The road already traveled: communication advice for higher education leaders

Jon L. McNaughtan, Brooke Wilson DePue, Elisabeth D. McNaughtan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: Turnover of presidents in colleges and universities occurs frequently and new presidents are rarely trained to handle communication with the range of stakeholders involved in a campus community, which is one of the most complex tasks their job requires. New presidents need guidance and insight to prepare them for this vital aspect of campus leadership. The paper aims to discuss this issue. Design/methodology/approach: This paper analyzes interviews with sitting presidents and vice presidents of communication at flagship universities in the USA to identify themes and best practices for presidential communication. Findings: Analysis of interviews resulted in five consistent recommended practices: be informed about your issue and audience; utilize multiple communication channels; know when to speak; identify and use a communication team; and when you speak, use your own authentic voice. Originality/value: Limited research exists on the communication process and skills needed to effectively lead colleges and universities. While incoming presidents often lack backgrounds and training in communication strategies, such strategies are required to effectively engage both internal and external audiences. The study provides new leaders with tips from seasoned leaders to enhance their communication strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1431-1441
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 21 2019


  • Crisis management
  • Presidential communication
  • University president
  • Vice president of communication


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