By Moira A. Bindner
What did communications look like before a dedicated communications professional was hired? Parking & transit posted on its website, had minimal response to Twitter comments, and created flyers. Outreach was limited to orientation presentations and commuter breakfasts, and the reputation of the department was primarily negative and definitely not warm and friendly. Further, the staff person working on parking communications issues was dedicated to these efforts only part-time; their primary responsibility was overseeing the parking permit office.
The director of parking & transit determined it was time to upgrade the position when this staff person had to move. The university campus was undergoing extensive renovations and construction was affecting mobility around campus, which increased the need to expand the communications role. The director needed a different skill set than existed within the department. Parking & transit services needed someone with a customer service oriented and outgoing personality to inform the campus about construction issues, assist on messaging for special events, and educate the community about parking rules and regulations.
The results have surpassed initial expectations. The new staff person created and nurtured relationships across the campus. They determined the major stakeholders affected by construction, parking, and events and then they asked those stakeholders to help relay messages. A monthly newsletter (650 subscribers), expanded Twitter following (660 to 2,800 followers), extensive trainings on parking realities of campus, and a new website provided the content. Now instead of everything coming from parking & transit services, we had retweets from student government, campus police, athletics, dining, the campus paper, and academic departments and programs. The multiplier effect worked and parking & transit started to be seen as a great source of information and a friendly phone call when planning an event.
The communications position has gained a reputation of being proactive, responsive, and able to respond with clear and concise answers, information pieces, and maps to assist our campus community.
Moira A. Bindner is communications and customer service manager, parking & transit services, at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. She will present on this topic at the 2019 IPMI Conference & Expo, June 9-12 in Anaheim, Calif. For more information and to register, click here.