Public relations is no quick win. Though first impressions certainly do count, you might not change people’s minds, their behaviour or make them act differently on your first engagement with them. It’s often a lengthy process, which takes time and patience – at the end of the day people don’t generally jump into decisions lightly.
As many countries look to return to some sort of normality – businesses begin to reopen, workers start returning back to the office, and universities welcome students back onto campus – the media landscape is changing too. You’d be forgiven for thinking that covid-19 has completely dominated the news over the last year and a half – and you’d pretty much be right.
Another month, another influx of pioneering research papers. But which ones are destined for the headlines? The first step to securing phenomenal press coverage for business schools and universities is to identify exactly which research, and which student or alumni success stories, are most likely to catch the media’s attention. It’s equally vital to know when material lends itself to a press release, to an opinion editorial or to interview articles.
Some brands are simply just synonymous with what they want to be known for. Apple are synonymous with leading cutting-edge technology, Tesla with cutting-edge manufacturing innovation and BlueSky Education, with unrivalled education PR knowledge 😉
In 1819, ESCP business school, as it’s now known today, was launched as a Ecole Spéciale de Commerce et d'Industrie, teaching students on key topics like entrepreneurship and business. This was the birth of graduate management education, and helped forge the pathways for other leading institutes in this area like Harvard, Wharton and Stanford – who have gone on to educate, hone and develop some of the world’s leading thinkers, politicians and CEOs.
2020 was a tough year for many in Executive Education. A number of organisations pressed pause on their programmes with leading business schools. Given the fact that much of in-person learning grinded to a halt, learning and development took a back seat as companies grappled with the immediate impact on their company, and many saw their own revenues fall, during the pandemic.
In 2017, MP Michael Gove famously said "people in this country have had enough of experts". And he may have been right at the time. In 2017, debate in the UK was fuelled around Brexit and its impact, with expertise being denounced as spreading fear and over-exaggerating. People preferred to listen to those that fit their preconceived agenda, and that they described as ‘normal people’, not experts who were often seen as stuck in their ivory towers.
In the final episode of season two of the BlueSky Education Thinking Podcast, BlueSky Education’s Stephanie Mullins, Kerry Ruffle and Katie Hurley discuss the future of business education, focusing on the rise of virtual events, along with returning guest Angus Laing, Dean of Lancaster University Management School, and an in-depth interview with fellow BlueSky Education Thinking host, Matt Symonds.
You’d be forgiven for sometimes losing hope in the crazy year of 2020. Covid-19 has not only taken the lives of many of our loved ones, but also taken jobs, financial security and any form of ‘normal’ life as we know it. But there now appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Recently, I was posed the question “for start-ups looking to undertake a dedicated public relations campaign what works best - hiring in-house PR experts? Or, outsourcing to agencies who specialise in PR?”.
2020 was a strange year. Nobody could have predicted in early January what the world would look like post-March, as staying indoors, not hugging your friends and wearing face masks became normal. The turbulence and uncertainty has been a nightmare for organised public relations and marketing experts, who’d likely planned their strategy and activities for the year ahead.
Covid-19 has proven to be a real test for higher education institutions. The industry has been completely turned upside down over night. Though new research suggests student recruitment numbers are likely to still be fairly high in the UK, the Covid-19 period has still been financially challenging. So much so, that 13 UK universities announced this week they may be going bust without a government bailout.
No matter what industry you work in, it is both natural and probably a wise idea to closely follow what your competitors are doing in the market. Whether that be new ideas or innovations, new products or services or something simply eye-catching to a key audience, it is important to keep on top of what is going on around your institution. What is even more important, however, is being the institution that all your competitors are talking about (positively, of course).
There are a vast number of reasons as to why business schools want, and need, to engage in PR. Whether it is to highlight some of the ground-breaking academic research from their professors, announce a new programme at the school or promote their faculty’s expertise – all of which are enhanced and have more impact through the use of PR.
Worthwhile investments must offer a return. Whether it is in a specific stock you have a hunch about, funding a business you like the idea of, or purchasing a property – you are always looking for results from that investment. But, in most of these, you are easily able to quantify whether your risk paid off, through stats and figures – did the stock you invested in go up? Did the company you invest in increase its value? Did the price of your house increase? Investing in public relations, however, can be a little more difficult to quantify in terms of return on investment.
Human resources is an interesting topic. However, many may feel they can’t relate to the role of a HR Director, or that HR decisions have no impact on them – but, this is not the case. Every single company in the world has to have a HR professional, or at least have to make decisions that would fall under the HR function.
You may have seen an interesting research study hit the headlines last week. Researchers from the University of Sussex released findings from a study into out-of-work hour e-mails, which suggested that banning staff from accessing their work emails outside office hours could actually do more harm than good to employee well-being. These findings, of course, featured heavily in the press, sparking huge debate not only in the comments section of the Daily Mail (what doesn’t?), but on social media and, I imagine, many workplaces – whether they be open-plan, virtual, remote or co-working.
Producing innovative and influential academic research is one of the best ways a business school can make itself stand out in a crowded market. In fact, academic research is now so important to a business school’s brand that leading business education news site, Poets & Quants, recently created a new ranking selecting the top 100 business schools for academic research in the world. And it’s no surprise that globally known brands, such as Harvard, Wharton and NYU Stern, finished at the top for academic research too. It’s clear that both a strong brand and strong, impactful academic research go hand in hand in the business school world.
