PR features in a lot of movies and TV shows, albeit in a dramatized and sometimes inaccurate way; Scandal, Sex and the City, and House of Cards all portraying various aspects of PR in a way that shapes what the general public think PR actually is. In fact, when I tell my friends that I work in Public Relations and what that involves, I am often met with responses similar to the following:
You may have seen an interesting research study hit the headlines last week. Researchers from the University of Sussex released findings from a study into out-of-work hour e-mails, which suggested that banning staff from accessing their work emails outside office hours could actually do more harm than good to employee well-being. These findings, of course, featured heavily in the press, sparking huge debate not only in the comments section of the Daily Mail (what doesn’t?), but on social media and, I imagine, many workplaces – whether they be open-plan, virtual, remote or co-working.
There’s an old saying: "Advertising is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for” (Helen Woodward, 1938). I couldn’t agree more.
During my time at BlueSky PR, I have really noticed how much public relations and journalism link, a lot of the skills I learnt as a journalist translate into PR. The ability to write, how to use social media, how to interview someone, even my shorthand has come in handy. But one skill I’ve found to be really beneficial is having news sense.
Our Prime Minister, (I can’t believe I’m saying this) Boris Johnson, has had a challenging few weeks to say the least. He’s currently engulfed in a PR nightmare for the ages, and every day the situation for poor Boris seems to get worse. However, I don’t really feel sorry for him, as he’s brought it all on himself. He has successfully become one of the most divisive political figures of the last 30 years, and he’s only been in office since the end of July.
Life is busy, and it’s very easy to come into work and go about your daily routine, Monday to Friday, sitting at the comfort of your desk. Drafting press releases, writing articles, and sifting through the vast amount of emails you may receive every day is time consuming, and it’s therefore understandable why you may ignore an invitation to a conference or networking event.
The media is constantly changing as a result of digitalisation. The internet has become the go-to news platform, meaning getting news is quicker and easier than ever. As a result, journalists are now busier than before, so as a PR professional it’s even harder to get a response. The relationship between journalists and PR professionals is key to being successful in PR, our job is to get results and the only way this works is if journalists cooperate with us.
You have finally written the perfect pitch; catchy headline, fascinating content, and sent it out to a plethora of relevant journalists. Then, a journalist responds, interested in featuring a piece from your client. But what do you do next?
Producing innovative and influential academic research is one of the best ways a business school can make itself stand out in a crowded market. In fact, academic research is now so important to a business school’s brand that leading business education news site, Poets & Quants, recently created a new ranking selecting the top 100 business schools for academic research in the world. And it’s no surprise that globally known brands, such as Harvard, Wharton and NYU Stern, finished at the top for academic research too. It’s clear that both a strong brand and strong, impactful academic research go hand in hand in the business school world.
One of Europe’s largest countries, Germany is located in north-central Europe and has a population of more than 80 million people. At its spiritual heart is the capital city of Berlin – just one of the draws which bring millions of visitors to the country each year. And it’s a country known for its people’s devotion to hard work, who place a high value on leisure, culture and a free press, and enjoy the benefits of life in a liberal democracy that has become ever more integrated with and central to a united Europe.
The UK has a vast media landscape With a population of over 66 million, and over 100 daily and 450 non-daily newspapers, the UK is a nation of avid media consumers. Dating back to the 1620’s, the UK press has extensive history, and continues to be one of the most respected, diverse, and widely read national press across the globe.
The Republic of Ireland occupies 26 of the 32 counties which make up Ireland, Europe’s second-largest island, with one-third of the country’s entire population residing in the greater Dublin area. Although it shares an island and a border with Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, it is not itself a part of the UK. Therefore, the Republic of Ireland has its own unique media landscape with a massively developing technology and business sector, making the Emerald Isle an up and coming destination for many international higher education students.
With a population of just over 329 million people, making it the third most populous country in the world, the USA is clearly going to be a key media target for any institution. But, more importantly, according to GMAC’s 2018 Applications Trends survey, 140,000 out of an overall 290,000 business school applications last year came from US-based applicants – over three times the size of applicants in Europe alone.
France is at the heart of Western Europe. Historically and culturally among the most important nations in the Western world, France has played a significant role in international affairs, with former colonies in every corner of the globe, and remains one of the world’s leading industrial powers. It’s home to around 66 million people that support the EU's second largest economy and enjoy reading some of the world’s most respected media publications.
India is the second-most populous country in the world. It’s astounding diversity of religions, languages and cultures is unparalleled. It also has a flourishing media scene, with thousands of outlets operating in multiple languages. The mainstream media has more freedom that even before. Alongside this, the use of social media has grown hugely. As a result, the media industry in India has expanded tremendously, so now is the time to focus on public relations and secure some great coverage.
