It’s National Higher Education Day: The Strategies of a Great Public Relations Program

Jun 06, 2018 Lisa van der Pool

The world of higher education is no longer protected by ivy walls.

Today, higher education institutions face nearly all of the parallel issues that businesses face, including: preparing for the future of work, digital transformation and pressures to innovate, privacy issues and crises. At the same time, universities must remain relevant, stay competitive and - of course - profitable.

Because of this, higher education institutions must implement a strategic approach to public relations and communications to ensure meaningful, positive stories are told and disseminated in a world of increasingly fragmented communications. Here are five ways higher ed can do just that.

Craft authentic stories:  Colleges and universities are brimming with real, intellectual and thriving stories. And strong storytelling is at the heart of any effective communications program. In order to tell those stories effectively, you must understand how to communicate with each of your key audiences, make sure there is some sort of tension, and incorporate  authority and differentiation into every story.

Be relevant by injecting your voice into the news stream with meaningful commentary: Offering reporters timely and differentiated commentary about breaking news will both lead to immediate coverage and help build relationships with key reporters who will be grateful for the help on their fast-turnaround stories. For clients who can be tough to reach, creating a list of preapproved content that can be shared quickly on relevant topics is a smart solution. Well-timed pieces of content that tie to the news of the day are a great way to build your client’s thought leadership pipeline. But the key to timely content is just that - a speedy turnaround to give the piece of content the best possible chance for being published.

Boost your authority with data: Reporters are always looking for data to quantify the scope of an issue, and universities often conduct research projects. Marrying journalists’ hunger for data and with your latest research report can make for a great campaign, byline or ebook.

Amplify to extend your reach: Today’s news cycle is fast and furious, the likes of which we haven’t seen before. Once great media coverage hits, it should be celebrated. But after that, it should be amplified through social sharing, sales emails and occasionally paid amplification efforts. The fast news cycle means that it’s crucial to repeat messages, get in front of influencers and build a following. Paid social media is great for campaigns where there’s a specific audience you’re trying to reach or a message you want to get in front of the right potential customers.

Crises happen: The reality today is that crises do happen and they tend to happen more frequently. They are almost always unexpected and  they are always unpleasant. But institutions that set up a crisis plan ahead of time will fare better than the ones that are caught off guard and forced into a reactive strategy. This year has been marked by high-profile brand crises involving data privacy, racial and gender inequality, #MeToo, and data hacks, among others. Are you prepared?

Higher education institutions have a wealth of potential for powerful public relations campaigns, find out more here in our latest higher ed podcast.

Topics: Education PR, Strategic Communications, Storytelling, Content Strategy

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