The media and its approach to news has changed, it’s not enough to churn out a press release and hope it will be picked up by established media such as The Financial Times, Times, Telegraph and Guardian.
Now that I’ve entered the world of PR, I can see the lessons that some films can teach us about the varied world of public relations. I’ve selected three film quotes that stood out to me and the messages they convey about this industry. Be creative “Almost Famous” is the story of a young, up and coming journalist in the 1960s who is given the job of interviewing his favourite band. He ends up in a world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, without his overprotective mother knowing, he ends up falling in love with one of the bands most infamous groupies. My favourite PR quote from the film is: “Is it hard to make us look cool?” Making your client appear interesting to the media is a major aspect of public relations, and sometimes it seems impossible to make them “look cool”. In the world of Business Education, sometimes clients want you distribute challenging research, or a story that might have already been told. This is why creativity is important, taking the time to come up with a new angle in order to provide the media with a fresh way of telling, or adding to, a story. If you can successfully execute this, you will build your clients' profiles and credibility around the world, essentially making them “look cool”. Don't over-complicate things “One Day” is about two university graduates who spend the night together after their graduation ceremony. Dexter and Em are shown each year on the same date to see where they are in their lives, sometimes they are together, sometimes they are not. The best PR quote from this film is: “I think we like to complicate things when really it’s quite simple”. To successful grab an editor’s attention you have to develop the knack of writing in a simple way, making the wording engaging and understandable. The same can be said when working with university research, to transfer it from academic language into a message that you can send to the media which is as simplistic as possible. This is the best way to reach a wider audience. Make the right decisions
Working with business schools on day-to-day basis, you learn about the incredible array of courses that they offer. With some specialisms like luxury attracting very different profiles to finance or perhaps entrepreneurship, I wondered what our team would be interested in studying.
Relationship building is key when it comes to gaining success in public relations – especially in the world of business schools.
Now is the time to make some professional resolutions which will make you a better, more productive PR person.
From the Daily Mirror to the Wall Street Journal, pretty much every widely-read newspaper uses clear language for their readers.
As 2017 comes to a close, you’d be forgiven for thinking the only significant (or fake!!) news stories this year have involved the Brexit negotiations and Donald Trump. However, if you look a little closer, or have somehow managed to block the words ‘Brexit’ and ‘Trump’ from appearing on your phone (please let me know how!), there has been a number of other news stories on the agenda in 2017 – each of which has provided opportunities for the savvy PR operator. So as the year comes to an end, here are just some examples of how to use news trends and how BlueSky earned great coverage for our clients. Gender pay gap In July, the BBC succumbed to pressure and revealed the salaries of its biggest stars. In doing so they highlighted again, the substantial gender pay gap that exists in most organisations, with the highest paid male, Chris Evans (no, I’m not sure why he gets paid so much either), earning almost 400% more than the highest paid female. The report created a trend of news stories focusing on gender in the workplace and equal pay, which even persuaded the UK government to order all large firms to publish their own salary figures. This provided BlueSky with an opportunity to promote research from one of our clients, which found that women scored higher than men in four out of five leadership skill categories, making them better leaders. Not only was this research highly relevant, but it helped to further the discussion on why the gender pay gap exists. Our press release received coverage in over 40 different publications, including The Times and The Metro. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics
So, we are almost in 2018. Depending on the year you’ve had, you may be sad to leave 2017 behind or, quite frankly, be glad to see the back of it. In the PR world, there are definitely some people wishing that they could go a step further and get in a time machine to restart 2017 from scratch. Here are five of the biggest PR fails of 2017. United Airlines goes into freefall United Airlines had a serious problem on its hands when footage circulated of a passenger, his face bloodied, being dragged down an aisle and forcibly removed from an overbooked plane. Initially, CEO Oscar Munoz defended the removal but with public outrage intensifying and consumer perception rapidly dropping, he later issued an apology, the wording of which was criticised for being corporate, insensitive and insincere. It also seemed to imply that the victim had brought it upon himself. Unfortunately, the damage was done. The passenger, Dr David Deo, later reached an undisclosed legal settlement. Pepsi – politicised campaign about unity alienates almost everyone Pepsi’s advert, featuring reality star Kendall Jenner leaving a photo shoot and joining a street protest featured a huge cast which was meant to represent young, diverse protestors. Unfortunately, Pepsi was accused of trivialising political protest, exploiting inequality for monetary gain, being insensitive to the Black Lives Matter movement and implying that serious issues can be lightened with a swig of soft drink. Bernice King, daughter of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, tweeted a photo of her father being confronted by a police officer at a protest march, and commented: "If only Daddy would have known about the power of Pepsi." Pepsi quickly apologised, admitting that it had “missed the mark” and pulled the advert less than 24 hours after launch.
