As part of the University’s 6th decade plan the University of Waterloo is looking to revitalize itself, demonstrating its strengths as a technology oriented university and better position itself with the various programs and initiatives coming in the near future. Part of this positioning included a marketing logo to be used in their promotional and external pieces. Much to the chagrin of the university this logo was leaked and is now the end of many jokes for the university’s students.
The even larger issue to this story is the internet footprint that this student criticism has left. Discussion (or destruction) of this logo can be found on blogs, facebook, twitter ( #uwlogo, #pewpew, #uwlogogate) ,and even a mashup on youtube. Resulting from this there was also some negative news coverage . With all of this ridicule and critism its hard to say if this logo is really usable anymore, it was supposed to have all of this meaning for the university but now its just well….
This article from the Imprint (Waterloo’s student newspaper) hits the issue right on the head. While there was a lot of concern over making the university more visible for external audiences, they had completely left the students out of the process and as a result of seeing this logo all at once instead of over time the logo came as a big shock. By not being consulted, students felt little connection to the logo and immediately felt negatively towards it. As a result of this negative sentiment Waterloo has had to work hard to do damage control.
I feel there are two lessons to be learned from this whole situation. Firstly stakeholders (customers, employees, shareholders etc) through social media are gaining a lot of power when it comes to public perception of an organization. Their complaints and criticisms are now becoming much more public and can often drown out the organization itself.
But also by not involving your stakeholders in organizational change, you will create a large reaction when it does get released whether planned or unplanned in this case. My alma mater Ryerson University is going through drastic changes as well but with a different approach. By involving the whole community in what it calls ‘The Master Plan’ stakeholders are buying in and while there may be detractors to some parts of the planning , overall members have been very open to discussion and working towards improvement.
Applying this to a business or another organization, it’s much more manageable and probably a more positive experience to keep your stakeholders involved in the process of major organizational change rather than keeping them in the dark. As much as organizations would like to control the message its impossible without having all those involved on side and to have that it can’t be forced it has to be earned.