Thought Feeder social media photo for Episode 46. Guest Teresa Valerio Parrot’s headshot is featured in a square image. White text reads “Who are University Presidents and what do they do?”

Episode 46: Who are University Presidents and What Do They Do?

Thought Feeder social media photo for Episode 46. Guest Teresa Valerio Parrot’s headshot is featured in a square image. White text reads “Who are University Presidents and what do they do?”
Thought Feeder
Episode 46: Who are University Presidents and What Do They Do?

Teresa Valerio Parrot from TVP Communications joins the podcast to discuss how campus leadership can be more authentic in their communication.

Joel Goodman: From Bravery Media, this is Thought Feeder. My name is Joel Goodman. With me, as always, is the insatiable Jon-Stephen Stansel, and we’re very, very excited to have Teresa Valerio Parrot on the show. Today we’re gonna talk about, a bunch of stuff that we don’t normally dive into because Teresa gets to work with people fairly high up the ladder at universities, and we’re normally talking about the social media manager who plays a big role in that.

And we’ll probably make some connections there too. But Teresa, it’s so great to have you on the show. Thanks for being here. Can you introduce yourself a little bit and what your place in this giant higher education world is?

Teresa Valerio Parrot: Thank you. I’m a longtime listener, first time caller, so thank you so much for having me on. Um, I guess I work most often to your point, at that intersection between leadership and communications, and as we’re saying, it’s, um, pretty significant these days in higher education. And my history is a very storied past.

I was at the University of Colorado for a decade and my final position there was as a staff officer to the governing board. Uh, so I worked in that governance space for a number of years, including some that had some pretty high fi, high profile crisis and turmoil. Um, and from there I moved into consulting and I was hired by Christopher Simpson, who I had hired to help me at the University of Colorado and, for two and a half years I was lucky enough to go around the country and to be a part of solving some of higher education’s, biggest crises. And when Christopher Simpson started Simpson Scarborough, and then passed away, moved on to a large PR firm and then started TVP Communications 11 years ago this fall.

So, we work with colleges and universities on telling their good news and also, working through the tough stuff.

Joel Goodman: There’s been a lot of tough stuff lately and a lot of good news lately too. So it’s tough.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: it’s the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows. But the, the thread throughout that, um, really is, um, both our, our ethics and our ethos as well as who we are as leaders and as communicators.

So that’s, that’s where we operate.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: So you do a lot of work with like higher ed executives, presidents, VPs, and all, not that. So let, let me start with, with a basic question.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: Yes.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Why are university presidents?

Teresa Valerio Parrot: Why are university presidents?

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Why are they, who are they? Um, we talk about the role, we all know what a president is, but I think depending on who you ask, what that role, what does a university president actually do, especially like if you ask a student versus a faculty member versus the average person, ask three different presidents and you’ll probably get three different answers.

So what is the role of the university president and how has it changed over the past 10 years?

Teresa Valerio Parrot: I think that right there is the key part is how it’s changed. Um, and I think I’ll have to bring into this, what does a board do? Um, because I think a lot of people don’t understand and they, um, if they wanna leapfrog to decision makers, they go to board members. Um, and sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t.

So, Boards are really looking at what? What is the fiduciary responsibility? So financially, what do we have to do and how can we be good stewards? And they’re making sure that you’re living your mission, so that’s where the board should be. Then from there, you have the president and they’re almost. I say it’s the worst job in higher education, but I would love to have a president push back on that because you’re really the intermediary between the board and how they’re thinking about the future of the institution and those who live it every day and how they’re thinking about the future of the institution.

And you’re the middle spot trying to find that space of agreement if there is agreement. Um, so really you’re looking to make sure that, um, all of the trains are running and that you’re doing what’s expected of you by the board, by your creditors, by your shared governance, um, by what your state agency say, um, what the federal government says.

All of these different. And at the same time as you’re doing all these tactical things, you have to be a leader. And more and more you have to be a public face and a public voice for the institution. And for many of our academics who moved up through the ranks of faculty, to administrators, to presidents, that’s a space that they don’t always feel comfortable in.

And to your point with, um, social media presences, that’s where we’re trying to get people to be vulnerable in ways that their entire career, they’ve been. Not to be vulnerable and we’re trying to, uh, encourage them to participate in conversations and, um, and share more about themselves in waves that they’ve been taught not to do

Jon-Stephen Stansel: I’ve got questions all about that. Cause I have, as a, as a, a higher ed social media manager, I, who working with university presidents, uh, I, I’ve run into this where either a, you know, I, there’s one university I worked at where the, the president stated that. They wanted a social media presence, but they did not want to be on social media.

They did not want to touch it. They were going to hire somebody to, to ghost write, and it’s, if you read it, it’s very evident. It is ghost written. And then I’ve worked with other presidents who just were really into it and then got scared off by it. Right. They, they were like, I’m gonna put myself out there.

And then you notice, you, you, you know, you, you’re vulnerable and you don’t get that reaction that you want, uh, sometimes, which is part of being social. So how, how do we, how do we train university presidents to, to, to get out there? How do we convince those that don’t wanna be on there to, to do it? And the ones that want to be on there to just do it themselves?

