5 Higher Education Marketing Strategies

Every day universities and colleges are coming up with exciting, innovative courses for the millions of motivated students all over the world. The higher education space is being redefined by innovation in design, delivery and employability for many diplomas and degrees. Education experts have the resources they need to craft, test and rollout cutting edge online degree programs.

However, without adequate marketing, student enrollment numbers often struggle to meet and exceed expectations.

That’s why higher education institutions are bringing on board creative communication and marketing professionals to keep their institutions and programs visible and desirable. Unique higher education marketing strategies help raise awareness of courses and programs while bringing in new students and resources needed to sustain online programs.

Institutions are moving beyond the traditional brochures, magazines and billboards and are instead pushing resources towards appealing to the constantly evolving digital marketing landscape. There, they can have wider reach and greater potential in rapidly increasing their program’s visibility. Below are five key areas that savvy higher education institutions have explored to creatively market their programs and reach a wider array of prospective students and other higher education actors.

1. Instagram Marketing for Higher Education

Sample instagram adAny serious marketer will not ignore a worldwide, 700 million plus user base that has gained a lot of popularity with younger users in particular. With massive reach and increased interaction, Instagram offers higher education institutions a chance to showcase their best programs, campuses and profile their notable alumni.

When it comes to sharing photos of new events such as recruitment drives, faculty-student interaction, innovative programs and community activities, Instagram has become the top app. Schools have a chance to showcase their brands, engage students and reach out to prospective international students using features such as Instagram Stories.

The allure of Instagram is mainly driven by the simplicity of use, as long as higher education institutions can post great, well-curated photos for various updates and events. With the increased photography features of so many phones, institutions can even get photos from students in their own day-to-day activities and interactions and share on their Instagram handles with quite satisfying results. Great campus photos during different events and seasons can keep an institution visually present among the great number of prospective students who are always on the prowl for their next diploma or degree.


 

2. Video and Animation in Higher Education Marketing

ezgif.com-gif-maker (1)Video is a proven way to popularize courses, programs, campuses and advertisements for higher education institutions. It’s known to have a greater impact than text, and there are many channels available today for institutions to share their videos. These include You Tube, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

Strategically crafted videos and animations can be leveraged to reach target demographics for schools and their degree programs. Creative marketing professionals use powerful visuals, branding and storytelling to create videos that speak to their audiences. Through the social marketing potential of platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, video and animation advertisements can be a highly successful component to any marketing strategy. The best part? These creatives can be backed by ROI metrics through careful monitoring and reporting.


 

3. Leveraging Faculty for
Digital PR

A university’s faculty expertise is a critical component of a successful higher education marketing strategy. Faculty are researchers and thought leaders in their industries, and can greatly increase the effectiveness of campaign execution in many ways. By leveraging a professional Digital PR team with a keen understanding of the media landscape and PR pitching, faculty members and their research can be carefully pitched to target digital publications in order to share and boost professors’ personal brands as well as increase program and university brand awareness.

When leveraged correctly, Digital PR proves beneficial in other ways such as: building program visibility in search engines, creating program website traffic, and increasing student enrollment. Potential publications and websites for Digital PR opportunities are vast. These are only a few of the places that Circa Interactive has landed features and bylines for our clients:

Digital PR examples

 


 

4. Infographics and Visual Resources 

Infographics are powerful visual representations of data that are used in a variety of ways across industries. In higher education, they are a useful tool in providing career and industry statistics to help admissions teams, such as this graphic created by Villanova’s Analytics program. As seen below, this method of providing job growth and salary statistics is much more consumable and visually pleasing to the online reader than a list of bulleted points or a dense paragraph.

infographic example

Savvy internet marketers in the field of higher education also use infographics to build high quality industry backlinks and traffic to a program’s website. By leveraging professor research and reputable industry sources, fascinating visual resources can be designed, such as this compelling infographic from Ohio University that tells the story of how football concussions have paved the way for innovation in the forms of concussion diagnosis and prevention.

higher ed infographic example


 

5. Virtual Reality and Virtual Tours 

Virtual reality opportunities within higher education are increasing more than ever. A team of professors from Central Missouri State University, University of Missouri, University of Illinois at Chicago and University of Arizona have created a virtual collaborative learning network with a goal of researching and studying the intricacies of the Harlem Renaissance. The possibilities of virtual reality are endless with the classroom as EdTech and digital advantages continue to grow.

This crossroads of virtual reality and higher education applies directly to marketing strategies. Not only can universities gain interest through their in-class virtual technologies, but virtual reality is increasingly being used in the admissions process. A large number of institutions have fully implemented virtual tours that allow prospective students and their parents to explore campuses from afar. Companies such as Campus Tours offer panoramic virtual reality tours inside buildings and around campuses.

For example, USC offers an exclusive 360-degree game day campus tour:


 

Great ideas, but how do I execute these higher education marketing strategies? 

Reach out to an experienced, proven digital marketing company that focuses strictly on higher education marketing. Our team is happy to help and walk you through our services to find effective solutions to your unique marketing needs.
Contact us here

 

FreddieFrederic has five years’ experience in higher education content marketing and search engine optimization. Working with Circa Interactive, he has gained valuable experience in paid search, analytics, SEO strategy, and client management. Frederic excels in process optimization, strategic content marketing, and implementation of daily dad jokes. 

