There’s a lot of talk about the crimes at Penn State. Experts are talking about how to correct some very deep problems and move ahead, how to deal with the loss of sponsorships—and how to salvage the brand.
All this focus on outward communications is justified. There’s much work to be done, decisions to make. They should be made quickly. And actions should be decisive so crimes such as these cannot be committed again. It would appear those efforts are well underway.
In all the chaos there’s a danger that another incredibly important element will be overlooked—or addressed as an afterthought. Penn State's internal brand is critically important, too.
Is anyone paying attention to how current faculty and staff feel? What about the admissions counselors?
What needs, concerns and fears do they have? Are they dreading coming to work? What do they tell their families, friends, colleagues at other institutions?
What about students? Are they worried about how Penn State will look on their resumes? Are they dreading coming back to class in the fall? Will they come back? What do they say to their friends, families and employers?
And the athletics program—that remains to be seen. Preseason practice starts August 6. And according to news reports, At least 13 players listed as first-stringers on the preseason depth chart affirmed their commitment to staying.
But Penn State needs to be more than a football school. What does it really value?
The university should begin to plant some new flags for internal audiences to rally around. Those internal audiences do have other wins to celebrate. Strong academic programs, notable accomplishments in research, successful alumni and numerous national rankings for scholarly excellence are just a few. Can the university go further and make a bold statement about creating a culture of caring, of looking out for each other—then really live it?
Penn State leadership should reach out now to every student, faculty and staff member to emphasize what really matters and create new points of pride.
Fall enrollment and orientations are right around the corner. These are key opportunities to create special events that create dialogue, ease fears and solidify relationships with internal audiences.
Inside brand touchpoints should be addressed: signage, intranet, classrooms, welcome packets, campus message boards, on-hold messages—everything should have an intentionally planned, well-coordinated, new message that reinforces the excellence Penn State offers and will take a stand for.
The pain of this tragedy will never go away. Nor should it be forgotten. Measures must be put into place so that it can never be repeated. They must be communicated carefully and consistently inside the organization as well as out. Penn State cannot allow its rotten apples to ruin all the other lives the school serves.