Category Archives: Media Relations

Publicizing events on college campuses: Part 2

Like we discussed in Part 1, forming a relationship with your college’s communications and marketing office is the foundation for publicizing student events on college and university campuses. Once you establish that relationship, here are some things to do with it. This post looks at how to get active on Facebook. (Editor’s note: this blog series is geared more toward students than marketing professionals; but welcome all!)

Most colleges and universities have active profiles on Facebook, and speaking as someone who co-manages a college’s social media presence, including Facebook, we’re always looking for a variety of content, whether it’s generated by ourselves or others.

Building a relationship with your college’s media relations person is important and so is finding out who the social media person is and introducing yourself. Often times, as in my case, it’s the same person. Or, as is also the case, it’s more than one person. It’s good for the person managing your college’s social media presence to know who you are when you come their way asking for your event to be pushed out to the campus community.

I spoke to a group of students a few weeks ago about this topic. I checked before my talk, and each of their schools have strong Facebook profiles. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a four-year college or university without an official and active Facebook profile.

If you have an event coming up, there’s a chance it might get promoted on Facebook. Or, better yet, if you have a great event, such as a Kick Ball for Cystic Fibrosis or St. Baldrick’s Day celebration, take pictures! We love photos, and Facebook fans—which are made up of student peers, professors, alumni and parents, among others—love pictures, too. So snap a bunch, send them to us, and we may post them as an album on Facebook. If others see how much fun your organization is having, it might lead to more interest and better recruitment!

Finally, here’s a tip outside the realm of your college’s communications office: Create your own Facebook profile for your chapter, if you haven’t already. Make sure you let everyone know about it so they can join. And make sure to let your school’s social media person know, too. They may give it a shout out on your school’s official page, which could result in a lot of “likes.”

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You look like you’re in PR

Jessica Kleiman and Meryl Weinsaft Cooper recently wrote an article for PR News titled “In Public Relations, Looks Aren’t Everything (But They Sure Can Help).” Immediately I thought of an instance a few years ago: I was car shopping, and I sat down with a sales representative at a dealership to chat. When I told her I was in public relations, she said, “You look like you’re in PR!”

I wasn’t sure what that meant, and I’m still not quite sure, but I took it as a compliment. Jessica and Meryl’s article was a good one, and I especially like this statement: “Public relations is an image business and how you look is as much your calling card as the one in your wallet.”

Public relations is all about building relationships: the word “public” encompasses fans, customers, potential customers, the media, and everyone in between. So first impressions are vital. If you can’t build a relationship based on a first impression, then it’s likely you won’t get a chance to make another impression. Building new relationships in the public relations field is like going on a new job interview each time. Early in your career, it’s hard and nerve wracking, but eventually, you become a pro and ace them all! And most important, if you’re really passionate about public relations (and if you aren’t, you shouldn’t be in the field) you begin loving the rush of the relationship building, with all its benefits and challenges.

That said, obviously, first impressions are based on a few vital things: your personal appearance, which includes clothes, hair, and accessories, all the superficial physical traits that aren’t always important, but certainly are when you’re building professional relationships. Above all, though, is the absolute necessity of having a winning personality to match a winning physical appearance. You’re a complete package. You can certainly have one without the other, but it won’t land you that amazing client or that coveted gig.

Since we’re on the topic of personal appearances, I’d like to give shoutouts to my two favorite fictional PR professionals, Sex and the City’s Samantha Jones and The West Wing’s C.J. Cregg. These ladies clearly exemplify a point the authors make in their article: you have to dress the part based on who your client is. C.J., White House press secretary, wouldn’t have worn NYC PR agency-owner Samantha’s sexy outfits, while Samantha wouldn’t be caught dead in C.J.’s conservative ensemble for her flashy, high-rolling clients.

I know, it’s fiction, but there’s still a lesson there!

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Social media and internet communication surrounding Japan’s tsunami is “a wonder”

Washington Post blogger Melissa Bell wrote this minutes ago about the use of social media and the Internet in organizing information amid the chaos in Japan after the tsunami: “I’m in awe of it all.” I am, too.

As a media relations professional at a college (that has a strong study abroad program), a top priority this morning was disseminating the news that we currently, luckily, have no students in Japan. First place I posted this info? Facebook, where we have almost 4,500 fans, and likely the first place most people go to discover this type of information. Second place? Twitter.

Let me point out that if we had students in Japan, my media relations strategies would have been vastly different, because then you’re dealing with, first and foremost, parents and family members and more sensitive information. It would have involved additional outlets to get the information across, due to the additional interested and effected parties.

While I was searching for information to post on social media, I was also under deadline to shoot the same information to our local newspaper, whose deadline was 9:30 a.m. for today’s afternoon print edition.

We have alumni in Japan, and we needed to obtain information about their safety. Where do we turn? Facebook. There’s some success: we’re able to determine that some alumni are ok; others’ privacy settings don’t allow us to view their walls.

In our Facebook update (that let everyone know that no current students are in Japan), I also asked for alumni and friends to comment with updates if they or someone they know is currently in Japan. We got a response less than an hour later: a graduate who is currently teaching in Japan had been in contact with his fellow alumni who are also in Japan, and everyone is okay. This was, of course, reposted on Twitter for that separate audience.

In addition, reporters all over Twitter are asking for local ties to the situation in Japan, and I was able to let them know, for use in their stories, of our current situation.

I strongly suggest you check out Melissa Bell’s blog post: it’s amazing how we’re using our technology resources to inform and help others in this time of crisis.

(Thanks for your help on this, @anotheradam. This one’s dedicated to you.)

