterprise-scale, combined hardware-software solution for crunching lots of data from multiple databases and deriving at least semi-meaningful information from them. The predictable effect has been wide-ranging speculation about the direction of Big Data and what its true value is. Just like when we first heard about the Internet and then Email and then Google and then Facebook and then – well, you get the idea.

Larry Dignan, editor of ZDNet, says 2013 will be the year of Big Data’s deployment in enterprise systems, with a “success story” in every vertical (Big Data: How the Revolution May Play Out). Before 2015, he says, consumer-facing companies will be the leading users of Big Data.

A framework for thinking about Big Data in Advancement

And that’s why it matters to Advancement professionals – the use of Big Data by retailers will raise consumer expectations yet again. Those consumers are your prospects.

Clearly, no institution of higher education is prepared to invest in the cutting edge of Big Data, nor should it. Full-scale Big Data is expensive and untested, and more than we need anyway. Instead, let’s keep our eyes open for the right opportunity and be prepared when it arrives – an affordable spinoff could be right around the corner.

The key to being prepared is having a good understanding of what constitutes relevant information and knowing how we intend to use it to engage our constituencies.

First, let’s not waste energy where it’s not needed. We have a group of people we already know well and whose loyalty is assured, as long as we treat them right. The utility of Big Data is in exploring the unknown, not the known. Longtime annual fund donors, alumni association members, major gift prospects, charitable remainder trust donors – let’s continue to build relationships with these people as we always have.

Second, brainstorm what you want to know about those not yet in your inner circle. Consider the possibility that an engineering graduate who has never given may care about something other than engineering. Just because she lives in Chicago doesn’t necessarily mean she’s eager to get together with other Chicago grads. And she hates football. So what else about her could help you build a relationship, if you knew what it was?

And third, inventory the specific things your institution does that need support. It could be research into a particular disease, infrastructure support in developing nations, or systems design for upcoming space missions. Create a process for continuously updating this inventory.

The goal is to match what you know about someone to the relevant activity at your institution and use that to bring him or her into the fold.

Big Data is an IT challenge – and a communication challenge

Always, the issue with data is how to use it. It is essential to develop communication strategies alongside the data analysis and interpretation efforts. Begin now to enlist both in your cause – you are likely to find your communicators even more enthused that you expect, especially if they have new ways to connect to their audience.

Both camps should be intrigued by what will be happening in the retail space during the next few years. Just look at how successfully Amazon and Zappos have used data to build loyal customer followings – and the only data they’re working with so far is the data they gather directly from their own interactions with customers. One can only imagine what they’ll do when they find out that people who download music by Needtobreathe and Sea Wolf also tweet about the local sushi wherever they travel and get regular kudos from their friends for stocking Woodford Reserve bourbon in their tailgate cooler.

Ask your IT gurus and marketing leadership to keep an eye on these developments. It will give them a great start in thinking about how to use Big Data in the service of your institution.

Big Data is a Big Deal

Humans now upload 150 hours of video to YouTube every 2 minutes, send 340 million tweets a day and “like” 2.7 billion Facebook posts and pages every 24 hours.

Short of a cataclysm, these numbers will continue to grow. And new kinds of information we can’t even imagine will enter the swirling Big Data vortex. The train is leaving the station, and there’s no stopping it.

A View from the Belly of the Beast: Lessons Learned from the Penn State Crisis

Arguably the greatest challenge faced by an academic institution, the Jerry Sandusky arrest has brought negative attention to Penn State University, and left colleges and universities everywhere wondering how they would handle a crisis of similar magnitude. Although the situation is far from over, there are positive lessons to be learned from the Penn State Alumni Association.

A gain in members, revenue and trust

At a time when it may be expected that the country’s largest dues-paying alumni association would lose members and revenue, the Penn State Alumni Association experienced growth. In comparison to the year prior to the crisis, membership increased 2.4 percent, dues revenue increased 2.7 percent, and the Sustaining Life Member Program increased 21.9 percent. In addition, recent member surveys reflect a relatively high level of trust for the organization, compared with the university’s governing board and administration.