Follow him on twitter @FredHigherEd

 

 

 

Blogger Outreach Emails: Persuasive Writing Techniques

As we all know, how something is phrased is often more important than what is actually being said. If you leverage blogger outreach emails as part of link building tactics, chances are you’ve repeatedly tested phrasing to uncover the best subject lines and attention getting pitches. Words jump out at us for various reasons and play on our most primitive instincts and hard-wired responses revolving around emotion. With a better understanding of the power specific words have on human psychology, marketers can use persuasive writing techniques to create new opportunities while having fun testing out key words and phrases in our outreaches.

In this article I will present a few techniques for making your email marketing copy more persuasive and interesting to read.

Using 4 Effective Words

With only a short amount of time and text to capture the attention of a busy reader skimming through emails, it is important to carefully select the words used in a pitch and subject line. Even the most simple words can have a profound effect on our interest in a topic. Below are 4 basic words impacting psychology that you should include in your outreach.

You

Humans are rather narcissistic by nature, so it is easy to understand the importance of this word. We love to read topics that are centered around ourselves or addressed to us specifically. As opposed to making a message seem vague or generic by writing in third person, the use of “you” helps draw the reader in and make it more about them.

Because

Studies have shown that using the word “because” in email correspondence is over 31% more effective when seeking compliance, compared to leaving the word out. “Because” provides a sense of reason and ethos. You are not only telling a person about what it is you are trying to convey, but also why it is important while providing a reason to believe you. In the case of link building, it provides a more persuasive request and adds to the credibility of the pitch.

New & Free

These two words are addressed together because they both speak to the concept of loss aversion. In email outreach we may not necessarily be selling something, so leveraging this word targets the drive in people to acquire something new and for little to no cost. Using words like “new and free” are important because, for lack of better words, it creates a sense of fear of missing out (FOMO) and pushes people to take advantage of what you are requesting, i.e. sharing you link.

The Use of Sensory Words

Research shows that words related to texture activated areas of the brain were more likely to be impactful, even if their use was not related to any actual physical sensation. With our inboxes full of messages to filter through, we are likely to only respond to the ones that strike us as important or appear more memorable.
Using language that taps into any of the 5 senses: taste, touch, sight, sound or smell is likely to help the description of your message seem more tangible and realistic. Sensory words used in email pitches creates a more impressionable experience for the reader.

Storytelling and Striking an Emotional Chord

Incorporating short stories in your email pitch helps make your message more interesting and emotionally accessible, but more importantly, it makes the reader feel as though they can relate to the situation. This helps foster a sense of connection between the reader and the sender while breaking down barriers we create from being bombarded by pointless emails on a regular basis. Since there isn’t a great deal of time to impress the reader, you don’t want to lose their attention, so keep it short and sweet. Incorporate this storytelling method in an area that seems credible, perhaps like a statistic.

Let’s take a look at this example from a pitch aimed to create awareness about the rising cost of high school athletics:

“High school sports participation is at an all time high, but so is the cost, with some parents paying over $650 per child to participate in interscholastic athletics. High school sports offer a variety of long term benefits for kids, from scholastic performance to successful workplace skills later in life. With many families unable to afford the rising costs of athletics, our youth are at risk for a variety of negative impacts.”

While this aims to strike an emotional chord with parents, coaches and teachers, it also works for readers as a whole. No one wants to see youth negatively affected and it make even the average reader feel a sense of emotion and urgency to help by painting a picture of what is at risk for youth.

Our tendency as educated humans is to interact with one another using our “new brains” or more sophisticated language, however, it is in our “old brains” where the majority of our decisions are made. This part of the brain can be triggered using some of the most basic, yet powerful words and phrases for a more persuasive outreach.

16Keilah is a graduate of the University of Idaho. Working as an intern with Circa Interactive, she has gained experience in SEO and higher education content marketing while cultivating her creative skills. Keilah strives to become a future influencer in the digital marketing world.

How to Write a Media Pitch (with Examples)

Pitching compelling story lines and sources are the crux of any PR strategy. In the higher education digital marketing space, we leverage the expertise of professors from the programs that we partner with to help increase the school’s visibility, student enrollment, thought leadership, and brand awareness. For us, this is primarily an SEO and link-building tactic to help boost program search engine rankings and visibility. Professors make excellent sources for stories through their unmatched level of expertise and experience in their respective fields, but without the correct messaging and communication strategy, this may never come across effectively to the media when pitching them. Regardless of the industry that you’re in or represent, knowing how to effectively craft a pitch for the media is the most critical step to success in PR and content marketing. Here are some tangible tips and examples that will help you become a PR pitching pro in no time and write a persuasive media pitch.

In this article, I will go over best practices for media pitching in addition to reviewing the most common types of media pitches, with examples below. These include:

  • Initial (cold) media pitch
  • Pitch with an established contact (warm)
  • Personalized pitch
  • Follow-up pitch

How to Structure a PR Pitch

Before we dive into best practices, tips, and examples of PR pitching, I want to go over some of the basics of how to structure a media pitch. Creating a set standard for yourself and your team will not only streamline the process and allow you to be as efficient as possible, but it will also makes training and consistency amongst your team much more feasible. Below I have included the basic outline/structure of a PR pitch. For a more in-depth look, please see my article on how to structure and standardize PR pitching across your team.

  • First, start with the lead. There are two main types of leads that are the most effective when it comes to media pitching. The first is a news peg and the second is a time peg. To learn more about the differences between these two types of leads, read this article.
  • The second part is your call-to-action. This is the action you want your audience to take. Whether it is writing a product review, publishing a piece of content, or conducting an interview, it’s important to make your intention here as clear as possible.
  • Next comes your value proposition. This is a key piece of the puzzle as it will be the meat of the pitch; this is where you can showcase the value of what you are offering and why they should be interested in it. It is essential in differentiating yourself from the hundreds of other pitches they receive.
  • The last piece of the puzzle is your conclusion. This is pretty straightforward and is where you should recap your call-to-action and thank them for their time and consideration.

