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Higher Education PR: Media Relations Strategies for Colleges and Universities

Higher Education PR: Media Relations Strategies for Colleges and Universities

by | Apr 5, 2023

Today’s higher education market is becoming exceedingly competitive and there is an increased need for colleges and universities to have effective media relations strategies. Through media relations, thought leadership and effective storytelling to keymedia outlets, colleges and universities can increase brand awareness and visibility in the public arena, ultimately helping them achieve their institutional missions.

What is PR for Higher Ed?

Public Relations (PR) for higher education is the strategic process of creating, managing and promoting a positive image and relationship between an institution or school, its key stakeholders and the public. It involves a deliberate approach to engaging with various media outlets to build relationships, gain visibility and create a positive perception of the college or university within its target audiences of faculty and staff, students, prospective students, alumni and other stakeholders.

Media relations is an essential element of a successful PR strategy for higher education institutions. It involves developing relationships with journalists through traditional, digital and social media outlets, providing them with timely and accurate information about your college or university, and engaging them in conversations about key topics related to your faculty, students, and institution at large. 

What Are the Benefits of PR for Universities, Colleges & Online Higher Education Programs?

Media relations can help to promote your higher education institution, enhance its credibility, build trust and support admissions and student enrollment. Storytelling is an important element of media relations as it allows you to inform the public about key initiatives and successes achieved by your college, university, and exceptional students and faculty.

Below are the top benefits of incorporating a PR strategy into your ongoing marketing efforts:

1. Boost Student Enrollment

Perhaps one of the most important benefits of PR for higher education is that it can help support efforts to boost student enrollment. By engaging in strategic media relations and storytelling, colleges and universities can increase awareness of their institution, which can support overall strategies to attract more qualified applicants. Here are a few ways that PR can help efforts to boost the number of students enrolling:

  • Geo-Specific Targets – Through our media relations efforts, we’re able to target specific regions and areas where your ideal student demographic resides.
  • Virtual Presence & High Potential Reach – We are able to tell stories to your target audiences without the need of physical interaction. This allows for your key messages and stories to have the potential to reach large and even  global audiences. As the potential audience of any given PR effort expands, a college or university has the opportunity to reach more prospective students and further encourage them to apply, which is particularly important for international student applicants.
  • Curated Content – By crafting press releases and other content related to topics that are relevant to your institution, we’re able to grab the attention of potential students and increase awareness of your school, which can lead to more visits on your website and a greater number of users signing up for more information about your programs and academic offerings.

2. Improve Brand Awareness

Media coverage increases brand visibility and provides a platform for colleges and universities to showcase their students, faculty, programs, research and achievements. This enhances their reputation and credibility in the crowded higher education marketplace.

3. Generate Positive Emotions

PR for higher education can also be used to create a positive emotional connection with potential students and other stakeholders, such as alumni or donors. Purposeful storytelling allows colleges and universities to showcase the values of their institution, which helps to foster loyalty and a long-term relationship.

4. Enhance Reputation & Credibility

Media coverage also helps to build trust and enhance the reputation of an institution or school, as potential students and faculty may be more attracted to higher education institutions with positive media coverage.

This boost in credibility doesn’t pertain to the brand alone, but to the faculty that supply an abundance of thought leaders to colleges and universities. By positioning faculty members as thought leaders in their respective fields in the media, students may naturally want to learn more about the institution itself, knowing that they have a unique opportunity to learn and grow from those professors, researchers and educators.

In addition, faculty members may be able to leverage their media coverage for their own research and academic opportunities, which can lead to increased recognition in their field. Oftentimes, faculty members will need spokesperson and media training as part of their higher ed PR efforts. AKCG can provide spokesperson training and help prepare them for live TV interviews and speaking engagements.

What Are the Best Tactics to Use in Higher Ed PR Strategies?

When done correctly, media relations can be an effective tool in creating awareness and visibility for higher education institutions. Here are our top five tactics to effectively use media relations to promote your college or university:

1. Know Your Target Audience

Of course, you’ll want to identify your target media outlet and connect with the right journalists, editors, bloggers and influencers relevant to the story you are pitching. However, you don’t want to limit your thinking to just the media outlet that you want to focus on; you’ll also want to know the audience that you’re targeting specifically.

For example, you want to know what Gen Z and millennial students are looking for in terms of education and what their expectations are. You’ll need to understand what they are reading and viewing on a regular basis. Understanding your target audience better will help you to find the right channels to reach them and craft the right storytelling for them.

At AKCG, we don’t deploy a one-size-fits all approach. We work with our higher education clients to identify the most appropriate media target for any given pitch, press release or project.

2. Employ a Multi-Channel Approach

To maximize visibility, you’ll want to use multiple channels of communication to get your message out there. This includes traditional media such as newspapers and magazines, broadcast outlets such as radio and television, as well as digital channels including blogs and online news sites. 

3. Develop Impactful Storytelling Strategies

Crafting compelling stories is one of the most important elements of a successful PR strategy for higher education institutions. To create engaging content that resonates with your target audience, you’ll need to understand their needs and interests and craft stories that will resonate.

At AKCG, we develop stories that are creative and engaging while also conveying a sense of credibility. Our team has extensive experience in crafting impactful stories that can help to position our clients as thought leaders in their field.

4. Build Relationships with Media Contacts

Building relationships with reporters, editors and journalists is an important part of any successful PR strategy. By engaging with media personnel on a regular basis, you can form connections that build trust. Having a mutually beneficial relationship with a reporter can support your efforts to share your institution’s   message in relevant outlets, so it will be heard by the target audiences.

Our team works to develop long-term relationships with key media contacts in order to support our higher education clients’ goals or securing meaningful media  coverage. We also provide counsel on how to effectively communicate with the press and foster positive relations.

5. Monitor & Analyze Results

This is the case with any new strategy, but it’s imperative to ensure you are tracking, measuring and analyzing the results of your media relations and PR strategy. Know what your KPIs are, what metrics are most important to your team and analyze the data to ensure that your efforts are moving the needle on your bottom line.

In Conclusion

Higher education PR and media relations is an effective tool for creating visibility and awareness for colleges and universities. Developing a strategy that includes the tactics outlined above can help to ensure your message resonates with target audiences and has a lasting impact on your school.At AKCG, we understand that no two higher education institutions are alike and work closely with our clients to develop customized thought leadership and media relations strategies tailored to their needs. To learn more about how we can help, please get in touch with us today.

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