Universities have historically been trusted institutions and pillars in the communities they call home. But according to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, we are in the midst of a global crisis of trust in institutions ranging from governments and media to businesses and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). With a prevailing public sentiment of mistrust, attracting students and funding becomes more difficult. Here are five things universities can do now to build and retain the trust of your many stakeholders, from prospective students and faculty to alumni, donors and legislators.
1. Embrace Transparency
There’s nothing quite as refreshing as honesty. And for a university, honesty comes in many forms, including an accurate accounting of your faculty’s accomplishments and contributions to student success, how faculty are advancing their field of study, and their service to the community and the university.
It’s easy to point to rock-star faculty’s successes, but don’t just rely on the easy stories. With current and complete faculty activity data, you can surface accurate, authentic and often hidden examples of substantive contributions to scholarship and the community. You can also demonstrate faculty qualifications and how faculty activities influence student outcomes.
Don’t limit this information to accreditors; sharing it widely allows you to both celebrate successes and identify areas for improvement—then show what you’re doing to move the needle.
2. Share Stories of Impact
Share the impact of your faculty’s work with specific stories of the individuals and communities they touch. At many universities, schools of business and agriculture take the lead on reporting impact, as it’s required for accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and is part of the mandate for land-grant institutions.
Faculty activity data can be used to surface the impact of faculty’s teaching, research and service. Use that information to craft authentic, accurate stories of how your university’s work is making a difference in your community and the world. Learn more about how Purdue University measures impact and shares those stories here, how the University of St. Thomas in Houston’s Cameron School of Business defines and measures impact here, and how Radford University demonstrates faculty impact on student success here.
3. Embody Your Ideals
Mission statements and strategic plans map out the ideals of your institution; the daily activities on your campus demonstrate your commitment to those stated ideals. It’s easy to point to an award or grant when received, but are you telling the story in real time?
Faculty’s activities are a window into the daily efforts made across your institution to live up to your stated priorities. They demonstrate the individual efforts and accomplishments that add up to achieving your mission. Use activity data to capture moments as they happen and share works in progress.
4. Raise Your Community Profile
Navigate the current post-trust landscape by amplifying the voices of employees rather than speaking as a monolith. For universities, that means placing faculty front and center in your relationship with your local community. Use activity data to highlight faculty doing work that’s relevant and useful to your municipality, county and state as well as work that benefits people across the globe.
Edelman’s research discovered that people find an organization’s social media more trustworthy than their advertising. Your website and ads remain valuable, but your authentic stories, shared on social media, may have more credibility with prospective students, faculty and donors. Many universities now share a wide range of stories on social media, from student profiles to progress on strategic initiatives such as sustainability and experiential learning.
Your faculty activity data is a rich well of material for your university’s unique accomplishments and impacts. Tap your professors who demonstrate innovative teaching practices for student stories or look for faculty serving a campus sustainability program to get a window into a specific campus initiative.
Your authentic voice matters, so keep the social in social media—encourage and sustain conversations that reveal your university’s true character.
Is your university looking for fresh ways to tell your stories to prospective students and faculty as well as donors and legislators? Contact us for a consultation on how faculty activity reporting software can help.