Teresa Valerio Parrot: So interestingly where we’ve had the most movement with those who are participating authentically on social is, um, they have to have gotten to a place where people stop seeing them as human. and instead they talk about the president and they critique their decisions and they see them as a position void of a human being.

And that’s actually where we find the greatest space. You would think that’s where they probably should feel most vulnerable and they do, but that’s where we can actually start to help them understand. It’s because people need to hear and see more of you as a human being to help counterbalance just the decisions and the emails.

Always the emails that we see coming from presidents, and that’s really where we can help them, uh, find that voice and be willing to participate because they’ve seen what happens if they don’t. But I think what we often see is this huge excitement, um, for, from new presidents, and I’m guessing it’s probably based on a conference they went to or advice that they read on tips for all presidents that you need to jump into social and say who you are and what I’m guessing these pieces must not say.

And you need to make sure that you’re willing to get pushback because for many of our academics, thinking about where they went up, um, on the increasing their positions, they’ve not had any kind of real pushback. And so understanding what that looks like, putting it into context and then making decisions moving forward, I think is critically important.

Did you say something that should be pushed back on or is this giving you an insight into a vulnerability for the institution and you, Is this something you need to be looking into or? It does the volume of responses, which may feel huge to you, really suggest that there is a smaller portion of people that care about this topic and then you need to decide what you’re going to do about it.

Um, and I think this is where analytics really help because I’ve seen so many presidents who want to. Really address something that they feel is a big topic. And what analytics tells those of us who watch their numbers more generally is that this is actually a small blip and you can choose to escalate this to something big or you can just not respond and move on.

And I think helping them to understand what that balance is is huge.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: And I think that’s a good point that, that help. They need that. Like I, I’m, I am as far removed from a university president as you can get, but I do have a, a, a, a larger Twitter following. I will say this, My, my account grew when I went. Very quickly from having a very small number of followers to a larger number of followers, it was jarring.

Like I wasn’t ready for it. Like it went from, you know, I went from 2000 to 10,000, just like. Okay, really quickly, and now I’m sitting, sitting around 25. But that, that first one, when I crossed that 10,000 threshold, I started getting pushback. I wa it wasn’t, Oh, you all just agree with everything I say and think I’m wonderful.

All of a sudden I would say something and people would be like, Hey, wait a minute. I’m not sure I agree with that. And learning to accept that, that you’re not gonna make everybody happy all the time, takes a while. And also being able to re. . You know what? I’m not everybody’s cup of tea. Not everybody’s gonna agree everything I say, and that’s fine.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: That’s exactly it. That’s where so many of our presidents want inherently to be liked. Um, and that’s where we see this discomfort that they face pretty quickly on social media. Not everybody is going to like you. To your point, not, you’re not gonna be everybody’s cup of tea, and that’s okay. Because to be honest, your institution isn’t for everybody.

You know, we talk about this in marketing. You shouldn’t be all things to all people and you shouldn’t appeal to everybody. And if you are, you probably need some deeper conversations with your team,

Joel Goodman: When you go about, uh, I a lot. Y’all do is, is coaching of these people. I mean, you, you, you help mediate a lot and you know the, the different messages that are there, but especially when going into helping leadership presidents or, uh, you know, or even like provost level or, or chancellors or whoever, figure out how to have that authenticity online.

I’m wondering how you all went about. Coaching before the pandemic, and then if that has changed since, um, you know, especially with, uh, I mean with, with the, you know, all the upheaval at the beginning and, and kind of the, the ebbs and flows that happened during it. And now as we’re kind of heading, uh, even deeper into a, you know, a contentious, more like politicized, uh, after aftermath of of all this stuff has, has have.

Has the approach changed? Have you had to modify the techniques and, and are you seeing, uh, you know, even further shifts within the industry with, with how leadership needs to, you know, needs to be interacting with their audiences, uh, in, in different ways?

Teresa Valerio Parrot: I think, um, the pandemic actually helped make our lives easier on our side, um, because for so much of social media. We were encouraging. Don’t forget your internal audiences as well. Everybody seems to think that social media is just to talk outward, um, and to draw these audiences and to remember that your following probably has a pretty healthy, if not, uh, predominant internal audience focus and everybody wants to talk.

Uh, to those that they want to draw in, um, and making sure that you’re keeping those that you already have. So I would say from a internal communications perspective, as well as on social media, that really helped us to make the case for why your own people really matter, because they’re the ones that, for the most part, we needed presidents to really be talking to, um, during the pandemic.

And I think there is this thought that social media is just. Uh, a promotion

Joel Goodman: Yeah.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: and, and it’s not. And, and I think that’s where we were able to really help to make that case is that the authenticity of it and to have people be, um, themselves really. Uh, really worked for a number of individuals, but I think those tho were the individuals who understood social media more foundationally to begin with.