China is home to an estimated 1.3 Billion people, is the world’s second largest economy and has one of the one of the largest media markets in the world. Unsurprisingly, being able to tap into it is a highly appealing prospect for any higher education institution.
It’s been a nightmare month for Heck sausages. PR doesn’t get much worse than having #boycott[insertyourproductname] trend on Twitter, which is exactly what happened in the UK following a controversial decision by the Heck marketing team.
The BlueSky Education team have just returned from another fantastic MaKi business media conference, and as always, we were delighted to sponsor the event!
Public image and politics have always gone hand in hand. Think JFK ensuring he looked as sharp as possible in the 1960 presidential TV debates in which he overwhelming beat his opposition, Richard Nixon. Think Margaret Thatcher before her election in 1979, taking lessons with a speech coach to help lower her pitch and develop a calm, authoritative tone. Think Tony Blair, in 1994, hiring Alistair Campbellas his press secretary and spokesperson for the Labour party. All of these are examples of politicians taking steps to try and shape and control their own public image.
Ghost writing is a delicate balancing act. A great ghost writer must master the ability to capture the voice of their subject, without losing their own. Here at BlueSky, we regularly have the privilege of ghost writing for our clients. From high-powered alumni short of time, to brilliant professors lacking the English fluency to do their research justice; we’re never without plenty of engaging articles to produce.
Business education conferences can be very productive, but they can be a stressful experience if you do not prepare properly.
International coverage is, arguably, the most important product of business school PR departments. Not only does international recognition build the brand at a much larger scale, coverage can also be used to reach new markets for student recruitment, to promote new courses and to showcase global alumni, amongst many other things.
Whether it’s for a short-term project or long-term support, are you considering hiring a PR agency? If so, how’s the best way to go about this as a university?
There are no two ways about it, creating great, insightful content for your institution is always a good thing. However, it is extremely difficult to measure how much of real impact each piece of content actually has on the reader and whether or not this has a long-lasting effect.
Its trendy at the moment to say the ‘press release is dead’. And while I would agree that the media industry has gone through a dramatic shift in recent years, that doesn’t necessarily mean the demise of the press release.
When we think of influencer marketing and PR, some may wonder what use it really holds outside of promoting charcoal toothpaste or online clothing brands. One assumption we make is that those with the most followers are the most valuable. And, perhaps, they are. Even for business schools, having a shout out from Kylie Jenner, with her 130 million Instagram followers, would surely cause a surge in applications from around the globe. Some may not be candidates that would usually be considered, but we know that Generation Z is especially entrepreneurial and it’s hard to miss the inspiration they may take from someone who, at 21 years old, is the world’s youngest self-made billionaire.
Who else is sick of the phrase ‘the rapid pace of change’?
Whether accompanying MBA students on international study trips, attending overseas recruitment fairs or speaking at industry events, such excursions provide the ideal opportunity to raise the profile of their school on a wider scale by engaging with local media.
One pregnant teenager. So much controversy Shamima Begum’s face has been plastered across every front page in the UK over the last two weeks. The media storm has been a sensationalist dream for many outlets (arguably, far too many). A story in which the words ‘school girl’, ‘baby’ and ‘ISIS’ can all be crammed into one headline provides clickbait gold for a national news industry increasingly relying on SEO and digital content optimisation to keep itself afloat.
Despite the turbulence of life in the UK at the moment, working out just how we might leave the EU, the country is still open for business. It’s time that business schools properly communicate their worth in today’s political climate.
You’re looking for a PR firm to help out with your international PR efforts and come across a firm that states “we have offices based in New York, London, Hong Kong, Paris and Berlin, in order to penetrate our key markets in the most effective way possible”.
If you are social media savvy, live in North America or are under the age of 25, you may have already heard of the catastrophe that was Fyre Festival. Or if, like me, you have been doing Dry January, you may have discovered it through the documentary Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, which recently aired on Netflix.
Why we tell MBA stories to increase applications for Business Schools Storytelling is often considered vital for human survival. It’s how we have communicated since we were sat in caves – I think it is just as important now as it was then. And in the world of PR there often needs to be an emphasis on storytelling over selling.
