Friday, March 28, 2008

What's with the mystery? Put it up.

If anyone else has a high school senior, it's likely this time period consumed with wonder and worry about college admissions decision notifications. And it's painful not solely because of the wait, but also due to lack of info about notification date and process from MANY top-notch colleges. [Note: MANY colleges do have online info and give clear details about admissions notification timing] ... BUT....

1. Many do not even post the actual date they're releasing/mailing decisions OR if going to send decision by email or letter. What's up with that? That's a secret? Guess what that turns parents into? Lunatics. (Is that a nice way to treat someone who's going to pay $48,000 A YEAR?) Something vague like "by April 1" is often used -- without even explaining if "by" means you'll have it by then or we'll send it by then. My favorite example of the right way to do it (MIT admissions) has full transparency of the entire process, clearly gives the date and time of decision (online), and provides forums for communicating. Sure, it's great to get the surprise email or letter much earlier than anticipated - but makes every day that follows a potential "surprise notification date" of the ones not heard from yet.

2. Because of a decision to not tell applicants (or post) the actual date of notification, there's a site where parents (or students) can go so anyone who actually spots/gets an admission notification by email or by mail can post that breaking news. It's ridiculous. Put up the date, time and process. There's also the infamous envelope situation. Some colleges put acceptance letters in small envelopes, others put rejections in oddly bulky envelopes -- so the site also has the "describe the envelope" thing. Why should anyone need to rely on a third-party site for info as basic as "it's in the mail"?

3. One college sent a press release giving statistical profile of admitted students BEFORE emailing applicants (or waiting long enough for them to get letters). So International students not seeing their country on list of where admitted from realized they're rejected (or in college terms "not admitted").

What does this have to do with associations?

1. If you have information, for god's sake put it online.

2. If you need to communicate something that someone is waiting for, why in the world would it ever need to go by mail only? That's how I waited for college admissions decisions 25 years ago. I can't believe that's still the process for many colleges now. This is 2008.

3. If you think you're not judged by your site, you are. The numbers who don't visit or apply to colleges based on what they saw on the site alone a notable detail from this whole experience. And if you're telling me you're a social media expert/advocate and I go to your ASSOCIATION site, I better see the social media evidence. Or stop talking and start doing. If you're not doing it, of course it's not there.

4. Treat the people who will be paying you a lot of money the way you would want to be treated.

5. You should be the source of your association's announcements or updates. Not reporters from industry media or others. Don't we have the most credibility if we're the ones who tell them what we're doing?

6. Don't let anyone read the bad news in a press release if they could hear it from you directly.

By the way, I just arrived in Boston for the NAR Association Executives Institute, so will be blogging from here the next 5 days. And the last of the college notifications arriving while I'm gone. I think.

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