Um, we were able to kind of have them double down on it, and sometimes it’s mimicry. People say, What are the most successful accounts? And they want to be like that. I’ll take it if it means that those are the people who are looking more strategically and audience focused. Um, let’s go ahead and have a little bit of mimicry.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah. I, I, I think that’s not even just mimicry, having, having a role model to look up to and say like, Okay, I want to.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: Yes.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: I, I like what this person is doing, I want, and then you find your own voice through that, that mimicry, you know, like you, you see what works for you and what doesn’t. But also, yeah, so I think so many university presidents, they just post university stuff.

It’s a great day on campus, blah, blah, blah. Show me your dog. Like, show me what TV show you’re watching right now, what books you’re reading, those sort of things. . Well, I, I, I often, like, I just want a university president to tweet that they’re having a bad day. Not, not, because that’s, I want them to have a bad day.

But like you, you are back to the role model thing. You are a role model for everyone on your campus. Like show it’s acceptable to have a bad day now and then that sort of thing.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: And show people, spaces, places, and experiences that they’ll never be a part of. For example, here’s what it looks like inside of the President’s office, right? Like here I am in the president’s office. Most of us don’t get to go in that space, and those are usually really showcase. Places, And this is, you know, this is what it looks like when I’m going to an X, Y, or Z, because we don’t all get to go and see and do that.

Um, and I also have to say, I’ve been giggling lately because I’m giving as many tips on how to take a selfie, right? Like, how do you do that? So it’s actually a good photo and it’s flattering of you. And it, and it takes, it takes in the background and it includes what you want it to include and it makes me smile.

But, um, some people. I have a, I have now a 21 year old daughter, and she definitely taught me how to take a selfie. Not everybody has access to that, to something as simple as, as how you’re portraying yourself consistently, um, to make sure that you’re getting some tips on that too.

Joel Goodman: Do you find that with the, you know, with the. The amount of humanity that, uh, university presidents start putting on, on social media when, when they start being a little bit more vulnerable, does that help? I guess like, uh, like soften the blow of those really tough times when like, you know, say there’s something that’s super contentious that comes out on campus and, um, you know, at at tvp you may have to help them get out in front of that or, you know, or help try to craft the message in a way that is, is less damaging or at least, uh, or at least less sensationalized than, than it may need to be.

Do you find that, that humanity kind of balances out some of. You know, some of the repercussions that could come from from overy or just from negative blows to the institution.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: Absolutely. I think it helps in. Different ways. One is, um, again, if you see that person as someone who has a dog and someone who has good days and bad days, you’re more apt to give them a little bit of grace. That’s the best word I can use to describe that. Um, and you also have built following among those that will see you in that light.

So we see quite often, um, well, nobody’s getting our message, nobody’s opening our emails. Nobody’s hearing. How do we get to people? And that’s not what you fix when you need people to be paying attention. That’s something that you build and you grow when, um, when things are going well and when things are just neutral.

And I think it’s important to also stress when things are neutral. Everybody wants it to be good or bad. And the reality is, most of the time things just are, and that’s still a time that you can continue to build, um, your presence and your following. But that gives you additional, um, credibility and also, Ways to reach people when you need to do that.

And I do think, Joel, to your point, that if we’ve allowed people to see us as humans who are making decisions based on the best information that we have available to us, so not to diminish the position, but instead to give insight on the position, then we do have the ability for people to um, to be willing to listen and to understand where we’re coming.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: And the question I, I have on, on this I is how do we balance that, that humanity, that that honesty and that transparency that we want from university presidents when, when they have to, there’s a crisis on campus and they’ve gotta put out a statement. And they want to be human about it, but there’s also sort of legal boundaries to what they can and cannot say in those statements.

And a lot of those statements come out and they sound very processed, very safe, you know? You know, university council went over it with a fine tooth comb. and maybe it doesn’t say anything like it’s a very neutral statement. Like one of the things I always ran into with some of these statements is we put the statement on on Twitter and the entire, every audience would member would get shout at, Oh yeah, the president’s so conservative, and it’s the same exact statement on Facebook.

All the comments were all those left us on campus. It’s the same exact thing. They said the same thing. So how do we balance that? How do we we, when we have to kind of put out these sort of say nothing statements.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: So I’m a big fan of pushing back on say nothing statements, and I can always tell when something is being created by committee because. You have people and, and God bless Google Docs. I love Google Docs. We use it all of the time. But I have never had my heart and soul crushed more than seeing all of the, you know, anonymous panda and anonymous wombat and everybody else just making my words not actually have power.

Um, so I usually say you can tell if something has been edited by committee because it’s not going to say anything and it’s gonna take so much longer to get. So look to see when it’s actually released and see if it is that nothing statement. Um, I usually prefer that it’s comms legal, and then one other sounding board that is representative of whatever area is being discussed.

Talking to the president and I’m very clear with, um, legal, are you making these changes because there is a legal reason or are these your preferred word choices? Because they’re gonna make it sound like a robot. And we work for human beings. So the more I can have them clarify for me, and more importantly for the president, if this.