Create an Effective Subject Line

Subject lines are the first and sometimes only thing that a media contact will see–often times determining whether they will even bother to open your email or not. Ensuring that your subject line is clear, concise, and enticing are some of the most important elements. While many would assume that shorter subject lines work best, especially considering the character restrictions of mobile devices, a report from Marketing Sherpa actually found that subject lines with 61 to 70 characters had the highest open rate. This proves that you shouldn’t spend too much time trying to cut down your subject line, as it can actually be beneficial to have a longer one. While creating a subject line that entices the media to want to open your email should always be the goal, make sure that you don’t use “click-bait” phrasing as a tactic to draw the recipient in as this may leave a bad taste in their mouth and hurt the chances of them opening your future pitches. The last thing you want to do is mislead them or appear spammy.

media pitch subject line

Pitch Using Timely News Pegs or Research

Don’t do yourself the disservice of not using relevant news pegs or research as your hook for your pitch. It’s no secret that the media lives off of news pegs, trending topics, and new research to tell their stories. To increase the chances of someone showing interest in your pitch, it’s important to make their job as easy as possible; it’s a good idea to help to spell out the story for them so that your source or story fits in seamlessly with trending news topics and their target audience’s interests. Reporters and editors receive hundreds of pitches every day, so providing them with a story that their readers will be interested in and offering sources to help supplement that story will make them more compelled to move forward with the conversation. Along these same lines, always try to include hyperlinks to any research or statistics that you reference in your pitch. You don’t want them to shy away from expressing interest or continuing the conversation simply because they don’t have time to do the legwork to track down the sources themselves. When pitching a source for a story, I recommend abiding by this same rule of thumb and hyperlink to their bio page to provide more context and information on their specialities and background in case they’re interested.

Know the Reporter’s Beat

You can have the best pitch in the world, but if it doesn’t align with the reporter’s beat (the types of stories they cover), then it will provide no use or value to them. In fact, it will only blatantly show that you are sending out mass email distributions and aren’t doing the appropriate research and legwork before pitching them. While it’s not always realistic or feasible, personalize pitches whenever possible and mention any related articles that they recently wrote.

Keep it Concise & Know your Story

As I mentioned earlier, media contacts receive hundreds of pitches a day. If you’re lucky enough to get yours opened, the worst thing that someone with very little time can be confronted with is an unnecessarily long pitch. Find out how to say everything that you need to say in a paragraph or less (with rare exceptions). The more specific and focused you can be, the better. It’s also crucial to understand and communicate the story you’re trying to tell and how it aligns with the larger media trends yet provides a unique angle to the storyline. Here’s how our typical pitch is structured:

Following up is Key to Media Pitching

Following up on initial email pitches is one of the most important pieces to the puzzle. This is where most of your interest and responses will come from, so ensuring that you schedule reminders to do so is vital. It’s good to wait around one week until you send follow-ups out; this will ensure that the media contact has sufficient time to get through their emails and respond if they are planning to. If the story is incredibly time-sensitive, it’s ok to follow-up a bit sooner. Similarly, if it is not a time-sensitive story at all, then waiting a little longer than a week is also fine. Include your original pitch at the bottom of your follow-up email to help jog the recipient’s memory and provide more context for them. To see more about how to follow up on a pitch, see my example below.

Media Pitch Examples:

Initial (cold) pitch:

Hi [NAME]

A recent report pointed to the frightening reality that hackers using ransomware on medical devices could pose the biggest–and most dangerous–cyber security threat in 2016, with insulin pumps and pacemakers being some of the devices most vulnerable to these risks. For this reason, I wanted to see if you were interested in speaking with [NAME], a leading encryption and cybersecurity expert, DARPA contractor, and professor in NJIT’s Computer Science program. He has been conducting research on security and homomorphic encryption of embedded medical devices and can discuss the severity of this looming threat and the ways that we can leverage new protection techniques against this potentially fatal new cybercrime tactic.

Please let me know if you’re interested. Thanks for your time and consideration.

Pitch for established contact/relationship:

I hope all is well. Thanks again for featuring [NAME] in your article on ICD-10. I wanted to reach out about a new story and source that I thought you might be interested in:

Scientists are reporting a sharp rise in colon and rectal cancers in adults as young as their 20s and 30s, according to a new study by the American Cancer Society. For this reason, I wanted to see if you were interested in speaking with [NAME], a professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Ohio University and an expert in colon cancer, who is currently applying principles like fluid dynamics to look at how cancer cells move through the body and how metastasis can be countered. Dr. [NAME] is also researching the potential of liquid biopsies for less invasive cancer screenings and their ability to impact personalized medicine. While increased rates of screenings like colonoscopies among older adults have been considered the reason that colorectal cancer rates have declined overall, they have usually been deemed unnecessary and invasive for younger populations. However, with this new upward trend among young adults, research that Dr. [NAME] is conducting in this field could be the key to reversing these ominous trends.

Please let me know if you’re interested in speaking with [NAME] about the important work she is doing in this area and how it could impact cancer trends. Thanks for your time and consideration.

