Faculty can bring with them a wealth of expertise, and their knowledge can be valuable, in both the classroom and beyond. In fact, faculty can be one of an institution’s greatest resources in terms of capturing the media and the public’s attention and most certainly should be taken advantage of.
Understanding how to use faculty expertise, more specifically their research or their knowledge, to promote an institution can serve many benefits. It can strengthen a school’s reputation on both a national and international level. It can support recruitment initiatives, both student and professor-wise. It also demonstrates appreciation towards academics, reminding them of the great work they are doing, and how their discoveries can positively affect the wider world.
So, what is promoting faculty expertise and what can it result in?
Professors and academics at an institution have a huge expanse of knowledge. They have dived into topics of their own interests and become specialists in them, spent hours researching and investigating hypotheses in detail, proving (and disproving!) conclusions, and writing up papers that present their methods and findings. This is where the term ‘faculty expertise’ comes from – they know a serious amount of stuff about a certain topic, much more than the average person does. Of course, this is useful for students who are interested in taking up that subject. But it can also be beneficial beyond the classroom, for an institution and a wider audience.
It might be that there is an important research paper with really surprising results. Or perhaps a professor is well-placed to comment on a current political or economic affair (keep reading to find out more about how to turn expertise into media content!). Actively supporting and furthering the progress of research goes hand in hand with supporting an institution. Promoting faculty expertise is therefore of high value to a school, and worth investing in to make sure you get it right.
Business schools and educational institutions have, at their fingertips, incredible work and papers that academics are producing. The next step is finding the most interesting or important parts of their research, pulling out potential headlines that could make the papers tomorrow.
Academics are not necessarily meant to be story-tellers, but this is not a problem. Internal or external communications support are intended to be the experts at turning knowledge into stories. We know exactly how to write punchy press releases and pitches, still capturing the essence of a professor’s research but with a more thoughtful approach. In this way, the research is still accurate, but might for example hit home with the public and also makes it accessible to an audience who might struggle to understand academic jargon or a really complex topic.
Then, we can reach out to targeted media contacts and journalists. After all, the most important part of research is the impact it has on society, and the way in which its discoveries can be used in the different aspects of life. This could range from improving medicine, to advising the government. We have even helped share important work with the UN.
Providing expert guidance is also an important part of promoting faculty expertise. We would never want to leave an academic in the dark or to their own devices before providing comment or doing an interview. Making sure that a professor knows how to answer questions well, or speak confidently, or even just by proofing their work ensures that they are well equipped to deal with the media. Just like professors are brilliant at what they do, we are brilliant at media and communications and here to provide help in the best way possible.
Understanding why we promote faculty expertise can really help us to get to grips with how important it is, before we move on to how we might go about actually promoting it. There are several different reasons as to why faculty expertise can reflect incredibly well on your institution, increase your academic credibility and help businesses and society.
Most generally, promoting faculty research in turn promotes your institution. Where research is getting into top-tier or widely read publications, so is your institution, being included as a key part of the research. This helps to develop your own credentials and establish a reputation as a brilliant institution. It demonstrates how much research is being done at your school, that you are keeping up to trends and are in touch with current affairs. It can show your school to be a leader in thought, as well as a world leader.
Another reason that promoting faculty expertise is important is because it shows the academic excellence of your institution. If it is your professors who are being selected to give comment, or their work is being featured in well-known publications, it is because they’re doing incredible work. And this incredible work is being done at your university, which must mean that the quality of your teaching is of an impressive standard.
In addition, publishing this research can really help businesses and society, in many different ways. By disseminating research, you can have a really positive impact on the world. This might be by providing a framework to academics on how to teach future business managers and leaders. Or it might be academically relevant to another piece of research being done, connecting the dots and helping to develop the bigger picture. It can also help combat fake news, and actually provide an accurate expert voice and evidence on important information. For example, during the height of the pandemic, the spread of misinformation was abundant, with people making false claims all over the internet. Many people questioned in particular whether government rules were effective or not in containing the virus. Research from the University of Cologne put to bed this doubt, finding that social distancing reduced the transmission of the virus by 84%! This demonstrates that research can really shed light on a situation and help increase people’s knowledge surrounding a certain situation or topic.
