For many colleges and universities, increasing their share of voice in the media is an important objective. Being consistently quoted in local, regional, national and/or trade media can help to attract students, staff and even donors. It plays a leading role in enhancing the school’s expert positioning and showcases the pedigree of the leadership and professors who are part of the team. Here are some tried-and-true practices for increasing your college or university’s share of voice.
Be a connector
Being a source is just as important as being a resource. You want media to know that they can not only rely on you to deliver poised and credible spokespeople from your own organization, but introduce them to other valuable sources within the community. There is no greater compliment than a reporting asking if you know someone who can speak with them about “X.” It shows that they not only trust and respect your expertise, but trust your judgement in helping to identify other sources who can bring valuable insights and perspective to their readers.
Offer a local perspective on national data
While national data on college admissions, financial aid and the most popular majors all have media appeal, a local perspective on this data can help give the news a compelling hook for smaller publications. This is not only an opportunity to demonstrate to media that you are “plugged in” to what is happening on the national level but to put a spotlight on what is happening at your specific college or university. Remember, this doesn’t only apply when you have local examples to support a national trend – showcasing a counter trend can often yield just as much, if not even more, “ink.”
Build a rapport
Similar to both sales and social media marketing, media relations relies on strong relationship-building skills. Reporters and editors receive hundreds of emails each day and it is important to only send them information that is relevant to their beat and their readers/listeners/viewers. Whether you schedule coffee with target reporters or book a circuit of deskside meetings to introduce your newest degree or certificate program, set relationship-building as a chief objective in your higher ed media relations strategy.
Tell a great story
Great stories are not only relatable but evoke an emotional response from readers, which may include inspiring them to take action. When evaluating which stories you will pitch to which media, consider how to turn your news into a robust feature-quality story that blends news with impact and includes a human connection. For example, did you launch a new degree program or did you develop a program that will help X number of adults pursuing a master’s degree to complete their degree more quickly? Remember, an important component of being a great storyteller is also knowing which types of stories are best-suited to which mediums. Ensure the stories you pitch to broadcast media are both visually-compelling and that the spokespeople who will be interviewed are comfortable on live TV. When pitching a more technically complex story, seek to pitch reporters with pre-existing knowledge of the topic and/or the ability to craft a longer-format story that can share the intricacies that are inherent to telling the whole story.
As media outlets continue to operate with lean staffs, the competition to get “ink” and secure in-depth coverage remains highly competitive. It is critical to do your homework and understand what makes your target reporters tick and hone your story angles to communicate the maximum level of impact. By combining a research-informed strategy with a creative approach to storytelling, colleges and universities can maximize their share of voice and become “go-to” sources for target media locally, regionally and nationally.