Personalized pitch

I really enjoyed reading your article, “CBO’s estimates of the revised Senate health bill” and wanted to see if you would be interested in speaking with [NAME] about the impact that this would have on our doctor shortage crisis. When we reduce insurance coverage, we make it harder for patients to address their preventative needs, and therefore create a more sick population with an increased need for doctors who can treat subsequent ailments. [NAME] is the program director and professor of healthcare systems engineering at the University of Central Florida and is actively looking at the most pressing long-term issues facing our healthcare system, such as the doctor shortage crisis, and how we can take steps to address and alleviate such crises. Extended life spans and treatable diseases are straining our already burdened system, and studies show it’s only going to get worse. [NAME] can discuss the complexities of solving this issue and how repealing the ACA will have a direct impact on the doctor shortage crisis.

Please let me know if you’re interested and I would be happy to set something up. Thanks for your time.

Follow-up Pitch

Subject: Re: Just Following Up: Medical Device Ransom is Biggest Cyber Threat of 2016

Hi [NAME],

I just wanted to follow up and see if you were interested in speaking with [NAME] about the dangerous and inevitable threat of medical ransomware.

Thanks for your time. Any feedback is appreciated.

Caroline Khalili
Circa Interactive
circaedu.com

On Mon, Dec 21, 2015 at 6:38 PM, Caroline Khalili caroline@circaedu.com> wrote:

Hi [NAME],

A recent report pointed to the frightening reality that hackers using ransomware on medical devices could pose the biggest–and most dangerous–cyber security threat in 2016, with insulin pumps and pacemakers being some of the devices most vulnerable to these risks. For this reason, I wanted to see if you were interested in speaking with [NAME], a leading encryption and cybersecurity expert, DARPA contractor, and a professor in NJIT’s Computer Science program. He has been conducting research on security and homomorphic encryption of embedded medical devices and can discuss the severity of this looming threat and the ways that we can leverage new protection techniques against this potentially fatal new cybercrime tactic.

Please let me know if you’re interested. Thanks for your time and consideration.

 

To learn more about our digital PR services, read here: Digital PR.

Caroline-Black-and-White-tan-3-4Caroline brings a wealth of knowledge in communications, marketing, and account management to the Circa Interactive team, and she has worked with partners such as HP, Cisco, and Adobe. Graduating with honors in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Oregon in 2011, Caroline now plays a key role in Circa Interactive’s digital PR strategy by building long term relationships with internationally recognized media outlets on behalf of our clients.

6 Do’s and Do Not’s of Digital Public Relations

In the competitive field of digital public relations, it is a constant struggle to create pitches that stand out to your desired audience. Reporters and editors of high level publications are drowning in a sea of pitches and emails each day and don’t want to receive the same boring pitches every day. In order to succeed as a public relations specialist, it is imperative that your campaign stands out among the rest. There are several ways to ensure that you make your mark. Here are 3 do’s and 3 do not’s of higher education Public Relations.

Do: Have a unique voice while understanding what the publication wants 

To make an impression in the world of public relations, you have to offer something unique to your audience. If you are pitching clients to high level publications, odds are the editors and reporters have a lot of pitches coming through each day. If there are submission guidelines, look at them. These will help you determine what exactly the publication is looking for in a pitch. Once you get an understanding of how publications take pitches or articles, be sure to make yourself and your client stand out by offering a unique voice or stance on a topic. Emphasize the new angle or insight that your client has to offer in your pitch. Give the publication a new way to think about something that’s being talked about, and offer your client as an asset to this new angle.

Do: Leverage news and current events in your pitches

When crafting a pitch, use a topic that has buzz around it. Grab a story from the news, and see how your client can offer insight into the topic and provide a new angle that the publication is missing out on by not speaking to your client. This creates the opportunity for your client to be involved in a conversation of relevant, newsworthy story, while still offering their expertise. Using a relevant news peg also have a better chance of catching a publication’s attention if you have an interesting subject line that mentions a time sensitive topic.

Do: Follow up

This point cannot be stressed enough. If you miss a follow up, you’re missing a second chance to be seen by a publication that may have missed your first email, but would have otherwise been interested in your client. Most of our success in digital PR results from follow ups. Be sure to change your subject line to something along the lines of “Re: Just Following Up: [insert subject line]” to draw attention to the fact that that there has been prior correspondence. This little trick is a sure fire way to get more eyes on your follow up and original pitch.

Do Not: Put yourself in a box

It is easy to get stuck in the obvious within public relations. As a professional, it is your job to think outside of the box and find a new angles that can make your client stand out. Being able to look at news pegs through a fresh lens can help find new angles for all topics and clients you’re pitching. If you work in a PR team, don’t be afraid to ask for a brainstorming session to break you out of your box. Our digital PR team goes on walks and has regular PR brainstorming meetings to go over the news and find new angles to pitch our clients. These practices break us out of reading stories and taking them at face value. It also allows us to find different ways to pitch our clients’ expertise.

Do Not: Miss an email

Always be the last to respond in any situation. This seems pretty self explanatory, but if a pitch gets several “no thanks” responses, don’t just leave them in your inbox. I know it feels like a rejection and no one enjoys facing rejection, but your job is communicating. Respond, and thank them for their time, or even try to figure out why they said no. Who knows, you may even be creating relationships with these contacts just by responding to their “no’s”. People will have more respect for someone that takes the time to thank them, or tries to get a better understanding of what they want in the future, even after they turned down your pitch.

Do Not: Take a “maybe” as a final answer

Many responses to pitches are along the lines of “I don’t cover this exact topic”, or “I’ll keep this in mind for next time”. These aren’t explicitly “no’s”, and as a communicator, it is your job to figure out how you can use these “maybe’s” to your advantage. Here’s the perfect opportunity to be strategic in your communication skills. If they don’t cover the topic you pitched them, find out what they do cover. Find out what they are currently looking for, and see if you still have something to offer. This will help you tailor your pitches to that person in the future and create better relationships with your media contacts.