Something that has to be changed because there’s a vulnerability or it’s something that they really would like to change because it’s something that they think is a safer landing, then I’m gonna push twice as hard to make sure we keep the original language. That’s, I think, critically important, but as soon as I see everybody and their best friend is in there editing the document, I know we need to pull this out and we need to really start having some serious conversations about what this means.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: As somebody who’s been in a 30 minute debate on whether our location was across from campus or next to campus and what we’re like. Yes. Like these things don’t matter. Like timing. Let’s, we gotta get this out right. People know where that location is. It’s fine.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: The last thing that I always do is I cut and paste the entire statement and put it into Google and do a search. You can use whatever, whatever source you would like, but if other people’s statements start to come, You haven’t done your job because no institution is a carbon copy of another institution.

Um, and if I see it starts with some of the language at this point, that has become a mockery of higher education, right? We, we care for our students in ways that sound as if you don’t care, but it’s, you feel as if you have to plug that in to cover yourselves. If you wanna say you care about your students, then explain to me how, And you can still do that within a very short statement.

And the last thing I always say, um, when one of my campuses still smarts at this, is I don’t want any statement that’s over 400 words. 400 words is actually long. And if you can’t say it in 400 words, then um, I think you need to go back and say, What is it that we’re trying to communicate here? You can always hyperlink, right?

You don’t have to give us all the details, and then that gives you a metric to to watch as well how many people clicked through. But if it’s over 400 words, then you are making this easier than it needs to be. It’s hard to write concisely, and it should be hard because these statements have importance in our community.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: When people are gonna take it out of context anyway, like they’re going to abbreviate it to fit, fit it on social, like they’re gonna take that, that that one little statement is gonna get copied and pasted and put into a tweet and all of the 400 words that you needed to like buttress that to build up to that statement, that context is gone.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: And that’s why being pithy is so important because then they have to pull what you have condensed down to exactly what you want. And the more you add in words and adjectives and ARBs and you make it longer, that’s when they start to paraphrase for you, and that’s when you lose control of the message.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Let’s move on and talk about staffing because this is an issue in higher ed and this is something Well, and and too, just coming off off the heel hills of Higher ed Web, I think there were so many people I talked to that were. This was their last year in higher ed, or they were thinking about leaving, um, or they’re staying and they just, they are short staffed and looking for, for, for people.

So, So what role does the board and president have in retaining that talent?

Teresa Valerio Parrot: So obviously what you’re talking about is in the units, but they’re setting the stage for the appreciation of people and I think as we’ve looked at why people are leaving, um, and if people aren’t following Kevin McClure on Twitter and all that, he’s saying about why people are staying or going. I highly encourage that.

Um, and also listen to your colleagues, um, because I don’t know that we do that enough in some of what they’re saying. Um, I think everybody’s struggling right now. Um, and there is this opportunity for us to look and see why people are saying that they’re leaving. Is it because of pay? And that is one of the reasons.

Is it because of appreciation? Is it because of, um, nowhere to go next in their careers? What are the different ways in which. We’re thinking about that, and although the board and the president won’t be at the level of working directly, perhaps with like a director of social media, they’re setting up the ways in which you can actually keep people by allowing salary adjustments, not just title adjustments, because I’m seeing those everywhere.

People are getting new titles and no more dollars. I had that once upon a time in my career and that was soul crushing. You are good enough but not good enough for us to pay you more. We wanna keep you, but we also want to save money for what? , How about for me anyway, . So make sure that you’re allowing people to give those retention offers that are more than just titles and make sure that you are looking, if they think this is a dead end job, how are you thinking about professional development?

Professional development dollars got deim. And that’s how people see themselves, increasing skills and networks and opportunities. And if you aren’t appreciating their brain growing, then are you really appreciating what the contributions from their brain are to your organization? And also think about how you’re structuring units themselves, because we’ve seen so many, um, just organizational charts that make it feel as if Marco.

It doesn’t matter as much because everybody is so far down on that organizational chart. There’s just maybe one or two that get that glory and sunshine and and opportunity. And so how do we make sure that we’re offering many different ways to think about appreciation of individuals for money, opportunity, and also next steps.

Joel Goodman: Do you have opinions? I mean, TP works with a lot of institutions, and so you, you have a, even just anecdotally, like a, kind of a, a really good grasp on the, the lay of the land in terms. Positions that are, positions that are maybe unfilled, that are specifically underappreciated and maybe like those more critical ones that you think are, you know, for lack of a better term, like the low hanging fruit that an institution just say like, value this position or value these two positions.

What, what’s your kind of general feeling on that? Uh, as you look at the industry right now, Where can, where can institutions kind of get the most value out of, uh, lifting up those, those specific positions?

Teresa Valerio Parrot: I think back to where I started and I think back to who we like to mentor and grow. Think those entry level positions aren’t getting the due that they’re deserved. Um, we are still hiring at very low salaries, which means if you look at what an average new college graduate is making in Marco, we’re so far below those numbers.

