|| Advancement Office
|| Advancement Office
|| President's Cabinet
|Date of Approval:
|| December 14, 2011
|Date of Last Revision:
|| November 1, 2011
|Next Review Date:
Internal and external communications at Heritage University should provide consistent and accurate information and messages. The Advancement Office is responsible for the process and the development of the University’s key messages to assure that all communications produced by Heritage and its departments are consistent with the mission and communications/marketing plan. This is especially essential with dealing with members of the news media.
Reason for Policy/Purpose
Effective communications with the media are critical to Heritage University’s ability to carry out its mission and promote continued public support for the university. Effective media relations best serve the university by:
- informing the public of what we can do for them
- promoting the university's achievements, activities and events of significance
- expanding the general visibility of the university
- ensuring that accurate information is conveyed to the public regarding incidents and issues of a controversial and/or sensitive nature.
Who Needs to Know this Policy
Entire campus community
Website Address for this Policy
For more information about this policy, please contact the Communications Officer at 509-865-8588 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Communications Office is part of the Advancement Office and is located in the Hitchcock Building on the Toppenish campus.
Media: Any news outlet that distributes information for public consumption. This can include television or radio broadcasters, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, or online entities such as bloggers or internet news stations.
The communications officer serves as the primary media liaison and official university spokesperson. He/she is responsible for the writing, approval and distribution of all media releases and conveys the official university position on issues of university-wide impact or significance or situations that are of a particularly controversial or sensitive nature. Inquiries from the media about such issues should be referred to the communications officer.
Depending on the specific circumstances, the president, vice president for Advancement or the communications officer may designate another university administrator to serve as spokesperson on a particular issue.
In cases of critical significance to the university, the communications officer will work with other university officials to develop a "position paper" to detail the known facts of the situation and summarize the university's position.
In the event of a crisis or emergency situation, the communications officer will handle all contacts with the media, and will coordinate the information flow from the university to the public. In such situations, all campus departments should refer calls from the media to University Communications.
Procedures for Dealing with the Media
Members of the faculty and staff are free to respond to requests from the media regarding their scholarship, teaching or professional expertise. In such cases, the communications officer should be notified as soon as possible to inform him/her of the contact. Such notification can be particularly important if follow-up inquiries are made with other university personnel to ensure a coordinated, consistent university response. Media inquiries should be referred to the communications officer if they involve issues with university-wide significance and/or are of a controversial or sensitive nature.
The communications officer promotes the university through press releases regarding special accomplishments, events and activities, programs and plans. All releases intended for off-campus or external audiences should be routed through the appropriate media specialist.
Since positive media solicitation is an integral element of the university's communications program, any ideas for articles or pieces that would positively portray the university, its work or its community should also be directed to the communications officer. In a similar manner the communications officer should be notified about negative occurrences that are likely to rise to the level of a news story.
Guidelines for communicating with the media when the issue is non-controversial and limited to the faculty/staff member's area of expertise:
- Obtain the name of the person calling, the media organization and, if available, the anticipated time of release of information in print or broadcast. This information should be included when the notification is made to the communications officer.
- The best approach with the media is to be prompt, helpful and honest. All contacts from the media should be returned as soon as possible, in deference to reporters' deadlines. At the most, a call should be returned within a half-day. If that is not possible, an alternate employee (if appropriate) or the communications officer should be asked to handle the call.
- Make sure you understand each question from the media before answering. If you cannot answer the question, or are uncomfortable providing a response, take the reporter's number and advise him/her that someone who can provide the information will contact him/her as soon as possible. Then follow-up by contacting the communications officer.
- Do not offer speculations or gossip. Do not answer a reporter's question with "no comment." Do not be condescending or underestimate the reporter's intelligence, but make sure the reporter understands your responses. Provide your phone number and/or e-mail address for follow-up questions.
- Remember that in responding to the media, you can be seen as representing and speaking for the university. Personal opinions should be clearly and carefully identified as such.
- Issues that should not be discussed with reporters are 1) legal issues, 2) personnel issues, 3) questions that involve university integrity, such as ethics or issues that may result in harm to others, or 4) a campus crisis or emergency. Refer all such inquiries to the communications officer.
- Any media inquiries that involve information about specific students should be directed to the communications officer. Such inquiries will be handled in strict compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA.) This federal law protects the confidentiality of a student's education record. Information that may be given includes information found in a directory: the student's full name, local address and phone number, dates of attendance and degrees, honors and certificates received, class level (e.g. freshman), and academic major(s). Grades may only be provided to the media if a student wishes to release the information in connection with an award or scholarship.
Any media inquiries regarding Heritage University faculty or staff should be referred to the communications officer or human resources director. Only public information may be provided without the employee's written approval. Public information is the following: verification of employment, name of job title/position, full or part-time status, name of department, department address and phone number, employment starting date.
Related Policies and Resources
For more information on University messaging and style, consult the Heritage University Style Guide.
Dealing with the News Media
Approved on 11/1/2012