5 Tips for Effective Client Communication

In the marketing industry, understanding how to deliver desired results for your clients is crucial to a successful business relationship, but a study shows that 46 percent of employees regularly leave meetings not understanding the next steps. Below are a few helpful communication tips that will ensure that both parties always leave a conversation knowing how to proceed, making discussions with clients more productive and effective.

Ask the right questions

In any communication setting, the person asking the questions is the one that steers the direction of the conversation and ultimately has control. The trick here is making sure that you are asking the questions that give you a better understanding of what your clients are feeling and what they want. Questions that prompt yes or no answers will not further a conversation, but rather put the client in a corner where they cannot fully explain what they are feeling. Deploy ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions that require a more elaborate response than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. For example, “how can we improve the illustration?” will get you much further than “do you like the illustration?”, because it requires a more detailed explanation of why the client satisfied or unsatisfied. Knowing how to frame your questions will also help resolve any problems or conflicts between you and your client. You can gain a better understanding of how your client feels about the work and how you can improve and grow in the future. Here are some other great ways to stage questions that will help you get to the root of a problem: https://wavelength.asana.com/develop-effective-communication/

Set the tone from the start

Make sure your style of communication is professional, yet personable. You want to show your client that accomplishing their goals is paramount, while simultaneously establishing an air of trust among both parties. Additionally, don’t be afraid to use informal conversation as a way to build the relationship. Make it known that the relationship is conducive to constructive criticism and feedback and that both parties are free to openly share their thoughts, ideas and opinions. Setting this tone will make collaboration easy and will keep the clients happy.

Be empathetic

 Show your client that you understand their concerns and recognize that they are human. If a client is upset about something, or seems like they are having a bad day and are taking it out on your work, refer to tip number one and start asking questions tailored to their concerns. Make it known that you are here to listen to their concerns and that you want to help them solve problems. You can also use “it seems” phrases to show the client what you’re understanding from their communication. By doing this, you are relaying your understanding of their problem, while also allowing the client to hear the tone that they are emitting. For example, if a client gets upset and says, “I cannot quite work out this illustration” and provides no other feedback, you can say “it seems like you want changes to be made to the illustration. How can we change the design to better suit your goals?”.

Do your homework

Preliminary research is not only useful for current clients, but also potential clients that you may be trying to court. Go into a weekly client meeting with new, potentially useful resources and a knowledge base of what your client has wanted in the past. Following the same idea, step into a potential client presentation with solid knowledge of their business and a strong idea of what their past work looks like. Be as prepared as possible. This shows the client that you truly care about their goals and are ready to help accomplish these. As a higher education marketing company, our public relations team leverages professors within our client’s degree programs in order to land media opportunities. We interview the professors before doing outreach on their behalf in order to get a better understanding of their passions and expertise, but before the interviews, we research the professor and tailor our interview questions to their individual work and interests. This establishes a rapport with them from the start, and they appreciate that we do not waste their time by going into the interview blind. Doing your homework upfront is a time-saver for everyone involved and shows the client that they are important to you.

Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone

In the digital age, much of the communication that occurs in a business setting happens via email or through some other digital medium. While this is convenient and generally effective, studies show that face-to-face communication is much more productive in terms of accomplishing one’s goals. While face-to-face communication with clients is not always possible in a digital company like ours, a phone call is the next best thing. Having a spoken conversation can solve problems and demonstrate a sense of urgency on your part to resolve an issue. Additionally, It is much faster and a more direct way to get to the root of a problem or miscommunication, leaving less room for things to get misinterpreted in the midst of a client crisis. Good old-fashioned speaking often gets the job done better than an instant message ever could.

 

Shannon black and white 2 Shannon has been contributing to the growth of the Circa team for nearly two years and recently graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in Communication Studies. Shannon’s creativity and passion for public relations and content marketing has contributed to Circa Interactive’s digital marketing value. 

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 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.

