User Tools (skip):
Consider a sampling of news during an April week in the life of McGill: 19 new recruits are awarded Canada Research Chairs; Health Canada allocates $11.5 million to McGill for its Language Training and Human Resources Development Project and a researcher, writing in the Journal of Geophysical Research (Planet), calculates the location of Mars' ancient poles. Those are just a few of the many stories at McGill. Leading a team to effectively communicate McGill's mission and vision, as well as the University's many successes and strengths to audiences inside and outside the University, is Jennifer Robinson, Associate Vice-Principal (Communications). She recently spoke with The Reporter.
Q: Why is an effective communications strategy important to McGill and what's the benefit to the university?
A: McGill's reputation is one of our most valuable assets and it is strengthened by the high quality of the teaching and research here and the achievements of the people who make up the community. Outstanding students, faculty, alumni, staff members — the quality of what we do, each one of us — have an impact on what people think of McGill.
The goal is to communicate our successes, from research breakthroughs, to people winning awards and distinctions, to people discovering and developing new ideas about how to make the world a better, safer or healthier place. McGill is one of the world's leading universities and we operate in an environment that is highly competitive for the best students, the best faculty and for donors and funding dollars. In communications, our job is to ensure that McGill shines brightly for all our audiences - media, prospective students and faculty, alumni, the community, business and government.
We want people to know that McGill offers students a great education and a unique learning experience, that it is a great research university, and that our graduates go on to be people who make a difference in the world. It's about enhancing McGill's reputation so that we can continue to attract and retain the very best students and faculty, win the support of donors and government funders, and continue to excel.
Q: What are your top priorities for communications at McGill?
A: Two main areas. First, we are building cooperation among the various communications units at McGill and I'm pleased to report that we've made great progress in that respect. As a group, it is important that our communications activities are aligned with University priorities.
Second, we are developing better communications tools and strategies for both external and internal audiences. For example, we are strengthening our media relations team, increasing the communication of our achievements and research successes and, also, communicating McGill news to the French-language media. In the University Relations Office, we are putting a great deal of energy into establishing the basics, updating and publishing a new Guide to McGill Experts for journalists, and establishing a central photo archive for communications purposes. We're essentially providing McGill with tools to communicate with our audiences in a much more efficient, effective and professional way. One of the Principal's priorities for the fall is the release of a public report, reporting to the community on McGill's activities, challenges and contributions. We're working on the launch of a twice-yearly research magazine with the office of the Vice-Principal (Research). With Development, we're publishing a report on private giving to showcase its impact and the important role that philanthropy plays in enabling McGill to achieve great things. There are lots of other exciting projects — one celebrates our heritage and patrimonial assets, we are developing a town-gown community relations project, working on the various communications pieces to support our next comprehensive campaign. It's an exciting time to be here.
Q: What about communication within the community?
A: McGill is a community of 40,000. It's a big place and it's essential for people to know what's going on so they can share in the goals and the accomplishments of students, staff and faculty. On that front, we are building on existing communications, for example, improving The Reporter, launching an electronic newsletter, working with the Web group to enhance the website and make it more user friendly and dynamic. The Principal has initiated her Town Hall meetings and that is an important forum for her to hear about issues of importance and what is on people's minds.
Q: Given that all members of the McGill community are communicators to an external or internal audience, what advice or message would you give?
A: McGill students, faculty and staff, and our alumni, are our best ambassadors and are the human face of McGill. Every contact we have with others can be an opportunity to communicate that McGill is a special place, and contributes in a meaningful way to people's lives, the advancement of knowledge, the community and so on. Each time a recruitment officer speaks to a student, each time a professor or staff member inspires a student, every time we speak to a parent or someone in the community — a business person or neighbour, a potential donor, a graduate, a prospective student —our actions say something about who we are as an institution. It's an opportunity and it is up to each one of us to make the most of it.