Staff Editorial: Reaching out

In the past six months, the Office of Media Relations has taken up a mantra of “the more publicity, the better” and changed its mindset and approach toward media outlets. Instead of simply waiting to give comment on events or issues, the school has stepped up its efforts in actively promoting GW in various ways. This change is a positive move for the Office of External Relations, but it’s important the school remember that the best way to fix a wall is not simply to repaint it.

There is a subtle but substantial shift in the way that universities across the country handle external affairs. More and more universities have now adopted a proactive strategy when dealing with the media and maintaining a public image. In a tangible sense, this means that the Office of Media Relations has been contacting more media outlets about more events and initiatives, and recommending GW professors as experts on pertinent issues.

That the University has chosen to revamp the way it handles much of its publicity is a good development. It will mean that GW’s name will be in more publications and will aid the development of GW as a marketable brand. In addition, more professors will benefit by having their names in print and their expertise shared. While the old model of more event-planning to news was not necessarily detrimental, it is not a strategy that would survive in the Web 2.0 world.

The University will benefit from the capabilities of new media, as well as from having a staff that knows how to utilize that media to connect with current students, potential applicants, alumni and staff. However, with new powers come new responsibilities. While there is not much danger in over publicizing the University, there is a risk of giving GW the kind of publicity it neither needs nor deserves. For example, with 17 GW-run Twitter feeds, it will become increasingly difficult to control the University’s message. The University can be hurt by feeds that contradict each other, report inaccurate information, or become overly casual with followers.

All of these advances hold potential for the University’s image. On the other hand, image is not reality. With all of the focus on message, GW should remember that the best way to deal with a problem is not to spin it to your benefit, but rather to actually address the issue at hand.

It’s promising that the Office of Media Relations has taken on a new strategy. Promoting GW as the place to be is great. Yet, making GW look great will be much easier if the school is actively addressing major problems. After all, if you are going to invite everybody over to a party, you better make sure the house is clean when they get there.

Readers can visit the Forum to comment on this editorial.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.