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Board Professionals' Roles in Crisis Communications

It was nice to present to and be among board professionals on Sunday at the Association of Governing Boards’ national conference.  I remember attending that very conference as assistant secretary to the University of Colorado System– I loved having exposure to people with roles similar to mine who understood the challenges and benefits of staffing a board.  That position can sometimes feel lonely and it was nice to talk to peers about their experiences.
During the presentation with Inside Higher Ed’s Paul Fain, I stressed that board professionals have a necessary role in proactive and crisis communications for their institutions.  They may not be the first brought into the room to assist with messaging and response, but they have access to critical information and resources that are invaluable to their peers.
For example, board professionals know the personalities and communications preferences for individual board members.  In watching the roll out of higher education crises over the previous year, the strength of the administration and board’s communications served as a key indicator of how well the institution would weather their storm.
So, what is the board professional’s duty?  They need to ensure they are making their knowledge and their relationships known to their communications peers including their understanding of the institution’s bylaws and policies.  If they aren’t sure know, they need to ask for clarification on if and when they will be included in drafting communications.  If there is not yet a role for them currently, it is their responsibility to advocate for one.
We no longer have the luxury of assuming crisis communications is performed by others—in today’s world we need to ask how we can be a part of the solution.