Admittedly, I am a huge college football fan (Roll Tide). For me, and many other fans, this week has included time spent following the happenings at SEC Media Days, where the conference commissioner, head coaches and star players interact with the media to talk up their team’s news, accomplishments and goals for the upcoming season as well as address off-season controversies.
 
As I watched the conference commissioner, coaches and players over the past three days walk through their talking points on a variety of topics—mainly focused on what they are doing well and where they need to improve—it made me think about how interesting it would be to watch an academic version of the same spectacle.
 
Imagine it, if you will—provosts, communications officers and deans getting together for a few days in a hotel conference room to take their turn to talk about where their respective institutions are performing well and on what areas they need to improve. I’m sure you could make a game out the number of times the phrases “academic quality” and “retention rates” are uttered.
 
It would be fascinating to watch, mainly just to see if the provosts would engage in the same veiled backhanded compliments and barbs about their peer competitors—and to see what questions higher education beat reporters could come up with for a situation like this.
 
Although that will assuredly never happen, as communications professionals part of the job is to always be prepared to highlight the areas in which your institution excels while being honest about what your weak points are (and how you’re working to improve). If you don’t know, or haven’t yet taken the time, to sit down with your team to talk through both the good and bad, you should.
 
An honest assessment of your “team” and the goals you have for your institution can shed light on what programs to highlight in media outreach and thought leadership development, or where you need to spend time remedying existing public opinion.
 
You might not ever get the chance to stand in front of a room full of reporters and cameras following your “competition” like Nick Saban did this afternoon, but knowing your strengths and weaknesses—and more importantly how to communicate about each—will be extremely beneficial as you work to advance your institution.