When I walked into work this morning, I could hear giggling before I even opened the door. Kerry, a Senior Account Manager and Funny News Finder, had emailed us all a link to a story about a new robot author. The author was created by the team at Botnik, a community of writers, artists and developers who collaborate with machines to create ‘strange new things’. They had fed all seven Harry Potter novels through their predictive text keyboard and instructed it to compose a chapter from a new Harry Potter story. The result is called Harry Potter and the Portrait of what Looked like a Large Pile of Ash and it’s well worth a read. *Spoiler alert* ‘“Not so handsome now,” thought Harry as he dipped Hermione in hot sauce. The Death Eaters were dead now, and Harry was hungrier than he had ever been.’ Hilarious. But this got me thinking – could robots ever tell us stories? Google certainly thinks so. As we speak, the company is pouring money into a robot journalism project in which computers will write 30,000 stories a month for local media. The project will be run by five human journalists, who will use official open data sources to automate reports about health, crime, employment and other subjects. Despite the overwhelming majority of experts and research suggesting that automated articles would lack the insight needed in subjective topics – for example, imagine the intricacies of a court cases or political matters – it appears that there are numerous companies already operating in this area.
LinkedIn boasts an impressive 500 million users, so surely presents an opportunity for the savvy PR? However, like most social networking sites it’s overcrowded and noisy, making it difficult for anyone to make a real impact.
Avoiding disaster, navigating networking, and pitching like a pro – what advice would our BlueSky team have for the world of the PR professional?
You can’t always get it right. Sometimes, regardless of the amount of thought you put into an idea, the time you spend tweaking the pitch or the number of journalists you’ve contacted the results you so desperately want just don’t come through.
Yesterday I undertook an MBA in one day. First I learned about finance – how to price commodities, the intricacies of corporate bankruptcy and what tactics airlines use to price tickets optimally. Then I moved onto organisational behaviour and discussed how best to structure interpersonal networks in the pursuit of innovation. Lunch was spent talking about a start-up craft beer initiative, an app that gamifies city walking tours and how Georgia has built on its history to successfully market wine – all over excellent Korean food and drink, I might add. In the afternoon there were lessons on why it isn’t always a good idea to innovate, how ‘citizen science’ helps researchers to collect large data sets, why ‘joiners’ are at least as important as founders and, variously, the best way for salespeople to negotiate, reprimand customers and inspire colleagues. Ok – so perhaps not quite a whole MBA – but a full and incredibly informative day nonetheless. This is the part of my job that I love the most; meeting smart people and talking about their ideas and opinions. In this instance the context was a day on campus visiting a long-standing client, German business school ESMT Berlin to meet with various faculty members and a group of MBA students. I have been doing this job a while now and have been to many business schools and met with many faculty members and students – but the enthusiasm, insight and talent of the people in these institutions never fails to impress and inspire. Each visit reinforces to me my belief that education and impactful research are the critical cogs in a society aiming to improve and move forward. Conversely, I always seem to come back to earth with a bump the day after upon opening a newspaper and reading about the latest Trump outburst, celebrity scandal or corporate misdeed. Still – with people like those I routinely meet at our business schools helping to shape the future of business and society, I can’t help but feel hopeful. Here’s to more knowledge sharing, increased openness and excellent Korean food. Contact us to discuss how we can showcase the enthusiasm, insight and talent of your institution.
Not all media opportunities hit the button of finding their way into media such as the Financial Times, the BBC or the Wall Street Journal. The media does, however, offer a vast array of specialised niche publications. Reaching out to some of these can be through routes which require a fair degree of lateral thinking. PR maze Members of Faculty or professors have in-depth knowledge on subjects that can plug into some of these outlets. Understanding their area of expertise and identifying what journalists may be seeking can present a challenge that’s a bit of a PR maze. It’s also at times about understanding the media. What makes this tougher – and in many ways exciting these days, particularly in the UK, is the huge breadth of publications. When Global Healthcare put a call out for comments, it appeared at first too technical for a wider audience. Further research showed that this could be an opportunity for Dr Marisa Miraldo, Associate Professor in Health Economics at Imperial College Business School, who had provided valuable insights into innovation in healthcare.