Another important consequence is that it keeps your faculty happy. Academics do mostly enjoy having their work read and seeing it featured in names such as the Financial Times or Forbes. Getting their name out might lead to business or companies recruiting them for consultancy work. It also makes them more familiar, if companies or schools may be thinking of starting new projects or getting academics to provide advice. It could also secure them more funding for future research projects! Media coverage is often remarked as the key motivation in support and research communications.
Furthermore, promoting faculty expertise is an incredible recruitment tool, in terms of both students and other academics. By showcasing the array of high-quality professors and work you are doing at your school will encourage students to apply. It confirms that you are one of the top institutions out there and can provide them a really great education.
One standout example of this is this brilliant Forbes article featuring an interview with Guillermo Cisnero, the Dean of a brand new school of management: Advantere. This helped bring the business school into the eye of the public and was a great way to showcase a new project. Being featured on such a respected and well-known publication having only just set up their school demonstrates that already, they are in demand and being seen as a key competitor in the business-education market.
Potential faculty members will want to be assured that they heading to a leading school or institution. This demonstrates that they too are of high calibre and are a successful academic, but also what they are currently missing out on! Having a big media presence ultimately shows that your research is interesting and in demand. People are interested in what your school has to say, and thus you will be able to provide an academic with the platform needed to achieve success for their work.
“One of the greatest benefits internally has been the increased involvement with our schools faculty. Externally, our partnership with BlueSky has been beneficial because I think it helps our school to gain more visibility. I think potential students are watching our website or social media channels and see that, for example, the Financial Times or the Guardian or the Wall Street Journal has recently published an article about our school that gives us, in our school, a lot of credibility, and also visibility.” Sergio Oliveri, Communication Division Manager at MiP Politecnico di Milano
So, the next question is how do you actually turn research or papers into content? We’ve briefly touched upon the different methods that are available to PR experts, but now it is time to actually understand how to craft a good press release or pitch based on faculty expertise.
Firstly, we need to know how to structure a press based on academic research, before understanding what actually makes it go viral. The most significant aspect of a press release is to know what the interesting finding actually is. This is usually the most important part of the paper; the thing that would draw us to read it. It indicates what is so good about the professor’s research.
Next, we need to know who, why and how. The who describes the author of the paper. Who did the research? What are their names? What institution do they work at? This is a way of legitimising the research, because the professor might be well known or the institution very reputable. Showing why the professors did this research reveals what the purpose of the research project was. Perhaps there was an issue within an industry that needed to be resolved. Perhaps there were unclear answers to questions, and more evidence needed to be found to back up conclusions. It identifies the goal of researchers, and the value of their solutions. In showing how the researchers came to this conclusion through their methods, determines its credibility as an accurate source of information.
It is also always good to include a quote. This quote should bring something new to the release, not restate something that has already been mentioned. For example, it might offer more insight as to why the researchers believe the results found were a certain way, or other factors which had influenced the findings.
Finally, the release should end with what the findings imply for the future, whether that be for businesses or people. By placing the research into a wider context, we can really understand why it was carried out, why it is important and help strengthen its credibility even more.
When writing a press release, it is definitely better to keep it short and sweet - between 250 - 400 words is often ideal. Journalists receive hundreds of emails every day, so if there is too much for them to read or know what the point of your email is, they will very quickly dismiss it. Plus, keeping it short can also help your own writing skills, and limit any waffle that we are prone to including. It might seem like there is a lot to write, but being clear and concise is much more valuable than including everything an academic might want you too.
Taking out academic jargon is also important in making it as accessible as possible to not just a journalist, but the wider audience who will be reading it. Simplifying complex language or complicated results means that research can be understood by people who are not necessarily experts in the field. Explaining technical or academics terms makes reading articles a much more enjoyable experience for all, instead of leaving people potentially confused.