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Measuring the impact of your media relations efforts

Yep, still talking about the marketing conference I attended a few weeks ago; it was full of such great information! A vice president of marketing and community relations presented on the importance of measuring the impact of your media relations program. She started off the session by providing the audience with five ideas to think about in relation to this task:

  • The measurement of results doesn’t have to be perfect to be useful.
  • How else will you know your efforts are working?
  • You’ll gain credibility by being transparent.
  • By measuring results to prove methods work, you’ll put yourself in a stronger position to ask for resources.
  • That which gets measured does improve.

There are four steps to public relations: research, planning, execution and evaluation. Often, she says, people forget the first step—research—and the last step—evaluation—which are the two most important steps in order to make planning and execution worth it.

“Look at what you’re trying to accomplish,” she says. Look at the intended end result first, she continues, and go backwards to see how you can get there.

Here are some ways to measure the impact of your efforts. She’s quick to point out that none of these methods are 100% accurate, but having a strong, diverse set of measurements strengthens the validity of results. And I’ll also add that while some of these are higher-education specific, most are not and/or can be easily tweaked to fit your organization.

  • Total clips/stories
  • Audience impressions: magazine, TV, print, online, etc. readership/circulation figures
  • Cost per impression: how much output (energy, money, time) did this cost versus how much it’s worth had we gotten this amount of coverage inches via a paid placement?
  • Tonality: are our media hits negative, positive, or neutral? Based on a year’s worth of measurement, establish goals for next year. Do you want to go from negative to neutral? Neutral to positive? More positive than last year?
  • Stature of media penetration and frequency: what publications are our hits in? Furthermore, what publications do we want to be in and how do we achieve that?
  • Message pull through: What sorts of media hits are your brand obtaining? Are they brand-focused in-depth stories, or are they mostly marriage announcements and obits (and the like)?
  • Share of voice v. competition: the speaker keeps track of her local competitors’ media hits in local outlets, as well as her own, so she can measure what her brand’s share of market saturation is.
  • Spokesperson penetration v. competitors: Just as with media hits, she measures the exposure her experts and spokespeople get in local media against local competitors.
  • Inquiry/application spikes: the office works with admission to measure how much (or little) media and public relations activities actually serve as segues for inquiries and/or applications.

One aspect of this brand’s media relations efforts that the speaker changed was their news release practice. When she began her tenure as head of marketing and communications, the office was a “news release factory,” she says. You must decide between being a news release factory and doing actual brand-building media relations. To do this, she continues, you must virtually eliminate the “news-release factory” mindset and “nurture a culture around earned media,” which involves more one-on-one pitching with individual and highly targeted media outlets. Right on, sister!

“We no longer do news release blankets,” she explains. “Everything is one on one.” In addition to this smart practice, they also initially focused solely on saturating the local area (Charlotte, N.C.). If you’re not known in your own city, she says, then you can’t go wider. (Agreed.) And within the city of Charlotte, her team saturated an even smaller area with a targeted list of key media, which included certain local print publications and the city’s NPR affiliate.

Her team also takes the time to “shake the tree” each week in order to find media-worthy stories on campus. This involves simple things like visiting offices and eating with students. In addition, each person on her staff is asked to have lunch once a week with someone he or she doesn’t know, in order to not only “shake the tree” for news stories, but, more importantly, to improve internal relations with her staff and the rest of the campus.

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How one university handled a media onslaught during the 2010 Gulf oil spill


This week at a higher education conference in New Orleans I had the privilege of listening to four members of Louisiana State University’s media relations team discuss how they handled the influx of journalists wanting expert sources during the Gulf oil spill of 2010.

LSU’s faculty was a go-to source for journalists seeking oil industry and research experts prior to the 2010 oil spill. When the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in April 2010, the phones of LSU’s media relations pros began ringing, and they didn’t stop for months. Journalists were looking for LSU faculty members who could help explain what was going on and the implications of the disaster.

“Initially, we just called anyone who could answer the reporters’ questions,” one of the panel members said in an effort to explain the madness of the first several days. One expert came to the forefront, and since he was a retired professor, he could juggle multiple interviews daily. In fact, he and his LSU media relations comrades did such a great job of organizing his expertise amid the chaos to establish his authority on the subject that David Letterman had him on his show: and he didn’t want anyone else except this LSU professor.

The reason this particular professor was such a great spokesman is every higher education marketer’s dream: he had an amiable personality and an ability to put complex, important information into terms non-academics can understand. This professor’s ability to do this explains his popularity with Letterman and outlets like CNN and FOX news.

In an effort to help alleviate the 24/7 contact they were having with reporters, the LSU team organized a webpage for journalists that contained experts’ names, along with area of expertise, a little bit of background info, and contact information. Of course, each of these faculty experts had given the media relations team prior permission to be a part of the webpage. (No decent higher education marketer would ever promote a faculty member as an expert without her or his permission.) The webpage also contained other information important to both media and LSU community relations.

This isn’t the first crisis the LSU media relations department has been through. They also went into bunker mode during Hurricane Katrina. Someone from the audience asked the panel about staff burnout during the oil spill, and the answer one panelist gave was excellent. The media relations staff was on call 24/7 for many weeks. Every three days, one staff member got the day off. What a great way to maximize employee efforts while showing that you care about them as humans.

As coverage of the oil spill increased with media outlets using LSU experts, more professors wanted to be tapped as resources, which is another higher education marketer’s dream. Throughout all of this, many faculty members developed close relationships with journalists, one benefit for all involved amid an otherwise disastrous situation.

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