Journalist’s jobs are becoming more and more time-pressed, with their inboxes increasingly flooded with PR’s pitches. Now more than ever, for a journalist to buy into a pitch, it needs to capture their attention. But how as a PR can you make your pitch stand out from the crowd ? Make sure it's newsworthy Journalists are inundated with pitches daily, so ones that are boring, uninteresting, and un-newsworthy are destined to fail before they’ve even been sent. ‘The 5 best paints to watch dry’, for example, will never get coverage no matter how amazing your pitch is, or how slow a news week it has been. It is a PR’s responsibility to evaluate whether or not their story is newsworthy before pitching it. Deciding this beforehand stops you from wasting both yours and the journalist’s time, and avoids disappointment when your efforts inevitably fail to deliver results. Have a creative, engaging headline The first part of a pitch that a journalist will read is the headline, and many journalists will decide whether or not they will bother to read on purely based on how interesting that headline is. This is why it is important you pay as much attention to crafting an effective email header as you do to your pitch, as this will encourage the journalist to read more. Make it relevant You could write the most amazing pitch in the world, but if it isn’t pitched to the right publication, it will never be read. For instance, a pitch about a world-changing bacon product that actually makes you lose weight (if only!!), will never be read if you’re pitching it to ‘The Vegetarian News’. Of course this is an extreme example, however it has its relevance. It is important that, as a PR, you research exactly which publications are interested in the news you wish to share and, more importantly, which journalists from these publications are writing about it. This does take time, but it is a worthwhile exercise. After all, it is far better to pitch to five relevant journalists than scatter your pitch to 50 journalists who are not. Make it short and snappy Journalists barely have time in their day to open all their e-mails, let alone read them thoroughly. So, what makes you think they will have time to read your pitch, which is as long as a thesis? You must make your pitch short, snappy and to the point, summarising the story and ensuring the journalist can fully understand its significance. Cut out all of the unnecessary information – a journalist will not want to read waffle. It is important to ensure that every single word in your pitch is carefully selected leaving the journalist wanting to know more. A pitch should be like a wine tasting, the journalist should have a small glass, and want to come back to you for the whole bottle. Do not oversell
Business and politics have intertwined for thousands of years, to the point where they are almost impossible to unpick. For PRs working within the business sector, it is crucial to have an awareness of current events, particularly at a time when the future of our trade and relationship with the EU hangs in the balance. Capitalism This week, some of Britain’s top business leaders took part in an FT City Network panel, where they decried management greed, corporate tax dodging and investor short-termism as factors rendering the current state of capitalism defective and in need of reform and modernisation. Baroness Shriti Vadera, the former minister who now chairs Santander UK, commented that, “The underlying promise of western capitalist economies — that a rising tide lifts all boats — has been broken.” It was Aristotle who proposed a welfare state to appease the poorer parts of the population, which hugely outnumbered the richest, who were often politicians and businessmen. Over 2,000 years later, a grossly underfunded welfare system and the paradox of economic inflation whilst many face pay caps means that the gap between the rich and poor grows ever-wider. Baroness Vadera has a valid point when she says that ‘a better system’ is needed. Perhaps this is the source of civil discontent that many believe influenced the ‘Leave’ Brexit vote, a rebellion reportedly against underdelivering politicians and untrustworthy business ‘experts’. Brexit
Weinstein and the power of the media Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you will have heard the Harvey Weinstein story. For obvious reasons, the scandal has been well covered by the media, however in the age of instant news, some people are already bored of it. In fact, I overheard someone in my local coffee shop opening a newspaper and sarcastically saying “oh look, more about Harvey Weinstein, it’s like there’s no other news”.
Over time many PR professionals or media relations specialists cut their teeth on local papers. And if as a young journalist you didn’t have a news sense it was quickly and often quite ruthlessly drilled into you. Covering court cases and council meetings, doing police and fire calls and covering tough and sometimes horrid assignments became part and parcel of learning the trade – and at the same time all working to high speed deadlines. When the agenda was slack and news was slow, you had to go out and find news. Building contacts and sniffing out a story was essential. You might also have to turn your hand to feature stories, come up with new and innovative ideas, so there was a bank of material for when the paper might have more space. The route into PR has changed All this was a grounding that in the last few years has dissipated from the scene as local newspapers have drastically reduced in staff numbers. It’s meant that the route into journalism and into PR has changed. Most come straight from university into PR agencies. Some may still find a job on a local paper or on a trade magazine or others make their way as bloggers. Where to then today for the new entrants into PR to acquire a news sense? Some can find themselves writing for the university or students newspaper to gain that news awareness. There’s those that may be pure naturals with an inquisitive mindset. Others on journalism or PR courses may be put through the grill to gather that sense of what makes news. Social media has meant that news travels faster and that can on its own make people more news aware. To really gather news sense there’s no better way than to read newspapers, listen and watch the news, to get that nose for what makes a story. Why news sense is so important
Like to see your name in flashing lights? Most of us would take joy from seeing our names and businesses in the newspapers, spoken on the radio, typed up on newswires – quoted as an expert in our fields, or highlighting an impressive company achievement. That’s something to show off. Isn’t it? Yes, but some have been known to fall under the curse of vanity PR, when achieving media coverage is just to show friends and colleagues and put up in an office. Attract your target market Rather than hunt coverage for the fame - vanity PR - some people need to be reminded that to be truly effective PR efforts should be channelled into attracting your target market. For example, The Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and The Economist are excellent publications to be seen in – but the niche, specialist outlets that your potential students, corporate partners or faculty are reading are just as important! Although they might not look as good in a frame, these mentions are building credibility and exposure in the right places. PR is best when being led by the bigger corporate picture. While some big name hits might make a few stakeholders and the odd professor happy, are they really delivering something in line with the business school or university’s goals and objectives? There needs to be a balance
So, what is Industry 4.0 and the future of work? Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, began as an initiative for the manufacturing sector, which was suffering from dwindling productivity. The scheme was initially a reaction to the global over-reliance on financial services sectors, which had grown exponentially over the last few decades. Factory of the Future The main technologies that comprise Industry 4.0 include artificial intelligence, big data, the internet of things and robotics. Combined, these technologies will be used within the manufacturing sector to create the ‘Factory of the Future’ . This will be a web of interconnected machines which create pre-programmed products, and upload data about this process without human involvement. For example, drinks factories could harness this technology by microchipping their bottles. The microchip could tell the machines which fluid it needs, which cap will fit and which label must be affixed as it progresses around the factory. Unsurprisingly, these technologies are individually spilling out into other sectors, such as medicine, legal and financial. There are currently huge advances in these areas, with machines helping with diagnosis, information management, research and even surgery in the healthcare sector alone. More meaningful work
Any busy communications professional will agree that securing media interest, and coverage in faculty research is often a time-consuming project. It can be tempting to scan the synopsis, draft a quick email and send it to a number of journalists, but this rarely sparks any good traction. Why you should be familiar with the research you're pitching Developing familiarity with the research you’re pitching is key to attracting the right attention. At the very worst, it is possible to misrepresent the point of the paper and receive a number of correction emails from journalists who know the topic inside out – or even from your professor – damaging your reputation. The best is that, although they are unimpressed with the pitch, the research’s merit prevails and the journalist’s interest is sparked. It's equally important to do your own research Yet if you are able to explain and angle the research well, devise a clear angle for your pitch, and share this with well-researched and appropriate media outlets (complete with a compelling email header), you stand a better chance of securing a fantastic piece of press coverage for your professor, enabling them to demonstrate their expertise and, most importantly, represent the school in a positive manner, to your target audience. There’s also the added bonus of strengthening your relationship with the journalist or editor who has commissioned the article, and who realises that you are, indeed, a fantastic PR.
