Dealing with various stakeholders in the education sector
The challenge of a PR professional
The educational field is of major importance for a thriving society, but it’s also a field that has to create magic with little means to get the job done. There are many challenges to face being a PR professional in the education sector. How do you take the hurdles with grace and reach the audiences you want to connect with?
Challenges in the Education industry
The educational field has always had a tough time juggling budget, goals, time and interests. PR professionals have limited time and budget to make sure their educational organization is being noticed by the right people. There are lots of interesting stories to tell, but do they reach the right people? Some challenges PR professionals face in the education industry are:
- Competition is not only locally or nationally, but also internationally
- More channels are being used in communicating, internally and externally
- Budget cuts within educational institutions also affect PR departments
- Diverse and large target audience
- Academic departments must prove their relevance in today’s job market
- Structure news as there are a lot of topics to talk about
There are many interests at stake, many different audiences to reach and quite some goals to achieve. Usually with little budget. How do you make the most of the opportunities you have within your PR department to reach your target audiences? Read more about how the Metropolitan State University of Denver uses the newsroom for brand journalism.
Goals for PR departments
PR departments at larger educational organizations may deal with many different internal departments that call upon their time and resources, while PR teams working for smaller educational organizations may find it difficult to get their message out there. Big or small, there are quite some goals and roles involved when working in educational PR.
Goals of the PR department include support the enrolling of new students and getting more people to know the institution. Also guarding and enhancing the reputation is an important goals, as is maintaining relationships with employees, students, the academic community, alumni and donors. Finally, influencing decision makers is a goal for most PR departments in education, since the decision and relationship with the decision maker may reflect positively on the institution. Reaching all these goals and taking up all the different roles involved, is far from an easy task. How do you go about it? Find out how Governors State University handles their PR and got more interest from journalists.
“The old press release is dead”
The good old days, where you would simply send a press release to a journalist and they would post an article on it, are over. Journalists are swamped with emails, press releases and other messages that are being send to them daily. To stand out to journalists and to reach your audience, you need to go about it differently. PR is not mainly about media coverage anymore.
Directly connecting with your audiences is more important than ever. But who is your audience? Well, quite a lot of people to be fair. Most educational institutions engage with many different audiences. Among them are current and future students, employees, investors, the academic community, partners and journalists. A press release sent to a few journalists is not going to reach all of them. At least, not anymore. How do you reach these audiences and support your PR goals?
New ways to engage with your audience
With limited time and resources, it is vital to make sure your efforts will pay off. What can you do to get the most out of your PR efforts within the education industry? There are a few key points to keep in mind.
Know your audience
When trying to reach many different target groups, it is incredibly important to make sure you know who you are talking to. Make sure you know your audiences by taking the time to define the different groups you are communicating with.
When you have that in place, it is easier to use the right channels to communicate with these different groups. Social media channels are an important aspect in a PR strategy, make sure to direct your attention to the channels your audiences are actually using. It makes it easier to reach them and it is a valuable way of generating feedback from your target audiences. Cater to the needs and preferences of your audience and tailor your message and distribution accordingly.
Use your resources
You may have a limited budget and just so much time in a day to make it all work, but there are ways to make use of your resources more efficiently. Check which workflows you could automate. Social media posting can be automated, for example, and sending out newsletters with the latests posts to the sub-site of a department can also be done automatically. Make it easy for visitors to add your RSS feed to their feed program by adding a link in a logical place, and think about the option to provide separate RSS feeds for sub-sites or categories.
Of course the RSS feed and social media channels need to be filled with interesting and engaging content. Blogs are a great way to provide valuable content to your audiences. Where press releases focus on ‘hard’ news, blogs are a great way to give information about interesting subjects that relate to your institution and give visitors to your website an insight into your organisation, academic achievements, student life and employees.
Engage with your audience
Just sending out content to your audiences is something of the past. Make sure you spark the conversation on your social media channels and, if applicable, your website. With the majority of people preferring visual content, don’t miss out on using images, infographics and video. Especially video is on the rise, shift your view on your content creation process and see when and where you could create a video instead.
Most educational organizations have different departments covering different subjects. Do you group this information online, or do you offer ways to consume content that is related to one subject only? By creating areas on your website (and perhaps even your social channels) that are meant for specific subjects, it is easier for visitors to find what they are looking for and to engage in conversation about the topic of interest.
Creating content that is worth sharing and making sure that people share it, can be a challenge. By using rich media in their press releases, The University of Manchester has seen a dramatic increase in social media traffic. Read more about their experiences.
By publishing news stories with rich media such as videos and photos, people actually want to share the content now.
Distinguish yourself using your PR strategy
Competing with educational institutions locally, nationally and even internationally, it can be difficult to stand out to the crowd. Luckily there are a few pointers to get a head start. Make sure your base is in check and you keep your audience in mind at all times. Things to check off include:
- Make it easy to contact the relevant team or colleague by providing contact details in your online articles and press releases
- Make sure there is a way to reach the organization or PR department outside of office hours
- Add biographies of professors and experts that are mentioned on the website
- Add social media sharing buttons to make it easy to share your content
- Use a tag cloud or related news overview to guide visitors to related pages
- Provide a multimedia library to easily access and download media
- Add some fun to the content you create for students: sports, testimonials of students, etc.
A vital part of your PR strategy is your own website. Make sure this caters your audiences by providing valuable content, a logical structure of the site and pages, and easy ways to engage with your organization and its content. Having a good functioning website and newsroom is indispensible for your PR strategy. Without that, your efforts will not pay off. Then you will spend money on your PR efforts, just to send people away when they reach your website and newsroom. Be sensible about the time and money you are spending by making sure your base, the website and newsroom, meet the expectations of your audiences and by focusing on your audience’s needs.
Are you curious to see how an online newsroom could support your PR strategy? Request a free 14-day trial to try it out.
PressPage provides a SaaS PR platform with additional services for creation of advanced social newsrooms, virtual press centers and online media hubs. It enables brands to publish and distribute rich content, and provides direct insights into the results. PressPage empowers PR professionals by adding efficiency and effectiveness to their daily work routine.