Thursday, July 19, 2012

Specialized or Siloed?

A recent rash of job postings -- both athletic and academic -- reveal some counter trends.  In athletics, more and more institutions are creating positions for specialists.  Directors of Communication, Directors of Engagement, Directors of New Media, Social Media, Media Relations -- you name it but none of them seem to be over the entirety of the message.

No because there are Senior Associate Externals and other various formations of "the fundraising guy over marketing . . . oh yes, and sports information" that are in theory setting that agenda.

The days of "sport contacts" are fading, but the unitasker remains -- just the one person doing Facebook inside the marketing office (because that's "fan-sy"), and maybe then the one person assigned to do Twitter and blogs in the media office (because that's "news-y").  Oh yeah, that guy in the corner?  He's the YouTuber (because that's "tech-y").

This is not even to discuss The Silo: the Director of Football Communications/Relations/Media.  The wholly owned subsidiary of The Football Office, with narrowly defined responsibilities to that single sport area.

They report down different paths to the Senior, and more times than not, the messaging is muddied in the process. Or worse, things get bottled up inside those units.  Sometimes it makes the light of day at the right time.  Sometimes, well, you know the schools.

Meanwhile, across the campus, more and more positions are multitasking and team oriented.  They are focused on the overall strategies across modes of communication.  That world has its own set of Titles That Are Capitalized -- throw that AP Stylebook to the wind -- as well.

But the difference as you read through and more important as you talk to people involved in the hiring -- there seems to be more emphasis on strategic communication of the institution and organizing that into team groups.

Frankly, the university relations offices are starting to look a whole lot more like the old SID offices from back in the day -- when the marketing and the other functions were just an organic whole of the area charged with publicity for the entire department.  I've seen some interesting org charts from new hires in this realm that confirm -- more unified, group operations and less stratified and hierarchical.

For all the team-talk and silo-busting management blather from athletic directors, the academic side is doing more and more to create the kind of message unity.  The more advanced ones are daring to advocate some real old-school ideas -- bringing together the entire university under one umbrella.

There are positives to both approaches, but I lean toward the unified command of a communications director that is closer to the ground and able to manage the entire process.

Cause there's two things I know about silos.  On the farm, you don't vent them often, they just might explode.  And the other?  Well, back in the day, that's where we stored those nuclear warheads.

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