 

What Cision’s 2017 State of the Media Report Tells Us About the Future of PR

With the media landscape constantly evolving, it’s essential that all PR practitioners are aware of current trends and shifts in order to remain at the forefront of their industry. In practicing digital public relations, it is particularly important to be aware of how journalists’ preferences are changing to better engage their growing online audience. Cision, a media communications database, recently released the results of their annual State of the Media Report, which surveyed more than 1,550 media professionals about their preferred practices, biggest challenges and trends to be mindful of. Here are some of the key takeaways from this report.

Know the journalist’s beat before you pitch

According to survey results, 51 percent of journalists reported pursuing a story because of a displayed knowledge of their work, a 16 percent increase from last year.State of the Media ReportBut how can public relations practitioners accommodate these preferences in a practical way?

  1. Create specialized pitches for industry-specific publications and research each outlet to find one reporter that is most likely to pursue your pitch. This way you’re targeting niche publications in a strategic and efficient way.
  2. Create a master list of reporters you have already established relationships with for each industry. This will not only make your life easier when trying to find specialized reporters, but they will appreciate you respecting their beat.
  3. Take one reporter from a few top publications out of your media list and do the necessary research to really personalize those pitches. Maybe reference an article they recently published or trend they often write about. By doing so, you’re showing a vested interest in them and establishing yourself as a quality resource. Even if you may not land an opportunity that time, it will build the foundation for a lasting relationship. Who knows, they might reach out to you again for a similar story in the future.
  4. Take advantage of resources like Help a Reporter Out (HARO), where reporters post story ideas and request reputable sources for them. By using this database, you have the opportunity to find specialized story topics that will leverage your expert sources while increasing your chances of successfully landing an opportunity.

Get creative with multimedia

With the news shifting to become shorter and more interactive, journalists are searching for elements to use in their stories that will both entice and engage readers. Nearly 70.5 percent of survey respondents reported almost or always incorporating multimedia into their stories, and they ranked the type of multimedia that they value the most as follows:

  1. Photos
  2. Social Media Posts
  3. Videos including YouTube
  4. Infographics
  5. User Generated Content – Videos Photos
  6. Web Polls
  7. Live Stream / Blogging Embeds
  8. Data Interactives
  9. Animated .gifs

Photos, social media posts and videos come as no surprise as the most integrated multimedia elements in stories, but this presents a major opportunity for infographics. Infographics are useful to not only support a pitch with facts that are presented in a captivating way, but they can be used as a lead for a story as well. But what if certain reporters don’t accept infographics? It never hurts to ask what form of multimedia they prefer to receive and make note of that so you don’t keep pitching them with content they’ll never use. Respecting and valuing their preferences will pay off because knowing what they commonly utilize for their stories will make them a great resource for future opportunities.

Provide valuable and differentiated resources

Journalists are constantly being pitched with press releases and new story ideas, and while survey results show that this is their most valued resource, it’s essential that PR professionals find a way to break through the noise and stand out with their pitching ideas. One way to do this is to tie the lead to something trending in the news or to an upcoming event, which we refer to as news and time pegs. This not only shows that you did your research, but that you are stepping in as a valuable resource by providing a fresh perspective to a bigger story. Expert interviews and story sources were ranked as the second most valuable resource to journalists, so make sure to constantly check resources like HARO for these specialized opportunities. Finally, always be sure that you are presenting ready-to-publish content that helps establish yourself as a credible source. This means going through your pitch and checking for accuracy, grammar and AP style, and being sure that each hyperlink works.

 

Ariana HeadshotAriana is a soon-to-be graduate of San Diego State University and current member of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). As a journalism major with an emphasis in public relations, she brings both traditional training and fresh ideas to Circa as their digital public relations and content marketing intern. Her creativity and passion for storytelling contribute to Circa’s digital public relations presence.

 

The Value of Digital Public Relations: SEO Case Study for Computer Science Master’s Online

In the higher education industry, digital public relations is a new yet important approach for any SEO strategy. By leveraging traditional public relations strategies for the digital world, digital PR not only influences brand awareness and thought leadership for universities, but it also directly influences organic traffic that leads to conversions and new students. In collaboration with on-page SEO elements, content marketing (infographics), and other link building strategies, digital PR helps bring prospective students to a university and serves as a significant contributor to a diverse link profile for an authoritative website. Digital PR sends the highest quality links to a website, and these links serve as a powerful indicator for Google and other search engines to recognize the site as valuable and authoritative.

In order to illustrate the value, I have created a case study from one of our clients that showcases how digital PR can play a major role in achieving a diverse SEO strategy to accomplish lead goals. This particular client is an online computer science degree program. Below you will see an overview of  the types of traffic coming to our client’s website, and as you can see, organic search is a major supplier of traffic for the online degree page. It’s imperative to find new ways to grow the amount of organic traffic to the site since prospective students who are visiting the page are there because they are naturally searching for similar degrees to the one that our program tries to rank for. Organic traffic therefore provides some of the most valuable and promising leads. Plus, that traffic is free.

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-11-44-20-am-copy

Computer science is a competitive degree online, and in order to compete in the search results for students searching for computer science degree programs, it’s important to show up on the first page–or as close to it as possible–and have a diverse range of links pointing to a site. According to Search Engine Watch, “Google’s top organic search results receives 33 percent of the traffic, compared to 18 percent for the second position, and the traffic only degrades from there.” Here is a snapshot of our rankings when digital PR was paused due to faculty vacations and research initiatives.