Business schools and universities are successful for a number of reasons, their longevity, their location, their specialities, but their life blood is the quality of their teaching and research - and for this they need the best academics. It’s a highly competitive global market and there are never enough good academics about – so focusing on how to attract faculty is key. How do you optimise your chances of getting the best people? Firstly, you need to get on their radar. You need to be publicising your institution. As we’ve discussed previously, PR is more effective than advertising – advertising these days suffers from the worldliness of any readership – people view adverts with the viewpoint, “well you are going to say that because you’re paying for an advert.” Instead, it is a question of publicising your institution in a way that gives you third party affirmation – you want to be pushing yourself out to show that you are an employer of choice. You need to have PR about what it is like to be an academic at your institution, how good the leadership is and the environment. What are academics looking for from an employer? When it boils down to it, academics are going to choose where to go based on the institute reputation, how much they get paid, and what their career prospects are. But also, academics live and die by their research (and their teaching), that’s how they move forward, by continuing to publish new material. Beyond this, academics also, particularly in the business school world, don’t live solely on campus, an awful lot of them have a sort of a permeable membrane between the business world and the academic world, and so they want to be working with companies and providing consultancy. Academics want to be known, and be on the radar of big companies, so that when they are thinking about getting in a business school academic to advise on a particular topic or be on the board for a particular project, they are the first academic that comes to mind. How does this compare with your institute’s objectives? Popularising and wider dissemination of your academics’ research is very important from the business school and university point of view, because it shows you have great academics working there and that they are doing interesting research. But it is also good for the individual academic because they are getting known in the circles that they might be recruited for consultancy work. The CEO or C-Suite type person isn’t going to be poring over an academic journal but if he reads of an academic’s work in the Economist or The Wall Street Journal etc. it’s going to get noticed.
Another month, another influx of pioneering research papers. But which ones are destined for the headlines? The first step to securing phenomenal press coverage for business schools and universities is to identify exactly which research, and which student or alumni success stories, are most likely to catch the media’s attention. It’s equally vital to know when material lends itself to a press release, to an opinion editorial or to interview articles. Sound complicated? Not to worry, these tasks fall to us. Recognising press trends in business and higher education There are some trends in the news cycle that can be tapped into time and time again; internationally hot topics today include blockchain, diversity and AI. Looking beyond these, different nations’ press networks have their own tailored interests; UK media, for example, is predictably receptive to any particularly insightful comment on Brexit. Exploiting these popular themes might generate quick hits, but standing out to a journalist in amongst a sea of PR pitches is ultimately about thinking outside the box. What haven’t people heard about yet? Which publications reach your target audience most effectively? Or who can offer comment on a popular topic, from an alternative perspective?
As we enter 2019, now seems a better time than any to look back over the previous year and some of its key themes for business schools. Working with schools across 10 different countries, BlueSky Education naturally has an abundance of professors who have a lot to say on a wide range of topics. In fact, in 2018 alone BlueSky Education delivered over 1,000 pieces of unique coverage for its clients across a whole host of areas, in international, national and trade publications. Let’s take a look at three of the top themes which featured the prominently in BlueSky Education’s coverage this year: Artificial Intelligence (AI) Despite the actual nuts and bolts of how it operates being unbeknown to most, AI still managed to be a topic which dominated much of the news agenda in 2018. Whether it be the world’s first AI news anchor unveiled in China, the launch of Uber’s driverless cars or the Robot Football World Cup in the summer, the topic of AI was something that was on the lips of many this year. The discussion around AI is one that many of BlueSky education’s clients also contributed to, with over 40 pieces of coverage being focused on this topic, including this piece on Uber’s partnership with one of our clients, Ecole Polytechnique, in a bid to create flying taxis, which featured in The Guardian, BBC and CNN. Or this piece of research from a professor at one of our clients, BI Norwegian Business School, which showed how emerging economies were more open to AI for business management purposes, which featured in Forbes. Gender diversity
The media industry often sees Christmas as a time to wind down and relax and even minimise pitching or distributing press releases. However, I think Christmas can offer PR’s gems of wisdom and tips, below I have summarised my top three. 1. Make a list, check it twice Making strong journalist lists is pivotal to being a good PR person, especially if you are dealing with a number of different journalists and media opportunities at the same time. Santa Claus makes a list of all the children he needs to deliver presents to, and also so his elves make the right presents and don’t miss any children. When PR’s are sending out that all important news worthy press release, they need to make sure they’re not missing out on any key journalists. 2. Follow a star Every PR person should be utilising all of their key spokespeople. Here at BlueSky Education we are always promoting and directing journalists to key professors, Deans and researchers and we’re listening to their opinions and expertise. This is particularly useful when their area of expertise is a news topic or they have a recently published research paper. The three wisemen didn’t get lost because they followed a star, PR’s should know which stars to follow. 3. Make sure there’s room at the Inn Don’t pitch a story that has already been talked about from every side. It’s too difficult to be spotted in a crowded market. My advice would be either pick a different story to promote or come up with a new angle on a pre-existing story. Mary and Joseph couldn’t fit in the Inn they had to find an alternative sleep in the stable, I think the same can be applied to PR as you shouldn’t try and get in somewhere where you simply don’t fit. Christmas is also a great time to show kindness to the media, especially those journalists you frequently contact and who regularly publish stories from your clients. From all of us at BlueSky PR we wish you a Merry Christmas.
