It’s hard to remember a time when Donald Trump was not dominating the daily news cycle, all he has to do is tweet – although it’s often controversial – and it goes viral.
It’s now been three years since the dramatic Brexit decision and it still dominates a huge part of the media cycle. Add to that the tensions between China and the US as a result of their trade war and the protests in Hong Kong - the news cycle has become very busy and rather depressing.
In such a cluttered political landscape, how can your communications team compete for the attention of the media? Use the news cycle to your advantage. From Trump to the EU, the environment to Syrian refugees, financial markets to football transfers, there are countless opportunities to engage with editors and reporters if you know where to look, and how to rise above the noise.
Below are nine tips from the BlueSky Education team to help you stay one step ahead.
How do I know what is trending?
Twitter is great for keeping ahead of the news cycle, you can use it to find out what is trending and you can use keyword searches that relate to your school’s strengths to see what might be happening around the world that they can contribute to. Use hashtags, they are a great way to find specific information and see if there is anything relevant that you can engage with.
Think local to share global
Most local stories can be turned into global stories, for example the local story about the sugar tax in the UK had global implications since we all have a sweet tooth!
You don’t always have to think big when it comes to a story, editors are more concerned about looking for fresh thinking ideas and research that will resonate with their readers. So, think local sometimes, it can help you achieve international visibility for the school and their professors.
Put yourself in the shoes of a journalist
Journalists are always working to tight deadlines, and often when an editor commissions a staffer or freelancer to write about breaking news, there is every chance that the journalist is not 100 per cent sure of the subject, and will look for an expert perspective and relevant research to help.
For this reason, you should make it known to journalists that your schools have faculty and research that could be relevant to what the journalist is covering, you can send out a weekly newsletter to your media database to highlight professors that can speak about current news and the latest trends.
Showcase your faculty with a pre-recording
TV and radio producers are always working to tight deadlines, so many prefer to have a short video of the academic or faculty member sent to them beforehand before they invite them on air. The video doesn’t have to be anything spectacular but it is a way to showcase the faculty member’s presentation skills, expertise and mastery of soundbites. Doing this will take no longer than half an hour and can make the difference between airtime or no airtime.
Use social media as one big search engine
We don’t need to know everything about your Dean, but we do like to know what they know. Use hashtags when distributing the views and research of your schools and faculty to ensure that your content gets as much impact as possible, for example, #sustainability, #bigdata, #refugees.
To increase the reach of your social media channels, you need to engage with journalists and publications. Set your team the target of connecting with a certain number of journalists each week and gradually increase as they get better. Research shows that journalists are more likely to engage on social media because they can put a face to a name, so talk to them, retweet their articles – it’s a great way to build a relationship.
Find a fresh perspective
With coverage being heavily dominated by Brexit and Trump, you need to rise above the noise in order to grab the attention of journalists and editors. You can do this by pitching fresh, original, possibly controversial views and research. If you try a different perspective that is provocative, it will stir up conversation and debate, and most certainly get the attention of the editor.
Be proactive with events and press releases. By this I mean if you have great research on the concentration of economic wealth, then maybe you can tie that into the next World Economic Forum in Davos. Doing this will get more exposure for you as the topic the press release is on will be in the news cycle as a result of the event.
Tackle a tough turnaround time
Journalists are often working to strict deadlines, therefore can be very demanding and expect immediate reactions. This can be very difficult to deal with especially when it comes to faculty that are particularly hard to track down. For this reason, try to get buy-in for possible interviews ahead of time, by planning ahead, you can forewarn a professor that certain events are likely to interest the media and therefore comments from them may be required.
Quick wins for the future
Your efforts may not always generate immediate results, but it is important to remember that by doing everything above, you have shown editors and journalists that you are a useful contact that will provide them with relevant, targeted content and not just general press releases.
So, follow these tips and you will be rewarded over time.
For the original article download Wildfire Volume 2. Issue 1.
Wildfire is a publication dedicated to the university and business education community, filled with media insights and advice on how to improve the visibility and coverage of your institution, staff, and students.
In volume 2. issue 1. you will find analysis and advice from the international team at BlueSky Education for optimising your interaction with the media, including faculty opinion and research expertise. Our feature story provides insights on how and why you should be commenting on breaking news stories.