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-11-52-21-am-copy

Since the new website was launched in February of 2015, we have seen significant jumps in rankings. (The green arrows showcase how many spots we have jumped.) These rankings are related to a robust digital marketing strategy that includes digital PR, infographics, and manual link building. However, the above rankings showcase the results today, at a time when we are lacking active professors to participate in the digital PR strategy. However, if you look below at the rankings of April last year when the digital marketing strategy was fully running, then you’ll see that our rankings were better overall.

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-11-58-17-am-copy

An increase in rankings directly contributes to an increase in traffic and potential students. By leveraging a robust digital marketing strategy that combines on-page SEO with link building strategies from infographics, we can help our site rank for our targeted keywords. While infographics help with creating a large volume of links, digital PR is currently the best source for leveraging the highest quality links while reaching potential students. The secondary benefit is that digital PR expands the brand of the program and pushes the faculty’s research and personal brand.

So how do you determine the value of a link? Links are generally calculated by a Moz score, which analyzes a site on a scale from 1 to 100. For instance, The New York Times has a Domain Authority (DA) of 99, and a link from The New York Times pointed to the online page would send a tremendous amount of link juice to the site, helping us to rank higher in the search results. Some of the links we have created for the program include The Huffington Post (DA 98), Information Week (DA 92), and CIO (DA 90).

Throughout the course of our digital PR efforts for this program, we were able to create 39 media placements, and we were able to secure links with tremendously high domain authorities. Overall, digital PR is a part of a larger digital marketing strategy, and in order to compete and continue to rise in the rankings, it’s a strategy that we strongly recommend. In collaboration with infographics, this strategy helps universities and programs gain ground in the search results and compete for the best students.

 

joeJoseph Lapin M.F.A. is an author, creative director, and journalist, and his writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Narratively, Salon, Slate, and more. He is a former adjunct professor at Florida International University, and he has worked on PR campaigns for Ernst & Young, Brentwood Associates, and more.

The Anatomy of a PR Pitch – How to Structure & Standardize Pitching Across Your Team

As any PR or communications professional knows, pitching is the single most important skill to possess. While there are various approaches and styles to this, it’s important to find a structure and style for pitching that has had proven success within your industry and then standardize that formula across your team. So how can you streamline the process of pitching to make team members as successful and efficient as possible? First, it’s important to identify the key components that make up every well-rounded PR pitch. While each pitch can, and often will, look a little different, we have found that there are four primary components that should be included in every pitch. Here are the four core components and their definitions:

Lead

The lead is the angle into your story. Keep this as short and concise as possible. A lead should be comprised of one of the following:

    • A news peg is a trending story or topic in the news that relates to what you’re pitching. For example, leveraging the presidential debate or a new medical study that was just released. This allows you to hook the reader with a relevant and widespread story.
    • A time peg represents an upcoming date or event. For example, anniversaries of days like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, days or weeks dedicated to specific causes like “Health IT Week” or “Mental Health Awareness Day,” or even months like “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” These types of dates and events can be easily leveraged for PR purposes as media outlets will often shape content around significant or relevant time pegs. In order to keep track and take advantage of these dates, it’s helpful to create and consistently update an internal editorial calendar with your team.
Call to action (CTA)

This is the action that you want your audience to take. For instance, in our case this would often include speaking with a professor or publishing an infographic or blog on behalf of our clients.

Value proposition

This is where you allow yourself to stand out and differentiate yourself from the competition. Demonstrate the significance of what you’re pitching and why it’s important. What value would it provide to their publication and readership? How does it relate to the larger story? These are some of the questions you should address.

Conclusion

Quickly thank them for their time and reiterate what your goal or call to action (CTA) is. Keep this brief and to the point.

There are questions that you should always be asking yourself when writing a pitch. Here are a few of the important ones to keep in mind:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What is the larger story?
  • Why should they care about what you’re pitching?
  • What value does this provide them?
  • What story are you creating in your pitch?

To see how this formula looks in practice, I’ve included a pitch below which is color coded based on the four components I described above.

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-10-53-38-am

 

Caroline-Black-and-White-tan-3-4Caroline brings a wealth of knowledge in communications, marketing, and account management to the Circa Interactive team, and she has worked with partners such as HP, Cisco, and Adobe. Graduating with honors in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Oregon in 2011, Caroline now plays a key role in Circa Interactive’s digital PR strategy by building long term relationships with internationally recognized media outlets on behalf of our clients.

8 Ways to Get the Most out of Your Press Release

As I discussed in my previous article, press releases can be an extremely effective tool when you are looking to promote an event or news within higher education. The potential impact of a press release goes far beyond this though, and should be an essential part of your overall public relations strategy. As defined by Entrepreneur, a press release is “a public relations announcement issued to the news media and other targeted publications for the purpose of letting the public know of company developments.” These short, compelling documents give your university’s latest developments a platform to be seen and discussed within the larger media circuit. However, if you do not include key elements in your press release, it is unlikely to be picked up by your target audience and your reach will diminish. Here I will discuss some key tips for you to consider when writing and distributing your next press release.

1. Make sure your story is newsworthy

Is your press release going to excite those within the industry? Does your news provide value and relate to larger industry trends? These are questions that you should be thinking about before you distribute it to the media. Innovative, exciting developments and research within your university make ideal topics for press releases. One of our clients recently announced they are developing a virtual reality application with the aim of improving mental health care, an incredibly innovative idea that appeals to a several popular media topics. We immediately saw this as an ideal opportunity to help raise awareness about the institution and the cutting-edge work that they’re doing through a press release.

