Learnings (and Mistakes) that Have Shaped My Communications Career in Higher Education

With almost 20 years on the marketing and communications side of higher education, I’ve learned a great deal from key stakeholders and my brilliant teams. But I’ve learned from myself and my mistakes, too. It’s amazing what can grow from a few blunders, helping you lead a more productive, informed and fulfilling career.

Following are six of the biggest lessons I learned from my own failures:

Communicate with everyone.

During my early years in higher-ed communications, I would communicate with one audience at a time. My approach was not as inclusive; and, I sometimes left out key audiences that needed to be informed.

Lesson learned! As higher-ed marketing experts, identify every possible communication channel to disseminate updates through a mix of university websites, videos, email, newsletters and live discussions, as well as through external media, social media, community partners and education outlets. Different audiences receive information from a variety of sources, so accessibility is important – accommodating the way they are informed. Transparency helps reach key audiences; so they are not only informed, but so they feel part of the conversation.

Delegate, delegate, delegate.

During my first job out of college, I tried to do it all. I wanted to prove to myself and others that I was capable and effective.  So I took on more work than I should, and, eventually, I started missing details – and I was not being very effective (and didn’t feel very capable). While I had good intentions, I was missing deadlines, making mistakes and feeling overwhelmed.

Delegation is important to a successful outcome. Your team is just that… a team, and delegation empowers all team mates to have a role and to feel involved in project success. When the right mix is involved, work gets done more efficiently and successfully. Delegation is a great way to coach and mentor, as well.

Give back – and Get Back.

In my early career, prior to getting involved in higher education, I was stuck, frustrated and not learning very much in my job. I was craving professional development and new challenges, and I made a mistake by waiting too long to satisfy this craving.

Then, I got involved with the American Cancer Society as a volunteer. With the sole intention of giving back to the community, I actually “got back” so much more from this experience.  Volunteering gave me the professional development I needed, while enhancing my communication and leadership skills.  Most importantly, I met a board member from Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver), and that introduction led me to higher education and long-term communications role at my current organization. So, expand your community, and more will come.

Course Correct.

We’re familiar with the expression, “Life is what happens while we are busy planning it.”  Well, the same holds true with our careers. I wrote a plan for a previous president, and then I got so focused on sticking to the communications plan — and then I missed a few opportunities.

While it’s important to have a plan, I also learned that it’s helpful to step back, evaluate, adjust and course correct when new opportunities develop – and challenges occur. I now accept that plans often need to be adjusted, and that’s a good thing.

Listen to All Stakeholders.

It’s easy to isolate yourself and your team in your work. I’ve done that many times, and learned the hard way about isolated thinking. Big mistake!

Learn from stakeholders from all sides — from students to donors to staff members to the community, as they all have something to teach you. They wear different hats and can collaborate and add perspective to university outreach and strategies.

Model and Mentor.

In my early years, I wanted to show my bosses and leaders that I could figure it out by myself.  While sometimes I could, I also found that I made some mistakes along the way and that I could have benefited from some extra guidance.

Eventually, I started working with a mentor who taught me new leadership skills. In return, I mentor students and professionals, to help them grow in their careers and foster new partnerships. After all, higher education is about teaching others, and it’s important to mentor and model throughout your career.

We can learn from so many teachers and leaders in higher education, including ourselves.  So embrace the blunders, and celebrate the lessons. There’s plenty to learn from our slip-ups!

About the Author

As the Chief of Staff and Vice President of Strategy for Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver), Catherine B. Lucas, APR, redefined MSU Denver’s brand in the higher education marketplace; spearheaded the legislative approval process to offer master’s degrees; and led the name-change transition from “college” to “university.”  She has earned a reputation for brand and reputation management, collaborative decision making and community engagement. 

13 Higher Education Marketing Conferences in 2018

With the online marketing landscape evolving quicker than most can keep up, successful digital marketing professionals work to stay on the cutting edge of technology and trends.

We can count on seeing immense changes from year to year. In 2017, we’ve seen significant updates and changes to marketing and social platforms across the web such as new features on Instagram and Snapchat, as well as marketing platform updates on Facebook and Adwords.

