Have you ever considered hiring or working with a PR agency, but you’re not entirely sure of what PR entails?
Before you consider whether hiring a PR agency is worth it or not, it is probably best to understand what PR is all about, especially when it can often be often be regarded interchangeably with marketing or sales.
First thing’s first: the acronym ‘PR’ stands for Public Relations and it pretty much does what it says on the tin. PR revolves around relating – or communicating - with the public.
If we look at it more definitively, in 2012, the Public Relations Society of America asked the public to vote on what the definition for PR should be. The winning definition was:
“A strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and the public.”
Essentially, it is the responsibility of PR to ensure that an organisation or individual maintain a good reputation, and that the public holds a positive view of them. More specifically, it involves shaping how information from a company, brand, or individual is shared with the public so it has the desired effect on public perception or behaviour.
PR is an incredibly broad area and can be used in a variety of ways by a variety of clients and stakeholders; a celebrity could have their own PR team to ensure their public image goes untarnished, a university could use PR on an ongoing basis to ensure good application numbers, or a politician could engage in a PR campaign after a career-devastating scandal.
At BlueSky Education, our speciality revolves around international PR for higher and business education, ensuring business schools and universities utilise their faculty, research, graduates, and students in a way that maximises productive, global media coverage, boosting their visibility and reputation.
The way you engage in PR and communicate with the public will depend on your specific goals and targets or the content you are wanting to share. Within the context of a business school or other higher education institution, this may include wanting to increase the number of applications to a specific course, increase applications from a specific region, or to enhance your institution’s research reputation.
If your institution has produced a brand-new research paper with interesting results, you may want to share a press release with target journalists. These journalists may then publish the press release as it is, or reach out for more information, wanting a copy of the research paper or to speak with the researchers themselves. This will demonstrate to potential corporate partners and applicants, both students and faculty, the calibre of your institution when it comes to quality, impactful research.
You may also want to consider distributing a press release for particularly interesting new programmes you are launching, or if your school is opening a new department, to ensure the news is seen by appropriate readers.
If a faculty member has a view or opinion relevant to their expertise and a current news topic, this will most probably be shared with target journalist through pitching: providing journalists with some information on their opinion before offering them something, perhaps to interview the faculty member or an op-ed article. This will ideally lead to a feature in a media outlet which reaches your desired target audience, demonstrating the world-class, expert faculty your institution boasts.
Pitching is also the best approach for sharing the experiences of interesting students or successful alumni. For example, some outlets might be interested in the experience of international students at your school or how graduating from your school has led to alumni securing successful careers. Journalists may then want to interview the subject of your pitch, or provide questions for written responses.
Another area PR can be involved in is inviting journalists to certain events. If you are holding an event, for example, around the launch of a new school, PR professionals can help with inviting appropriate journalists to said launch. Or perhaps you are interested in inviting journalists to your campus to show them what your school is all about; PR professionals can also reach out to journalists in this regard.
Inviting journalists to campus or to events may then lead to them writing an article about your institution, or it can also help familiarise them with your school, so they can keep you in mind for future media opportunities.
As well as engaging in proactive media work, there are also opportunities to respond reactively to media opportunities. This can involve journalists approaching PR professionals, perhaps those they have worked with before, with specific media opportunities they are looking for input on. For example, they may be working on an article on the future of business school education and require quotes from professors or other expert faculty.
And these approaches to PR are not restricted to the business and higher education space – press releases and pitches are found all throughout PR. For example, a food and drink company might distribute a press release announcing a new product, or a fashion company might pitch to a journalist, offering their CEO to speak about, or write an article, on their new environmentally-friendly initiatives.
Whether you are distributing a press release, pitching an op-ed on current events, inviting journalists to a school launch, or other media communications activity, PR with us is all about supporting, consulting and taking action on the best routes to take to communicate news or information with your target audience to achieve your desired goal.
Kyle is experienced in working with leading institutions in far-flung corners of the globe, from London to Kazakhstan. His client list features the likes of the London School of Economics’ Department of Management, ESMT Berlin, BI Norwegian Business School, Nazarbayev University, and many more around the globe.