As the Dean of an institution, you hold considerable responsibility for cultivating relationships with both internal and external stakeholders, including donors, alumni, and the community. You are also responsible for protecting and building your school’s reputation and faculty. Success in these areas is vital and it often hinges on maintaining and preserving good relationships.
Your activities and presence in the media and online can initiate and preserve these all-important relationships. Deans that are able to use media relations to generate media opportunities can influence target audiences and, in doing so effectively, reap the rewards.
As the Dean, here are seven things you should know about media relations:
What media relations actually is
First things first, you need to be sure and confident about what media relations actually is.
The goal of media relations is to educate and encourage the media, whether that’s newspapers, podcast, online, or any other medium, to report on your institution. This could be through covering a new programme, interviewing a professor on interesting research, or featuring a profile on a successful student or graduate, as well as any other objectives or accomplishments your institution boasts.
Reasons not to invest in media relations
As a media relations company, we of course spend a lot of time telling people why they should invest in media relations. However, there are some situations in which it is far more beneficial for us to advise you not to engage with media. If you don’t have a clear goal to why you want to engage with media, then it will be far more difficult to create a plan for media engagement. Once you start engaging with media, then there are other things to consider; who will be the spokespeople from your institution, the time you can devote to engagement and meeting deadlines, potential needs for media training.
In making the decision about whether to engage in media relations or not, you might be unsure or apprehensive about its value. When deciding, it’s useful to understand the benefits it can bring.
There are a number of benefits, of which you might be interested in achieving all, some, or just one. By discussing the research of your school in the media, you make prospective students and faculty aware of what you offer, and potentially entice them to apply. By expressing what it is you offer a certain group of people through scholarships, initiatives, or success stories, you can target a specific group of people and raise applications numbers there. For example, perhaps you offer a scholarship designed for female business school applicants and are therefore interested in showcasing this in the media to make potential applicants aware.
What to engage with
Wanting to engage with media requires offering content for them to cover, which in turn requires knowledge of the types of stories they cover and what topics will be of interest.
Working with journalists requires up-to-date knowledge of the beat they cover. Of course, relevant topics of interest to journalists can change constantly – once upon a time, comment and opinion on pandemics and vaccines would nowhere near have been as sought after as they are now – but there are also some areas that are consistently of interest: sustainability, climate change, economics, just to name a few.
And when engaging with journalists, they are the ‘gatekeeper’ to achieving the content you desire so remember to appreciate how busy they can be. Building a good relationship with them is important, so you don’t want to constantly barrage a journalist and risk them blacklisting you as a contact.
People want to hear from YOU
As the Dean, you are the head of your institution. In times of crisis, people look toward their leaders for guidance, reassurance, and communication about the future. This is why Deans have had to be so visible since the onset of the pandemic. As a Dean, your word and comment carries a lot of weight and influence, which is why some journalists will jump at the chance to speak with you on a topic, if given the opportunity.
If you’re new to an institution, journalists might want to hear about what changes you plan to make and how you plan to develop your school in regards to sustainability initiatives or in other ways.
Media relations isn’t magic
If you have something at your institution that you want to promote in the media, perhaps a brand-new programme or an interesting new initiative, you need to be realistic about the scope it will have in the media. You might want to feature it in the Financial Times or The Economist but you need to understand the type of content you are promoting and where it is best-placed. Just giving some information on a new marketing course to an FT journalist isn’t going to lead to a two-page spread in their next report. It might be better suited to marketing trade press, which may in turn have an audience more suitable for your goals.
The hard work
Media relations is not a ‘quick fix’ to a failing brand or image problem. Your approach has to be genuine, measured, and have a long-term goal in mind if you want to have any real impact or success.
It’s more than just pitching a story and waiting for masses of articles to come pouring in.
If you’re a Dean and you’re interested in engaging in media relations, or perhaps you’ve seen what other Deans are achieving in the media, get in touch today!