With a population of just over 329 million people, making it the third most populous country in the world, the USA is clearly going to be a key media target for any institution. But, more importantly, according to GMAC’s 2018 Applications Trends survey, 140,000 out of an overall 290,000 business school applications last year came from US-based applicants – over three times the size of applicants in Europe alone.
Public image and politics have always gone hand in hand. Think JFK ensuring he looked as sharp as possible in the 1960 presidential TV debates in which he overwhelming beat his opposition, Richard Nixon. Think Margaret Thatcher before her election in 1979, taking lessons with a speech coach to help lower her pitch and develop a calm, authoritative tone. Think Tony Blair, in 1994, hiring Alistair Campbellas his press secretary and spokesperson for the Labour party. All of these are examples of politicians taking steps to try and shape and control their own public image.
There are no two ways about it, creating great, insightful content for your institution is always a good thing. However, it is extremely difficult to measure how much of real impact each piece of content actually has on the reader and whether or not this has a long-lasting effect.
You’re looking for a PR firm to help out with your international PR efforts and come across a firm that states “we have offices based in New York, London, Hong Kong, Paris and Berlin, in order to penetrate our key markets in the most effective way possible”.
As we enter 2019, now seems a better time than any to look back over the previous year and some of its key themes for business schools. Working with schools across 10 different countries, BlueSky Education naturally has an abundance of professors who have a lot to say on a wide range of topics. In fact, in 2018 alone BlueSky Education delivered over 1,000 pieces of unique coverage for its clients across a whole host of areas, in international, national and trade publications. Let’s take a look at three of the top themes which featured the prominently in BlueSky Education’s coverage this year: Artificial Intelligence (AI) Despite the actual nuts and bolts of how it operates being unbeknown to most, AI still managed to be a topic which dominated much of the news agenda in 2018. Whether it be the world’s first AI news anchor unveiled in China, the launch of Uber’s driverless cars or the Robot Football World Cup in the summer, the topic of AI was something that was on the lips of many this year. The discussion around AI is one that many of BlueSky education’s clients also contributed to, with over 40 pieces of coverage being focused on this topic, including this piece on Uber’s partnership with one of our clients, Ecole Polytechnique, in a bid to create flying taxis, which featured in The Guardian, BBC and CNN. Or this piece of research from a professor at one of our clients, BI Norwegian Business School, which showed how emerging economies were more open to AI for business management purposes, which featured in Forbes. Gender diversity
In November, I had the pleasure of hearing from and spending time with representatives from some of Europe’s best and well-known business schools, at the GMAC European Conference in Berlin.
When reporting back to your clients or manager, would you rather show them 20 individual pieces of PR coverage you’ve gained, or five? Naturally, you’re always going to say 20. The more coverage you gain for a client or business the better surely? It’s just more evidence of your value and more proof that their money is being well spent on PR, isn’t it?
Social media platform Twitter boasts over 330 million global users, and has quickly become the go to site for journalists, PRs and the general population, to view and share news. With around three quarters of journalists using Twitter every day and over 70% of them stating that Twitter is a valuable professional tool, it harnesses the potential to be a great platform for PRs to utilise, to the benefit of themselves and their clients.
Journalist’s jobs are becoming more and more time-pressed, with their inboxes increasingly flooded with PR’s pitches. Now more than ever, for a journalist to buy into a pitch, it needs to capture their attention. But how as a PR can you make your pitch stand out from the crowd ? Make sure it's newsworthy Journalists are inundated with pitches daily, so ones that are boring, uninteresting, and un-newsworthy are destined to fail before they’ve even been sent. ‘The 5 best paints to watch dry’, for example, will never get coverage no matter how amazing your pitch is, or how slow a news week it has been. It is a PR’s responsibility to evaluate whether or not their story is newsworthy before pitching it. Deciding this beforehand stops you from wasting both yours and the journalist’s time, and avoids disappointment when your efforts inevitably fail to deliver results. Have a creative, engaging headline The first part of a pitch that a journalist will read is the headline, and many journalists will decide whether or not they will bother to read on purely based on how interesting that headline is. This is why it is important you pay as much attention to crafting an effective email header as you do to your pitch, as this will encourage the journalist to read more. Make it relevant You could write the most amazing pitch in the world, but if it isn’t pitched to the right publication, it will never be read. For instance, a pitch about a world-changing bacon product that actually makes you lose weight (if only!!), will never be read if you’re pitching it to ‘The Vegetarian News’. Of course this is an extreme example, however it has its relevance. It is important that, as a PR, you research exactly which publications are interested in the news you wish to share and, more importantly, which journalists from these publications are writing about it. This does take time, but it is a worthwhile exercise. After all, it is far better to pitch to five relevant journalists than scatter your pitch to 50 journalists who are not. Make it short and snappy Journalists barely have time in their day to open all their e-mails, let alone read them thoroughly. So, what makes you think they will have time to read your pitch, which is as long as a thesis? You must make your pitch short, snappy and to the point, summarising the story and ensuring the journalist can fully understand its significance. Cut out all of the unnecessary information – a journalist will not want to read waffle. It is important to ensure that every single word in your pitch is carefully selected leaving the journalist wanting to know more. A pitch should be like a wine tasting, the journalist should have a small glass, and want to come back to you for the whole bottle. Do not oversell
There is no such thing as a smoothly run business. All companies and institutions will have their ups and downs, their challenges and successes, and unfortunately even the best businesses at some point in their lifecycle will face a PR crisis eventually.