Managing your relations with the press and shaping your image in the competitive world of business education involves many activities. Which aspects of this process you place the greatest emphasis on can influence how well prospective students view your institution.
So what types of PR activities should business schools focus on? Should you be sending out press releases saying you’ve just appointed a new dean, set up a new chair or announced a new partnership? Well if you're process driven then yes, but if it's real results you want that can drive up application numbers, then the answer to all of this is no.
Of course these are necessary and do have value, but they are the basic ingredients to any PR activity and they won’t help to differentiate your school from others in the market, which is what you should be aiming to do. Making your school stand out from the crowd is essential in what is an extremely competitive and crowded marketplace. In order to do this you can't just keep telling people that you have a strong focus on entrepreneurship or you have an incredibly diverse class – most schools can say this and it won’t serve to raise your profile in any meaningful way.
In order to stand out you need to promote your points of differentiation, which you will have, they may just be buried in your institution. It could be a professor teaching a particularly interesting subject in a particularly interesting manner. Or even some research that is being undertaken by a post-graduate student rather than one of your top professors. The content will be there and this must be used to reach out to the types of individuals you want to attract to your programmes.
You need to consider what is going to resonate with your target audience and what motivates them. Prospective students want to know how your school will influence their career, how you can allow them to develop the next big business and what their personal gain will be. These people will be far less concerned with who the new dean is and much more interested in how you can help them become the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.
To hear what Adrian Barrett, BlueSky Director, thinks business school PR is really about, then head to our YouTube channel.