Though undoubtedly not any less busy for campus teams and leaders, summer in higher education is a natural pause in the academic year, presenting a perfect opportunity for rest, reflection and, yes — strategic planning. For marketing and communications professionals, it’s a chance to set the foundation for a successful year ahead. In addition to building in time for rejuvenation (which is perhaps our most important recommendation for utilizing this “pause” wisely, especially after a challenging year), you can make the most of this season by focusing on training and planning in areas like media coaching, issues management, marketing maturity, social strategy and video production.

Media Coaching: Sharpening Your Communication Skills

Media coaching prepares leaders, staff and faculty to handle media interactions confidently and clearly, ensuring your institution’s messages are delivered effectively and consistently. Summer is an ideal time to update your internal campus contact lists, identify key spokespeople who would benefit from training, organize sessions to review best practices and engage in simulations and Q&A exercises to build confidence and improve skills. This proactive approach turns potential challenges into opportunities for positive exposure and can relieve stress for those who may find themselves engaging with media in the year ahead.

Issues Management: Staying Ahead of Potential Crises

Proactive risk management and mitigation are crucial to protecting your institution’s reputation and navigating crises. Issues management involves anticipating, identifying and addressing potential challenges before they escalate. Use the summer months to conduct a thorough risk assessment, develop or update your response plans for each identified issue and train your team to ensure everyone understands individual roles and responsibilities when problems inevitably arise. Tabletop exercises to discuss specific issues and responses can be particularly useful — ensuring your community feels engaged and has a chance to work out any questions or concerns in advance. Being prepared allows your institution to respond swiftly and maintain trust and credibility (and — let’s be honest — allows you to sleep better at night).

Advancing Marketing Maturity

A marketing maturity model helps institutions assess their existing marketing capabilities and plan for growth. Understanding your campus’ current stage of maturity within this framework allows you to set realistic goals and identify areas for improvement. During the summer, evaluate where your institution stands, set specific improvement goals with your team — such as enhancing journey mapping, data analytics or reporting on impact — and design initiatives and plans to advance your marketing efforts. This framework guides institutions toward fully optimized and aligned strategies, ensuring continuous improvement, an elevated stakeholder experience and effective resource allocation.

Social Strategy Planning: Engaging Your Audience

A robust social media strategy is essential for engaging with students, alumni and the broader community. Summer is the perfect time to audit your current social media efforts and policies (pro tip: change those passwords if you haven’t already!), define clear objectives for what you want to achieve in the year ahead and create a content calendar for the upcoming months. Focus on a mix of post types and channels — and use insights from your audiences — to enhance your institution’s visibility and engagement. A well-crafted and priority-aligned social media strategy can significantly boost communication, recruitment and brand-building efforts (and, of course, can help teams to refine and communicate to campus partners what is and is NOT a good fit for social media).

Video Production: Telling Your Story

Been waiting for a less busy time on campus to get some of that beautiful B-roll? The summer months are well suited for working with your creative team on video content for the next year’s cycle. Take time to touch base with campus partners to assess needs, storyboard ideas and creative concepts for refreshing your video library and perhaps even plan time to shoot videos you can have ready to launch (and repurpose!) as the application process and other big milestones come to pass in late summer and early fall. Visual storytelling can be vital to building awareness and authentic relationships with stakeholders — and building up your library now can be a big time-saver before the new semester begins.

No matter how you spend your summer, we hope it’s peaceful and productive. Wondering where to start on tackling some of your upcoming professional development, training, production or strategic planning goals? We’re here to help.