2. Grab attention with the headline

The headline of a press release, as with that of an article headline or subject line within a pitch, is pivotal if you are to successfully pull in journalists and editors. Of course, it is important for your headline to be accurate and give the reader a strong idea of what is to come, but you also want to ensure that it is engaging and makes them want to read on. There are three best practices to follow when writing your headline: 1) Be unique – you need to differentiate yourself from the competition. 2) Be specific – give the reader detailed information to ensure they understand what you are presenting them. 3) Be beneficial – the headline itself must provide a benefit to the reader and show that the information is useful.

3. Include quotes

To increase your validity and credibility, it’s critical to include quotes from at least one high level source who is directly involved in the story. These quotes should provide greater insight and perspective and can also lead to further media opportunities for the expert and institution.

4. Remain relatable

It is important that you do not confuse the reporter or reader with your press release. Therefore, the language used should not be overly complicated, as much of your audience will lack the specialist knowledge required to understand the finest details. If there are terminologies that are complex, then explain these as if you were speaking to somebody who does not work within your discipline. Make the content simple, straightforward, and easily consumable for a general audience. 

5. Stay Concise

A press release should not exceed more than a single page and should only include the most pertinent facts. If the press release leaves them wanting more information, then they can reach out using the contact information provided in the press release.

6. Include a pitch

When distributing your press release, be sure to write a media pitch as you would if you were looking to create a traditional PR opportunity. The pitch is where you can really sell the story and the relevance of it to the publication’s audience and interests. Make sure to paste the press release below your signature as a journalist may not have the time or want to open an attachment.

7. Customize to each target audience (when applicable)

In order to maximize your chance of press coverage, you should tailor the press release to fit each audience when there is more than one. For example, we recently distributed a press release on the topic of virtual reality and mental health for one of our clients. Clearly, there is a both a technology and health angle here. You should be targeting both audiences and should alter the pitch and press release to ensure it relates directly to the industry you are pitching.  

8. Capitalize on link building opportunities

A press release provides you with an excellent opportunity to gain greater brand awareness as well as positively influence SEO. By including a link within your press release that takes the reader to the corresponding homepage or landing page, you will increase the chances of media outlets linking back to your target site which will in turn help to boost rankings. 

 

George has recentGeorgely joined the Circa team in California following the completion of his master’s in marketing management and strategy degree, where he graduated with distinction from Plymouth University in England. George is a PR and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about creating high level opportunities for professors within national publications. 

3 Ways Higher Education Marketers Can Leverage the 2016 Presidential Election

We are one month from the first presidential debate, and the 2016 election has already proven itself to be one of the most digitally reported and discussed elections in the history of the United States. In fact, over the past 12 months, Americans have spent over 1,284 years reading Donald Trump related content on social media. As we all know, the internet and social media are changing the way Americans interact with presidential candidates, and this provides an enormous amount of content marketing opportunities. The 2016 Presidential Election creates a variety of opportunities for higher education digital marketers to promote their schools and programs, and I’ve put together three ways that digital marketers can leverage the news cycle to build high quality backlinks. 

Leverage Your Professors

Throughout the election, candidates are asked to provide insight on a number of issues ranging from civil rights to the federal budget to foreign policy. These topics may be the focal point of a professor’s area of expertise which digital marketers can leverage when seeking PR opportunities.

When leveraging professors, it is important that digital marketers clearly articulate the value that professors can provide reporters. Professors are often the thought leaders of their industries and niches and can provide high-level insights that have yet to be published. For example, the release of Hillary Clinton’s Initiative on Technology and Innovation, which places a major focus on investing in computer science and STEM education, provides Circa’s PR team with the opportunity to leverage our engineering, computer science, and other STEM-related professors for articles providing expert commentary on what Clinton’s initiative could mean for the STEM industry, as well as its potential impact on the future of our education system.

Another way to leverage your professors is through HARO. For those that don’t know, HARO (which stands for Help a Reporter Out) is an online service designed to provide reporters with quality sources for upcoming stories and sources with the possibility to obtain media coverage. Those who have signed up for HARO as potential sources receive daily emails featuring a list of reporters seeking quotes or insights for upcoming articles. If an article seems to fit a professor’s area of expertise, all a PR specialist needs to do is respond to the email and pitch the professor by noting the expert angle or insight that she or he could provide to the story.

As campaign coverage continues to gain speed, there will likely be an increase in HARO opportunities with reporters seeking academic or professional insight, so if you haven’t signed up for HARO yet, it is certainly worth exploring.

Create Resources Highlighting the Election

Being one of the key events of 2016, the Presidential Election is a prime time-peg that higher education digital marketers can use in creating resources for their schools and programs. There are a number of different angles to take when creating resources. Some of the most popular include:

  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • GIFs

For those that don’t know, visual resources are great for creating informative, yet appealing content, so infographics would be particularly good for highlighting the election. There are a few different ways to highlight the election through infographics, which would include leveraging content on a topic candidates are discussing (Ex. cyber security) or creating an infographic on the election, such as this one on social media and presidential campaigns.

Within the creation process, keep in mind that the main goal of infographics is to build links back to your program, and the best way to build links is to create intriguing content that provides value to the viewer. Sometimes value can come from a unique angle, newsworthy content or reliable statistics; other times it can be through a graph or visual that highlights an intriguing contrast. Either way, be sure that your graphics provide value of some kind so that viewers will be more inspired to share them with their network.