So who do we think we’re going to get? And then when we get people in these jobs and um, they start to grow, we get very worried about whether or not they’re going to stay. I always like to say entice them. To stay so that that isn’t even, not in your mind, right? Like if you are really approaching it from the beginning of I want this person to stay and to grow, then you shouldn’t be waking up in the middle of the night and saying, Do we think they’re looking elsewhere?

Because you should know fundamentally, you know, kind of what they’re thinking about and, and how competitive your opportunity is. But I think I am so fundamentally worried about the pipeline that we’re growing. Um, we are have become a machine to churn out people that we bring in, in entry level positions, and then we, um, spit out for other industries and, um, these are really talented people.

We continue to devalue what it is that they bring on a day to day basis until they’re gone and we realize all that they’ve picked up. And I also, this is just, you said I could go onto a tangent. So here’s my

Joel Goodman: Yeah, please,

Teresa Valerio Parrot: I’m actually a big fan of quiet, quitting. As it’s defined. I think we all should quiet quit.

And that’s to say you’re setting bound. And you’re asking for goals and expectations to be set. So if someone isn’t filling these roles that we’ve always assumed that they should fill, then that’s on us because we didn’t communicate it. And if people are starting to set boundaries, I am such a huge fan of that because there needs to be a point where you allow yourself to have off time and you allow yourself to recoup and to regenerate and to be thinking.

What comes next, and especially in social media and in media, you have to be creative. And I don’t know about both of you, but if I have to be creative, it’s harder. If I have downtime and I can think and I can go do something for me and come back, I’m gonna be a hell of a lot more creative. That’s what I think quiet, quitting is allowing, I think it’s healthy and I, I welcome anybody to push back on that, but I’m encouraging.

Joel Goodman: I totally agree, and I mean like even looking back, you know, it’s been a decade since I’d worked on a campus, but. I, I felt this a little bit as a business owner, but, but also remember those times where it just felt like we had to constantly be in stasis because that was, you know, we didn’t have that time to, to kind of mull over what were our actions.

We didn’t, you know, most institutions don’t build in, most Marco units don’t build in, uh, postmortems or any sort of like review process. Some are getting better at doing that. Even that sort of thing is a lot of work cuz then you’re in a group of people and everyone’s critiquing you. And it’s, I mean, you know, even artists don’t really like being in group critiques, you know, art students and things like that.

And I remember just being like having all of the, having all of the pressure of trying to push. Our university forward with what we were doing on the web with, uh, our digital marketing, with our web design, with content, with that sort of thing, without any time to actually consider what I was doing . And so like, I feel like I got lucky, uh, and, and did some pretty good work because of it.

But I, you know, one of my, one of my big, uh, concerns or, or I guess one of the, the big things that I ha have been trying to to work through in higher ed is how much. The industry has how much potential every college, every university has, and how much of that’s wasted because we don’t allow that space to consider what we’re doing and if we can do things better and kind of move forward.

And so kind of like, I don’t know. That’s, that’s like my big , It’s like my guiding force I guess in, in like working in this industry is like how do we maximize that potential that we have? And a lot of that is just providing time. For rest. And you know, quiet Quittings a stupid term cuz like , you’re doing the job, you’re doing

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Especially in creative positions that.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: so hard,

Jon-Stephen Stansel: I feel, you know, a couple things. I’ve got so much, so much to unpack from, from what you just said. Cause this is so good. First off, I can’t remember where I heard it. Somebody uh, tweeted that it’s not quiet quitting, it’s acting your wage. And I think that’s a perfect way to do it and I think it’s something I learned as a freelancer and dealing with like scope creep where I would have no problem telling a client, Yeah, that’s not in our contract.

If you, we can do it, but you need to pay me. To do that. But when you’re a salaried employee, you can’t really do that. But you really should be able to. You go, You know what? Give me a little more money or, or something, You know, this, this is not within in the bounds of, of, of what my job is. I’m happy to do it, but you either need to take something away or pay me more, um, higher in higher ed.

We just can’t do that.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: Or can we like, I think that’s the question, right? We should be able to.

Joel Goodman: I remember like being, I remember my, my last university job being sat down by, By my manager right before I was headed off to drive my in-laws, you know, eight hours away for Thanksgiving after. And, and also after just having launched eight websites in six months, um, while a grad student, you know, working probably like, at least for the job, working at least 70 hours a week and being told, yeah, 40 hours a week is a minimum.

And I was like, Are you kidding me? , like I, you don’t, you do not see what I just did like over that minimum for.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: If you could be at 40 hours a week after all that you just did, that would be a miraculous.

Joel Goodman: Right, and I’m way, I’m way too old for that. I can, I don’t have the energy to do that. But even back then, like I remember my, I mean my wife being like, I’m really afraid for you that you’re gonna have a heart attack. And I was, you know, I was like, I don’t know, 25

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Is beyond just higher ed, but the, the 40 hour work week, the eight hour day in the jobs that we have now, some days there’s not enough work to fill eight hours and that’s fine. And then there are some days that our 12 hour days, you know, it just goes back and forth. And then being in a creative position where, hey, at my creative mind doesn’t shut off at five o’clock.

