New thinking strengthens communication

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Dear Colleagues,

 

I’ve been working for CityU for more than eight years. During this time, I’ve felt that the University has gone through many changes except, that is, for our bilingual staff newsletter, Linkage, or Ling Ji (靈機) in Chinese. Linkage is of course about connecting colleagues at different departments and levels by means of its publication and has nothing to do with “having a sudden inspiration”, as the Chinese Ling Ji suggests in the Chinese idiom “ling ji yi dong”.

 

But what I want to discuss today is exactly the linkage between us, and a little spark of inspiration on my part.

 

At CityU many people, especially those in the University Publications Office, work hard to strengthen links between people through our staff newsletter. I myself was interviewed once a month for more than three years for the column titled “Chat with the President”; and I began writing the column “From the President’s desk” last September. It’s been my idea that running these two columns will improve my direct communication with colleagues.

 

Recently, however, quite a few colleagues have told me that this is one-way, not two-way traffic. These thoughts have sparked a flash of inspiration (ling ji) and led me to rethink the written correspondence that I’ve persisted with for so many years. In this “flash”, I’ve begun to give serious thought to a brand new approach to the University’s internal and external communications.

 

Integration of the internal and external communications  

Since our Internet and Intranet are well developed and my writings often appear on the net, why not change those written words to spoken ones instead? Why don’t we use the medium of video to communicate, to get the message across with the real person, real face and real voice? This form of communication can not only be broadcasted through the Internet but also on campus through plasma. Secondly, great strides in Internet and Intranet development blur any possible clear lines of demarcation between internal and external communication.  For instance, all too often news or reports that we release on the Intranet find their way into the outside media. Or, conversely, what other colleagues or I tell the media in press interviews can very soon be seen or heard by colleagues in the media. So what we say to the outside world becomes linkages between us inside. All these things only make me feel all the more strongly the need to merge the University Publications Office responsible for internal communication and the Public Affairs Office responsible for external communication into a single office, redrawing the division of job boundaries and unifying their work.

 

I’ve conveyed this idea to some of my colleagues and some of the Council’s major members.  They’re all very encouraging, because communication, especially communication between management and general staff, is one of the most important tasks confronting major institutions today. In addition, occasional inaccurate news reports in the media about the University make it impossible for the general public to recognize what we have actually achieved. Thus, at the Council’s Executive Committee meeting held at the end of May, I officially proposed that we employ a Director of Communications from outside the University. I also proposed merging the present University Publications Office and the Public Affairs Office into the Communications Office.

 

In my opinion, the University’s current communication work should focus on three areas. First, it should report timely and accurate stories about the most recent developments at CityU. So far this has largely been achieved through our highly responsive website as well as the biweekly Bulletin. Secondly, recently in the space of two weeks I initiated two opportunities for colleagues and myself to exchange ideas and opinions on important business at CityU. The first was the University Development Forum held on 25 May and the second was on 10 June with about 40 colleagues who gathered at my place to chat. I was touched by the strong sense of belonging towards CityU at both occasions. And so I have felt even more the need to establish a channel of communication or some sort of mechanism to regularly listen to colleagues. Maybe we can consider opening up a new platform in our internal publications or website for colleagues to air opinions on what is going on at CityU and to strengthen interactive linkage between different departments and levels on campus. Last but not least, we should work really hard to earn the recognition we deserve from the public and push for a wider coverage of our achievements in the media. This will play a very significant role in recruiting new students in the future, deciding the standard of our tuition fees, and building our brand name.

 

A prelude to another good performance 

Under these circumstances I am prepared to stop this four-year long column in Linkage and adopt another form of communication. I’m also prepared to ask the new Director of Communications to realign our publications soon after he or she takes office. After all, we already have a biweekly Bulletin to report the University’s new developments plus a lively magazine titled CityU Today. Whether or not Linkage will continue to be popular or widely read by our staff is unclear; it may be worth conducting a reader’s survey to find out. I would very much like to listen to the new communication expert’s opinion as to whether or not we should continue publishing Linkage, and, if so, how it might be revamped to meet our needs.

 

 It is often said that the curtain dropped is only a prelude to another good performance. The disappearance of this column represents the emergence of yet another new channel of communication. In the new semester, I sincerely hope we can start communicating with each other through the multi-level and multi-channel new approach.

 

It is now coming to the end of June. Looking back a year ago, CityU was facing pressure from all sides, but we met and dealt with those challenges with flying colors as a result of our mutual efforts. Although it does not mean we can take a long vacation completely worry-free, I do hope our colleagues can rest over the summer and recharge their batteries before the new semester and new challenges start in September. As for myself, I will continue to review and rethink the future development of CityU and our communication work over the break. Today, I’ve decided to stop this column because I think I can use a more effective channel in its stead.But is it going to be like “the boy riding the buffalo home, freely playing a flute not caring if he’s in tune or not”, as a classical Chinese poem goes? Only time can tell.
 

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