5 Reasons Why Digital Public Relations Should be a Part of Your Marketing Budget

Within higher education, digital marketers are lucky, because we have access to professors who are thought leaders on the cutting edge of their respective field. Clearly, professors are incredible resources for their students inside of the classroom, and outside of the classroom, professors function as brand ambassadors for their programs and the larger institution. Of course, marketing teams are aware of a professor’s value in order to attract students, and they build videos and web assets around them to create trust and illustrate value. But when it comes to student generation, are marketers effectively leveraging professors to accomplish larger organizational goals, such as increasing organic rankings, acquiring traffic to their website, and creating new touchpoint? What is clear about higher education digital marketing is that even in 2016, when changes in the SEO and social media industry have forced marketers to rely on the highest quality content, professors are not being leveraged effectively. Here is what they’re missing:

Marketing teams can utilize their professors to acquire more students by leveraging traditional public relations practices for a digital world. This is commonly referred to as digital public relations.

Digital public relations uses the larger media in order build brand awareness, increase the thought leadership for professors and university stakeholders, improve organic rankings, and, ultimately, generate more students. In order to illustrate the importance of digital public relations for higher education digital marketers, I created a list below that focuses on why all higher ed digital marketers should strongly consider incorporating digital public relations into their marketing strategy and budget.

 

1. Digital Public Relations Influences Search Rankings

Digital public relations is the best way to build the highest quality backlinks, which serve as indicators—or votes—that convince Google your site is relevant, trustworthy, and valuable. These indicators will in turn help to place your university program higher up in the search engine results page (SERP). When you land a backlink from a domain authority of a website that is strong, then that helps to strengthen your own website. (The higher domain authority of a website, the more value for Google.) The larger media landscape is one of the best avenues to land high quality backlinks, because they have incredibly strong websites, and they are constantly looking for content.

By leveraging faculty members, a skilled communications team can build stories around professors and pitch them to the mainstream media as sources. It’s very difficult to acquire a profile in the Wall Street Journal or CNN, but a digital public relations team can pitch professors to take part in a larger conversation. For instance, as the news broke on the controversy between the FBI and Apple over an encrypted phone, a digital public relations team can pitch their professors in criminal justice and computer science to provide expert commentary on the story. Reporters will include quotes from the professor, and the public relations team will ask for a link within the article. To see more about our successes, you can read the following article: Tracking digital public relations with SEO goals.

Byline articles are another way to leverage faculty members to create high quality backlinks. (It’s best to have a team who understands how to pitch articles to publications, and it takes someone with a background in journalism or public relations to land these types of opportunities.) In order to build backlinks at high quality publications, the team will pitch article ideas generated in collaboration with the professor to editors. By collaborating with the professor, the team will send an approved article to the editor, and in the bio information on the site, the professor can add the link. The best communication teams provide ghostwriting services.

Expert commentary and byline articles are essential strategies that digital public relations teams implement to reach the highest quality publications, and by landing a link on these sites, it will help build your site’s domain authority as well as send indicators to Google that your site should be higher in the search results. Students will then find your program organically for your targeted keywords, which creates leads without spending any money.

 

2. Increase Brand Awareness

Online education is more competitive than ever, and one way that your program can position themselves in front of your targeted audience is by creating media opportunities at publications with large reaches. By leveraging publications that are trusted, you’ll establish your program as being on the cutting edge of their industries. This will send signals to potential students that not only are the program’s professors actively engaged in the research they’re teaching, but show prospective students that they will be a part of the most relevant conversations and receive an education that will propel their careers. This type of publicity can serve as an opportunity for a prospective student to interact with your brand in a unique way.

While many online programs have marketing strategies that focus on creating interactions with potential students through landing pages, social media, and websites, those brand assets might not initially convert the student because of a lack of clout. Brand awareness and trust can be an issue. Digital public relations begins to create interactions with potential students by leveraging vetted organizations in order to build upon their brand. By interacting with prospective students in a natural way, the message will sink in easier, and the brand assets as well as the larger content marketing strategies will only be strengthened.

