Professor Louise Richardson: internal communications updates

University Communications

Welcome to Michaelmas term and to the new-look University Bulletin.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, I have been mindful of the famous words of George Bernard Shaw who said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." Working around the clock with colleagues to fashion an effective response, it is easy to forget that others may not have access to the same information you do. We have tried throughout this crisis to communicate as fully and frequently as possible and, in doing so, have adapted a number of our pre-existing communication tools.

Blueprint

We launched the Blueprint Bulletin in July 2018 as a monthly e-newsletter for all staff as a means to keep you informed about University news and updates. Once we were hit by the pandemic, we adapted and created a new weekly Blueprint Bulletin so that we could communicate rapidly in response to the fast-changing environment.

The goal of this weekly e-bulletin was to provide information about University planning in response to the virus and to changing government guidance, and to provide links to available sources of support alongside other University news. The Bulletin also sought to keep staff informed about the extraordinary work of our colleagues developing vaccines, therapeutics, tests and other means of managing the pandemic.

The Blueprint Bulletin has acquired a large readership in a very short period. It is opened by about 14,000 readers each week. Last week’s edition alone was opened 14,482 times.

We have decided, therefore, to retain this means of communication, but, having solicited your suggestions for improvement, we are making a number of changes.

First, we are changing the name to University Bulletin. This is to distinguish it from the more informal Blueprint Bulletin and in recognition of the fact that over the past several months, it has become a means for conveying important University information about developments in our response to COVID-19.

Secondly, we are restructuring the Bulletin so that it will align better with the Staff Gateway section of the website and facilitate ease of navigation. Thirdly, as the PVC blogs proved so popular, we will be inviting a wider range of senior staff to contribute blogs on critical issues of the week.

Finally, we will be adding a letters section to the Bulletin. This is in response to staff who indicated that they wished to be able to raise issues or concerns in a timely way. Responses to the letters by the relevant member of the senior team will be published each week. We welcome any further suggestions you might have to improve the University Bulletin. Please send your suggestions to internal.communications@admin.ox.ac.uk.

Gazette

The new University Bulletin is intended to supplement and not in any way to supplant the University Gazette, which remains the official University publication and authorised journal of record.

The Gazette has been published continuously since 1870. It is published on Thursdays during term and has continued throughout the pandemic to ensure that staff are kept informed of official University business.

The Gazette will remain online and we have also introduced a new summary edition. With more people reading University communications on their phones, the team in PAD have been working to make the weekly email to subscribers more convenient and user friendly. This comes in the form of a precis of each week’s Gazette, which can be read easily on a screen of any size. The aim is to save readers having to click through to the underlying PDF by presenting the essentials of each notice in an easily readable format. It has the additional – and considerable – advantage of providing a showcase for the wonderful photographs included in Oxford University Images.

While the Gazette and the University Bulletin have slightly different purposes, they aim to serve the same constituency. We hope that together they will serve to enhance a sense of being engaged in and informed about important University decisions.

Website

We have sought to make as much information as possible available on the website and we have been tracking its use. The COVID-19 hub, in its various iterations since January, has been viewed 1,431,305 times. In August and September alone, the health pages were viewed 85,022 times. Between January and September, the Staff Gateway pages received 841,163 views. It is absolutely clear that there is an enormous appetite for information and we have found the website to be the most effective way of making information available.

Open Fora

A website is no substitute for personal interaction, so we have also held a number of open forum events to address your comments and concerns. In June, 1,563 members of staff registered for a Teams Live event with my senior team and me. In September, 1,136 people registered for a Teams event on planning for Michaelmas term. The next Open Forum I will be hosting is on November 4 and registration is open. In addition to these fora on pandemic planning, we have an Open Forum on planning for the Race Equality Charter in November and 849 members of staff registered for a Teams Live event on pay, pensions and well-being in July.

A Teams Live event has the great advantage that large numbers of people can participate from the convenience of wherever they happen to be, but it is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. I am looking forward to the day when we can all interact face-to-face. In the meantime, I very much hope that you are receiving the information you require, and that if you are not, you feel able to tell us how we can improve our efforts to communication fully and effectively in this difficult time.

Finally, please do tell us what you think of the new-look Bulletin and Gazette.