Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

The demands on a college or university’s communications team are often daunting. Many comms pros are asked to perform duties that may go beyond traditional communications tasks. It goes without saying, of course, the responsibilities will vary from institution to institution. The communications needs at a small liberal arts college will likely vary greatly from those of a large research university, which will probably differ from the needs of an arts college or conservatory. In the end, the vast majority of communications folks in this field are tireless workers and love the higher ed space.

Often communications teams at a college or university work with outside PR firms. Figuring out the most effective way of working together is an important objective for all. Observing a few of the basic rules of the road makes an efficient, collaborative working relationship achievable. Here are three important guidelines to observe whether you’re in-house or an outside consultant.

DEFINE EXPECTATIONS

Before they begin working together, an in-house team and an outside consultant must set expectations. What are the in-house team’s areas of comfort and expertise? What are the anticipated turnaround times for deliverables? For what tasks might the outside team be better suited? What will be the protocol for deliverables review? Answers to these and several other questions are vital before the work begins. All members on both teams should be crystal clear about who should be doing what. Each team’s leader should be certain to talk with their team members to be sure everyone understands their roles.

TEAM LEADERS

Few things complicate working with outside consultants more than unclear chains of command. Both groups need to know who is ultimately responsible for the other team. That said, there will naturally be high-level interaction with team members other than the team lead. It is wise, however, to CC team leaders on all communication and strategizing to keep them updated. Accordingly, both team leaders should always stay abreast of the projects their team is working on.

COMMUNICATE TO COLLABORATE

Communication is the key to collaboration. As an outside consultant, be sure to keep the client up to date on all your efforts. On thematically driven projects where artwork or design is prominent, provide frequent updates to the in-house team. Getting too far along on a theme or artistic path that has not been approved can be a big mistake.

Likewise, on artwork / design intensive projects, the in-house team should be as descriptive as possible. As well, visual examples help a great deal when trying to convey artistic thoughts and ideas. Making every effort to ensure the consultant team has a good understanding of the desired creative direction helps to avoid miscommunication and/or misinterpretation. This is beneficial for both teams, the project and the working relationship overall.

With the list of responsibilities for college and university communications teams expanding every day, many schools support their communications staff with outside help. More often than not, it proves quite beneficial for the in-house comms team. Observing a few fundamental guidelines ensures the working relationship between the in-house and consultant teams is the most efficient and productive it can be.