 

3. Create a Path for Students

As digital marketers, we’re always trying to imagine the research process of how prospective students come to make a decision about signing up for an online degree program. When a student searches for information about a degree program further along in their decision process, what will they find? Will they simply come across the program’s web assets—or will they find that their program is in the news and that their professors are not just engaging in an academic community, but that they are trying to tell their program’s story to a larger audience?

Digital public relations changes the way that a student researches a degree program by creating a new digital narrative. For instance, a prospective student will benefit by encountering a story about a professor who is quoted in a larger article at the Los Angeles Times, discussing the future of their profession. Perhaps they will remember a professor’s name in the Wired article on the future of 5G technologies. Perhaps students can also come across how a professor is a part of the evolution of digital education and dedicated to creating the optimal environment for students to grow. Or perhaps a prospective student will benefit from seeing a profile highlighting a professor’s advancement in their field based on a new grant. What digital public relations helps with is creating a path, an outline, for students to follow in their research, which illustrates the career options they will have when they graduate.

 

4. Build Relationships with Professors

One of the thoughts that many stakeholders consider when investing in digital public relations is whether or not a marketing team can handle the complex nature of the academic world. In order to have professors invest their time into a digital public relations strategy, they need to trust the team they are working with and know that they will represent their work in the highest regard. So a digital public relations team working in education must have the ability to understand and translate complex academic topics into something that would make sense for the mainstream media.

It’s essential that digital public relations professionals are experts in the art of turning complex academic jargon into something more informal and journalistic. Often, our team has found that professors have no idea how to change their style, so we help them learn to tell their stories in a way that can attract major media outlets. Our team accomplishes this by staying up-to-date on industry trends, interviewing professors the same way a journalist would engage with them, and doing our homework on a professor’s research and background so we can prove to professors that we can not only represent their university but their own personal brands.

But most importantly, we help professors shape their stories outside of academia, and this often creates great relationships with the team and the professor. They value our hard work and expertise, and when professors see their names or bylines in leading publications, they appreciate the value of a larger marketing strategy. Digital public relations benefits both the program and their professors by supporting their research and academic interests. This helps bridge the gap between the marketing team and the individual stakeholders that make up the program. The more a professor’s work is promoted, the more they become thought leaders in their industry, and they will be sought after by other journalists and editors, leading to the opportunity to create new backlinks and touchpoints.

 

5. A Long-term Investment

When it comes to deciding how to spend resources in a marketing budget, the fundamental question every stakeholder wants to know is: What is my ROI? With paid search, a stakeholder in an online program can see how their money is being spent in the short term and evaluate their cost-per-lead as well as their cost-per-acquisition and quickly understand whether or not their strategy is working. While this is an essential part of the larger strategy, a diversified marketing approach will take into account how to leverage all available tactics and try to think about ways to maximize the budget spent on paid ads.

Digital public relations is different than paid search in the sense that it is a long-term approach, and it is essentially free advertising. By building up the number of touchpoints potential students have with your brand as well as the number of backlinks from high quality publications, digital public relations helps online university programs increase their organic rankings, and students will naturally find the degree program without paying for keywords or social impressions. It’s a strategy that pays long-term dividends when it is a part of the larger digital strategy, and it’s an worthwhile investment in the long haul.

To learn more about our digital public relations strategy, see our process here: Circa digital public relations

 

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.

5 Tips for Successful Media Relations

Developing strong and mutually beneficial relationships with reporters and editors is crucial to being successful in digital public relations, and it can make the job much more seamless and efficient. While it takes time to develop relationships with reporters and editors, the payoff from these relationships will be more than worth the investment. Here are five ways to ensure that your PR strategy is performing at an optimal level by pitching smarter, not harder.

