The international business school market is becoming increasingly crowded. There are over 13,000 business schools in the world, and you have the tough task of convincing students and faculty that your school is the right one for them.
So, how do you make yours stand out from the crowd?
What won’t work?
Simply pushing your “new Masters programme” is not enough. In the eyes of a journalist, many programmes are similar, regardless of how innovative or different institutions say they are. Therefore, journalists might struggle to get excited about them.
The same goes for promoting student events, there are hundreds of MBA students going off to China, India or Latin America to experience working in a different culture, in fact it has practically become the norm these days. It’s a requirement at some business schools, and journalists who specialise in business education will probably have heard these stories time and time again.
Again, the announcement of a new building or even a new campus is unlikely to make national news. Whilst it is really important to you and your students, it might not be newsworthy enough for a journalist to write about, even though it’s excellent to highlight on your own website.
How can you promote your business school?
So enough about the negatives, what can business schools do to proactively promote themselves?
Use your faculty! Faculty research is so diverse nowadays, and the topics are really interesting (most of the time!), therefore it’s a good way to show how your school operates and how you differ from other business schools.
In the last few weeks, I have had the pleasure of working on some great research, examples include the gender pay gap and how it reflects our expectations, or how companies can use sustainable development goals to help under-developed societies. In fact, one of our clients recently published a research paper about terrorism and how we should be focusing on preventing radicalisation. All of these topics are interesting; therefore, they’re bound to capture a journalist’s attention.
Your faculty are experts in their fields and their research highlights the expertise they can offer to potential students, demonstrate why prospective corporate partners might want to work with them, and perhaps most importantly, create a way to get the brand of the school visible in top tier outlets and trade press.
What kind of research should you put out?
The research your faculty provide could be key to promoting your business school, it’s important that you put out strong pieces of research in order to shed a light on how topical the research at your school is. That being said, a PR professional will be able to make the research media ready, and can advise on which research will be picked up by the press.
You can start to tell which research you should put out to journalists is by tapping into the news cycle, figuring out what the press trends are and how this research fits in. It is also about seeing what hasn’t been said, could this research provide a different angle on a topic that is being heavily discussed?
Academic writing doesn’t appeal to the press
While I say that we need to use your faculty’s research to promote your school, heavily academic writing – with words that aren’t in most people’s everyday vocabulary - isn’t appealing to the press. When an academic writes their research, they know it will be read by other academics, therefore there’s often in-depth, complex explanations. This writing doesn’t need to generate outside interest when the people reading it are already attentive, and while this is perfect in the academic world it’s not suitable for the media.
This is where a specialist PR consultancy comes in handy, we can take a piece of academic writing and make it media friendly. We consider who the audience is and what prior knowledge they have but, at the same time, we avoid being patronising. The idea isn’t to dumb down the research but to make it more accessible for readers. This then increases the likelihood of it being picked up by a journalist.
Advice to business schools
My advice to business schools everywhere is to spend more time and energy promoting your faculty and their research, it’ll do the job for you and show how your programmes are different and relevant. Every business school will say that they’re different but actually showing them how you are distinct is an extremely effective way to promote your school.