What’s the point in creating wonderful blogs and providing insightful comment if no one ever reads it? Incredible thoughts deserve to be heard! We deal with plenty of them from pioneering professors and ambitious students. We thought it would be great to offer up our ideas on how to increase social media shares for the great content that you put out. I spoke with our resident social media expert here at BlueSky, Dan Stobbs, and he gave me his top four tips – Use visual content to increase social media shares Research shows that social media posts with images average around 2.5x more engagement than text-based posts. However, you should make sure that your image dimensions are optimised for each platform. Monitor trending hashtags The trending sections of Twitter and Facebook provide great insight into what your target audience and wider public are discussing. If you have some ready-made content such as research on the role of women in the workplace and a topic is trending like #womeninpolitics (which is trending as we discuss this post) then tweeting about it using that hashtag as your content can add real value to the discussion. Post when your audience is online Look back at your analytics to see the peak times that your audience is online and schedule your posts to maximise your engagement. Have sharing icons on your website
As institutions strive to become ever more visible around the world and business education programmes become increasingly global in their teaching, business school faculty are required to spend greater amounts of time on the road. Whether accompanying MBA students to emerging markets for international study trips, attending overseas recruitment events or speaking at industry events, such excursions provide the ideal opportunity for communications teams to raise the profile of their institutions – and their faculties – at a local level by sharing their expertise with local media. But securing the chance for your professors to sit down with the most influential titles in the country can prove to be a more of a challenge than it is at home. So in an environment where your faculty are relatively unknown, where your school’s brand carries arguably less clout than it does locally, and faced with short time frames, tricky timezones and languages barriers how can you give your faculty the best chance possible of getting in front of the world’s media? How to secure meetings for your faculty with journalists abroad Plan early What is the purpose of the trip? What can they talk about? Why should journalists care? Do your research Don't be difficult Be realistic
Not all news is news. And any PR professional doing their job properly knows that securing quality media coverage isn’t just about flinging every bit of information a client shares with them out into the world and hoping some of it gets noticed. We spend a great deal of time sifting through the information our clients share with us to find the stories that will make the best impact with their target audiences. But sometimes those stories that can be media gold aren’t always the easiest to spot, or even the easiest to communicate clearly and convincingly to your press contacts. To stand the best chance of success, there are five ingredients that need to be included in your pitches... 1. A clear focus What are you trying to communicate? Consider the information you are sharing and keep the message as clear, and simplistic as possible. Your pitch cannot be too lengthy or have too many tangents. A time-pressed journalist needs to be able to scan your pitch and immediately identify what you/your client is offering, and what their angle on that topic is. 2. Relevance It might sound obvious, but you’ve got to know your audience. Before pitching take the steps to ensure that the information you’re sharing with journalists is something which will appeal to each of their individual areas of expertise. What are they writing about? Have they already covered the topic you’re sharing? 3. A strong spokesperson… The ideas you put forward in your pitch are only as strong as the person who voices them. It is vital to ensure you pitch a person who can speak confidently and eloquently with the media, and have the experience and expertise to lend authority to their perspectives. 4. …With something new to say! It’s no good having a strong spokesperson if they’re only able to tell a journalist what they already know. Take the time to craft a new angle on the topic at hand with your spokesperson in order to provide your media targets with a fresh way of telling, or adding to a story.
