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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 sustainability, diversity and the future of work. 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 the ongoing impact of Brexit.

Not only this, but there are recurring themes throughout the media landscape that fit incredibly well with the expertise of a business school, whether it be their leading faculty and researchers, their students and alumni, or their programmes too. 

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 and initiatives run by our clients’ impressive alumni. For example, we recently worked with a number of successful and inspiring alumni from client business schools who had set up initiatives and founded businesses which looked to tackle the refugee crisis in a number of ways. Graduates were working in roles such as for Relief International, setting up solar stations in refugee camps and launching legal advice apps for refugees – all looking to solve one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time. In order to highlight these amazing and inspiring alumni, we worked with Poets & Quants and Yahoo Finance to interview them about their missions and how their business school education helped in their ventures. This kind of story works perfectly for profile pieces, interviews and opinion editorials, and are a great way to highlight the human-side of business schools and how they can help in tackling some of the greatest challenges in the world.

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 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 here is a student interview on Study International, a news site for prospective students looking to study 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 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, a student from ESMT Berlin was discussing her experience on the Responsible Leaders Fellowship Programme which helps place students in six month fellowships in emerging areas of Africa or Asia. International coverage like this helps position an institution as a producer of fantastic and successful students and alumni.

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 clients, emlyon business school, recently contributed research findings to a number of publications including Business Insider which offered an interesting and alternative view on productivity in management. The research found that managers were actually sleeping less in order to feel more productive in their working roles – offering a different perspective to many managers who would sleep more in order to feel more productive in their jobs.

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

Peter Remon-2Author: Peter Remon

Originally posted January 2019, updated August 2021

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