I’m still thinking through that problem. You know? Or I need that time. I feel guilty, like just sitting here twiddling my thumbs, thinking about something or going for a walk. That’s some of my mo, like I need that time to come up with those ideas before I work and well before I work. It is work, right? I am working.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: And that’s part of what I tell my team as well is that make sure that you’re counting that time when you’re still. Noodling through and working through what it is that you have to do. Um, but my, um, colleague Erin can always tell when I need a break and she’ll say, Why don’t you go for a run? And she knows, first of all, I’m a horrible runner, so that’s not, that’s not me.

Humble bragging that I’m a strong runner. That really

Joel Goodman: like, she’s like, Take a lap. Essa.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: Exactly. But she knows that while I’m in my, what I call running, I’m processing and I’m thinking, and usually that’s where I can start to make connections. It’s the actual time away doing something else that allows my brain to make those connections.

And I also know that when she suggests to me, Hey, when’s the last time you went for a run? What she’s telling me is, I’m seeing you struggle in making those connections, and I know you’re almost there and. You can’t do that on a college campus. Right. Or it’s not approved of in the same way. But I wanna circle back to something that Jon-Stephen said.

We started a four day work week at the beginning of the summer. And um, I heard from a number of people that they thought it was a mistake. And um, and Joel can confirm this, I heard from a number of people that they weren’t fans of me introducing this because then it was in our, our universe, right? Um, but here we are

Joel Goodman: I loved it. For the record

Teresa Valerio Parrot: Yeah, you were. You were like, You go, Tell me how it

Joel Goodman: I was like, That’s amazing. Do it.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: And here’s what I’ll say, J.S., to your point, we have become more strategic. We’re getting more done in four days, and I am seeing my team’s creativity go up because again, when they’re doing time things outside of work and my colleague Kylie is really good at archiving what she’s doing on her extra day off, it’s still in places in ways that they’re thinking.

Joel Goodman: Hmm.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: And so I have to say I was, that was my hope. And um, it has absolutely proven itself because what we are producing right now is better than what we were doing when we were there five days a week.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: And I think that’s an excellent point cuz especially on higher ed campuses, people love their work and they, for the most part, love what they do. I love, like, I’m making this podcast in my spare time like, cuz I enjoy talking about these things and what I do and when I, when I’m off, I’m reading. Books about things related to my job because I find that enjoyable and find that fulfilling and that free time is time that helps me get better.

Like going to conferences and learning more and, and meeting other people. And, and, and you, you know, you, we were just at, at High Ed Web last week, conversations around the, the dinner table are not about you. Just like sports ball or, or what have you. It’s, it’s like, but then it brings it back like, what are our campuses doing with our athletic departments?

Like, it, it, it’s all centers around work because it’s creative people who want to do that creative work.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: And that goes back to why my heart is so broken that professional development dollars have been cut for so many. Because I say this all the time, my community has grown. Considerably through conferences and, and whether or not you’re going to the sessions or you’re just talking to people in the hallway.

It’s both of those things. That’s how I’ve really developed my friendships and my professional colleagues, and that’s where I’ve been able to learn new things, bounce ideas off of others, and also just create f relationships and friendships with those who are newer to the industry. You can always tell that person who’s off to the side and looking down at their shoes on the first day that at the end of the conference is.

Your next best friend in the, in the industry because what they’re sharing and what they’re thinking about just gives you a new way of considering your own work and your own approach. I love that kind of interaction. And also just learning from others and growing myself, um, at conferences.

Joel Goodman: I think that’s why you hear from a lot of, uh, conference attendees, especially ones that you were at conferences with, how it’s just, there’s like that summer camp vibe

Teresa Valerio Parrot: That’s exactly it. Yes.

Joel Goodman: energized and I mean, I feel that way. You know, JS and I were both at, at Hya web, uh, Last week, which means nothing if you’re listening to this, uh, you know, any time in the future.

Uh, but hi at Web 2022 and, you know, first one back in person too, which I think, one I’m realizing that I’m, I get exhausted very, uh, very much earlier than I used to outta practice with, uh, people. Um, I guess, but at the same time, you know, coming back and just being ready to go on my work because, you know, just despite the fact that everything I talked about was work and has actually still working with clients while, while there.

There’s just, there’s that energy from being, you know, among a community that understands the work that you’re doing or wants to understand the work you’re doing. And then can, like you said, you can bounce your ideas off of them. You can hear them learn from them on the spot without having to be stuck, you know, in an office talking to the same five to 10 people, which is not a bad thing.

It’s just, you know, sometimes you, you need those other voices to, to enter into your thought process to. Get that creativity going. It’s like you going for a run. It’s like me baking bread. It’s, you know, it’s, it’s just another one of those, uh, outlets that become an inlet for, for stoking. What, what we do professionally,

Teresa Valerio Parrot: And I do wanna give a big shout out to both of you because I followed you on social media this past week while you were there, and I follow you anyway. But, um, I really appreciated, um, just the excitement that you were sharing what you were. Learning what you were hearing, how you’re approaching things, um, the nuggets from both of your sessions.

