It’s natural to expect that, over the course of time, the ways in which a university or business school operates will change. The past five years alone have been testament to just how much the world of education has evolved; the advancements in and preferences for online education over classroom-based learning for example, or the shift in curriculum focus to highlight increasingly important topics such as ethics and sustainability, all in the pursuit of providing a better, more valuable experience for students.
(Here’s a hint: the answer is YES!) When choosing where to study my own degree I didn’t just stick to reading university prospectuses and the rankings, I also took the time to look at what other people were saying about the institution and its programmes outside of what the universities chose to share. I read the stories of alumni and I took note of students who’d shared their experiences in newspapers, magazines and blogs.
As Valentine’s Day wraps up, and love is in the air, it seems everyone is thinking about partnering up…
“Let’s do some PR for this”… A member of your faculty is hosting an event, or has published a book perhaps, or a new programme has been launched by your institution, and the request comes in… “Let’s do some PR on this.”
There’s no doubt that the role of a PR and communications expert within a higher education institution is a demanding one. Having to keep one foot firmly entrenched within all the comings and goings of their institution and the other foot in the wider world outside, and trying to marry the two. With multiple stakeholders to keep satisfied; students, applicants, faculty, Deans, corporate partners and alumni. It’s an exhaustive list.
Are you wondering whether to engage in PR? Or, perhaps you’re considering reducing, or removing PR services from your institution altogether. If either of the above are true – particularly the latter – please do read on…
China is home to an estimated 1.3 Billion people, is the world’s second largest economy and has one of the one of the largest media markets in the world. Unsurprisingly, being able to tap into it is a highly appealing prospect for any higher education institution.
Whether accompanying MBA students on international study trips, attending overseas recruitment fairs or speaking at industry events, such excursions provide the ideal opportunity to raise the profile of their school on a wider scale by engaging with local media.
When sending a pitch to a journalist, what’s the first thing you need to check before hitting send? Checking your information is accurate perhaps? Making sure it’s short, swift and to the point? Making sure you’ve spelled their name correctly?
As institutions strive to become ever more visible around the world and business education programmes become increasingly global in their teaching, business school faculty are required to spend greater amounts of time on the road. Whether accompanying MBA students to emerging markets for international study trips, attending overseas recruitment events or speaking at industry events, such excursions provide the ideal opportunity for communications teams to raise the profile of their institutions – and their faculties – at a local level by sharing their expertise with local media. But securing the chance for your professors to sit down with the most influential titles in the country can prove to be a more of a challenge than it is at home. So in an environment where your faculty are relatively unknown, where your school’s brand carries arguably less clout than it does locally, and faced with short time frames, tricky timezones and languages barriers how can you give your faculty the best chance possible of getting in front of the world’s media? How to secure meetings for your faculty with journalists abroad Plan early What is the purpose of the trip? What can they talk about? Why should journalists care? Do your research Don't be difficult Be realistic
Not all news is news. And any PR professional doing their job properly knows that securing quality media coverage isn’t just about flinging every bit of information a client shares with them out into the world and hoping some of it gets noticed. We spend a great deal of time sifting through the information our clients share with us to find the stories that will make the best impact with their target audiences. But sometimes those stories that can be media gold aren’t always the easiest to spot, or even the easiest to communicate clearly and convincingly to your press contacts. To stand the best chance of success, there are five ingredients that need to be included in your pitches... 1. A clear focus What are you trying to communicate? Consider the information you are sharing and keep the message as clear, and simplistic as possible. Your pitch cannot be too lengthy or have too many tangents. A time-pressed journalist needs to be able to scan your pitch and immediately identify what you/your client is offering, and what their angle on that topic is. 2. Relevance It might sound obvious, but you’ve got to know your audience. Before pitching take the steps to ensure that the information you’re sharing with journalists is something which will appeal to each of their individual areas of expertise. What are they writing about? Have they already covered the topic you’re sharing? 3. A strong spokesperson… The ideas you put forward in your pitch are only as strong as the person who voices them. It is vital to ensure you pitch a person who can speak confidently and eloquently with the media, and have the experience and expertise to lend authority to their perspectives. 4. …With something new to say! It’s no good having a strong spokesperson if they’re only able to tell a journalist what they already know. Take the time to craft a new angle on the topic at hand with your spokesperson in order to provide your media targets with a fresh way of telling, or adding to a story.