We recently ran a poll asking business school and university PR and communications professionals what the most challenging aspect of their job is. The results - top PR challenges Writing impactful press releases Achieving top tier coverage Pitching research Arranging international meetings for senior faculty Writing impactful press releases Our top tips: Have a clear objective when writing and distributing a press release Where possible keep it under 400 words Use a headline that grabs a journalists attention straight away Don't be afraid to be controversial Ensure the first line relates directly to the headline and gives the main take away Work on the basis that if a sentence or paragraph doesn’t tell you something or develop the story then strike it out One quote is enough – this is your opportunity to give your release context and personality
The BlueSky Education team were out in force at MaKi London 2017 this week at both the Imperial College London and King's College London locations. There were a number of excellent presentations and great take away tips from Media Panels including the likes of the Wall Street Journal, QS, The Economist, The Independent, The Conversation, The Times, CNBC, The Sunday Times, The FT, Times Higher Ed, Muck Rack, International Business Times, BBC Worldwide, Bloomberg and BlueSky Education's own Ian Hawkings to name a few! Ian's presentation - So, the press release is dead? Top takeaway tips Why shouldn't a press release be content? What are you trying to achieve by writing and distributing a press release? Try to keep it under 400 words Find a headline that grabs a journalists attention The first line has to relate directly to the headline and give the main take away - what are they going to get if they continue reading? One quote is enough - this is your opportunity to give your release context and personality Top tips from the media panels
You have to believe in it yourself before you can convince other people of the power of PR and become a PR champion. And why wouldn’t you? Bill Gates has been quoted in countless articles, publications, blog posts, graphic pull-outs and across social media for saying: “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations.” And there is a very good reason for that - PR is the key communications medium because it has that third party credibility that any marketing or advertising, no matter how ‘clever’ or ‘targeted’ it may be, cannot provide. Ok I’m in but my stakeholders aren’t If effective PR – or PR of any sort - is not happening within your institution, the key to getting your stakeholders' sign off is to show them what the competition are doing. Analyse the competitors you are realistically up against – see what they are doing and the sort of coverage they are achieving, present this to your stakeholders and explain what a disadvantage they are being put at by not doing the same themselves. Cold hard evidence is tough to argue with. I’m in, my stakeholders are in – what else do I need to do to become a PR champion? Make sure you’re engaging with the right people – the people who make it work, the people that will be quoted - senior management, the marketing community within your institution, and most importantly your faculty.
For as long as public relations has existed, the industry has needed to demonstrate the value of press coverage – and that’s not easy. There’s no accepted standard for PR measurement AVE, a seriously flawed concept based on advertising value equivalency, has long since been rejected by the majority of reputable PR professionals. Its method is undeniably crude and inaccurate. Then the Barcelona Principles, a set of seven voluntary guidelines established by the industry to measure the efficacy of campaigns, has been widely criticised for being impractical. But we are still left with clients and colleagues wanting to measure the success of a PR campaign. The value of PR: what can we measure? The reality is that the ultimate end result is the changed behaviour of individuals caused by the media coverage. It’s difficult to measure and put numbers to this, but there are ways that we really can demonstrate the value of the work that we do. For example, a client asked us to help them boost student applications from India, so we secured stories in The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, and other well-read Indian publications. We based these around the experiences of their Indian alumni and their successes. Thanks to feedback from the communications team at the school, we know that they saw a 20% increase in Indian applications for their programmes. It’s instances like this where we can visibly see the success of a PR campaign. We’ve even delivered press coverage in Mongolia after a group of students visited the capital city, Ulaanbaatar. This lead to our client university’s first application from a Mongolian student.
Getting in on the conversation is a well-trodden means to gain media coverage. This piggy-back method by responding or talking about key issues on the news agenda can be a highly productive. It can help to enhance reputation or credibility by showcasing the client’s knowledge and expertise in fields at the centre of the news agenda. The list of subjects and content is almost endless and can range across a multitude of issues in the news, from leadership and organisational change to cyber-crime and whether robots are taking over from us. To achieve results and get the opinions out there in time does depend on knowing your business school or organisation’s faculty or experts, so that the response is in time. The news agenda is fast moving. What is news in the morning may have passed by once the afternoon has arrived. It could be around leadership Certainly at the time of Donald Trump’s election there was an opportunity to voice reaction. Andy comment or insights had to be new and different and from an acknowledged expert in that field. Leadership is one theme that repeatedly raises its head. Anything from politicians to football managers. How an issue could have been handled to achieve improved results, or it could be the psychological approach or the impact to the decisions leaders have made. The scope is considerable. Change management Organisations are regularly in the midst of change or reorganisation programmes. It could be there is a news story on this issue. Most business schools are likely to have experts or research around this to allow them to be presented for interview or comment. Cyber-crime We’ve seen recently the impact cyber-crime can have on the National Health Service in the UK and other organisations around the world. This offered the opportunity to put forward relevant experts. But as I mentioned before what they are going to say has to have the ‘wow factor’. Artificial Intelligence With the rise in technology other issues that regularly on the radar are Artificial Intelligence and robotics. Are we being taken over or will man still have a job to do? Only today there was a news story on this and I’ve been able to connect one of our client’s professors to this very subject. He assures us, we (that is us humans) will still be needed. Sustainability
I’m already bored of hearing about ‘fake news’. When Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States, he brought with him a phrase that won’t leave us alone – fake news – and while many of his statements are controversial or false, they generate a staggering amount of free media coverage. Still, many of us were left thinking that the lines between fact and fiction should not be blurred for the sake of exposure. What’s more, we’ve seen that fake news spreads like wildfire. Social media users share in a frenzy which is further amplified if the person using Twitter is influential. Let’s say, the leader of what should be the free world, for example. Even reputable news organisations have found themselves caught up in fake news – reporting on a story before thoroughly checking its validity. But there is something that we can do. In the world of public relations, we can ensure that any stories we use for reference are genuine, and we can look beyond the headline. A clickbait sentence might draw you in, but it isn’t the whole story, we can go deeper than that. We can also act responsibly Our output shouldn’t support the generation or spread of fake news. We can be authentic. Yes, PR is often about finding the opportune moment to join conversations, but we can decide what conversations we join, as well as what we say for ourselves and on our clients’ behalf. Here at BlueSky Education, we will continue to work with thought-leaders around the world on their ideas to better our societies. Whether that’s how charities can improve their marketing, identifying the need to equalise pay for working mothers, or simply on the importance of a good night’s sleep.