Highlights of the trends with the most influence that pushed digital marketing forward in 2017 were:

  • An ever-increasing focus on the consumer experience. Marketers are finally grasping that the consumer shapes the journey we create for them.
  • Analytics have more precision and power than we’ve ever seen before. The amount of data and the types of information you can gather from it is unmatched compared to previous years.
  • Data-driven executives are more sought out than ever. As companies aim to connect the vast amount of channels and consumer touch points, they must have leadership that understands and supports the sophisticated technology to make these goals attainable.
  • Better video content and more of it. Expect to see this increasing in the near future, with augmented reality taking the frontline of content.
  • Marketing companies turn into digital marketing companies. It isn’t enough anymore to maintain relevance outside of the digital world as a business. CMOs and CTOs are shifting their teams to think digital-first.

The Higher Ed Marketing Journal has shed light on a handful of these changes and trends during 2017 through valuable insights, including:

Additional trends to watch out for in 2018 include the boom of online video in social platforms, artificial intelligence and deep learning becoming more relevant in our everyday lives as it gets further ingrained into the technology we access to. There is also the continued growth of smartphone users in emerging markets, and the evolving power of Facebook advertising.

Digital marketing is more critical now than ever before in higher education and will only increase over time. Marketing higher education is multidimensional, as it expresses an institution’s brand while also educates potential students on topics they may already have a predisposition about, or are not fully informed on, such as online courses.

Experimentation is where a lot of marketers for higher education have been over the past few years, but with all of the tools and technology available to digital marketers come 2018, it is time to hone in available data and make strategic decisions to push universities forward towards growth.

To better understand where marketing is heading in the field of higher education and to realize opportunities for synergy through networking, a number of higher education marketing conferences are in place for 2018.


The 2018 Carnegie Conference

This student recruitment focused conference comes to Orlando in early 2018 and is designed for marketing professionals and staff at all levels of an educational institution. Aside from valuable insight from industry experts and carefully crafted presentations, the 2017 Carnegie Conference is taking place at Walt Disney World and includes exclusive access to backstage events.

When: Jan 17-18, 2018

Where: Orlando, Florida

Website: http://www.carnegiecomm.com/resources/the-carnegie-conference/


Traffic and Conversion Summit 2018

The Traffic and Conversion Summit is highly beneficial for all digital marketers. In 2018, there will be a large focus on conversion breakthroughs in a variety of different channels. If you are running any kind of paid campaign in higher education,  you need to make your way to San Diego for this information-packed conference.

When: Feb 24-28, 2018

Where: San Diego, California

Website: https://trafficandconversionsummit.com/


2018 CASE Social Media Conference

To stay up to date on the latest trends in social media, higher education professionals are attending this valuable conference in Spring 2018. This conference is appropriately named Social Media and Community and offers insight into strategic storytelling and social engagement in the realm of higher education. Hosted at the Hyatt Centric in New Orleans, this conference is designed for enrollment professionals, alumni engagement professionals, administration, and more.

When: March 14-16, 2018

Where: New Orleans, Louisiana

Website: http://www.case.org/Conferences_and_Training/SMC18.html


Digiday AI Marketing Conference 2018

If you love innovation, then the Digiday AI Marketing Conference is right up your alley. Here, marketers will learn how artificial intelligence can assist in the digital marketing world. Learn about how AI can assist in things like content creation, customer service (can be applied to the enrollment process), and internal data organization. The use of artificial intelligence in marketing is not far away, so it’s best to stay ahead of the curve.

When: April 11-13, 2018

Where: Santa Barbara, California

Website: https://digiday.com/event/digiday-ai-marketing-summit-2018/


The Adobe Summit 2018

Become an expert in being an experience-led business. Known as one of the largest digital marketing conferences today, the Adobe Summit offers more than 250 sessions and labs across specialized tracks to choose from with hands-on learning using Adobe’s marketing platform. Make connections with other digital marketers in your same space and industry all while learning cutting-edge digital marketing and trends for the future.

When: March 25-29, 2018

Where: Las Vegas, Nevada

Website: https://summit.adobe.com/


Digital Growth Unleashed 2018

This conference should be of interest to all those who are in higher education marketing based on its tagline alone – “Optimizing The Complete Customer Journey.” As marketers we all know that getting students to our sites is only half of the battle. At Digital Growth Unleashed you will learn how to create the most compelling user experiences and how to get the most out of each user. Not only will you learn the best tactics, but you will also be introduced to emerging technology that will help you along the way.