Sometimes, no matter how much effort you put in, things just don’t work out. You might think your client is the ideal person to feature in a journalist’s article about the advancements of online education or the gender pay gap, you’ve swiftly pitched them to the journalist listing their various attributes, and you might have even submitted a comment or secured a phone interview. But, when the article is published your client has not managed to make it into the text - so why don't journalists quote your client? It's frustrating? Yes. And it can happen for a myriad of reasons, many of which might be outside of your control – for example the journalist might not have had enough space within the word count to squeeze in your client’s comments. But there might be a little more to it. Are you doing all you can to give your client the best chance possible of being quoted? Being proactive and quick to jump on a news story is only part of the process. Keeping these four checkpoints in mind when pitching your clients to the media, whilst not guaranteeing a positive result every time, can help to reduce the number of occasions where your client is left disappointed.
Do you often find yourself missing out when looking to attract mainstream media attention with your school’s news? Whether it’s the statistics surrounding class make-up, faculty research or a particularly astute comment from the Dean on the state of modern business education, communications staff are often faced with journalists turning their institution’s news down, or ignoring it entirely, regardless of how genuinely interesting it may be. The grim reality is that the relevance, and thus the impact of the information they’re sharing with the media often decreases the further it travels outside of the school’s immediate community, even when these topics are ones that are routinely the subject of discussion in the likes of the Financial Times, Poets&Quants and the Times Higher Education. It can often be hard to stand out from the crowd when every other school is seeking to do the same thing. But there is strength to be found in numbers. Though it might sound counterintuitive, sometimes the most effective way of shining a spotlight on your institution and your faculty’s expertise is by also highlighting someone else’s. Far from it being a detriment to your own exposure, joining forces with others, whether directly or indirectly, can actually help to secure a better result. The question any credible reporter will ask upon receiving your press release or your pitch is, “so what?”. Alone, your school might not be able answer that question sufficiently. However, when partnered with evidence from a handful of other institutions (whether this compliments the information you’re sharing or contradicts it) you can present the journalist with the foundation of a richer story – a trend, a discussion which can be stretched from the findings of just one institution to become a wider comment on the industry as a whole. Far from diluting your message, working in this way can improve your school’s exposure and reputation by confirming to journalists that your faculty have a wider, well-informed view, which extends outside of your school’s campus. We hope you found these insights helpful. If you’d like to discuss how your institution can collaborate with others, the BlueSky Education team would be happy to advise. For the full article download Wildfire Volume 2. Issue 1.
You’ve spoken with your client and clued yourself up on the topic at hand, you’ve devised an appropriate strategy for press activity, you’ve created an effective pitch and researched the most appropriate press outlets and, finally, you’ve got the journalist to give your client the go-ahead. Job done, right? Wrong. Media advice: Managing the interview process Though we’re told time and again that the difficult part of the job is getting your client in front of a journalist, in reality that is only half of the battle. The really tricky part, sometimes, is keeping the journalist interested in what your client has to say once they’re there. Just because a journalist has decided to speak with your client or has welcomed a written comment from them, there is no guarantee this will result in a piece of worthwhile press coverage. So how can you ensure you can get the most out of the opportunity in front of you? What essential actions should you take once a journalist says “yes”? 1. Get all the details: Before you approach your client you should first establish exactly what the journalist is after. How would they like to carry out the interview? What is their deadline for receiving comment? What is the word count for the op-ed you’ve proposed? If it’s a telephone interview, when are they available to speak? And, what exactly are they looking for your client to discuss? Do they need images? By clarifying these details from the outset you can approach your client armed with all the necessary information and avoid any potential problems further down the line.
“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.” ― Ruth Reichl The words of American Chef Rachel Reichl could have been the ones of MaKi Conference hosts as we walked into a bright lecture room at Frankfurt School of Management and Finance in Germany. The room vibrated with enthusiasm and good will. It was to become to home of some of the greatest PRs in the world for the coming days. Last week I attended one of the global MaKi Conferences. MaKi brings together communication professionals in the business education sector from all over the world. We meet regularly to participate in journalist panels and exchange good communications practices in the sector. On this occasion we had the pleasure of speaking to Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, Handelsblatt and Die Welt, to name a few. This gave us some great insight into what the MBA market in Germany looks like and how the German press likes to cover business school topics.
Business Education is a mature market, and with so many programmes out there and relatively few publications writing about them, there is a constant competition between schools for worthwhile coverage. On the other side of the fence, journalists are under considerable pressure to deliver news from education institutions in a new and engaging way.
Client Q&A with Patricia Rousseau, Communications & PR Officer at the Vlerick Business School, in Belgium
Patricia Rousseau is the Communications and PR Officer at the Vlerick Business School in Belgium. In this Q&A she discusses her role at Vlerick, why she feels the use of PR to be important for business schools, and any advice for those looking to introduce PR to their institution.