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Understanding the Media: Tips for Business Schools and Universities

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.

Sound complicated? Not to worry, these tasks fall to us.

Recognising press trends in business and higher education

There are some trends in the news cycle that can be tapped into time and time again; internationally hot topics today include blockchain, diversity and AI. Looking beyond these, different nations’ press networks have their own tailored interests; UK media, for example, is predictably receptive to any particularly insightful comment on Brexit.

Exploiting these popular themes might generate quick hits, but standing out to a journalist in amongst a sea of PR pitches is ultimately about thinking outside the box. What haven’t people heard about yet? Which publications reach your target audience most effectively? Or who can offer comment on a popular topic, from an alternative perspective?

What haven’t people heard about yet?

Working in the business and higher education world, we are fortunate to have a strong pool of material that ‘people haven’t heard about yet’ in the form of start-ups run by our clients’ impressive alumni. For example, I’ve recently worked with a brilliant med-tech start up charting a course to cure tinnitus. Using pioneering brain imaging technology and brain training exercises, Robin Guillard and his team have devised a treatment plan which renormalizes brain activity, reducing patients’ symptoms. The start-up has had fantastic success in medical trials and has been covered in US-outlets Thrive Global and Authority Magazine, as well as a UK website MedTech Engine, resulting directly in calls from interested investors. This kind of story works perfectly for profile pieces, interviews and opinion editorials. The coverage here in Thrive Global and Authority magazine takes the form of interviews, whilst MedTech Engine ran an article written from Robin’s perspective, covering his journey as a researcher and the conception of his start-up.

Effectively reaching your target audience

In terms of reaching your target audience, sometimes the best approach is to target smaller publications with a narrower but expressly relevant readership. For example, there are websites which exist specifically to offer guidance and advice about pursuing higher education. These kind of sites offer a great platform to communicate directly with prospective students and advertise your institution by displaying the inspirational achievements of your graduates. We regularly achieve this kind of coverage; an example can be seen here, on a website designed to provide information for Indian students looking to pursue a Masters qualification abroad. When targeting platforms like this, it’s best to make use of impressive alumni who are prepared to share personal details surrounding their motivations and goals; ultimately, openness encourages prospective students to identify.

Often, these kind of opportunities bring to light graduates who are experts in their field and can go on to author more advisory, less personal opinion editorials. In this example, brothers Adhikar and Aakarsh Naidu provide a guide to the start-up ecosystem in India in a prominent Indian business magazine. International coverage like this helps position an institution as a producer of thought-leaders and industry experts, globally.

Alternative perspectives and insightful commentary

Finally, in terms of capitalising on news trends, the ability to offer an alternative perspective, is invaluable. One of our French clients, has recently contributed comment to the Sunday Times, The Daily Express and the Financial Times, as they were able to offer crucial insight into the Yellow Vests protests spreading across Europe. Whilst in the UK, the yellow vest movement has been associated with hard-right Brexiteers and Tommy Robinson followers, the French ‘Gilet Jaunes’, is a much wider populist movement with supporters from across the political spectrum. The most effective comments cut through the noise and make clear, perceptive, and ideally unique observations about a situation.

Are you a business school or university in search of a PR agency who consistently produce results? Get in touch today.

Author: Charlotte Skeggs

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