Do your research and personalize accordingly

To make a good impression, it’s essential to research and understand a reporter’s beat before sending them a pitch. A beat refers to the topic that a reporter covers. For example, a reporter could cover something broad like crime, sports, or nursing, or it could be even more specific like the city hall or a local sports team. By taking an in-depth look at the stories they’ve covered and the articles they’ve written recently, you’ll be able to get a thorough understanding of the stories they’re most interested in and will therefore have a much better chance of pitching them something they’ll be receptive to. Also, sending them a pitch that does not coincide with their beat can be an obvious giveaway that you haven’t done your research and are instead just sending generic emails to multiple reporters, which could hurt your chances of working with them in the future.

Including a relevant news peg or recent research at the beginning of your pitch is essential to capturing a reporter’s attention and can entice them to continue reading. Sending information that is even slightly inaccurate will instantly send signals that you’re an unreliable source.

Follow up, but bide your time

Follow-ups are a crucial part of the pitching process; journalists are extremely busy people and it can be easy to for them to miss an email or simply forget to reply. It is important to wait long enough to give them time to respond but not so long that the story is no longer relevant. Waiting one week is a good rule of thumb, unless it’s a very time-sensitive subject, in which case it’s OK to follow up a couple of days sooner.

Follow-ups should only be a few sentences long and contain keywords from your original pitch, such as a news peg, statistic, or source, that will help to jog a reporter’s memory of your angle. You should also include the original pitch at the bottom of the email in case they want to refer to the more detailed version. A follow up email should always have a slightly different subject line while also incorporating the original one. For example, using “‘just following up” or “last try” tends to increase the open and response rates to your pitch.

Finally, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone when it makes sense, but always be mindful of a reporter’s time zone. You don’t want to call them early in the morning or late at night. Showing that you have an understanding of their schedule and are respectful of their time will go a long way in building a long lasting relationship.

Track pitches and wins

Keeping a list of media contacts that you have developed a professional rapport with can be a great way to maintain relationships and land easy PR wins in the future. It’s important to send these contacts personalized pitches and reference any previous work that you’ve done with them. This will help to show your appreciation for the media placements they have helped to facilitate and ensure that they remember who you are. You should be pitching these contacts often enough that you remain relevant in their mind but not so often that you are flooding their inbox, which tracking your pitches and contacts will help to manage.

Be timely

When working with the media, speed of response is critical to success. You cannot sit on a journalist’s response for a couple of days, or even a few of hours in some cases, without potentially losing the opportunity completely. Even if you don’t have a concrete answer for them right away, it’s important to at least let them know that you’re working on it so that they don’t seek out someone else instead. Not responding quickly is a sure fire way to damage a relationship with reporters and editors. You will only have one opportunity to get it right, so clear communication with everyone involved is vital.

Be prepared

Reporters may come to you just before they are about to wrap up an article requesting items like bio information and/or a headshot for a source you’ve helped to connect them with. Having these types of resources on hand at all times will ensure that you don’t delay the reporter or their article. As you build relationships, try to remember how specific journalists work and whenever possible, stay one step ahead of them by anticipating their needs or requests before they even ask. If you are able to do this, you are sure to be a contact the reporter will want to work with again.

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. 

5 Digital Public Relations Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Digital public relations is a relatively new strategy used in digital marketing to increase organic rankings. It’s a practice where higher education marketers utilize public relations techniques to leverage the expertise and research of faculty members in order to acquire program links on high quality domains and publications. It’s a very important and exciting component of our larger SEO strategy, but it does not come without its own specific set of challenges. Below I will discuss some of the obstacles that are commonly faced when implementing PR for higher ed clients and how to best overcome them to ensure success.  

1) The academic and media worlds move at vastly different speeds

Challenge: 

Professors are accustomed to more lengthy turnaround times as the academic world can be a slow moving one, but unfortunately the media industry works at a different pace. While a story can be plastered all over the Internet in one day, a few days later it can just as easily seem irrelevant and overdone. This can become problematic when professors aren’t familiar with the short length of news cycles and, therefore, don’t have the same sense of urgency. More importantly, professors are incredibly busy people, which can make delivering timely articles or setting up interviews while the topic is still relevant much more challenging.

