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Brain Waves Newsletter

August 2020 │ Issue 34

In This Issue

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Liz's Letter

Liz Gross

Hi there,

I struggled with what to say to you this month. August is always a stressful month on campus. But this August … it’s something else entirely. I don’t even know what to compare it to. Everything is different.

But here’s the thing—it’s less risky to develop your differentiation strategy while everything seems different.

Think about how you’ve changed this year. Since the pandemic made me feel safer at home, I swapped my frequent flyer card for a good book, time in my vegetable garden, and reflections on systemic racism. My business changed. I bet your organization is changing, along with your staff, students, prospects, and alumni. We’re all different than we were at the dawn of 2020, even if our mission and vision remains the same.

When “normal” returns—whenever that may be—individuals and organizations will remain changed. There’s no reset switch for us to flip. So the way we work needs to change. The way we lead must change. The way we achieve our mission and vision must reflect the forever altered context we’re operating in.

Who will tell us how? Our stakeholders—employees, students, alumni, fans. They will tell us how they’ve changed, and how our organizations, policies, and services must change to keep pace. They will tell us if we listen.

Two people having a  socially-distanced conversation

While most of us are paying attention to the very important things that have to be accomplished in August and September, who is listening to inform our post-pandemic, racially just leadership and strategy?

When everything is different, the last thing we need is a steady stream of sameness. Don’t just watch the headlines to see what others do and attempt to emulate it. Discern what’s right for you and your community, by listening. Differentiate yourself and your institution while different is the standard state of affairs.

Hang in there. Lead boldly. Listen closely. And stay safe.

Liz Gross Signature

Strategies to Keep a Pulse on Your Community

The coming academic year is stacking up to be as unpredictable as the past six months. Your campus and communications teams are drowning in ever-shifting plans, constantly providing information to your community. We’re clearly past the time for short-term fixes and need to focus on long-term strategy. 

By now you’ve most likely decided what you’re doing for fall and communicated to your faculty, staff, and students. Do you know what they think of your plan and how that’s impacting enrollment decisions and overall campus reputation? If not, there’s never been a better time to monitor your campus’s online conversation. If you’re using software to do your own listening, it’s a good start, but we know software alone misses critical parts of the conversation. Whereas software paired with a human analyst captures more nuanced conversation to give you the whole story.

Analyst and Strategist collaborating at Campus Sonar

When students struggle with a decision, they turn to their peers. “Someone who looks like me” is the third-most trusted source of information, ahead of journalists, government officials, and a company spokesperson. Students turn to social media and forums to share their questions, concerns, and celebrations and you need to be right there listening to them. This is where we can help.

We have a lot of ways you can listen to your conversation, but there are two that we think are especially useful in the current environment. One is Crisis and Event Monitoring—24/7 monitoring of your online conversation around a specific time period. It’s a great way to start, in particular if you have a specific topic or event in mind to track. 

Another option is a Strategic Partnership, which provides ongoing crisis and event monitoring in addition to an audit, customized research, and quarterly and weekly insights from a Campus Sonar Strategist. It’s a long-term commitment to understanding online conversation about your campus to make data-informed decisions in a time of ongoing change.

We’ve all seen the abundance of data out there—it's changing rapidly and everything we see indicates the changes are far from over. So if you have your plan in place for the next month, few months, six months … does it include listening to your online conversation to see how your communities respond to that plan? Does it include strategies for reacting to those responses? If not, we can help lighten the load of listening. 

Content We're Consuming

What Sonarians are reading, watching, and listening to this month.

Behind the Screen of a Social Media Manager—Josie Ahlquist, Tony Dobies, and Katy Spencer Johnson contribute to a blog post about the behind-the-scenes experiences of higher ed social media managers, including tools and tips you can use to prioritize your wellness and strengthen your resilience. 

Josie and the Podcast—The new season kicks off with “A Blueprint for Building Campus Digital Communities,” a shorty episode about institutions succeeding at digital community building.

July National Student Survey—Wave 3 of SimpsonScarborough’s National Student Survey is about what incoming freshman and current students think of COVID-19, and how their opinions have changed since March and April.

What’s the Likely Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Ed?—This Inside Higher Ed article examines evidence from the Understanding America Survey about what higher ed can expect in the short- and long-term from COVID-19.

Free educational resources to level up your social listening

Brain Waves Blog Posts

This month we introduced you to Sarah, wrote about the importance of humans in query writing, and explained how we conduct social listening research. Find these posts and many more on our blog.

Landing Pages_BlogPosts-1

See Campus Sonar (through the screen)

We hope to see you virtually yet this year at an upcoming event. Here's what's coming up!

Tell Us What You Think

Brain Waves newsletter is for you—help us shape it. Tell us what you think, send ideas, and let us know what would help you do your job better at We want to know!

Someone throwing a paper airplane to a Sonarian

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