I had like dueling banjos going on in my Twitter, reading what you all were talking about, and I think people were so gracious across the conference of tagging colleagues that others may not know about. So I, um, started following a number of new individuals, um, because I can appreciate what it is that they’re talking about and what I have to learn from them as.

Joel Goodman: You know, I think we should pause here for a second to just state that I had six more people in my presentation than Jon-Stephen, but.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: for that setup. You’re so welcome,

Joel Goodman: But Js won the red stapler and I’m very proud of him. And yeah, we’re gonna have to

Teresa Valerio Parrot: I like how everything there is themed red as well, so I mean, if you look at that, it was just destiny,

Jon-Stephen Stansel: I am very well color coordinated. Actually, I should probably move it around so it’s next to Radiant red and not radiant

Joel Goodman: Yeah.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: Look at that you should like hang it so that it’s showing right there.

Joel Goodman: should like underline it and top light it so that it just kind of glows there. But yeah,

Teresa Valerio Parrot: Right. It’s like every stock photo of a laboratory that we have for our campuses. Right.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Mm-hmm. , I’ll, I’ll write on my, my clear whiteboard.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: is it? Is it in your Twitter bio?

Jon-Stephen Stansel: No, it is not, It is not. I need to, to put it there. Just, just throw it, throw it, throw it in there.

Joel Goodman: Oh, the mo, the moment I knew I was old was when the, uh, the le the committee for Hya Web, when they were doing their announcements, had to explain the reference for the red stapler. And I was like, Oh, been a long

Teresa Valerio Parrot: serious? That just broke my heart.

Joel Goodman: They explained the reference for the red stapler. Oh. Oh. The children here, they’ve, they’ve never seen office space.

Okay. Well,

Teresa Valerio Parrot: so? Here’s one of my pride points as a parent. My child is seeing office space. She knows those references and music. She knows she knows her more than just her generations. Music, and I think that’s critically important. She, if she were to come to one of my presentations, she would get my jokes, which I’m having to update because I’m getting to the point where you’re like, wait for the, for the laughter.

And there’s no laughter, and you’re like, Oh God, I just, I just aged 10 years up here. I.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: As someone who, who, who had references to David Lynch’s Dune in their, in their presentation. I, I, I feel.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: Yeah, there’s nothing worse. And then you’re like, Okay, well let me explain it. Oh, I just made it worse. . But that goes back to social media, right? Because for so many things you think, Oh, people just didn’t understand me. That’s why they’re being highly critical of what I just said. And sometimes, no, they’re just being highly critical of what you said.

It’s not that they’re missing how funny or cute or how intelligent you are, they’re just disagreeing.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: People are astute and they’re gonna disagree no matter what. Like I like to say and tell people that I coach sometimes. you, you could walk on water and they’re gonna complain that you don’t know how to swim, and that’s just how it goes.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: Um, I post pictures of my dogs and, uh, I’ve had complaints about, um, one of our dogs is an American bulldog and people say, You’re pity. And I’m like, Well, first of all, I have nothing against pit bulls, but he is not. And second of all, like he’s dog And isn’t he cute in his bow tie everybody, Right? Like that’s the, that’s what I want you to, to take away from that photo

Joel Goodman: Uh, people gotta complain about something at some time.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: Exactly. It. So I have a question for both of. Because I do have the ability to interact with vice presidents and because I do have the ability to interact with presidents. What would you want me to be sharing about what you’re hearing from social media, um, professionals right now and from just our colleagues more generally that you don’t know if they’re hearing.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Bring your social media manager into the room. Like if, if you, if you were not talking to your social media manager on a regular basis, just one on one. You, you need to be like, don’t, don’t trust the telephone game of, Okay, well their boss is gonna tell their boss is, and it’s gonna get up to me. Go directly to the source.

Ask them what their, they’re hearing on social, what you know, what their concerns are. Ask them how they’re doing. , make, make sure, especially during a crisis, just to like come down to that office for five minutes and go, Hey, I appreciate you just. So far, uh, but more importantly, like during a crisis, you should be talking to your social media manager all the time, like, you know, uh, getting a pulse of it, uh, asking for a, a post-mortem report after that crisis.

Um, but, and, and just trust them as, as, as the subject matter expert. Like, don’t let the title so often, like we say, social media manager, but like, it’s generally like a specialist coordinator, like entry level role.

Joel Goodman: what I was gonna say. I, I think the big thing is like the, the chip has sailed for social media folks to be entry level positions. Like it’s, and, and, and, Yeah. Trust, you understand. I mean, they are, they are the front line of PR when, you know, when you don’t have a good, a good PR agency repping you or, or even when you do like that, you know, you all have to rely on the people that are getting those messages out and.

And I think a lot of times, you know, I see this in a lot of different capacities in higher ed, but a lot of times the agencies you’re working with, um, or you know, or the, or the firms that you’re working with, trust your staff more than you do. And, and that’s, that’s difficult. I, I, you know, the, the entry level, you know, $32,000 a year if that social media manager position.