Pinning down the exact qualities that make someone a success in PR is a hard task. Some bloggers don’t bother to delve deeper than the obvious; organised, good communicator, able to multitask. But I’m not sure that goes very far in demonstrating why you would be a great PR, rather than just a good employee, or the PR skills you have to offer. Then there are those who are oddly specific, or even philosophical about the task, perhaps romanticising their own qualities or copying directly from their own CV when they recommend that you are able to synchronise swim and own at least one Blue Peter badge. So what makes this list any closer to the truth? Well, I have decided to focus not on what will make you a successful PR, but what a career in PR would be unsuccessful without. Inquisitiveness Most of the people I know who work in PR are naturally curious, prone to asking questions and able to think laterally and draw hidden meaning from text and speech. This is a hugely important personality trait demanded by the sector, not only useful in researching around your client, their specialisms and their spokespeople, but also in discerning how best to showcase their strengths. Insight
This post was originally published 23/01/2014 but after revamping the images we share via social media alongside our content this week, it occurred to me that it's perhaps even more relevant today.
When you step into the role of media spokesperson, it is full of challenges and pitfalls that could prove costly. But rather than viewing the dangers, it should be seen as the land of opportunity that can take your organisation forward to enhance its brand and reputation. Press and broadcast coverage in the media is one of the most powerful ways to build your professional reputation—and showcase your organisation. What makes an effective media spokesperson? It is crucial that you know your organisation, exactly what it does and how. You need to know your people and who are the experts that you may need to work with quickly when that call from the media arrives. You need to know the media that are most important to your organisation and to proactively build a relationship with them, so that you are able to get the best out of the good stories as well as the bad. A key attribute that is important is to be cool under pressure. When that media call arrives on a difficult issue, keep to the company script and don’t waiver - realise that any slip could be interpreted the wrong way. Responding at speed is essential. If you get a reputation for quick and helpful answers you’ll soon gain the reputation for being that ‘go to’ person. As much as gaining first-class coverage, it can also be the means to nip in the bud a crisis situation. If there is a crisis, you need to strike a balance of honesty and being economical with the truth. One water company chose to hide a chemical infusion into its supply and met with an almighty court case, while another in a similar situation was upbeat, positive and honest about the situation to let the public know quickly so that preventative measures could be taken. That is a valuable approach to take.
The art of writing catchy headlines is the difference between your article, or blog, reaching the eyes of your targeted readers – or disappearing into the ether as they scroll / flick disinterestedly past. Learning how to write a headline is key to both PR and content marketing. Many a well-written article, even those with ground-breaking content, has slipped under the radar because the title didn't entice readers. So, how do you write a headline that gets clicked? Pique an audience’s interest and grab their attention. Headline dos Consider your audience Be bold – or even contrary – as well as authoritative and clear Keep your headlines active, not passive Is the title meaningful and interesting – would you read this article Keep SEO in mind Be shareable Headline don'ts
Sometimes, no matter how much effort you put in, things just don’t work out. You might think your client is the ideal person to feature in a journalist’s article about the advancements of online education or the gender pay gap, you’ve swiftly pitched them to the journalist listing their various attributes, and you might have even submitted a comment or secured a phone interview. But, when the article is published your client has not managed to make it into the text - so why don't journalists quote your client? It's frustrating? Yes. And it can happen for a myriad of reasons, many of which might be outside of your control – for example the journalist might not have had enough space within the word count to squeeze in your client’s comments. But there might be a little more to it. Are you doing all you can to give your client the best chance possible of being quoted? Being proactive and quick to jump on a news story is only part of the process. Keeping these four checkpoints in mind when pitching your clients to the media, whilst not guaranteeing a positive result every time, can help to reduce the number of occasions where your client is left disappointed.
Do you often find yourself missing out when looking to attract mainstream media attention with your school’s news? Whether it’s the statistics surrounding class make-up, faculty research or a particularly astute comment from the Dean on the state of modern business education, communications staff are often faced with journalists turning their institution’s news down, or ignoring it entirely, regardless of how genuinely interesting it may be. The grim reality is that the relevance, and thus the impact of the information they’re sharing with the media often decreases the further it travels outside of the school’s immediate community, even when these topics are ones that are routinely the subject of discussion in the likes of the Financial Times, Poets&Quants and the Times Higher Education. It can often be hard to stand out from the crowd when every other school is seeking to do the same thing. But there is strength to be found in numbers. Though it might sound counterintuitive, sometimes the most effective way of shining a spotlight on your institution and your faculty’s expertise is by also highlighting someone else’s. Far from it being a detriment to your own exposure, joining forces with others, whether directly or indirectly, can actually help to secure a better result. The question any credible reporter will ask upon receiving your press release or your pitch is, “so what?”. Alone, your school might not be able answer that question sufficiently. However, when partnered with evidence from a handful of other institutions (whether this compliments the information you’re sharing or contradicts it) you can present the journalist with the foundation of a richer story – a trend, a discussion which can be stretched from the findings of just one institution to become a wider comment on the industry as a whole. Far from diluting your message, working in this way can improve your school’s exposure and reputation by confirming to journalists that your faculty have a wider, well-informed view, which extends outside of your school’s campus. We hope you found these insights helpful. If you’d like to discuss how your institution can collaborate with others, the BlueSky Education team would be happy to advise. For the full article download Wildfire Volume 2. Issue 1.