Solution:


Our first priority is to always respect the professor’s time and obligations, which is why we will resort to alternative solutions to accommodate worthwhile opportunities when there is a conflict of time. One way we accomplish this is by offering to jump on a quick call with them to write down their response to a media inquiry (something like a HARO or ProfNet request). This can save a lot of time and hassle on their behalf. If the reporter or editor’s schedule does not align with the professor’s calendar, then we will seek alternative options, such as providing an emailed response instead of a phone interview. If neither of these options work, then we will leverage the expertise of another professor if it aligns with the reporter’s need. Reporters are often very open to this option, but when it comes to major publications like CNN or the New York Times, it’s essential to try and work around the reporter’s schedule, because being published in these type of high quality publications has an extremely low probability and will provide invaluable exposure. It’s very easy for one of these reporters to stop returning emails if scheduling is an issue. 

2) Professor inexperience with media interviews

Challenge:


Some professors are less experienced with the media than others and, therefore, are not familiar with the process or the best ways to interact with members of the media. This can lead to professors straying from the topic at hand in an interview or using jargon that is not relatable to the average reader. A lack of media experience can also cause professors to be uncomfortable or distrusting of the media, and as a result, prompt them to request things of reporters, such as a copy of the article or interview, that can create a roadblock in the process. In one case, we had a professor leave an interview feeling that the reporter did not properly grasp his research and because of this, he wanted to see a copy of the article beforehand. While such instances are uncommon, they are in many ways understandable. Professors often have important research and grants underway, as well as outside careers that they don’t want to tarnish or jeopardize in any way with a poorly worded quote or a misrepresentation of their work.

Solution:

We overcome such challenges by not only thoroughly prepping a professor for an interview (sometimes providing them with an outline of interview questions provided by the reporter) but also by reassuring them that our first priority is their reputation. One way we ensure that they are not put in an adverse situation is by being on their interview calls. Although it’s extremely rare that we need to jump in, we make a point of being present so that we are able to take action in the rare event that a reporter crosses the line or pushes them too hard. We are also not afraid to request that a story be pulled if we think it might put the professor in a bad light. Building trust and mutual respect with professors is crucial to being successful. Again, these are extremely rare occurrences, but we want to be prepared nonetheless. 

3) Professor inexperience with non-academic writing

Challenge:

A huge part of a professor’s workload and research consists of publishing their findings in lengthy academic essays. These types of articles have a vastly different style and tone than bylines, which are created for news sites and blogs. Helping professors to understand this distinct difference will not only improve the chances of their article being published, but will also ease the overall process by requiring less edits and feedback which could potentially offend them.  

Solution:

We try to be as clear as possible upfront about the stylistic differences between the type of writing they’re used to and the style of writing required for media outlets to avoid wasting any of their time. We also provide website guidelines and examples of other articles that they should stylistically model their own writing after. If we still still don’t feel that their article effectively embodies the style and tone of the site, then we will provide thorough edits, explaining our reasoning and reiterating that it is their article and ultimately their decision whether to accept our feedback or not. When we go through all of these steps, they usually have a greater understanding and trust in our expertise and are very receptive to our suggestions.

4) Strict university branding guidelines & parameters

Challenge:

Universities often have very specific branding guidelines that they don’t want tarnished or altered. This adds an additional layer of pressure and thoroughness to any marketing/PR efforts done on their behalf.

Solution:

To ensure that you stick within these guidelines, it’s important to always vet out publications who want to feature a professor or program. If you’re unsure whether a publication will be a positive reflection of the school, then it’s always better to air on the side of caution and pass on an opportunity rather than risk the program’s trust and reputation. Your first priority should always be to preserve and enhance the university’s image.

