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May 20, 2013

Enhancements to internal communications planned following audit

By Donna Fowler

A recent audit of MSU Denver’s internal communications has pointed to ways that faculty and staff communications can be enhanced at the University.

“A key reason for the audit was that the 2010 Campus Climate Survey results showed the need for greater cross-functional communications,” says Cathy Lucas, associate to the president for marketing and communications/chief of staff. “It will help us fine-tune what we’re doing to meet faculty and staff needs and expectations.”

“In addition, internal and external communications play a vital role in the implementation of the Strategic Plan. The audit will inform how our efforts can better support the plan’s goals,” Lucas says.

Strategic communications firm GBSM investigated ways that internal communications could be enhanced with existing resources. The firm conducted a survey, reviewed existing communications, researched peer institutions and conducted 25 internal interviews, mainly with representatives of the University’s constituent groups.

The internal audit presented to the President’s Cabinet on May 6, pointed to several internal communication issues. Among them:

  • The timeliness and content of @MSU Denver;
  • The use of technology to create more dialogue among faculty, staff and senior leadership;
  • Ensuring Listserv policies enhance opportunities to communicate;
  • Structuring the President’s Cabinet to allow for substantive discussion; and
  • Developing strategies for expanding communications to alumni, donors, the MSU Denver Foundation and students as key internal audiences.

@MSU Denver

The survey showed that 86 percent of the 447 respondents consider @MSU Denver their primary source of news and information. However, they would like the reporting to be timelier and more coverage of academic policy and campus policy.

In response, @MSU Denver will start publishing daily on June 3 and over the summer will roll out the following features:

  • Standing column for senior leadership;
  • President’s Cabinet news;
  • Policy updates;
  • Reader comments section;
  • Visual redesign; and
  • An events section that will replace the weekly Events @MSU Denver publication.

 Global email/Listserv policy

The audit also showed that the new procedure for sending global emails to all of the “all-employee” lyris lists that was announced in November resulted in concern that faculty and staff could no longer communicate with their peers. While the policy regarding employee group emails (i.e. an administrator can email to the all-administrator list) did not change, the new process resulted in confusion, the audit found.

Since the announcement of the new procedure, a committee has been developing a global email policy that will go before the President’s Cabinet for approval in June and will be communicated in @MSU Denver and through meetings with constituent groups.

“A lot of work has gone into making a clear and concise policy that will reduce the number of emails employees are getting that are not high-level University business or do not pertain to them while maintaining alternative communication methods,” Lucas says.


GBSM recommended that existing technology be used to create more dialogue, such as a readers’ comments section in @MSU Denver, and technology enhancements such as:

  • Improve content and navigation of the University’s web presence;
  • Responsive technology for smart phones and tablets;
  • The development of micro sites for key audiences; and
  • A content storehouse of stories.

“The creation of the Newsroom that was launched in early April was a major step toward our ability to expand the audiences for all the great MSU Denver stories that we have to tell,” says Lucas.

Policy information

An initiative to create a policy website has been under way since early last fall. The site will allow for easier access and updating. @MSU Denver will also emphasize the announcement of new policies or changes in existing policy.

Communication to alumni

GBSM recommends that a strategy that integrates alumni as a key internal audience into overall communications be developed. This would lead to greater community understanding of the vision for the institution as well as additional community ambassadors, they said.

Communication to students 

While the GBSM auditors were asked to focus only on faculty and staff communications, they reported that student communication is a challenge campus-wide. “GBSM reported that the topic of student communication came up in every one-on-one interview they conducted,” says Lucas.

They pointed out that email, which is the official form of University communication, is not preferred by younger students and they have increasingly low tolerance for older forms of technology. At the same time, most departments believe they lack both the expertise and resources to effectively communicate with students through technology.

GBSM recommended that MSU Denver research how its peer institutions have solved some of the challenges with student communications and should make any technological investments that are necessary.

“This is something we’re exploring as a University with several departments and hope to have a more streamlined process for student communication in place in spring 2014,” adds Lucas.

Faculty and staff who have ideas on how to better communicate to MSU Denver’s internal audiences should send them to @msudenver.


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Media Contact:

Tim Carroll, APR
Assistant Director of Media Relations

Cathy Lucas, APR
Associate to the President for Marketing and Communications, 
Chief of Staff 

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