A headline is the most important part of any release. Without a punchy first sentence to capture the journalist or readers attention, they might not bother to read what you have to say. This part needs to wow them and draw them in. The most interesting or key finding should be in the headline, and not for the journalist to have to search for themselves. There is a fine balance between being attention-capturing and trying to be too clever, however. If it is not clear what your story is about, then again, they might dismiss it. This headline “The Specialized Master’s That Can Land You A Job At The World’s Most Sought-After Companies” is a great example of one that did really well, picked up by Forbes to name amongst others. It is short, snappy, to the point – you know what you are going to be reading out, and the title is enticing enough that you want to read about it!
One challenging aspect of writing a press release is to know what research actually captures media attention. Institutions are a gold-mine for information, but at the end of the day, not everything they produce can be published. And not everything is relevant anyway – although something might be important to a school, it might not necessarily be interesting in a wider context. We, as an experienced PR agency, know what works and what doesn’t work, and are here to provide advice on what is really going to thrive in the media. Subject matter usually determines the success of a press release and how much media coverage a release will get.
One example of research that achieved significant media coverage comes from Nazarbayev University. The researchers found that drinking horse milk actually was more beneficial than drinking cows milk and helped with treating inflammatory diseases, tuberculosis, blood pressure, and even certain types of cancer. The farmer was selling it for £6.50 a bottle at Soho Farmhouse! This story was published in 15 different media outlets including the likes of The Times, The Guardian Nigeria, MSN and Modern Ghana. The story was different and quite shocking – easy to understand why it would capture the attention of so many different outlets.
If you do not know the effective or rights methods to successfully reaching out to journalists, this can often end up being quite a chore.
We, as a reputable education PR agency, are incredibly well-placed to make sure that research ends up in top-tier and relevant publications and outlets. We frequently feature in Forbes, The Financial Times, The Economist alongside many business-education oriented outlets such as Poets&Quants and AACSB. We have spent time learning the ins and outs of what publications are interested in, and what certain journalists write specifically on. Our success rate is high, given our dedication to hitting the nail on the head when it comes to selecting what is relevant for a certain piece of work.
In addition, journalists who wants to hear from academics know that we have a wealth of experts at our fingertips, and often reach out to us when looking for comments or article ideas. We are a trusted organisation and our relationships with journalists work both ways. This means that we always have a vast array of opportunities for our institutions.
It is also possible to work on an international level as well as a national level; you don’t need to restrict media coverage to only the country you are based in, but can set your sights higher and should look to achieve global coverage. Whether a client’s target markets are their own hometown, or 5,000 miles across the sea, we can facilitate coverage and awareness in whatever specific market our client might want visibility in.
“BlueSky places value on working with others, especially the media. Their team is friendly, efficient and highly organised. They are also great at helping out with finding experts to provide invaluable insights on ranges of issues. So far, our collaboration has been great and hopefully we will continue along that wonderful path.” Adelowo Adebumiti, Journalist at The Guardian
Clearly, promoting faculty expertise has a lot of benefits for an institution.
By distributing knowledge beyond the classroom and into top-tier and relevant publications and media outlets, you are identifying your school as a leading name in the business-education sector. It demonstrates the academic excellence of your professors, able to use their research to positively impact the world, or provide comment on an important political or economic affair. By leaving your mark as a reputable institution, more students and faculty members will be inclined to apply, ultimately helping strengthen your recruitment process.
Although getting into these publications might at first appear like a challenge, with a team such as BlueSky Education working alongside you, and with a wealth of knowledge and tools at our fingertips, you will for sure experience a much higher success rate, and meet target markets almost immediately.
“I have had the pleasure of working with BlueSky for over a decade. This was during my tenure at McGill in Canada and HEC Paris in France. BlueSky has been an excellent international partner, always responsive, agile, strategic and delivering great results! Their network of media contacts and partners is truly impressive! No media company knows the education field as they do!” Ron Duerksen, former Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management, and former Senior Executive Director of Degree, Certification & Short Programs at HEC Paris Executive Education