5) Understanding Complex Research and Making it Relatable

Challenge:

A major component of any successful digital PR strategy for higher ed involves being able to comprehend and leverage the research being conducted within the university program. This requires having a thorough understanding of the material, which can sometimes be complex, and knowing how to best position it to the media so that it gains traction and interest. It is also very important to the integrity of the professor’s work that you represent and pitch it accurately.

Solution:

In order to accomplish this, we conduct initial interviews with all of the professors we work with. This enables us to dig much deeper into their current research and areas of expertise than their basic online bio’s will allow. We continuously stay up-to-date on relevant industry news which shows us where their research and expertise fits into the larger media narratives and, therefore, sheds light onto how their research can be applied to real-world settings. For example, one of our professor’s specializes in medical coding, and a big industry narrative we leveraged for his expertise was the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10. While to the everyday person this might be mundane or unfamiliar, it was huge industry news that impacted most healthcare professionals nationwide. By subscribing to and reading healthcare news sites, we were able to effectively pitch and land placements in many relevant verticals for this professor.

Caroline-Black-and-White-tan-3-4Caroline brings a wealth of knowledge in communications, marketing, and account management to the Circa Interactive team. Graduating with honors  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.

The 2015 Higher Education Marketing Journal Year in Review

Here we are, back to work in 2016. The Higher Education Marketing Journal (HEMJ) had a momentous 2015, seeing a double in the number of subscribers. We are working to continue to create engaging and actionable content in the coming year to exceed the growth we have seen in the past few years. It has been a productive year at Circa Interactive, and we are happy to highlight our successful posts and content from 2015.

2016-01-04_10-11-55 (1)

Our HEMJ subscribers range from university marketing departments and leadership to some of the top digital marketers in the industry.

To highlight our successful HEMJ posts from 2015, I’ve separated them into the following categories:

  • Organic Social Media
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Digital PR
  • Student Generation
  • Online Learning

Our content team has built upwards of 30 articles this year describing various facets of higher education Internet marketing. The following are links to our popular posts in case you missed them!

Organic Social Media

Boosting Social Media Image

As the online education industry continues to grow, we’ve seen an increase in demand for a strong social presence for university programs and colleges. Social programs across various platforms work to dish out information surrounding degree programs, faculty, current students, alumni, and the larger program-specific industry. Regardless of the social platform, imagery is essential for engagement. Our head designer, Jordan Opel, describes how to create a custom image to build awareness for a university event.

Speaking of spectacular imagery, is your university program on Instagram? There are endless content ideas to share through this platform such as current students, research equipment, faculty highlights, and more. Our very own Audrey Willis offers six tips to boost your university’s Instagram presence.

Once your social platform is established and content created, the next step is to build engagement. Tami Cruz offers four strategic tips to boost your college’s social media engagement. Want to know who’s killing it at content and engagement? Public relations manager Caroline Khalili shares her five personal must-follow university social accounts.

Social Media Marketing

Untitled-1-01

When it comes to student acquisition in higher education, social media marketing is an increasingly valuable tool. The potential audience size and very detailed targeting features allow for effective spending of marketing budgets. Our paid search manager Andrew Glasser paves the way in this category with an insightful post into maximizing Facebook Ad performance.

With the growth in targeting abilities and tracking, Facebook has become a very strong contender for marketing dollars in higher education. While Andrew dissects the account specifics, our lead designer, Jordan, works on the creative front of Facebook advertising with this well crafted post describing how to construct a Facebook promoted post.

Just as important as Facebook advertising in higher education is the limitless abilities to target potential students through Linkedin’s robust marketing platform. Earlier this year, our CEO Robert Lee laid out his insights into Linkedin’s targeting with his post, “5 Ways to Target Potential Students with Linkedin Paid Ads.”