In the beginning: Listening

Executive Director Roger Williams,  Penn State Alumni Association

Executive Director Roger Williams, Penn State Alumni Association

“At first there was an onslaught of phone calls and emails from members,” said Roger Williams, D.Ed., executive director of the Penn State Alumni Association.

Williams, a three-time alumnus of the university, led the association’s efforts to answer more than 4,000 emails, calls, letters and social-media postings. A strategic hands-off approach to social media encouraged alumni to freely express their opinions. Williams said that listening to members, including responding to letters and emails, was especially important when the Penn State Board of Trustees was not responding to communication from alumni.

“We needed to be a port of entry for alumni…we needed to hear their comments,” he said.

All alumni communication was immediately forwarded to the Board of Trustees and to Penn State Administration, but Williams said that it unfortunately took three weeks before an actual meeting occurred between University Relations and the Alumni Association.

A letter to members

In the meanwhile, Williams did not hesitate to communicate directly with the Alumni membership, and he wanted to be straightforward.

“Above all, I wanted to be sure we sustained and protected our own credibility…the trust of our alumni…and we wanted to tell it like it is,” Williams said.

No sugar coating

Considering that many alumni were, and still are, understandably angry and resentful of the negative publicly directed at their school, how did the Penn State Alumni Association accomplish such increases? The answer to this question lies with the leadership and direction of the Penn State Alumni Association. From the start, the association insisted on honest, open and non-sugar-coated communication, as part of an extensive crisis-management plan.

The crisis-management plan

While responding to members during the first three months of the crisis, Williams and his staff created an extensive long-term crisis management strategy. The ongoing plan includes six areas of focus: (1) Fulfill the Association’s mission and sustain its credibility, (2) Facilitate the expression of alumni opinion, (3) Demonstrate concern for the victims and support solutions to the problem of child sexual abuse, (4) Become part of the larger institutional strategy/response, (5) Generate communications designed to address the issue head on and forthrightly, and (6) Monitor impacts and adjust programs as necessary.

Implementing the plan

The association addressed focus areas No. 1 (sustaining the association’s credibility), No. 2 (facilitating alumni opinion), No. 4 (being part of the larger institutional response) and No. 5 (addressing the issues forthrightly) by listening to members’ concerns and passing along information to Penn State Administration. A variety of additional activities such as town hall meetings expanded these efforts.

The association addressed focus area No. 3 (victim concern) by helping promote a campaign, “Proud to be a Penn Stater.” Spearheaded by an alumnus, the effort raised more than $500,000 for the national organization, Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).

The January-February 2012 edition of the bimonthly “Penn Stater” alumni magazine undoubtedly supported focus area No. 5 (addressing the issue forthrightly) by featuring a dark cover that showed the letters of the title “Penn Stater” as having fallen to the bottom of the cover. Although controversial, Williams does not apologize for the cover or the magazine’s honest contents.

The dark, award-winning ‘The PennStater’ cover (January-February 2012) and the September-October 2012 edition that looks to the future.

The dark, award-winning ‘The PennStater’ cover (January-February 2012) and the September-October 2012 edition that looks to the future.

“We won the Grand Gold Award from CASE for that cover, and it exemplified a kind of no-holds-barred communication we were striving for,” Williams said.

A multitude of other events and activities were included in the strategic multi-month crisis communication plan, and additional efforts are ongoing.

The metrics

Williams is proud of the Penn State Alumni Association’s efforts, of which metrics illustrate success.

The association’s 2012 survey asked members questions including the extent to which they trust individual groups to provide information about Penn State. Fifty-seven percent ranked the Alumni Association in the 8-10 category (0=do not trust; 10= complete trust), while Penn State Administration received 23 percent, and Penn State Trustees just 13 percent.

A 2012 CASE magazine readership survey also showed positive scores for the Alumni Association. Eighty-eight percent ranked “The Penn Stater” as “consistently accurate” or “generally accurate,” a seven-point increase compared with the previous survey’s 81 percent in 2009, and 21 points higher than the national average of 67 percent. For the category of “usually positive only” (the lower the score, the better), the magazine received a five percent, less than half of its previous 12-percent score in 2009, and one-third of the national average of 18 percent.

“I think in many ways it (the crisis) has made us stronger,” Williams said.

 

By Susan Stewart