Communications Peer Perspectives Part 2

In the first part of this series, U of M internal communications professionals shared how to set the appropriate tone that has the ability to shift as a crisis evolves. This post shares insights on bringing the right strategy forward to support the information delivered by leaders, yet acknowledging the needs of staff and faculty.

Balancing audience needs

“Our campus is very tight-knit; being apart is hard for us. We've tried to utilize our messages to create a sense of togetherness while also providing necessary updates as quickly as possible with a personal touch,” says Jenna Ray, senior communications specialist for the University of Minnesota Morris.

When communicating with the Morris campus, communications professionals there use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs—with a bit of internal communications nuance—to flow information from the top down and then back up to the top, ensuring leaders hear back from the campus community. “It's a balance of making sure we do our best to address concerns around physiological needs and safety before moving onto connection and actualization, using good news and success stories as a regular feature to end our chancellor updates,” Ray says.

“We adopted a multi-prong communications strategy for international students and scholars along with hiring departments and the broader U of M community. This included creating dedicated web pages, regular email updates, video messages from the dean and assistant dean, and webinars to provide updates,” says Sandra Boone, a communications specialist in the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance and International Student and Scholar Services.

Finding what’s important

“I think the most important message for our staff, and the broader research community, is relaying the notion that the University is an important part of responding to the pandemic as well as other crises that have occurred during this same timeframe,” say Dan Gilchrist, Erin Dennis, and Kevin Coss in the Office of the Vice President for Research. “We try to keep [the vice president for research] front and center in communicating about issues that affect researchers systemwide.”

Each member of our campus community continues to adjust to the constant changes we are experiencing. Identifying the safety, operational, and psychological needs of audiences can build on employee and student engagement, even in a time of crisis. The desire to find ways to connect, work collaboratively and trust the decisions being made can be found within the framework of each message we send or meeting we hold in this moment.

“We strive to call to mind our department's mission to help remind people of why they're doing what they do and the meaning behind it and its impact,” says Courtney Huber, senior communications specialist in the Medical School's Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.

Do you or your team have effective internal communications techniques to share? Submit your responses in this quick survey and watch for additional posts.

Check out these additional resources for supporting employees during a crisis: “Support for Employees During Crisis” and “Keep Your Remote Meetings Engaging.”

Contact Christie Wells or Meagan Pierluissi for internal communications support at