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Meeting People Where They Are

Over the past 20 years, when I haven’t been working in higher education, I’ve worked in government, at both the state and federal levels. So I’m always pretty excited for the State of the Union—I love the pomp and circumstance, I love good rhetoric, and I love watching the subsequent roadshow, when the president travels to sell his ideas to the public.
The Obama administration has had the advantage of being in office during an explosion in the ways we receive share and receive information, so it’s not surprising that they’ve embraced these new technologies and media to leverage the themes and initiatives laid out in the president’s speech. In many ways, higher education has been on the same trajectory, rapidly learning about and incorporating new tools to help give greater impact to our communications.
This post on Medium, written by White House Chief Digital Officer Jason Goldman, gives a sneak preview of how the administration is approaching this year’s State of the Union, which will take place tomorrow night, Jan. 12. Goldman writes that their strategy is built on the foundation of “meeting people where they are.” For the White House, this means providing a variety of ways for people to see the speech live or on-demand, on the platform of their choice, in the way that conforms to “shifting assumptions about the type of experience we’ll have on each.”
This approach is one higher education communicators should adopt as our own, whether we’re considering messages about complex issues like enrollment or budgeting or planning for a major event like a presidential announcement or commencement. It’s not enough anymore to just know who our audiences are—we need to meet them where they tell us they are, be it on email, our institutional websites, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or what ever comes next (Peach, anyone?). And we need to be sure that our messages and our content meet their expectations about how they’ll be engaged on those platforms in order to make sure we’re making the most of our opportunities to communicate important information to them or bring them into milestone events in the lives of our institutions.
I’ll definitely be watching the State of the Union tomorrow night (see President Obama’s teaser video here) and hope you will be, too, with an eye toward other lessons we might apply to our work in higher education.