Without publicity and a well-known reputation, a business or institution may have a hard time growing and thriving in its respective industry. A steady stream of efficient marketing strategies can help build an audience. This is where public relations can help build, promote and manage brand reputation.
However, a common misconception is that PR is only for large corporations and trained designated spokespeople. This means it can be hard to get buy in from faculty. Achieving this all-important buy in from faculty is really about building a relationship. It could be by meeting up with them formally or in a social context. Use something they say in a research paper to develop into an article, use content from a book they’ve written, or spot a subject in the news that resonates with their sphere.
As a Communications and PR professional at a business school or university, the key is to network and get to know your members of faculty, understand their knowledge and research. Get a sense of whether they are happy to have a long conversation or if they prefer short, sharp and to the point questions. It’s important to know their likes and dislikes and how to approach them.
Once you’ve built a relationship and have an understanding of their subject and background, this could trigger newsworthy opinion or comment from them. Sometimes it’s about simply hearing what the member of faculty has to say, or seeing or hearing an opportunity that you think would be just right for them.
You need to build your list of faculty and their connections, so you know that ‘go-to’ person for each topic and therefore who to approach as opportunities arise. It will save you time to know which faculty are happy to help and those that would rather not be involved but perhaps might be persuaded by a niche or top tier opportunity.
At BlueSky, the business schools we work with often present us with their list of ‘go-to’ people, so that we are prepared to pitch for and respond to media opportunities.
Knowing each member of faculty’s strengths and responsiveness, and who can deliver newsworthy insights in plain English, helps to harness media opportunities. When the deadline is short, you need to know who can respond quickly.
How to manage internal stakeholders
Gaining coverage in high reputation publications is pivotal to winning ‘buy-in’ and building trust with faculty. If you can showcase the great coverage that has come out of your talks and discussions, they can see that the time spent was worthwhile. If you can’t demonstrate this, then it’s more challenging. It’s important to relay why something didn’t achieve a great deal of coverage and to identify alternative opportunities to source media exposure.
How to translate your faculty relationships into coverage
Having an eye on the news and what different journalists are writing is important to be able to direct opportunities to the appropriate members of faculty. At the same time, knowing who is doing something different, listening to their journeys and keeping an eye out for the unusual, is so important.
It’s about being able to present your message across to the members of faculty, so that they understand what you’re seeking. Then, you can get the best out of them.
There is an element of trust both ways, which is why relationship building is so important. You need to trust that the member of faculty when being interviewed by a journalist keeps to the point and convey a message that promotes the credentials of the business school or university.
While it’s not specific to business schools, and is true of any organisation, educate or encourage them to understand that what they know or may be doing is newsworthy. Explain how you can get the message out there. And make sure any quotes that are provided to the press are natural and written the way the person would actually speak.
How to manage the journalist / faculty relationship
At BlueSky, we ask for all written copy to be approved by the member of faculty first before this is sent across to the journalist.
Where the journalist will be carrying out an interview rather than an email conversation, ask for a guide to the possible questions or likely issues to be discussed to ensure they’re fully prepared and are ready to respond to any contentious issues. The briefing of the interviewee also needs to include what to expect in terms of the journalist’s style and approach, particularly if they have a track record of asking difficult questions.
Where it’s an associate rather than full faculty, or current or past student who is being interviewed, it’s wise to ask them to make sure they mention the business school. Ensure you get that across to the journalist, too.
Faculty are that critical avenue to gain outstanding, knowledgeable, thought-provoking media coverage for the business school. They can enhance the brand and awareness of the institution as well as that of their own. So, if you have a powerful ally, cultivate that relationship and maximise the media opportunities for them. You – and they – are then sure to be onto a winner.
Originally posted February 2017, updated August 2021