Internal communications strategy

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Internal communications strategy

University of the Arts London

    Internal communications strategy and action plan

    September 2007

A. Background

    Internal communications have been identified as a key institutional priority. Supported by the University Management Team, the need for improvements in this area has been highlighted by a range of University-wide groups and initiatives, including the Medium Term Strategy 2005 2010, Communications

    Strategy Group (CSG), Mock QAA in 2007, Staff Attitude Survey 2006 and the Internal Student Survey 2007.

    In July 2007, members of the University-wide Communications Strategy Group, along with the Rector, additional staff and students spent an away day considering the current status of internal communications at the University, challenges and barriers to success, suggesting improvements and new approaches and prioritising an action plan for future internal communications. Findings from a review of internal communications at other UK HEIs and arts institutions was also considered.

    In developing the action plan, the Away Day group also reviewed the purpose of internal communications, principles of best practice, relevant challenges at the University and the current status of the University’s internal communications.

B. Purpose of internal communications

    Effective and efficient internal communications are vital to all organisations. At University of the Arts London they are essential to:

    ; Provide staff and students with a clear understanding of the

    University’s mission, objectives and values

    ; Recognise and empower staff and students, in their position at the

    heart of the University

    ; Provide staff and students with the information and resources needed

    to fully participate during their time at the University

    ; Promote and enhance a positive sense of community across the

    University, and help to engage staff and students in the life of the


    ; Ensure a positive student experience and enhance student retention by

    providing improved information on general University and College

    initiatives, particularly course management

    ; Maintain a life-long relationship with former students and staff

    ; Create a more successful organisation and encourage more efficient

    use of resources

    ; Improve perceptions and highlight and support organisational change

    ; Celebrate successes, achievements and service to ensure staff and

    students feel valued.

    C. Principles of best practice

    The University’s internal communications should be based on the following

    principles of best practice:

    ; Staff and students are the heart of the University. They are the most

    effective communicators about the mission, aims and values of the


    ; Internal communications must be championed by leadership to be


; Good communications are everyone’s responsibility

    ; Implementing best practice in communications is the responsibility of

    every department of the University

    ; Communications must work horizontally, bottom-up and top-down

    ; Communications must be two-way; encouraging dialogue, listening and

    feedback, and not just informing

    ; The University should support and encourage different means of

    communication appropriate to the needs of staff and students

    ; All communications should be based on a culture of respect

    ; Effective internal communications are the foundation of good external


    ; All communications should be based on best practice and aspire for

    excellence in their application

    ; Communications must be relevant, clear, consistent and accessible to


    ; All communications should be planned and timely

    ; The University should ensure cost effective and efficient use of


    D. Challenges to internal communications at University of the Arts London

    The University faces many challenges to efficient internal communications. These range from those which can be resolved by a simple management decision or administrative effort; to those which arise from the University’s structure and geographical location, which are more difficult to resolve but which any strategy must consider.

Primary challenges have been identified as follows:

    ; The University is a complex, fast moving institution and must keep

    pace with the needs of staff and students, as well as our competitors

    ; Staff and students work, study and teach in a diverse range of working

    environments, eg studios, offices, workshops

    ; Staff and students have differing working practices and hours eg

    administrative staff, academic staff, facilities staff, ArtsCom / Language

    Centre staff, term time only staff, part time, full time, significant

    proportion of associate lecturers. Communication channels must take

    this diversity into account and be flexible and accessible to all

    ; Over-reliance on e-communications within a weak IT&T infrastructure.

    Staff and students have varying access or need to access computers

    and varying IT literacy

    ; No mandatory use of University / College email for staff and students

    ; The University’s physical location across 20+ sites in London

    ; There is little culture of promoting good practice in communications

    across the University. Staff and students do not always take

    responsibility for their role in internal communications or actively seek


    ; The spirit of ‘One University’ is growing, yet within the University’s

    complex structure, staff and students still have widely varying loyalties

    and allegiances, eg University, College, School, department, subject


    ; An emphasis on top down communications, with limited opportunities

    for two-communication, informal communications, dialogue and


    ; Inconsistency in key messages and communication channels

    ; Lack of transparency about staff roles and responsibilities across the


    ; An inconsistent front-of-house experience across the University estate,

    including front-of-house, switchboard

    ; A contemporary culture of over-communication in which we are all

    bombarded with unsolicited communication in our everyday lives.

E. Current status of internal communications

    In recent years, the University has seen considerable success in some areas of internal communications. The CSG has identified the importance of building upon existing successes, or potential successes, rather than attempting to build entirely new structures. Therefore an important element of this strategy is to recognise existing practices across the University that can be continued and developed for the future.

    Current successes and developments have been identified by CSG as follows:


    ; University web environment and url

    ; Existing intranet and its scope for development

    ; Blackboard

    ; Bi-weekly all staff e-briefing

    ; Plasma screens

    ; University brand and identity

    ; University clash diary


    ; The development and expansion of LCC News to Arts London News

    ; The Cut (LCF staff newsletter)

    ; Less Common More Sense (Students’ Union magazine)

    ; Rector’s Report to Governors

    ; University brand and identity


    ; College staff briefings

    ; Staff development weeks

    ; Annual all staff party

    ; Pathfinding week

    ; Buddying scheme

     Managerial ‘open door’ policy ;

    ; Staff away days (in teams / departments)

Estate / environment

    ; The Hub at Davies Street

    ; Enhanced front of house at Davies Street and Camberwell

    ; Single sites for Chelsea and London College of Communication.

F. Action plan

    The Communications Strategy Group endorses best practice that there is no one fix-all to effective internal communications. A mix of communication channels must be used which are appropriate to the different audiences and messages.

    The internal communications action plan outlines priorities for the forthcoming year which, with the appropriate leadership support and endorsement, could significantly enhance the University’s internal communications culture and channels.

    Linda Drew, Dean of Academic Development, Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon, Chair of Communications Strategy Group

    Emma Dixon, Head of Communications, Department of Communications & Development

September 2007

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