Last Tuesday, the president of the Minnesota Student Association, Sarah Shook, proposed creating a new strategic communications director position and a vastly increased budget for MSA’s communications. While informing students is a worthwhile goal for MSA, it should be able to do so without such a huge increase in their communications budget, paid for by student fees.
Operating a Facebook and Twitter account takes minimal effort and expense, and the entire audience with which MSA wants to communicate is centrally located. Instead of expensive advertising, why not have members ask for a couple of minutes of professors’ time at the beginning of classes to address students? Instead of paying for the vague “full-service technology solutions provider” Group Interactive Networks to make intra-MSA communication easy, why not seek free alternatives like Google Groups, e-mail lists, Skype or other services? There are countless free services to share calendars, spreadsheets and other files online. It is hard to fathom what the thousands of dollars in the proposed communications budget could possibly be spent on.
We don’t have to look any further than our own University of Minnesota to see how strategic communication frequently means vapid, meaningless press releases designed to control an image rather than truly inform, much less do the actual work of the organization they are trying to promote.
As it is currently proposed, MSA’s communication plan is a high risk for wasteful spending and a distraction from important work. MSA should reach out to students and promote itself in a smart and frugal way that does not affect its real job: advocating for and representing students.