How a Higher Ed Marketer Can Stay Ahead of the Curve in Digital PR

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At Circa Interactive, we work with a wide variety of programs and professors who each have their own specialized areas of interest, and in order to create high quality opportunities in the media, there are a number of factors that we have to be aware of in order to accomplish our goals of improving rankings and increasing organic traffic to the program’s targeted pages. It is vitally important that we are constantly ahead of the curve and combine a professor’s expertise and current research interests with what is happening throughout the world each and every day. So here are four factors that are essential to consider as a higher education marketer to stay ahead of the curve within digital PR.

Knowing the Professors

Understanding the expertise of a professor is incredibly important within higher education marketing. Without this information, it is difficult to know where to start. At Circa Interactive we conduct interviews with each professor to ensure that we have a detailed understanding of their academic interests and current research. This also gives us the opportunity to start creating potential story ideas during the interview. Before and after every interview, we research the professor’s interests and read some of their previously published work. Professors are extremely busy people, and we want to use the time we have to speak to them as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Creating Relationships

Building relationships with professors and journalists ensures that we stay ahead of the curve. Creating a mutual understanding with each professor means that there is trust within the relationship. We create this trust by doing our homework on all aspects of an outreach, ensuring that we know the specifics of their expertise. As we create more media opportunities for the professors, the relationship and trust will grow and develop.

Creating these relationships also ensures that we have the freedom to send pitches to major publications on a professor’s behalf without having to waste either party’s time gaining permission to do so. Being able to send a professor a quick email or give them a phone call regarding an opportunity means that opportunities can quickly turn into conversations and articles.  Building relationships with media contacts can also be pivotal.  We have built a media contacts list at Circa Interactive where we store key reporters who have spoken with our professors in the past. These individuals are often willing to speak to professors again.

Reading the News

Having access to the latest news is imperative. There are various ways that I understand what is happening throughout the world, and I consider each method to be as important as the next. I always make sure I spend a part of my day taking a look through either The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal.  Glimpsing at the headlines and seeing something that is related to one of our professors always gives me a great place to start when planning a pitch. A story that makes it into one of these publications is also sure to be one people are talking about.

Unfortunately I cannot just open the newspaper every day to find a story relevant to my professors; therefore conducting a news search online is pivotal. Searching key words related to each professor’s expertise can help me find out what is being talked about within each industry and enables me to track whether a particular story is developing into something that would benefit from the input of a professor.

Every person within the office at Circa Interactive has a great understanding of the media opportunities that we are trying to create, and by using an app called ‘slack’, a messaging tool for teams, it allows us all to share the news that we see. I also utilize social media when looking for news stories. This is often the quickest way for news outlets to update their audience, and it can certainly ensure that we are ahead of the game when it comes to sending out pitches. 140 characters are sometimes all it takes to come up with a great new idea.

Creating Stories

We don’t always just want our professors to comment on a big news story. We want to create a new conversation around an existing story. Reporters and editors at major publications will get hundreds of emails a day, and I want my pitch to stand out from the rest. This means that when they read the subject line, they need to be intrigued. I have to try and create the initial idea of the story for them. This came to fruition when we saw the news that three NFL teams were set to be investigated by the NFL for illegal drone use. We knew that our professor of electrical engineering could not only comment on this issue but also add his expert opinion on the likelihood of drone regulations being relaxed and the potential future of UAV technologies. This creativity then led to two opportunities with high level publications.

Bringing it all together

We create our best opportunities when all of these elements are brought together. We make sure that we read our news, link that news to a professor’s interest, create a story and pitch idea to send to the relevant reporters. Once we land the opportunity, we reach out to the professor who we have already begun to create a relationship from the beginning.

Creating these opportunities and then seeing a professor’s quotes or article published within a publication makes it all worthwhile. We interact with some of the brightest minds and greatest reporters in the country, and while it can be a challenge and there are sometimes obstacles along the way, it is certainly rewarding when it all comes together.

GeorgeGeorge has recently joined the Circa Interactive team in California following the completion of his masters in Marketing Management and Strategy 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.