We Have Lost a Friend

Words cannot express how saddened I was to learn early this morning about the passing of Dr. Stephen Kopp, president of Marshall University.

koppIt was a privilege to first meet him in 2006, when Capstone was fortunate to be selected to partner with the University on the new First Year Residence Halls and Recreation Center.  Many of us here at the Capstone Companies worked very closely with him through that process and have continued to work with him on the operations of those facilities.

I think I feel like everyone else who knew him does today:  that you felt important and valued each time you interacted with him.  I was looking through past emails this morning where, for example, I sent him an article that I thought he might find of interest.  I didn’t just get a quick response of “hey, thanks,” I received two to three paragraphs of appreciation and commentary.   A response that took considerable time and thought to write.

It was an honor to interview him earlier this year on a podcast we did for Student Housing Matters.  Interestingly, unlike other presidents we have interviewed, he meticulously reviewed and edited the questions we proposed for the interview.  Not because he was trying to avoid uncomfortable questions or sensitive issues.  But because he cared deeply about everything he did, and in everything he did, he did it excellently.

I think I speak for all who knew him that I count myself blessed for having known him.


The Best Time To Think About Your Crisis Response Protocol Is Before You Need It

crisis-preparedness-signThe key to effective crisis communications and issues management is planning – in advance of any crisis or an issue that your university could face. Anticipating the types of challenges your institution could encounter and planning for them proactively will provide peace of mind knowing that any situation can be handled strategically and efficiently.

Most universities, institutions and businesses understand, on some level, that they need to take a strategic approach to crisis communications. Unfortunately, however, rarely do they thoughtfully take the time to prepare properly and adequately in advance of an urgent situation. Doing so allows organizations to respond quickly and in a unified voice in the aftermath of an issue, emergency or crisis event.

When developed correctly, a crisis communications protocol will describe the activities necessary to take appropriate actions and communicate specific messages during and after an event. The goal is that, instead of wasting critical time trying to determine roles and responsibilities, your university immediately is prepared to manage the steps necessary to move through the crisis’ lifecycle – which can vary depending on the issue with which you are dealing. Compare, for example, responding to a damaging nighttime fire in a university facility in which no one was injured, versus a litigious event involving students and university employees that will attract media attention at various times – peaks and valleys – based on legal proceedings and inflection points.

Plan in advance

Every institution has areas of vulnerability. Work with your colleagues to identify the scenarios that could result in a crisis or surface as an issue at your school. This will help you prepare a plan that will be of value in a wide variety of situations and scenarios.

Before developing your protocol, consider that the published document equally must be comprehensive and simple to follow. You cannot cut corners – the protocol clearly must define roles, responsibilities and activities in a manner that is easy to understand, reference and utilize. It should provide structure to your approach while allowing the flexibility to respond to each individual incident separately, so that you are able to stay “on message” and protect your university’s brand.

A list of response activities and the order in which they should take place, including assigning roles to specific team members and identifying a chief spokesperson(s) who can engage with members of the media, faculty and staff, students, families and your community is the foundation of any crisis protocol. The ultimate goal is to direct the crisis situation to a successful conclusion, while maintaining your university’s integrity and reputation.

Position yourself to respond immediately

When a situation or crisis arises, messages specific to the event are needed immediately. As you develop your protocol, consider your institution’s key messages, which will need to be reiterated when dealing with an issue or event. In addition, spend the time necessary to think about anticipated questions that you might receive from faculty and staff, students, members of the community and, of course, the media. Plan some answers to those questions – that exercise is invaluable.

Take the opportunity to hone your team’s skills. Prepare your spokespeople to respond to potential media inquiries effectively. Media training is very helpful, even for eloquent, experienced speakers who have dealt with the media before.

You also should consider how you will monitor the media and social media channels during and after a crisis. There are plenty of tools out there – which ones will work best for your university, and how can you differentiate between the many options? Understand that the perfect monitoring tool does not exist, so give some thought to what you and your office will need to do to supplement any monitoring tools that you might have at your disposal – currently or in the future.


It is critical to recognize that, in most cases, a crisis does not simply resolve, and its short- and long-term ramifications for your university’s brand potentially can be severe. It equally is as important to manage the crisis successfully as it is to continue to promote your school’s brand moving forward. Obviously, a crisis can and likely will impact the ways in which you communicate about your school. However, following a crisis event, you must understand that you have a crisis with which to deal – do not allow your institution to become a victim of the crisis itself.


Danny Markstein is the Managing Director of MarkStein, a PR company located in Birmingham, AL. 


