What is PR?
As an institution, you might be interested in hiring a PR agency and wondering whether PR agencies are worth it.
Firstly, lets dive into what PR really is. PR stands for Public Relations and involves relating with the public, so it does what it says on the tin. Mostly. More specifically, it is about shaping how information from a company or individual is shared with the public so it has the desired effect on public perception or behaviour.
It is an incredibly broad area and different PR agencies or consultancies can work with vastly different clients including politicians, actors, businesses, and universities. The set of goals and desired outcomes will then differ from one client to another with different agencies having different areas of expertise.
At BlueSky Education, we specialise in international PR for higher and business education, ensuring business schools and universities make the most of their faculty, research, students, and graduates to gain global media coverage to boost their visibility and reputation.
When it comes to deciding if a PR agency is worth it for your institution, you have to decide whether you are interested in what PR can offer and carefully consider the reasons why you want to hire a PR agency.
What can PR do for you?
A PR agency can work as an extension of your institution to help achieve your goals. You might want to increase the numbers of students from a particular area of the world or disseminate research in the media to enhance your reputation as a research institution, but not have the time to do this yourself.
A PR agency can help here by providing expertise and advice on what media outlets to focus on depending on your target market and audience, as well as advise on which content is best to use for maximum effect.
If you were doing this on your own, you might have to spend hours looking for the appropriate publications, sourcing contacts, and sending out emails. With a PR agency on board, these are all tasks they can help with, and probably perform more quickly and efficiently.
For example, if you want to increase student applications from Latin America, a PR agency can provide examples of outlets targeted at the Latin American student population. They could also suggest how you can use your students and alumni to produce interesting content for these outlets to persuade the students to apply. They may also have professional relationships with contacts at these publications already, making the whole process easier in the first place.
When it comes to writing content, press releases, or articles for these publications, they can also do this on your behalf. If you provide research from your institution that you want to draw attention to, then a PR agency can produce a pitch or press release to share with media targets.
From this, a publication may then express interest in an article from one of your academics about their research. However, academics are incredibly busy people so may not always have the time to write a 1500-word piece by the deadline.
In this instance, a PR agency can simply have a quick 15-minute conversation with the academic, or use their research paper, and put the article together for them adhering to the publication’s writing style, which makes the whole process smoother for the academic and the publication. All the academic has to do then is read through the article and make any necessary edits before approval.
Working with a PR agency in these ways can improve media relations and drive vast numbers of website traffic, build incredible awareness for your institution’s brand, increase credibility, and allow your experts and academics to demonstrate thought leadership.
How are you going to measure the outcomes of PR?
A PR agency is there to support, advise, and consult you on the best courses of action for you to achieve your goals. For a PR professional, one of the fundamental aspects is to measure the success of this work but PR is a notoriously difficult activity to measure as it is based around changing people’s behaviour and perceptions.
However, being clear on your desired goals and outcomes can make it a lot easier to assess the impact of any PR agency you do hire.
If you want to increase student numbers, then you can look at the number of students before hiring a PR agency and after. If you want students from a certain region, then look more specifically at where in the world your students are coming from. Similarly, if you are trying to push for coverage of a specific course, you can compare numbers on this course before and after your media campaign.
You may also want to look at where your institution has been covered since working with the agency. However, you must remember to consider ‘quality or quantity.’ It can be more effective to feature in a couple of articles in top tier media, such as the Financial Times and Forbes, than a dozen articles in smaller publications.
In summary, if you are considering hiring a PR agency and think what they have to offer sounds beneficial to your institution, then a PR agency may very well be worth it for you.
If you need help securing quality coverage for your business school or higher education, or want more information on what PR can do for you, then contact BlueSky Education today.