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09
December
2020
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Education and Public Relations

Tips to build a successful newsroom for educational institutions

Summary

Universities and colleges have lots of stories to tell. It doesn’t matter if it’s about groundbreaking research findings or campus news, educational institutions have an important role within their communities. In this article, we outline some tips your team can use to build a successful newsroom for your college or university.

With everything happening there, universities and colleges have a well of information available to them at all times. Their day-to-day activities also play a crucial role in the shaping of our communities and shouldn’t go unnoticed. 

However, they also tend to have lots of stakeholders to report to, rules to abide by, and somewhat fixed calendars to stick to. This can be restrictive for PR professionals, but it doesn’t mean they can’t use it to their advantage. Take academic years, for example, having a clear idea of what will be happening allows teams to be well prepared for what’s coming, which questions might pop up and what kind of content fits each topic better.

Establish yourself as an expert in your field

Many educational institutions can count on professionals who can speak about their area of expertise. Give them the floor when the opportunity presents itself, expert opinions are a great way to establish trust among your audiences. 

During the COVID-19 lockdown, researchers at the Collaboration Labs program at The University of Manchester put their efforts into finding out how a reduction of capacity affected healthcare services and the sexual health of the LGBT+ community. This first-of-a-kind research was awarded a Project Excellence Award. Its effects also go way beyond any award, their research has been able to inform innovative solutions that can be applied to problems faced by vulnerable groups. 

Synergies are a great way to amplify the impact and reach of your activities. The University of Manchester prides itself on being one of the top research universities in the world, with research projects spanning from resources and materials, to energy and global inequalities. The example above is just one of many research projects they engage with, reaffirming their message about creating a positive impact with each project.

Leverage the power of your community

When you’re deciding which stories to talk about or who to put forward to talk about certain topics with the media, it’s worth to take a look at what happens on campus every day, but you can also 

One way to leverage your existing community is to put together a list of experts that are able to speak about different topics. If you want to know what that would look like, Mohawk College created a Book of Experts and included that in their resources for reporters, linking to the contact details of experts in fields like Mental Health, Entrepreneurship, or Sustainability, and also to key spokespeople like the Dean of Applied Research.

Let your audiences be the voice of your stories

Yes, we mean that almost literally. Having collaborators takes a bit of time to set up – you need to encourage people to participate, establish some sort of guidelines, and have someone in your team fulfill the role of editor, reviewing any story submissions. 

You can also think about different levels of commitment required from participants as well, opening a story idea submission form as CSUSM has done in their newsroom will keep content production centralized while opening up the doors of your newsroom to different voices.

Keep it relevant

The structure of your newsroom will depend on the goals your team has. For some teams a place to store their press releases and stories is enough, others take the brand journalism route, and some brands turn their newsrooms into publications of their own. 

Above everything, your newsroom should be relevant for your audiences. Paying attention to the topics they are interested in is key. For a lot of colleges and universities, this means going hyperlocal. However, covering local events doesn’t mean your news can’t be tied to what’s happening at the national or international level. 

The team at Ohio State University knows that. They developed Ohio State News to deliver “timely, trustworthy news to connect you to Ohio State’s impact on your life, your community and your world”. Their site covers relevant, current events and ties them to the university’s lines of work effectively bringing out a local angle for their stories – like this piece about how to stimulate job growth post-COVID-19 in central Ohio.

Final thoughts

Beyond everything that comes into play when building and managing a newsroom, doing so for an educational institution has its unique challenges and opportunities. Above all, you should make sure your stories reflect the values and interests of the community, and that they are presented in an appealing, relevant, and shareable way.

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