Raising the profile of an institution, a professor, a new specialist centre, or the launch of a programme? You’ve probably thought about public relations as well as advertising. Both have their place in the marketing world, but is one better than the other? What is the main difference between advertising and PR? “PR provides third-party advocacy for your product or service,” said Ian Hawkings, Head of Practice here at BlueSky Education. “It lends a credibility that advertising simply can’t.” Essentially, this is the most important point. Advertising is an organisation shouting about itself. Apply now! Join us! We’re the best in our field! Evidently, they’ll be biased and any potential student or customer knows this. PR is someone else saying how great your business school or university is – someone that isn’t being paid to be positive, someone without a personal investment. There must be a genuine angle or hook for editors run an article, publish a press release or to cover an event. It’s the goal of PRs to achieve this and get clients noticed by the media. More benefits of PR While today’s audiences are savvy about advertising, any positive press coverage puts the organisation in the public eye and promotes it in a more subtle way. “Advertising doesn’t necessarily start a debate, pass interesting comment or bear great relevance to current sector issues,” said Natalie Bishop of BlueSky. “PR, on the other hand, is more three-dimensional; it doesn’t just promote a product, it uses these tools to explain why something is a sector leader.” On this mission, PR professionals shape the messages that compel and inspire. These are woven into press releases, pitches to journalists, speeches at conferences and public forums, and even in-house materials like magazines and copy for websites. Chris Johnson of BlueSky argues that these efforts are actually more cost effective. He says the results of PR are more likely to be read, provide content for social media, and aid internal communications. Which one is right for you? So while both advertising and PR exist to endorse an organisation and its products, they aren’t the same thing. With this in mind, marketing budgets need to be allocated carefully. What will have the best impact? It was Bill Gates that famously said: “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations.”
It is hard to remember a time when Donald Trump was not dominating the daily news cycle. Reporters at the NYTimes, BBC, Washington Post, and other media are working round the clock to share the latest pronouncements and orders from the Oval Office, or interpret the latest tweet. Go back to last summer and the UK’s Brexit decision achieved similar media saturation. Looking ahead, elections this year in the Netherlands, France and Germany will keep the press busy, while the Communist Party in China organises its 19th National Congress in the autumn, which will confirm the leadership and political direction of the country for the next five years. In such a cluttered political landscape, how can your communication team compete for the attention of the media, and use the news cycle to gain coverage for the expertise and research of your faculty? 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. In the latest edition of Wildfire, the BlueSky Education team share nine ideas to help you get ahead of the news cycle: Know what's trending Think local to share global Put yourself in the shoes of a journalist Showcase your faculty with a prerecording Use social media as one big search engine Find a fresh perspective Plan ahead Tackle a tough turnaround time Quick wins for the future
The debate about whether the press release is dead or not has been raging for as long as I can remember. I came across a Gorkana whitepaper this week discussing the issue – with various PR practitioners giving their opinion. Some were clearly big advocates of the press release, whilst others were more circumspect. But one thing was clear – all of those asked found them useful in one way or another. So, is the press release dead? PR means many things depending on whether you are promoting products, people, businesses or ideas. But the core function of the industry, regardless, is to sell a message and I firmly believe the press release is an important tool in achieving this. If done correctly, a good release can provide all the information needed for a journalist to make a decision on whether to follow up. A great one, well targeted, will compel them to do so. If the press release lives on, why didn't mine get any coverage? There’s so much more to really good PR. I despair of the approach of firms who seem content to fire a release out to a generic list of journalists or on ‘the wire’ and sit back to wait for the coverage to flood in. It must happen because I can’t count the number of journalists that have told me they’d much prefer a two line email. Incidentally, I do think this is because the majority of releases are badly written and that, if the standard were better, they might change their minds.
It’s a given now that every business school wants a diverse MBA class and is presumably recruiting across the world. The fall back thing that everybody does is to advertise. The problem with advertising of course is that people are becoming more worldly and cynical about adverts. Therefore, by comparison, PR is very powerful because it can tell stories and engage people, and has that third party seal of approval – it is not just you saying something, it’s a journalist writing about it. What type of content successfully improves student recruitment? What really works? The voice of the student from the particular country you are targeting, who has gone to your school and talks about what the experience was like for them. An interview with the person who upped sticks from the country in question and came to your school, completed the qualification and is now doing really well and has set up an interesting business. Yet some schools still fall into the trap of using unbelievable case studies that only show the positive aspects - where everything is “brilliant”. And it comes across as an advert. What is much more effective is the ‘warts and all’ picture, because life simply isn’t perfect.