Going back to what you said, that’s not enough money for the pressure that happens because they’re not just storytellers. Like that’s a big part of it. And you have to be creative. But then they have to be communicating things that are difficult. They have to deal with all the, you know, all the crap that goes out between people that are mad at you and not mad at you.

All the complaints and stuff, and it’s nonstop. And that’s just awful.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: So a couple of times I’ve written blog entries, so I edit the blog for inside higher ed, called Call to Action. Anybody please feel free to send me a, a piece. And, um, and I, a couple of times I’ve written pieces to say, stop picking on this person, right? Like, really defending our social media managers when they end up in the cross hairs of something that isn’t their decision, isn’t their statement, isn’t their, they’re doing their job, which is to share what has been decided or has happened.

The piling on that happens and how we’ve seen just the mental fatigue of these individuals. If you’re not paying attention to that, then you really aren’t paying attention to where your staff is right now and where they need you. And that is so critically important to me. And the feedback I’ve received from social media professionals has been tremendous because they know somebody is seeing them.

And it breaks my heart that more people aren’t.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: I almost feel like university presidents and, and, and, and even the boards should like, have to sit in the social media manager hot seat for an hour, like once a month. Like you sit down, like mid crisis. Come on, read some of these comments as they come in and see, see what it’s like and how to handle it.

See how quickly they come in while you’re spending five hours trying to write a say nothing statement.

Joel Goodman: See the mental fatigue part of it there. Most institutions are hiring. I mean, those are usually like, you know, fresh out of fresh outta college, you know, newly minted, newly minted college graduates coming in and like, I don’t know, at, you know, at 38 years old, I’m not prepared to take, well, I probably am now, but like you’re coming outta college.

I would not have been prepared to just take a piling. Uh, you know, from, from the, from the anonymous masses on, on, in, on Twitter, on, you know, wherever Facebook, Facebook

Teresa Valerio Parrot: I. Think that I could take it for a period of time, right? I could take it for five or 10 days, but we have to remember, these people do this every day, and for most of them, the big push that they have going all the way back to our conversation about boundaries is that they’re on 24 7. And just seeing that repetition, I think it would be nearly impossible for someone not to have it start to impact them.

Them and who they are, how they think about their

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Well. On, on, on top of that I, I’ll add too, I was once working social at a university in, in the middle of a crisis. And then after hours I noticed like I was asleep, I would wake up and notice the president had answered a few questions on social media. Now I know he was trying to help, but without telling me first the way I felt that that was like, Oh, snap.

I, they must think I’m not doing my job. So they’re jumping in to answer these questions when I’m just sleep. Like get, trying to get some sleep before I have to do it the next day. It would’ve helped. I, I, I know in my heart of hearts, the president was trying to help, but it would’ve helped a lot more if he had sent a little message going, Hey, I’m gonna jump in here and give you a hand, if that’s all right.

Any pointers?

Teresa Valerio Parrot: To that point, what we see most often is when something goes sideways. Based on those who were trying to help getting involved. Right. And so I’m not saying that things went sideways, but you increased the potential for that to happen without the coordination into your point, the tools and the skills and understanding the strategy that was already in place.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: There’s a big difference between the university’s voice and the president’s voice, and you can back and forth and do these things. Like the president can say things, the university can’t, The university can say things that the president can’t, but you’ve got to have a conversation between those two to find out where we’re going to use each voice.

So it, it’s, it’s really important to have that conversation.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: I

Jon-Stephen Stansel: We are out of, We could do this like all day. Like I, we could talk about this all, all, all week, but, uh, I think we’re, we’re gonna have stop there. So SSA can, can you please let us know where people can find you? Uh, um, where anything that you, you want, wanna promote, go ahead and give your plugs.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: Absolutely. So I’m Teresa Valerio Parrot. I’m principal of TVP Communications, uh, tp I’m at at TV Parrot on Twitter. Um, and uh, the agency is at tv. P Comms. Um, but please feel free to reach out and especially if you see me at one of these upcoming conferences, I’ll be at ama. I’ll be at P R S A, I’ll be at times higher ed.

Um, if you see me, please say hi, because I always am interested in growing my community.

Joel Goodman: Thank you so much for listening to The Thought Feeder Podcast and a very special thanks again to Theresa for being with us today. Thank you so much, Teresa.

Teresa Valerio Parrot: Thank you. It was a pleasure.

Joel Goodman: You can find Theresa on Twitter at TV Parrot, and you can find us on Twitter at Thought Feed Pod or on our website thought feeder, where we’ve got transcripts for every episode.

We’ve got some other things like pictures of past guests. I don’t, I redesigned it lately, so go check it out. Uh, Thought Feeder is produced and edited by Carl Gratiot and hosted by Jon-Stephen Stansel and me, Joel Goodman. If you’re a fan of the show and are feeling generous, we’d really appreciate a review on your preferred podcast listening platform.

It really helps other people in higher ed find us, or, you know, send them a text message with a link to this episode. We’d really appreciate it. We’ll be back with another episode in a couple of weeks.