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Publish date: Jan 15, 2011

NCAA VP encourages strategic approach to communications

It’s one thing to communicate, but it’s another thing to communicate strategically.

That was the message that NCAA Vice President of Communications Bob Williams had for Division II chancellors and presidents who gathered Friday morning for their Convention business session.

Williams noted challenges that college athletics faces with the current “24/7” communications landscape. Those include public misunderstandings about the nature and purpose of college sports, as well as perceptions that are highly influenced by a small number of prominent athletes or programs.

“We can blame the media,” Williams said, “but we need to look at ourselves, too. Are we telling our story?”

To tell that story better, Williams said that communications professionals at every level should concentrate on four basics as they seek to convey their stories more effectively:

  • Tell stories that communicate your purpose at every opportunity and through every available platform.
  • Define, unify and clarify the message.
  • Every message should  revolve around student-athletes.
  • Align actions with messages.

“At the end of the day, we have to look at things in a different light,” he said as he encouraged the presidents to turn away from old paradigms and to examine how their communications operations are structured.

In particular, he urged a greater collaboration between university relations and athletics communications offices, noting that interaction between the offices on many campuses often can be near nonexistent. Williams said the NCAA is willing to do its part by making its platforms available to member schools and conferences. He encouraged college and university communications professionals to consider, and NCAA Champion magazine as vehicles for favorable portrayals of their student-athletes, coaches and administrators.

Williams also encouraged Division II chancellors and presidents to consider expanding the role of their sports information officers to athletics communications directors. The change, he said, would boost their function from tactical to strategic.

None of that will matter, however, unless athletics programs match their missions with their actions. More than ever before, media has the ability to sniff out stories and then distribute them to the world through the Internet.

“More than ever,” he said, “what we say and what we do have to align.”