More than 100: mentions for our clients in the FT, Forbes, and the BBC targeted press releases delivered mentions for our clients in QS Top MBA, AMBA, Biz Ed Magazine, THE, BusinessBecause, and Poets&Quants
Brexit has become hard to escape. It seems that every time you open a newspaper, turn on the radio or check your rear-view mirror, BAM there it is.
Return on Investment. The crux of so many PR client meetings. Gone are the days of walking into a client’s office with a stack of newspapers that they’ve been featured in since the beginning of your contract; no longer can the value of PR be realistically measured by how much the table shakes when you drop that stack of coverage. So, how can it be measured?
In November, I had the pleasure of hearing from and spending time with representatives from some of Europe’s best and well-known business schools, at the GMAC European Conference in Berlin.
If you want to be a good PR person you need an effective strategy, working in the media is competitive and PR is often more of an art form than a sales technique.
When sending a pitch to a journalist, what’s the first thing you need to check before hitting send? Checking your information is accurate perhaps? Making sure it’s short, swift and to the point? Making sure you’ve spelled their name correctly?
The appetite for academic research in the media is huge. Studies and statistics lend credibility to comment pieces and provide great insight into current trends. But it’s not quite as straight forward as throwing dissertations at journalists!
Hans Christian Andersen once famously said that ‘to travel is to live’. And while my grandmother never left the British Isles – she was genuinely even afraid to cross big bridges near her home in the countryside – we now live in a world with sprawling cities, where we regularly board planes, cross borders and travel the world.
When reporting back to your clients or manager, would you rather show them 20 individual pieces of PR coverage you’ve gained, or five? Naturally, you’re always going to say 20. The more coverage you gain for a client or business the better surely? It’s just more evidence of your value and more proof that their money is being well spent on PR, isn’t it?
As a specialist PR agency in the business education market, there are plenty of reasons why schools choose to bring us on board. If you’re considering hiring a specialist consultancy like us too (or you’re just here out of professional curiosity) then it’s probably time to look more closely at what having an agency’s support could achieve. With institutions having such wildly varying goals, here are a number of reasons why a business school might want to work with us: Raising the profile of a key member of faculty – perhaps the Dean of the business school or a renowned academic. Getting coverage in the press that hits both the quantity and quality mark can effectively boost a significant person’s profile. We often use the example of securing an op-ed for a professor in The Guardian that lead to him being inviting to speak at the World Economic Forum. Results like this speak for themselves. Boosting applications for certain programmes – are application numbers for your MBA lower than you’d like them to be? Get that course into the right press – show off your students, highlight that incredible alumni, position that academic lead – and watch the knock-on effect of climbing student application numbers. Appealing to quality students - Your EMBA not getting the quality of applicant that you really desire? Are you in need of better scholarship applicants? Placing articles within the right media outlets, like the Financial Times or The Economist, can attract a high calibre student. Numbers aren’t everything after all, getting quality applicants is vital.
