Rework for Higher Ed

I read this book in a few hours because I really appreciated the way it was arranged and view it more as a reference book. The lessons it contains were instructive and while they’re applicable to a variety of settings, industries and institutions; the lessons contained for higher ed were plentiful.

Among them were:

Build an audience. So much of what we write is boilerplate. Rather than engage people or even challenge them, we take the easy way out writing institutional-ese that doesn’t seem to connect with the people taking the time to know our organization. What a shame.

Own your bad news. Transparency is not the strong suit of many organizations, because they just don’t know how to handle spreading their own bad news. There’s a way to ensure that people know what you’re trying to do, why and how you’re trying to do it. The bottom line is, if you’re honest with people they’re more likely to understand and if you break the story is deflates a lot of the air from it and gives you the opportunity to play offense rather than just defense.

Press releases are spam. Spreading the good news about things happening within your walls isn’t a nuisance. But finding the gems requires the sort of work that we’re often slow to do, because there’s never enough time, there aren’t enough people to find them and folks don’t want to talk. So we skim for the stuff at the top rather than digging deep for the oil that lies beneath. We can do better to tell our story and share our cultures and it begins with the stories we choose to share.

There were so many stories in the book that I found to be useful lessons worth keeping in mind. Things I’ve learned from my own experiences, messages I’ve preached on my own before reading the book; as well as things I otherwise have trouble with and need reminders of.

We can streamline how we go about our business and create a more nimble and effective workplace that achieves our goals even better than we set them out on paper but it has to start with those empowered to make those changes. 

Knowing where you’re going

I think I knew this summer would be mentally exhausting. But I underestimated to the extent this would happen. I expected to write more and read more, but those things take a lot of discipline from me…more the writing than the reading. I’ve blazed through books, but I’ve found it almost impossible to focus on writing anything substantive. 

I have no idea what any of this means, but I think I’m probably annoyed by how much energy I’m putting into things that I can’t really see any long-term benefit to. Maybe the good news is, this summer has put on display my work ethic. I have a great deal of confidence in my abilities when the circumstances are tailored for me to succeed.

In other words, I get into a role where I can do great things and where I’m supported to this end. I’ve seen both sides of this, but I’ve never been able to articulate this before. Some roles are tailor made for you to succeed, but success is elusive when you’re not aware of your strengths or how to better improve on the areas where you’re not as strong. 

I feel like going forward, there are lessons that will emerge that I’ve yet to make sense of at this very moment.

Amongst the crowd

Over the past year, I’ve learned a lot more teaching social web strategy and discussing web tools with people whose lives aren’t consumed with it than I ever did working in the field directly. Sometimes, you have to engage with your consumers and your audience and I’ve found this extremely helpful.

One of the things I remember talking about a lot last year from teaching my class to consulting to helping the SocialWyo folks plan their conference was the fact that you can have 50,000 foot discussions about this nebulous social media creature and go nowhere. Ordinary people with lives and work and jobs might use Facebook and maybe they’ve created a Twitter account. But no one in their everyday lives has made any of these tools really relevant to them in a manner that they can understand the real origins of web utility; as opposed to a telephone or radio or something like that.

I’ve enjoy conversations that force me to tone down the jargon, avoid the cliches and spend more time talking about the meat and potatoes of the topic without powerpoint slides or a backchannel. I think I’ve thrived as a strategist over the years precisely because so much of my circle was comprised of savvy people who are digital outsiders; coupled with a professional circle through the web of smart people who have their thumbs on what’s going on and keep me on top of things.