When: May 16-17, 2018

Where: Las Vegas, Nevada

Website: https://digitalgrowthunleashed.com/


SMX London

Digital marketers continue to hone their skills in search marketing and search engine optimization and the SMX London conference in 2018 is a powerful tool for further their education. Created by Search Engine Land, this international conference is sure to impress with a variety of workshops, expos and cutting-edge presentations. SMX London is located at 155 Bishopsgate on Liverpool Street in London.

When: May 22-23, 2018

Where: London, England

Website: http://marketinglandevents.com/smx/london/


SMX Advanced

This fast-paced digital marketing conference put on by Search Engine Land is designed for experienced marketers. If you are looking to skip the basic questions and dive head-first into some fast-paced sessions, this is the conference for you. Here you will learn a wide range of cutting-edge SEO and SEM tactics that will help advance your expertise.

When: June 11-13, 2018

Where: Seattle, Washington

Website: https://marketinglandevents.com/smx/advanced/


Vidcon

If you haven’t noticed, videos are becoming more and more popular in the digital marketing world. In higher education, it’s quite common to run into them on landing pages and as ads on social media. Learn the ins and outs of creating videos for the internet at this unique conference. Attending Vidcon will likely put you two steps ahead of your competition.

When: June 20-30, 2018

Where: Anaheim, California

Website: http://vidcon.com/


2018 eduWeb Digital Summit  

In Summer 2018  comes the annual eduWeb Digital Summit which offers tracks for any type of higher education professional. These tracks range from email marketing to data analytics, to mobile design and strategy. A variety of valuable workshops and networking events are offered to attendees to this innovative conference located at the Westin Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego.

When: July  23-29, 2018

Where: San Diego, California

Website: http://www.eduwebdigitalsummit.com/


Content Marketing World 2018

If you’ve spent any amount of time in digital marketing, then you likely know how important content marketing is. The Content Marketing World conference in Cleveland is jam-packed with speakers who are experts in content marketing. Here you will learn everything you need to know to build a content marketing strategy that will grow your school’s program or client’s program and inspire your audience.

When: September 4-7, 2018

Where: Cleveland, Ohio

Website: http://www.eduwebdigitalsummit.com/


HighEdWeb

In Sacramento this fall, higher education professionals can attend the HighEdWeb Annual Conference with keynotes from Tatjana Dzambazova and Felicia Day. The four-day conference is chalk full of creative workshops and well-planned track sessions including Here There be Dragons: Navigating the Faculty/Staff Divide and Shattering Silos: Sharing Science on Social. Don’t miss out!

When: October 21-24, 2018

Where: Sacramento, California

Website: https://2018.highedweb.org/


2018 Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education

Late 2018 promises to deliver the annual Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education which brings together a large group of higher education professionals and exceptional keynote speakers. This yearly conference offers a host of valuable networking opportunities with like-minded professionals.

When: November 4-7 2018

Where: Orlando, Florida

Website: https://www.ama.org/events-training/Conferences/Pages/2018-Symposium-for-the-Marketing-of-Higher-Education.aspx?tab=home&CalendarDate=12%2f5%2f2017


Converge 2019

Converge 2019 is an annual higher education recruitment and inbound marketing conference that hosts a number of interactive workshops and handpicked presenters from institutions such as Harvard, UNC Chapel Hill, and Temple.

When: Feb 19-21, 2019
Where: Atlanta, Georgia

Website: http://convergeconsulting.org/converge2017/

 


Want to know which conferences Circa Interactive is attending this year? Ask us in the comments below or Contact Us Here.

Special thanks to Frederic Lee for his contribution to this post. Follow him on Twitter @FredHigherEd

The Beginner’s Guide to Cision

With SEO professionals putting greater emphasis on links, PR has become a critical component in attaining top ranks. Whether you’re using PR for link building or working to leverage your professor as a thought leader in their industry, establishing a relationship with the media is a crucial tactic to any higher education marketing strategy. Often times maintaining this relationship can be the easier step, while reaching out for the initial contact can pose the biggest challenges to marketers. We recommend using Cision to help with media outreach and building relationship with reporters, publications and editors.

What is a Media List?

A media list is a list of the media contacts who would be interested in stories about your client, expert pitch or press release. These media contacts may include reporters, editors, bloggers, producers, freelance writers on both online and offline platforms. Cision enables the user to create media lists that include everything from national publications down to niche specific blogs.