It has been an interesting few weeks for Elon Musk. His recent tweet that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla, a $50bn public company, private, sparked a wealth of problems for regulators, investors and his board. Although initially stocks jumped in value, it came to light that the tweet was not approved by anyone else at the company and that funding was not completely secured. This provoked an investigation by US financial regulators into whether the tweet broke trading laws, sending stocks plummeting and costing investors millions. Musk also faced criticism for his choice of listing stock value as ‘$420’ as the number has become synonymous with cannabis use in the US. A flurry of articles appeared questioning his sobriety including allegations from rapper Azealia Banks that he was indeed taking drugs at the time of the tweet. Shortly after, Elon Musk gave an erratic interview to the New York Times during which he said the past year at the company had been “excruciating”. With an almost tangible sense of desperation in his tone and much conjecture that this was merely a damage control tactic, Tesla shares fell more than 8.5% in early trading. Elon Musk is indisputably the face of Tesla and is hugely valuable to the company – so how much damage has he done and could great PR save him? It’s hard to escape the sense that we are complicit in the widely-publicised breakdown of a very talented but hugely overworked man. And this revelation isn’t necessarily out of the blue – Musk was recently widely criticised for tweeting that Vern Unsworth, one of the divers that rescued the Thai schoolboys earlier this year, was a ‘pedo guy’. This was in retaliation to Unsworth’s claims that the miniature submarine Musk intended to save those stranded “had absolutely no chance of working” because the inventor “had no conception of what the cave passage was like”. It appears that the time has come for the company to invest in a respected and well-recognised executive who is capable of growing a business of this size, rather than relying on a visionary who often sleeps on the factory floor. If this were to happen soon, which I believe it should in order to restore public faith in the management of the company, Musk would have to take on a different role, perhaps as a chief operating officer. But could these actions spin the situation on its head? It’s unlikely, due to the impending US Securities and Exchange Commission investigation which could, theoretically, sanction or fine Tesla or even remove Musk from serving on the board. The conundrum the SEC now faces is that if it does not punish Musk, it unleashes a whole new set of dynamics in the public markets. It could normalise – or at least destigmatise – chief executives’ use of social media to move stock. Giving clemency to the ‘special circumstances’ of Musk’s teary confessions that he barely sleeps and is essentially in the whirlwind of a personal breakdown would mean that all public companies should receive the same treatment. Unsurprisingly, Tesla has hired a well-regarded PR agency who will no doubt be advising on the situation in order to mitigate the worst results of the SEC investigation. I will definitely be keeping my eyes on what happens next!
Rewind two years to a warm summer’s night in France, England have just suffered arguably their biggest humiliation at a football tournament, losing 2-1 to Iceland, a country with just over 300,000 population. Headlines across the nation read ‘national disgrace’, ‘not fit to wear the shirt’ and so on. The distance between the England national football team and the media and general public could not be further. Fast forward to 2018, the scene could not be more different. A new manager and a new-look team which came so close to reaching a World Cup final. But, more extraordinary from a PR perspective – a team that is no longer at war with the media and is in fact actively supported by it and the general public. However, this is not just because the team has played well. When Gareth Southgate entered the job as manager, he decided that none of the departments at the England camp were fit-for-purpose and needed a complete overhaul. He decided to start these departments again completely from scratch, including the England’s communications department. A new-look openness and honesty within the team has been welcomed by the media. This is something PR’s could learn from. Too often PR’s are stereotypically seen as dishonest – England’s communication strategy proves that openness and honesty with journalists is what they value and is likely to gain the best results. Now, we are in an era where the media demands transparency, and PR’s who are open with journalists are likely to have a better reputation with them and be seen as genuine and approachable, which will only work in their favour in the future. This new look strategy has seen journalists and the England football team also bond on a personal level, like never before. We have seen videos of journalists and players having games of darts against each other, for instance. This personal bonding has been a great way for journalists and the team to network and connect with each other on a level outside of work. PR’s could learn to do this more in their job and take the opportunity to try bond with journalists and go the extra mile for them to ensure that in the future these journalists know who they are and have a good relationship them, helping them to look more favourably upon PR’s and their companies in the future. The England team have done their best to accommodate journalists, with regular media conferences, better access to the players and media days where journalists can speak to as many team members as they want. The exclusivity that the England team have offered has allowed the players and journalists to work as a team to produce great stories and content. The positive stories we have seen in the press and positive public image of the team are not just down to the team’s success. It has proven that when PR’s are extremely accommodating to journalists and work together as a team, the best stories and content is produced.
This last week has provided a lot of PR fails - which have been so awful, they have literally made headlines themselves. Here are my top three. Melania Trump The first, and possibly the worst, PR fail is Melania Trump’s jacket. It’s fair to say that President Trump and the first lady have faced a lot of criticism, but somehow, I think wearing a jacket to visit a migrant child detention centre that says ‘I really don’t care, do you?’ is possibly one of the most insensitive things Melania could have done. Unfortunately for her, Melania Trump's apparently empathetic visit to the Mexican border is now completely overshadowed by the unempathetic message on the back of her jacket. Burger King Another embarrassing PR fail this week comes from Russian Burger King. Obviously seizing the opportunity to make headlines with the world’s media spotlight on Russia thanks to the World Cup, Burger King Russia decided to create a social media campaign offering free burgers for life to women who get pregnant by a football player. “Each will receive 3 million rubles, and a lifelong supply of Whoppers. For these girls, it will be possible to get the best football genes and will lay down the success of the Russian national team on several generations ahead. Forward! We believe in you!" Burger King in Russia have since apologised for the social media campaign. I would have thought that Burger King wouldn’t want to encourage Russia having a bad reputation for playing on sexist stereotypes, particularly in advertising, but this campaign really felt like something from the 1950’s.