If you haven’t done so already, it is time to say goodbye to your marketing communications silos. Technological advances, the ever-changing communications landscape and the disruption in the higher education space necessitate that marketing and communications departments strategically work together towards common goals. This means that everyone is aligned on what the objectives are and how to achieve them through the collaborative effort of those responsible for earned media (media relations), shared media (social media), owned media (content created on an owned platform, such as a blog or podcast), paid media (advertising) and other marketing tactics.
So how does media relations support an integrated marketing communications operation? To answer this question, consider a hypothetical example of a business school that wants to be known for its expertise on doing business in emerging markets. Let’s imagine this is one of the key objectives defined by leadership as the topic directly relates to a new executive education program targeting managers from Brazil, Russia, India and China. For starters, this guidance provided by leadership provides clarity. Media relations professionals can focus on securing coverage in these identified markets. They can then work with their colleagues to ensure that visibility is leveraged across the marketing communications mix.
Here are collaborative tactics to consider to make this process work most efficiently.
Create an editorial calendar. Members of the marketing communications team should meet together to establish an editorial calendar that links potential news hooks and promotional opportunities to the overall program themes. This is useful not only for external media relations pitching, but can also benefit those responsible for creating other marketing content.
Leverage other assets. Existing content or new content to be created for other marketing purposes are low-hanging fruit that might be useful from a media relations perspective. So if a professor has written a post for your institution’s blog on how to do business in India, think about how you might be able to syndicate that content with different media in the respective markets. Or maybe that particular thought leadership piece could be the basis for an interview with targeted journalists.
Strategically promote media coverage. After you secure coverage, share it. Make sure that the coverage is disseminated on the institution’s different social media channels. You could work with your colleagues on the paid media side to promote the press coverage on social media feeds, ensuring optimal visibility. Share the coverage with your internal audiences, particularly thinking about how your community can be your “ambassador” and disseminate it to their communities. Display the press coverage on a PDF that can be used by your admissions team to share with prospects (after you check the media outlet’s copyright rules). Include in your email marketing. In other words, connect all the dots.
Integrate into online pressroom. Media need to find information quickly and easily via your institution’s online pressroom. This dedicated space on your site should include all the basics: downloadable images, bios of spokespeople, contact information, general guidelines, etc. It might also make sense to highlight different areas of expertise in which your institution can provide analysis. So for this example, showcase your experts on business in emerging markets. If you can incorporate the right keywords, this could also help from an SEO perspective—just one more example of the value of media relations not necessarily linking directly to press coverage.
Incorporate unique links. The above tactics all play a role in supporting objectives. However, the most powerful way to measure impact is to actually demonstrate a link between media coverage and incoming web traffic. So for example, let’s say you secure coverage in the form of a professor writing a guest contribution for a media outlet on doing business in emerging markets. As a final call to action, include a unique URL link that goes to the program page. In your Google analytics, you are able to then see the number of individuals who clicked on the link and took particular actions as part of the sales process.
If you follow these tips, you can far more effectively demonsrate the impact vis-à-vis the related goals. You avoid failing into the trap of showcasing media coverage that might be “pretty” but isn’t related to the messages you want to be known for, the markets your institution serves or the audiences you want to reach.
So, the next time you put together your press coverage booklet, proudly display the coverage. But don’t stop there. Highlight the related statistics from the above activities: the number of times the press coverage was distributed at an admission events, statistics from social media and email marketing activities, and clicks on the unique program page URLs accessed through media, among other related data that results from these efforts.
Work with your other colleagues to show their different marketing communications activities played a role in achieving the admissions goals for this particular program. I trust that your bosses will appreciate how your media coverage as part of an integrated team effort is truly moving the needle towards achieving big-picture institutional objectives.
Kevin Anselmo is the founder and principal of Experiential Communications, a consultancy providing strategic communications services to individuals and groups within higher education.