How to get buy-in from faculty Firstly, to get buy-in from faculty, it's about building a relationship. It could be by meeting up with them formally or in a social context. Hear something they say in a lecture 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.
Barely a month goes by without a media league table of the world’s top universities and business schools. From the FT World University Rankings to the QS World University Rankings; from the Forbes MBA ranking to the FT Masters in Management, and the Executive MBA rankings. So, have you developed your PR strategy for rankings?
It was for the Association of MBA’s MBA Entrepreneurial Venture Award finalists. As a judge for the award, I was fortunate enough to meet some fantastic contestants who demonstrated enormous levels of passion for their projects. I was impressed by not only the quality of the business ventures each candidate presented but also the way their respective MBAs had contributed to their success. So who were the MBA Entrepreneurial Venture Award finalists? Natalie Cartwright & Jake Tyler – IE Business School – Finn.ai Nikhil Hegde – Leeds University Business School – 6Degree Andrea Rinaldo – MIP Politecnico di Milano School of Management – XMetrics Laurence Fornari – Telcome Ecole de Management – Skylights Jaime Parodi Bardon & Manuel Azevedi Coutinho – The Lisbon MBA Catolica | Nova – VIABLE Michael O’Dwyer – UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School – SwiftComply How their MBA’s were key to their entrepreneurial success IE Business School MBA Natalie Cartwright met her co-founder of Finn.ai, Jake Tyler, on the IE Business School MBA Programme, where they benefited from participation in the Venture Lab (a practical business incubator designed to assist business start-ups).
Most businesses will have to face a PR crisis of some kind eventually – here are four tips on what to do when that day comes: PR crisis tip 1: Appoint a spokesperson Decide who you want to speak on behalf of the company – make sure that they are the ONLY person authorised to do so and that everyone in the organisation knows this. This can be difficult within bigger organisations with multiple senior managers, board members and high-profile stakeholders. But it’s the key to handling a crisis and sticking to your message.
From the US Military to the MBA, to business school students’ fears about Brexit, and lessons from Chilecon Valley, we spoke to some fascinating students in 2016. Some of the fantastic people studying at the schools and universities we’ve worked with this year Charity Founder Inspiring PhD student from the University of Edinburgh Business School, James Turing, set up a charity to send computers to African villages – all in the name of his great-uncle, Alan Turing, the father of modern computing.
From how to improve online dating success – top tip: forget the anonymity feature – to how to navigate retirement, 2016 was a varied year in the world of press releases and pitches for our clients here at BlueSky Education. As another year ended, I looked back on the research I worked on during the past 12 months and highlighted some of my favourites.
The Best PR Campaigns of 2016 Citizens advertising take-over service (CATS) A kick-starter campaign to get brands and agencies to think differently about the power of their influence. Why does this campaign deserve a place on the best PR campaigns of 2016 list? It’s visual. It’s creative. It’s unexpected. Get fit with Kwik Fit A new tyre based fitness program designed to engage female audiences with the brand.
You’ve spoken with your client and clued yourself up on the topic at hand, you’ve devised an appropriate strategy for press activity, you’ve created an effective pitch and researched the most appropriate press outlets and, finally, you’ve got the journalist to give your client the go-ahead. Job done, right? Wrong. Media advice: Managing the interview process Though we’re told time and again that the difficult part of the job is getting your client in front of a journalist, in reality that is only half of the battle. The really tricky part, sometimes, is keeping the journalist interested in what your client has to say once they’re there. Just because a journalist has decided to speak with your client or has welcomed a written comment from them, there is no guarantee this will result in a piece of worthwhile press coverage. So how can you ensure you can get the most out of the opportunity in front of you? What essential actions should you take once a journalist says “yes”? 1. Get all the details: Before you approach your client you should first establish exactly what the journalist is after. How would they like to carry out the interview? What is their deadline for receiving comment? What is the word count for the op-ed you’ve proposed? If it’s a telephone interview, when are they available to speak? And, what exactly are they looking for your client to discuss? Do they need images? By clarifying these details from the outset you can approach your client armed with all the necessary information and avoid any potential problems further down the line.
Seven tips for developing an international PR strategy: 1. Build a cultural bridge The concept of Guanxi - building a relationship - is at the heart of media relations in China, and will require you to devote time, and often physical presence to nurture. What sets Guanxi apart from the types of networks we are used to in the West is the strong sense of obligation inherent within it. Favours are always returned, possibly in the short term, possibly much, much later, but the initial act is never forgotten. 2. Find comparisons that resonate How would you best describe your institution to a US market that is likely to be unfamiliar with the leading universities and business schools beyond Oxford, Cambridge and INSEAD? You might want to start with a description that likens you to a major local player. Think 'The MIT of Europe', but remember to back up your claim. If one of your professors helped to split the atom, or found a cure for heart disease that is transforming lives in Massachusetts, then make sure that the journalist has an easy point of comparison with the leading universities in his or her market. 3. Use globally recognised references While Google, McDonald’s and the Olympics may enjoy global recognition, the research that your professor has done on the management style of a hip West Coast tech firm or leadership lessons from a character in Game of Thrones may be locally obscure, and need some adaptation.