Some brands are simply just synonymous with what they want to be known for. Apple are synonymous with leading cutting-edge technology, Tesla with cutting-edge manufacturing innovation and BlueSky Education, with unrivalled education PR knowledge 😉
But, how do these companies become synonymous with industry-knowledge, innovation, leading technology and all those other key terms that they want to be known for? Well firstly, of course they have to practice what they preach. For instance, you can’t be known for being innovative, unless you are actually innovative. But there are lots of innovative companies, right?
So, how do you make your company standout of the crowd and be the one that is instantly recognisable for this topic?
Well, it’s no good if you want to be known for innovation, to not shout about your innovative projects to the world. The same with wanting to be known for leading technology, you have to shout to the world about why you should be known for that. It’s the same with any topic, if you want to be known for it, you not only have to practice what you preach and be doing something different in this area, but then you also have to let the world know what you’re doing, not just assume they’ll find out.
And, of course, that’s where PR comes in handy.
After working with a vast amount of business schools and universities over a number of years, it’s clear that all schools want to be known for a specific, key area of business. Whether that be entrepreneurship, digital transformation or diversity and inclusion, all institutions have a different key topic they want to highlight, be known for and eventually become synonymous with.
But how do they do so?
Well firstly, if you want to forge a name for yourself in a particular area, it’s not all down to PR. You certainly have to be doing something innovative and forward-thinking in that key area for starters. Many schools certainly make the mistake of thinking a specific initiative or focus is something innovative, where realistically many other institutions are doing similar things and have been for some time.
That’s why it’s important to get out of the bubble of just your institution and understand what is going on in the wider market. How can you understand how progress and innovative your institution is being when you don’t know what the external competition and benchmarks look like?
After understanding where you sit in the wider market for the key area you want to use to set your brand apart, it’s important to look to begin forging a name in this area. That’s of course if you see your institution as innovative and doing more in this area than others in the market.
Highlighting these initiatives in the press
For business schools, let’s take finance as an example. If a school wants to be known for its leading finance teaching and research, it’s important to focus all of its PR content around the finance function.
This could be using students and alumni who have become successful and work in the finance industry in their active push for press interview, utilising finance-focused research to distribute to press, getting finance faculty to comment on key relevant topics in the industry, or getting finance programme directors to discuss the opportunities the programme gives students. The key here really is to focus most media efforts around this key topic, and utilise all spokespeople in this area.
Utilising faculty is certainly one key way to do this, and something I discussed in a recent webinar I conducted with my colleague, Steph, and colleagues from Media Minds. Faculty can be a huge help in boosting the profile of an institution in a specific area, especially if they are already well-known in this field, have interesting research and are already active in their media outreach.
One example of a concerted push to secure coverage, and forge a name in a key area, is our work with Imperial College Business School. With its links to a wider STEM University, Imperial were keen in pushing their expertise specifically in online learning and EdTech. Not only did they have great, innovative initiatives, like hologram lecturers and global online shared platforms, but they also made a conscious effort to push faculty and experts in this area over the last few years. This has led to a number of media pieces on online edtech teaching, including this piece in the Wall Street Journal, this piece in the Financial Times and this piece in Forbes – helping to push Imperial’s band name to be further associated with online learning.
And other institutions are forging names for themselves in key areas too, by utilising PR, and their key faculty members and institution spokespeople. One of Vlerick Business School’s key goals is to be known across the industry as an institution that aids and develops future entrepreneurs. By utilising entrepreneurial initiatives and alumnus, BlueSky Education has helped secured media coverage on the area in a number of publications, including this piece in Poets & Quants and this piece in Study International - cementing their position as a leading entrepreneurship-focused institution.
It’s safe to say all institutions have goals, and key topics they want to be known for. Many can start by looking to practice what they preach and launch some interesting initiatives in the area, search for leading researchers and professors, or focus their programmes on this topic. But once these innovative initiatives have been identified, the way to shout them to the world, and cement your spot as an institution known for that topic, really is by utilising strong PR messages in that area. It’s certainly not an overnight task, it's one that needs lots of attention, persistence and effort, but a worthwhile one when people instantly think of your institution when the topic is brought up.