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#FollowTheLeader: Lessons in Social Media Success from #HigherEd CEOs

Higher ed leaders increasingly need support from their staff to be more effective in their engagement on social media. In this session, PR pro Dan Zaiontz discusses recommendations on how trusted advisers can counsel their organizational leaders.

Dan Zaiontz

on 26 April 2016

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Transcript of #FollowTheLeader: Lessons in Social Media Success from #HigherEd CEOs

Supporting Higher Ed Leaders in their Social Media Engagement

#FollowTheLeader Best Practices Checklist

A President's Choice
Don't Knock It Until You Try It
Assess Personal Aversion to Risk
Understand Amplification
More than one way to approach this
Find Your Role Models
Develop Your Rules of Engagement
Choose Your Needles
Put A Ring On It
Take Stock and Pivot

How History Remembers
Sir William Preece...
A Toronto-based professional communicator with more than eight years of experience representing some of Canada’s largest media brands

In spring-summer 2013, I conducted a major research study entitled #FollowTheLeader.
The study explored a number of emerging themes including: best practices in social media engagement by higher education leaders, the unique and perceived risks and opportunities of these activities, current conditions for university and college presidents on social media and recommendations for strategic advisers in assisting leaders to optimally and effectively employ these tools

The findings of the study served as the foundation for my book
#FollowTheLeader: Lessons in Social Media Success from #HigherEd CEOs
which was published in January 2015 in partnership with mStoner and EDUniverse Media

During or after the webinar, you can share your questions/comments with me on Twitter:
Conditions and Context

“Although the attention being paid to the new digital media may be the latest fad in public relations, these new media have the potential to make the profession more global, strategic, two-way and interactive, symmetrical or dialogical, and socially responsible.” (Grunig, 2009, p. 1).


“You can’t be a university president and be anti-social. In a president’s ceremonial role, she’ll have to attend luncheons, dinners, meetings, cocktail hours, fundraisers, all kinds of athletic contests.” (Stoner, 2012, para. 3)

“The current presidents have had to deal with this era’s financial constraints by becoming fluent in the language of money, from fundraising with alumni and private donors, to defending the sector against competing public priorities.” (Bradshaw, 2012, para. 3)

“Being a university president is a pretty complex job. It is part diplomat, part fundraiser, part cheerleader, part civil service administrator, part strategic visionary, part financial planner and part fire fighter given the tendency for assorted crises to flare up. The main tasks are really forging community relationships (both internal and external to the university), fundraising for the university as its front man, and general strategic vision and direction...The buck does eventually stop at the president as she or he is ultimately accountable to the board” (Di Matteo, 2012, para. 3).

“Colleges today are serving the most mobile and social customers in the world, many of whom are using multiple mobile devices to network and collaborate. Today, social networking is the most popular use of the web. A 2012 study noted that students are choosing colleges with social media clout. A survey of 7,000 high school students revealed that university social media accounts influenced their selections” (Afshar, 2013, para. 1).
Higher Ed Leaders are looking for strategic support
They need direction on what content to share
They need individuals to monitor the issues being discussed on campus
They're seeking honest critical feedback
They require technical support
Focus on advancing strategic goals
Build capacity
Highlight role models
Identify Major Risks:
personal security, reputational damage, account security, alienating key stakeholders, and negatively impacting institutional interests.
Identify Major Opportunities:
intelligence gathering, thought leadership, strengthened reputation, new and enhanced strategic relationships and a positive impact on institutional interests.
Set milestones
Two-way street
Common Approaches

The Customer Servant
The Institutional Promoter
The Socially Inconsistent President
The Oversharing Non-Strategist
The Socially Active Strategist

Recos for Strategic and
Trusted Advisers
Honestly assess your president
It's their call
Develop a game plan incl. content calendar
Measure success beyond 'Likes'
Have messaging in the hopper
This complements it does not replace in-person contact
Have your pulse on the beat of campus
Explain proportionality
Dan Zaiontz, MCM

The decision is ultimately personal
Higher ed leaders are more social-media-active than corporate senior leaders
(Source: UMass-Dartmouth study, 2013)
The future may demand social media literacy
The power to inform decision-making

Start the conversation with your institutional leadership
Align social media goals with institutional goals
Be there to advise


Tweet your questions to @danzaiontz

Dr. Santa Ono,
President, University of Cincinnati
AKA @PrezOno
Dominic Giroux,
President and Vice-Chancellor, Laurentian University
AKA @Dominic_Giroux
Dr. Elizabeth Stroble,
President, Webster University
AKA @WebsterPres
Dr. Walter Kimbrough,
President, Dillard University
AKA @HipHopPrez

The debate rages on about whether higher ed leaders on social media can meaningfully impact key performance metrics
there is undeniable political capital gained by leaders who embrace and gain traction on social media
Potential measurable goals might include:
Improved employee engagement
(e.g. # of employee conversations)
Increased student satisfaction
(e.g. # of positive comments)
Strengthened alumni relations

(e.g. # of new alumni engaged)
Twitter exchange b/w Southern New Hampshire University President Paul LeBlanc
and a student
Full transcript