Are you wondering whether to engage in PR? Or, perhaps you’re considering reducing, or removing PR services from your institution altogether. If either of the above are true – particularly the latter – please do read on…
When budgets get tight and an institution looks to limit any frivolous outgoings, often the first thing to get cut is PR. And that is, perhaps, the biggest mistake to make.
Because PR is not a luxury service for your institution. It’s an essential one.
I know what you’re thinking; as a PR professional – particularly one working for an agency rather than in-house – of course I’d say any institution reducing or removing their PR budget is a mistake. But I’m not just looking to save my own skin here.
The simple fact is maintaining a well thought-out, responsive and consistent PR strategy is just as important to your institution’s development and growth as your marketing, sales and even finance strategies.
The biggest challenge the PR profession faces is a general misunderstanding both of its function (the prevailing stereotype of PR being nothing more than a series of cosy lunches and networking events) and of the return on investment it can provide.
So, let’s break it down
At its very core, PR connects your institution to the world around you. It amplifies and affirms your ideas, values, expertise and excellence beyond your established networks to capture a whole new audience, and with that comes new opportunities for growth and development.
Effective media relations can turn your Dean into a leading authority on the future of education, your students and alumni into advocates for your programmes and your faculty into thought leaders in their respective industries.
And doing this – and doing it right – can create real value.
What does this mean for your institution?
By regularly engaging with relevant, influential media outlets you are providing potential applicants with a better grasp of what your institution has to offer – beyond rankings and league tables – which bolsters your student recruitment efforts.
Supporting your faculty in sharing their expertise with national media and industry-focused outlets helps to solidify their reputations as influential industry experts, enhancing your institution’s reputation as a result. Additionally, being seen to support an engaged, visible and active faculty can also improve your staff attraction and retention levels.
Such activities can create additional opportunities for your faculty to speak at events and provide expertise to directly to industry associations and thinktanks.
For academics, harnessing the power of PR to share their research with a wider non-academic audience doesn’t only bring a pat on the back from colleagues, but also more citations of their published works in future.
Beyond traditional media, further supporting these efforts on social platforms can help generate further discussion and engagement with a global audience, helping to generate greater familiarity with, and respect for your institution.
The key tool an effective PR strategy provides is differentiation. In a competitive and crowded education market it’s a challenge to stand out from your peers. It’s standard practice for schools to invest in creating a slick, easy to navigate website and produce attractive, innovative marketing materials. A well-considered PR strategy enhances these efforts by securing a bigger, more engaged audience to share these resources with.
Whilst PR may not be a service whose results can be easily tracked in figures and numbers, it doesn’t take too much digging to be able to draw a direct link between media engagement and opportunities for growth. To fail to engage is to deny your institution the chance to shine.
So now you know that PR is a vital tool for growth, the next step is to consider whether to manage your media relations in-house or enlist the support of an external agency. We can help here too.
Here are just a few examples of the the type of results you can expect