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.
• Can you give a brief outline of yourself and your role at Vlerick?
My name is Patricia Rousseau, new mother of a 6-month old baby girl and living in Ghent, Belgium.
At Vlerick Business School I’m responsible for press relations and content management for our four campuses - of which three are in Belgium (Ghent, Leuven and Brussels) and one in Russia (St Petersburg).
As far as press-relations is concerned I focus mainly on targeting the Benelux media via press releases, press conferences and faculty interviews. I’m also the first point of contact for journalists looking for an expert in a specific knowledge domain.
For international press relations we work with Bluesky PR for which I’m the central point of contact.
• Why do you use PR?
We use PR mainly for reputation building both in Belgium as well as internationally.
Through PR we want to create brand awareness as well. Internationally the business school market is very competitive so we want to profile ourselves as an international business school in the heart of Europe - and we want to get that message across to a very specific group of specialised business school press.
That’s why we work with BlueSky PR. They have the right contacts and know exactly how to approach the journalists that we want to target.
• What would your advice be to anyone looking to introduce PR to their business?
As far as resources are concerned, you need a dedicated person within your organisation who is always available and who can quickly follow-up on media opportunities. This person also needs to know the organisation inside-out.
You need to think about whether you want to organise PR in-house or whether you want to outsource it to a specialised agency.
You need to be able to invest enough time into PR, not only reacting to questions from media but also being proactive and developing press materials that will satisfy journalists expectations whilst communicating the right message.
You need to decide beforehand who are the spokespeople within your organisation and you need to make sure they are available most of the time. Or you need to be able to reach them at all times.
You need to be realistic as to what you can expect from PR. PR is not the same as advertising. You need to communicate this clearly within your organisation so everyone has the same expectations.
You need to communicate the results so people see what PR can do for them and why they should invest some of their valuable time.
• What benefits do you derive from PR activity?
PR helps us in reputation building and creating visibility for our school and programmes.
PR is also a way of indirect sales, attracting new faculty and students to our school.
And finally PR is very important for our brand awareness. In September 2012 we repositioned the school with a new name and new brand identity and PR was for us one of the most important channels to get that message across to the right audience.