Facebook and Linkedin advertising have been open to the public for a few years now, but a more recent addition to the marketing field is Pinterest advertising, which opened reservation-based Promoted Pins on January 1, 2015. Our digital marketing intern wrapped up his time at Circa with a walkthrough of driving students to a university with Promoted Pins.

Whether you are pushing your social media marketing budget toward Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Pinterest or the various other platforms, our paid search manager has you covered. Here’s Andrew’s powerful marketer’s guide, “A Higher Education Marketer’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization: Paid Social.”

Digital Public Relations 

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 10.22.15 AM

We are happy to have introduced our newest service offering to our higher education clients in 2015: Digital Public Relations. This tactic combines traditional PR, SEO, Branding, and Student Acquisition and is a powerful strategy in the current online marketplace. The newest member to our PR team is George Bradley, a digital marketing specialist out of the UK. By creating content for a variety of degree programs, George is on the forefront of industry news and his latest post offers his top four online tools to discover content for a university PR strategy.

A valued tool that our PR team frequently leverages to pitch programs, professors, and content to journalist and editors worldwide is CisionPoint. Cision has recently merged with Vocus and is a database of contacts and outreach platform that is leading the future of digital PR. Don’t have experience with Cision? Our social media and PR intern Sarah Song put together a step-by-step beginner’s guide to Cision at the start of 2015.

Content Marketing

xocolate ATELIER

Content marketing has proven to be a valuable tool in digital marketing. Within the realm of higher education, there is a wealth of opportunity to produce consumable and engaging content to appeal to large audiences. Here at Circa, we create many different styles of content including videos, whitepapers, professor profiles, and infographics. Our marketing director and content marketing specialist, Frederic Lee (yours truly), put together two round-ups of his favorite higher education infographics in the industry: best health infographics and best business infographics in higher education.

We also released our very own infographic titled, “Creative Ways to Make Higher Education More Affordable.” This graphics aims to shed light on the opposite side of the college tuition rise debate by showing examples of ways universities are saving money. Take a look and feel free to share!

Student Generation

RETARGETING IMAGE

When it comes down to it, we are in the business of student generation. We aim to match potential students with the appropriate university program to meet and exceed their goals. Our COO, Clayton Dean, offers a decade of experience in student generation and shared his knowledge through two priceless posts in 2015.

Clayton’s first post is helpful for those university marketing departments who are struggling with where to push their marketing dollars. He offers two powerful ways to generate more leads on a limited budget. His next post points out a far too familiar scenario: A potential student visits your landing page, fails to convert, and goes on their way never to be heard from again. To tackle this issue, Clayton lays out 5 Reasons Why Setting Up Retargeting is Essential for Your Higher Ed Marketing Strategy. In addition to our COO’s valuable student generation posts in 2015, we published a contributor post from Josh Haynam, co-found of Interact. In this article, Josh introduces leveraging quizzes in higher education lead generation.

Online Learning 

online_degree_demand_hemj_post_image

The Higher Education Marketing Journal covers a large scope of online marketing tactics and strategy. Some of our most successful posts are high level articles about the online education industry and are written by our most experience contributors. CEO Robert Lee offered his insights on a market feasibility study to understand demand for an online program while our top contributor, Scott Levine, built two powerful posts that demonstrated his expertise in the industry.

Scott’s first post lays out a prescription for success for online nursing degrees and acts as a guide to those looking to push an RN-BSN online. Scott’s second post is a clever remake of Stephen Covey’s, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” By applying this post to the higher education industry, Scott created, “The Seven Attributes of Highly Effective Online Degrees.”

More to Come in 2016

As we pave our way into the New Year, expect to see consistent content being added to HEMJ from our variety of employees and contributors. If you’d like to see us tackle a specific issue relevant to you, don’t hesitate to comment below or send us a message here. We wish all of our subscribers the best in 2016!

Follow me on Twitter for more updates: @FredHigherEd

FreddieFrederic Lee has four years experience in higher education content marketing and SEO. 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 management of Circa Interactive’s successful internship program.