Work Life Balance: Maintaining Both Sides

9ipA7q4iEHere at Capstone, we make it our goal to respond to all emails within 24 hours of receiving them. The point of this policy is to help with efficiency and to make sure that everyone is getting back the responses and information that they need. I have always viewed it as a positive idea, and do my best to stay on top of my emails. However, the article posted below warns us that being too on top of replying to one’s emails could have some negative consequences – especially to one’s health! The article discusses how constantly checking your work email, even after hours, and feeling a need to respond immediately, leads to more fatigue and burn out at work. As I thought about this, I realized that it is something which I am guilty of. When my work phone dings that I have an email, I immediately check it – even when I am sitting on my couch at home!

It is always important to be aware of keeping a good work life balance so that we don’t all burn out. But it is also important to stay on top of your workload and make sure that the job is getting accomplished, especially since we work in a field that often has after hour commitments and emergencies. Is there a way to do both? If we are made more aware of our behaviors, especially in how they relate to working after hours and our relationship to technology outside of the office, hopefully we can change this. It should still be possible to respond to emails within 24 hours, but to only do so during one’s normal office hours. I think it’s possible, we just have to be cognizant of it, and not only for ourselves, but for our colleagues as well. If we are constantly expecting a response within 15 minutes, or expecting a response to an email after hours, we are adding to the problem. Instead, let’s find a way to add to the solution. And if I email you some ideas to help us brainstorm how to handle this issue, don’t respond right away. I’ll understand.

Immediately Responding To Work Email Is Destroying Your Health

Seth formal

Nick Morgan’s 5 Secrets to Successful Speech Writing

nickmorganSpeech writing or public speaking is something that most everyone has done, or will have to do at some point in their professional career.  Back in 2011 Nick Morgan (who we’ve had on our podcast twice) had an article both on his Public Words blog and at Forbes on How to Write a Great Speech: 5 Secrets for Success. Those secrets were that:

  • Great speeches are primarily emotional, not logical.
  • Small shifts in tone make an enormous difference to the audience, so sweat the details.
  • A great speech has a clear voice speaking throughout.
  • A great speech conveys one idea only, though it can have lots of supporting points.
  • A great speech answers a great need.

When preparing to speak in front of a crowd, are there any other tips you would add to this list?


10 Things to Consider When Working in a Leasing Trailer

Campus Town TrailerYou’re building a new Residence Hall or Apartment Complex. Great! Unfortunately, that means you won’t have a permanent office space until the project is near completion. No problem, a trailer can be a perfect home for the next year or so and in some ways may be better than your permanent office. There are things that one might never think to prepare for before working in a Leasing Trailer. Here’s a list of things that you should at least consider before entering into your new leasing trailer office.

  1. Find the right internet/phone provider: We chose Verizon’s Wi-Fi and Voice Plan. We have a “landline” where prospective students and parents can call and we have internet that our copier/printer can connect to for easy access. Since having and actual landline in your trailer might not be possible, this is a good solution. Keep in mind that since everything is wireless, there may be times when internet runs slower or the signal may drop.
  2. Everything can change: This is very true and can happen on a day to day basis. Everything from furniture to the flooring can be restructured at any time. It’s very important to be flexible and be prepared for anything.
  3. Using the Restroom: Don’t worry, you won’t need to go outside to the Port a potty. There is a bathroom, but just be warned that there will be a loud sound when you flush. It’s normal; it’s just the water from the tank refilling the toilet.
  4. Water source: Water is not as free flowing as in a regular office so it’s a good idea to bring your own bottled water from home. There is water to wash your hands, but keep in mind this water comes from the same tank that refills your toilet when you flush. You may not wish to use that as a drinking source, so bringing your own is the best option.
  5. Leaks: Seeing as you are in a temporary space, there may be times when there may be a leak during a rain storm. It’s handy to have some towels around until this can be addressed. Just in case.
  6. Your coworkers are closer than you think: Sure, you may be used to working in a small office, but in a leasing trailer where the walls are extra thin, things might seem especially close. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but something to keep in mind.
  7. Trash removal: In a traditional office setting, usually trash is dumped with the rest of the building so this may be overlooked. It’s a great idea to work with the construction site to either have your trash dumped, or have a designated area where you can dispose of it.
  8. Receiving Mail: Do you have an address? Does the post office know of this address? Does the mail carrier know of this address? If the answer is “no” to any of the above questions, you may not receive mail. Until this is sorted our properly, you may choose to create a P.O. Box.
  9.  Mistaken identity: Due to your location and the fact that you’re in a trailer, prospective students to the college or visitors to the college may mistake you for the “Information Center”. Have a stack of campus maps on hand so you can help direct them to where they wish to go. It’s also a good idea to know where the visitor parking lots are located.
  10. Patience: This should go without saying, but this is probably the most important. Due to the constant changes and unexpected incidents with new construction, having patience is probably the best thing you can bring to work each day!MelyndaDavis
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