Academic journal article College and University

New Technologies and Communications Tools

Academic journal article College and University

New Technologies and Communications Tools

Article excerpt

Depending on one's level of involvement with or general awareness of technology, mileage on the term "new" may vary. For that matter, the time from this article's submission to its publication may influence the "newness" of some topics discussed here. That would serve to illustrate both the rapidly evolving nature of the communication channels preferred by those higher education seeks to engage and the ever-increasing expectations thrust upon it. In an extrapolated sense, society is moving from information technology to relationship technology. In Water the Bamboo, author Greg Bell (2009) posits that the information age has ended and the relationship age has begun. Relationships are key to the success of everything higher education hopes to accomplish, from recruiting the next class to retaining them, guiding them to graduation, creating successful alumni, and fostering satisfied donors. This is consistent with the student life cycle that Roger Thompson, vice president for enrollment management at the University of Oregon, suggests should never be forgotten:

1 prospect

2 admitted

3 enrolled

4 graduate

5 alumni

6 donor

This article explores the fulfillment of some SEM goals through the application of a public relations lens in terms of marketing, communications, technology, and data. It surveys what is being utilized, how it is being utilizing, who is using it, and what is on the horizon of the possible.


Much of SEM involves a blend of exchange and communal relationships (Grunig 2002). Higher education institutions certainly are engaged in exchange relationships in which one party is expected to provide benefits in return for something of comparable value from the other. Comparable value may include tuition, unique talents, enhancing institutional prestige, and investing in future potential. Colleges and universities also strive to enhance communal relationships in many areas in which nothing may be expected in return, at least not directly. They provide opportunities, create knowledge to share with the world, enhance the social and economic outlook for their students and, through them, for the community, state, nation, and world. Grunig (2002) and colleagues describe four principal characteristics by which to evaluate the quality of a relationship between organizations and publics:

* Control mutuality: the degree to which the parties in a relationship are satisfied with the amount of control they have over the relationship. The most stable, positive relationships exist when organizations and publics have some degree of control over the other. One party may be willing to cede more control to the other when it trusts the other.

* Trust: the level of confidence that both parties have in each other and their willingness to open themselves to the other. Trust is a complicated concept that has several underlying dimensions. Three are particularly important: integrity, the belief that an organization is fair and just; dependability, the belief that an organization will do what it says it will; and competence, the belief that an organization has the ability to do what it says it will.

* Commitment: the extent to which both parties believe and feel that the relationship is worth spending energy on to maintain and promote.

* Satisfaction: the extent to which both parties feel favorably about each other because positive expectations about the relationship are reinforced. A satisfying relationship occurs when each party believes the other is taking positive steps in order to maintain it.

Control mutuality shifts back and forth throughout the student life cycle. Trust will always be critical; without it, the road is difficult or impossible. The use of cutting-edge technology and communication tools will only take an institution so far. Its competence and all it represents are built on a solid foundation that facilitates a commitment to the forming of a relationship. …

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