Education Spotlight Kicks off Q&A with Lisa van der Pool, VP leading InkHouse Education Practice
Jun 04, 2019 Sally Brown
In honor of National Higher Education Day (June 6), InkHouse’s education practice is taking over the Inklings blog! To kick off our education spotlight, I sat down with Vice President Lisa van der Pool, InkHouse’s education practice lead, to get her take on the role of early education in the 2020 presidential campaigns, the growing trend of teachers as social influencers, and the college admissions scandal from a PR perspective.
Lisa van der Pool, vice president, InkHouse
Sally: Education is having a moment in the news right now. From the presidential candidates prioritizing early education as a key campaign point, to the debate about universal pre-k to the high cost of higher education to equity in education. What types of stories are you seeing right now and what does this mean for the education practice?
Lisa: It’s true. Education currently plays a key role in so many different and important stories in our society. We have already seen many 2020 presidential candidates including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Julian Casto and Sen. Corey Booker announce that education will be a focal point of their campaigns. Because reporters are telling many different types of education stories right now, there’s a huge opportunity for universities and other education organizations to insert their points of view into news stories and build on their thought leadership in the field. One effective storytelling vehicle for universities is for them to show how their institutions are working in partnership with schools in the community while also layering in proprietary research and data to add context to all of these discussions. We’ve found that reporters are especially receptive to hearing from universities around education-related topics.
"One effective storytelling vehicle for universities is for them to show how their institutions are working in partnership with schools in the community while also layering in proprietary research and data to add context to all of these discussions."
Sally: How long has InkHouse served the education sector?
Lisa: While InkHouse initially launched as a technology-focused PR firm in 2007, we quickly began to diversify. Working with the education sector was a natural evolution in large part because Boston is a hotbed for universities — and education is an area that we are extremely passionate about. Over the past several years we’ve worked with a variety of education institutions including Bentley University, Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, among many others.
Sally: In addition to universities, what other types of education organizations do you work with?
Lisa: We work with education technology and publishing firms, many of whom are helping K-12 schools and higher education institutions strike a balance between high-quality learning materials and utilizing technology both in the classroom and at home to enhance and enable learning.
Sally: How can universities best share their stories?
Lisa: Universities can and should employ a strong media outreach program. But they also need to utilize their own channels including social media, blogs and video content to showcase ongoing proprietary research, news and other relevant stories. Owned channels are an important medium for amplifying media coverage as well. Today’s news cycle is lightning fast, thus sharing and boosting content through paid social programs breathes continued life into important media coverage. Also, universities should leverage their greatest assets - their students and campus community. Schools that perform the best on social media do so because of the work they do to engage their students, faculty and alumni to tell the school’s unique stories and show their value.
"Also, universities should leverage their greatest assets - their students and campus community. Schools that perform the best on social media do so because of the work they do to engage their students, faculty and alumni to tell the school’s unique stories and show their value."
Sally: In addition to the media, teacher influencers have also become a force on social media. What’s driving this?
Lisa: Yes. Teachers as influencers is a relatively new trend but it’s caught on quickly. #TeachersofInstagram is a popular hashtag and we spoke to several teacher influencers in honor of #NationalHigherEducationDay. What we found is that teachers are indeed working with big brands, but they are also extremely mission-driven — meaning that the brands and companies they work with on social posts must align with their values and be able to provide enriching content and teachings for their followers and fellow educators. They are also very focused on collaborating with their peers, rather than simply pushing out content.
Sally: Lisa, you have an interesting background and unique perspective as a former reporter. What led you to PR?
Lisa: I was a business reporter for 12 years and eventually, while I loved being a reporter, I started to explore the possibility of broadening my communications skills and I decided public relations would be a good fit. I had known InkHouse Co-founder and CEO Beth Monaghan long before I joined InkHouse. I knew she’d built a progressive, modern and strategic PR firm — and that’s exactly the type of company I was looking to join.
Sally: If you could give one piece of advice to the parents charged in the college admissions scandal, what would it be?
Lisa: Felicity Huffman is clearly getting excellent advice, likely both from her team of lawyers and public relations staff. What she has done brilliantly is that she owned up to what she did, she apologized and she is ready for whatever punishment the courts deem fit. Likely because of that she’ll face minimal prison time. We’re living in an age of transparency and accountability — two things everyone should keep in mind when facing a crisis.
As a tribute to National Higher Education Day, we will be spotlighting education reporters on the Inklings blog over the next few weeks. Be sure to check out my interview with The Washington Post tomorrow, and be on the lookout for additional Q&As with journalists from WBUR, Education Dive, The Hechinger Report and more, plus influencer insights and trends to watch.