What is Cision?

Cision is one of the leading tools PR and marketing professionals utilize when it comes to media outreach. By generating a catered list of reporters, journalists and editors, Cision allows organizations to directly reach out to professionals within specific research focuses. By keeping in mind a couple best practices and tips, marketing and PR professionals can improve both their response rates and general outreach skills.

Analyzing your Pitch

To start off, breaking down and analyzing your content is key to creating a good, targeted media list. Not only does the pitch have to provide newsworthy information, but the audience needs to be taken into consideration as well. The best approach to creating a pitch begins with the lead. The best pitches are able to present a current story and seamlessly tie in their product or expert. By creating a clear connection for your readers, you give your readers a reason to be interested with your pitch. As you create your pitch, you must be cognizant to stay within the time restraints of your story, especially when working around new, trending topics.

Research is Key

Once your pitch has been crafted, the next step is to research potential media outlets for those that best fit the client and pitch. By researching pertinent publications within the industry, marketing professionals can better understand the media and later determine how relevant their pitch is for that specific outlet. This is crucial when creating an effectively targeted list; if the list of contacts becomes too robust or unfocused, then the pitch can lose its relevance and newsworthiness, leading to a low response rate. Understanding the media cycle here is also an important component. You need to understand what your audience is currently writing about, and if the reporters are genuinely going to be interested in what you are sending them. The last thing you want is for them to unsubscribe. Thankfully, Cision offers a number of filters that will enable you to put your prior research to good use when it comes to building the list.

And Now The Distribution

To create a media list in Cision, you first begin with a search. The search tool allows users to filter through various subject matters, publication type, editors, bloggers and reporters at different outlets across the globe, all based off the criteria that you specifically want to search for. There are a wide range of filters here and it is certainly worth working out the filters that work best for you.

Screen Shot 2017-11-02 at 5.07.27 PM

You can also use these filters during your list creation to help narrow down your search. This will allow you to become even more focused, and we find this to be particularly helpful when your original search brings back a high number of results, like below.

Screen Shot 2017-11-02 at 5.13.20 PM

Your final list should look something like the one below. As you can see, on the left hand you can access all of the lists you have created easily. One thing that may also help is adding contacts from your existing lists to new lists (only when relevant).

Screen Shot 2017-11-02 at 5.19.46 PM

Following the creation of the media list and the finalization of the pitch, the distribution is ready to be sent out. Cision also allows users to schedule their outreaches, giving them the chance to reach their audiences during peak, optimal times.

Outreach can be a much more effective, efficient and less daunting process with tools like Cision. Cision isn’t cheap, but the investment is well worth it for SEOs and PR professionals looking to take their efforts to the next level.

Analyzing Your Results

The latest edition of Cision also provides analytics of each distribution that you send out. Simply go into ‘My Activities’ and click on the outreach that you would like to analyze. Here you can see the overall open rate as well as the specific individuals who opened your email and clicked on any links you included. This feature can be greatly beneficial when looking at who you may want to follow up with and who you should send future pitches to.

Screen Shot 2017-11-02 at 5.34.46 PM

In addition, when these distributions begin turning into media placements, Cision will monitor your results and inform you when an article or Press Release goes live. Other information provided also includes: Unique Viewers Per Month and Publicity Value.

Screen Shot 2017-11-02 at 5.49.28 PM

Earning media placements today in a very congested marketplace can be a difficult and an often thankless task. However, if you combine your pitching and list building efforts successfully, then there is every chance you will obtain the PR you are looking for. Cision 100% helps with our day to day tasks and has played a significant role in enabling us to get our clients the media coverage they are looking for.

If you have any questions on our pitch writing or Cision list building, then feel free to reach out.

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. 

Why Designers in Higher Ed Need to Simplify Their Ads

A few months ago, I watched an episode of Abstract–a series of documentaries about the art of design. The episode focused on Christoph Niemann, an illustrator best known for designing covers of the New Yorker magazine. What I learned most from the episode was his use of abstraction. Niemann could look at the world around him and use Legos to create what he saw. These weren’t extravagant Lego cities; they were just taxis and buildings made of less than a handful of pieces. The idea was to boil down one object to its most simple parts, keeping only what makes that object recognizable.

