By 9 a.m., snowfall and ice layered Columbia. Due to severe weather creating hazardous traveling conditions, Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency, yet Chancellor Deaton did not issue a closure.
The University of Missouri’s official Twitter account took a lowball approach and tweeted, “To reiterate, classes are in session. Please ignore 2 year old retweets.” The only reason people were retweeting those was because conditions were unsafe for students to travel and it was humorous the university thought it could win against mother nature. Moments later, their social team tweeted, “sidewalks and roads on campus are passable.” That’s wonderful, but what about the overwhelming majority of us who live off-campus? Were you planning on sending Campus Facilities into the City of Columbia and take care of the roads? Are the crews at Mizzou more equipped than the City of Columbia? And yet again, within the hour they stated: “snowfall amounts that…will be able to handle effectively.” Did you even look outside and see for yourselves? Were you planning to “handle effectively” the students who could have been injured on the way to class? Keep in mind that you did close University of Missouri Health Care outpatient clinics.
As they say, if you are not willing to contribute to the solution, don’t complain. Here is my solution: if Mizzou was SO adamant about remaining open (which I don’t understand what one-day of closure is going to affect, just ask my professors who habitually cancel class—it’s nothing new to us, the students) why didn’t the Chancellor, “of one of the great universities of the future,” do his part as a leader? There are an overwhelming number of resources, for instance, Mizzou Advantage!
The purpose of Mizzou Advantage is to “increase MU’s visibility, stature and impact in higher education and enhance instructional programs” and “the value of an MU degree.” Mizzou Advantage toots its horn featuring “a wide array of expertise and resources all located on the same campus, MU does things no other university can.” You’re right, Mizzou, you did do things no other university can, by placing the safety of your students at harm. Why didn’t you delve into “Media of the Future” and instruct professors to conduct classes online via Blackboard, email, social media networks, or an array of emerging platforms to strengthen our use in digital technologies? Perhaps you were relying on implementing “One Health/One Medicine” as the state’s major public research university connecting research and instruction in health care delivery, policy, business models, medical ethics and the culture of healthy living after students resulted in injury.
Today, brands become damaged because of their poor communications, which usually results and lies at the company’s head. Mizzou’s Twitter and Facebook accounts should never have ignored complaints. This was not a handful of students complaining, but professors, news broadcasts and even the Governor. Yesterday, Chancellor Deaton, the University of Missouri’s public relations and social media team failed during crisis communication. Good PR results in being sympathetic, taking responsibility for company’s errors and being transparent.
Strategic PR and social teams are prepared for crisis communication/emergency situations. I think it’s time Mizzou created one.