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Survey Reveals Communications Patterns at University

19 April 2013 No Comment

Comm-umbsmallRONALD HUBE

To help carry out one of the four fundamental elements of the University’s five-year strategic plan—to assure effective, interactive two-way communication between the University and the campus community—the Office of Communications and Public Affairs has conducted a wide-ranging survey of faculty, staff, and students about the University’s communications vehicles.

Nearly 2,000 people participated in the survey, which was conducted by email through SurveyMonkey, an online research service. Every student and all members of the faculty and staff were asked to answer the survey questions. 

Among the results: Campuswide email and the University’s website are by far the most common avenues for communication, with just under 70 percent of respondents saying they use both on a regular basis. 

The University president’s online newsletter and emails from the president are also popular communication vehicles, and most of the campus community relies on the UM Alerts system to receive information on emergencies and weather-related closings. More than 73 percent of respondents typically obtain news about emergencies and closings through UM Alerts emails; nearly 60 percent receive UM Alerts as text messages. 

A vast majority of the survey participants said they use their workplace or personal computer as a tool to communicate with the University, almost double the number who use a smartphone or cell phone. Close to a third of the respondents said town hall meetings are effective in communicating information about the University, but more than half said they have never attended one.

Despite the many structured forms of communication at the University, more than 46 percent of participants in the survey rely on word of mouth to relay and obtain information.  

Respondents said communication can be improved by sending fewer but more specific emails, avoiding publishing the same information through multiple channels, improving the search engine on the University website, and making communication more timely.    

Most of the respondents—more than 47 percent—were staff members. About a third were students or graduate assistants, and about 20 percent were faculty or postdoctoral fellows. More than a third of the survey participants were from the School of Medicine, the University’s largest school.

The survey results helped to shape plans for The Elm, an interactive, online hub for University news and information that is under development.

The Elm will be a dynamic and comprehensive resource for the University and our neighbors,” says Clare Banks, MFA, an editor in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs who is leading The Elm project.

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