Announcing the MIT Office of Communications

September 22, 2016
Nathaniel Nickerson, Vice President for Communications, 2015–2019 |

Dear Communications Colleagues, 

I write to announce the establishment of the MIT Office of Communications, whose mission is to inform and inspire the MIT community, tell our story far and wide, and attract exceptional talent, everywhere, committed to a better world.

Technically speaking, I share no “news” today: the News Office, Communications Production Services, Reference Publications, and Copytech have reported to the Vice President for Communications since the creation of that position over a year ago. The Office of Communications simply gives these offices a formal shared home.

But here’s what is new: we are poised to bring our work to the next level by “flipping” to an audience-centric approach: seeing the Institute from the eyes of those whose opinions and actions we wish to influence, then using this understanding to give them a deeper sense of engagement.

To effect that change, the office begins its work with three goals:

  1. Improve our understanding of the audiences we most wish to serve.

    We will synthesize what we know about their passions, what they think of MIT, and how we can best connect with them. On an ongoing basis, we will share that insight with communications staff across the Institute.

  2. Use that new intelligence on audiences to offer highly useful and inspirational news, web sites, and visitor experiences.

    MIT has excellent share of voice, high web traffic, and high numbers of campus visitors. We will take a next leap forward by infusing our work with data and measuring how successfully we’re improving both sentiment about MIT and satisfaction with our communications services. We will help all DLCs contribute to a cohesive, newly energized experience of MIT.

  3. Rally communications staff from across MIT.

    Through regular cross-departmental communications meetings, increased communication from leadership, and new opportunities for all communications staff at MIT to learn new skills and meet new colleagues, we will seek to make MIT the employer of choice for exceptional communications talent driven to make a difference.

A note on roles within the Office of Communications 

As a small first step in giving shape to this effort, I have renamed Communications Production Services: that office, led by Danyel Barnard, is now Communications Initiatives. Danyel’s team will conceive and manage discrete projects in support of the goals listed above. It will also continue to advise DLCs on the use of the MIT brand, websites, print communications, and social media, and to offer referrals to creative vendors outside MIT.

Steve Bradt, Kimberly Allen, and the News Office team they lead will continue to give MIT its central news-making and media-relations work. The News Office, which already connects with millions of people per month around the world, will benefit greatly from the audience research, better digital infrastructure, and greater cross-Institute collaboration that the Communications Office is pursuing. 

Reference Publications, led by Kimberly Mancino, will continue to offer highly used, essential information products about MIT and special editorial and production services for important Institute reports. Copytech, led by Steve Dimond, will continue to provide printing and related services for all of MIT.

Let’s get started 

In the coming weeks, I will be meeting with as many of you as possible to discuss this journey. Your work is second to none: we have a great deal to be proud of and to build on. Our next leap forward will have us working together in new ways in pursuit of new goals.

President Reif, Vice President Kolenbrander, and the rest of the senior team are relying on us to connect MIT to the world as it’s never been connected before. The year ahead will stretch us. It will also reward us with a new sense of adventure. I look forward to what we will learn and achieve as a new team.

Yours truly,

Nate Nickerson, Vice President for Communications