Add to the Social Commentary

Whether it’s a insensitive statement or previously unreleased documents, every day it seems as though there is a new story involving Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And while journalists report the initial story, higher education digital marketers have the opportunity to leverage this content and add to the social commentary. For those that don’t know, social commentary is considered an act of expression that comments and thus expands upon a social issue within society. If this sounds complicated, it really isn’t. In fact, adding to the social commentary can be as simple as sharing a news story or quote on social media platforms and asking followers to share their opinions. Higher education digital marketers could also take this a step further by including a quick quote from a professor on the current political issue.

Regardless of what approach is taken, it is important that a call to action (CTA) is included at the end of the social post. This CTA doesn’t necessarily have to be anything complicated, just something to encourage the reader to share their insight or opinion.

If the election coverage continues to progress at its current pace, there may not be a more consistent time peg than the 2016 Presidential election, so digital marketers would be wise to leverage this opportunity as much as possible for their schools and programs. No matter what approach you take, make sure to clearly position your programs and professors as the leaders within their niche. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to be creative and have fun with whatever method you choose.
Have you been leveraging the presidential election in your digital marketing efforts? If so, what has worked for you? We’d love to hear your insight!

Tyler Putz of Circa Interactive Tyler is a retired division two college basketball player and a recent graduate from the University of Iowa. His creativity, as well as passion for entrepreneurship and the expansion of technology and communication, helps Circa to continue to stay on the cusp of new technologies and trends influencing future generations of students.

How to Reach Prospective Students Through the New Instagram Stories Feature

Instagram has rapidly grown to nearly 500 million monthly users worldwide and is projected to continue its growth at a steady rate. With this many monthly users and roughly 55 percent of them being ages 18-29, Instagram is the platform that higher ed marketing experts should be targeting. The addition of Instagram’s new feature, Instagram stories, allows for more opportunity to engage with followers and prospective students. Much like the Snapchat story feature, users post content that will disappear after 24 hours. This 24 hour time frame provides the opportunity to post as much content for your program as you would like, without the worry of cluttering your Instagram profile. If you don’t know how to use the feature, there are easy step-by-step guides available. 

 

insta story

 

The Difference Between Snapchat Stories and Instagram Stories

What sets these two seemingly identical features apart? Unlike Snapchat stories, Instagram stories can be watched regardless of whether or not an Instagram user is following an account. The explore page feature on Instagram uses an algorithm to show users content that they will be most likely to enjoy. It also suggests profiles that are similar to those that they are already interacting with. For example, based on my Instagram activity, it’s easy to see in the photo above that a lot of food accounts have made their way onto my explore page. This page also shows users which accounts the people who they are following are interacting with. Basically, if a user or their friends are engaging with higher education profiles, then it is more likely that your account will pop up on their explore feed. If your account is clicked on, the user can watch your Instagram story by clicking your profile photo. The explore page feature is beneficial to higher education marketers because it is easier to reach potential students. With Snapchat, there is no explore page, so discovering new profiles is more complicated and difficult if you do not know them personally.

Although people do not have to follow your Instagram account to view your stories, the goal is of course to make them want to.
If you’re looking to get more followers on Instagram, there are tricks that can help. The more followers you have, the more likely you are to show up on other users’ explore pages, and the more likely you are to get your story and brand seen. 

Capturing Potential Students’ Attention with Stories

Now, the real question: How can you make your program stand out by using this new Instagram feature? Of course, one must think about what the intended audience wants to see. As a higher education program, your audience is most likely a part of the Millennial Generation, which is a good thing considering millennials make up 55% of Instagram users. 

Authenticity is key when it comes to marketing to millennials.  A Cohn & Wolfe study found that 89% of people agreed that it is important that businesses act with integrity at all times. They don’t want advertisements, they want genuine content and a personalized brand. Millennials engage the most with brands that they feel are relatable and genuine.

Another way to appeal to this generation is by engaging with them on a personal level. According to Forbes, 62% of millennials prefer brands that have engaged with them on social media platforms, so Instagram stories are a great way to reach and engage with millennials. So how can you appear genuine and authentic while also making your audience feel as though you are engaging with them on a personal level? Simple: showcase your students.

Your content should tell a story, hence the name Instagram stories. It should show the authentic side of your brand while striving to be creative and engaging. Displaying student life, campus life, or promoting upcoming events that your audience may be interested in are all great starting places. That way, a prospective student can get a better understanding of your program and whether it’s a good fit for them.

With the start of school coming up, showcasing orientations or new student convocations is a great way to give prospective students a taste of student life and show them what events are available to them. The University of Arizona, The University of Texas at Dallas, and Coastal Carolina University have posted a series of Instagram stories covering their new student convocations and first day of classes that effectively present unique aspects of their student life and campus.

Insta Stories

 

In addition to displaying what your student life has to offer, you can use the story feature as a way to make your academics stand out. Emphasize academics such as student research or academic achievement events on campus. Use the story feature to show what specific student clubs are up to and highlight upcoming campus events that students are attending. Stories allow you to display the daily activities that make your program or university unique, without the worry of posting perfect, edited content that will be on your Instagram for a long period of time.  

Instagram stories also allow you to draw on your story or add captions to your story which makes the story seem more fun, while also adding a personal and creative touch. Emojis can be added to captions to add some flare to the image?.  Remember, you are capturing the attention of a generation with notoriously short attention spans. In order to reel them in, you must present your brand with a unique and engaging twist. The Instagram story feature might be just what you need to stand out in the large pool of higher education programs.

Shannon black and white 2 Shannon is a senior at the University of San Diego studying communications and visual arts. Working as an intern with Circa Interactive, she has gained experience in higher education content marketing, digital public relations and creating content for various clients’ social media. Shannon’s creativity and passion for public relations and content marketing has contributed to Circa Interactive’s digital marketing value.