What I took away from this: Abstracting your work helps you conceptualize better in the beginning of your project. Once you have the general look and feel of your graphic, it’s easier to see whether adding more detail would help or hurt your design. It’s important for all artists and designers to keep things simple because less often says more, especially in higher education. Here are some lessons for designers in higher ed to help create simpler, yet more effective ads and images.

Don’t Be Afraid of White Space

Whether we stay home and watch T.V., browse social media while waiting for a coffee, or simply just drive to work, we encounter dozens of advertisements everyday. The ad could be a billboard, a sponsored post, or an image on the side of a browser window. If you want to design an ad that will get someone to visit your website or convert to lead, it’s important to catch their attention first. The average social media user has a small attention span. In my opinion, this has less to do with an impatient attitude and more to do with how often we have to dismiss the countless, irrelevant ads we are swarmed with.

Designers in higher ed want the viewer to read what is on the ad, but cluttered text will most likely deter them from reading even a couple of words. White space is essential to getting someone’s attention. As a designer, you have to be aware of your structure. Imagine a border of unusable space so you keep text and graphics from looking messy. The largest message should have the largest amount of space around it. This will help the viewer focus on the importance seeing that it stands alone, appearing more powerful than the logo and any other text.

Be Concise With Your Message

Your focus should be on what you offer; who you are comes next. Ads come in many different sizes–some long, some tall, and others square. This requires compromising of art and text. The essential pieces to your puzzle should be your school’s name, the program or major, and the art associated with that round of ads. Your message should be another piece, but if your art goes well enough with the message then you won’t need the message there every time. Try to keep your graphics as simple as possible and try taking out a unique piece of it that helps all the ads work cohesively. This helps when a prospective student goes from Instagram to desktop or from Facebook to Gmail.

The ads will change size, but the viewer needs to remember it’s the same school targeting them. Whether they notice the ad consciously or subconsciously, it’s best to brand your specific ad so it becomes more familiar. If the art you’re using can’t be simplified any smaller to fit the smallest ads, try using the same colors or textures. It’s okay if all the ads look different, they just need to look like a family.

Stand Out

It’s essential that your school stands out from the other schools also marketing to the same prospective student. Throughout most of my senior year of high school, I was getting emails and letters from colleges around the United States and online; many I had never heard of.

There were a few things I was looking out for when deciding on a college to attend:

  • Excellent art and design programs
  • Help into a design career
  • City with a lot of available design jobs

The problem with most ads I received was the fact that they didn’t target my interest but were more general. Instead of a woman in her mid-20s sitting in the grass on her laptop, why not target my interest in art by showing actual art? An ad targeted towards my interests could show an artist working or it could be as simple as an interesting digital art piece made by an alumni.

How I Have Created Ads

American University wanted new marketing ads for their education programs. They already had a specific type of imagery and a strong message that went along with it. The illustration has mostly brand colors so it only made sense to keep up with that theme.

America University_learning disabilities_sm

The full design was pretty elaborate, but the most important elements were the raised hands to go with “raise your hand if you believe..” I tried to keep the message on sizes such as 320×50 px, but it just wasn’t looking right. The message was losing its impact the smaller it got. I had to compromise the message by replacing it with of a couple of the “raised hands.” This kept the theme consistent and hinted at the message.

The other problem with the graphic was that it was busy. I couldn’t use red, white, or blue for the text if it went over the imagery because it would get lost. I didn’t want to compromise the brand colors so red and blue shapes were used to block the imagery. This also worked to declutter the space around the text so that it could be read with more emphasis.

AmerUni_SPED_remarketing_320x50AmerUni_SPED_remarketing_320x100

AmerUni_SPED_remarketing_336x280AmerUni_SPED_remarketing_200x200AmerUni_SPED_remarketing_728x90AmerUni_SPED_remarketing_160x600

Conclusion

With every type of design, problem solving is crucial. If the imagery didn’t use brand colors, it would be okay to use colors based off of the imagery alone. As a designer, especially in higher ed, sometimes you don’t get a choice of what fonts, message, or imagery is going to be used. Clients may ask for something specific, but they also trust your design instinct. Go with your gut and make them see that what they want may not be what looks or works best.

 

meGabrielle Brambila is a graphic designer for Circa Interactive. She is a recent graduate from San Diego State University with experience working as a designer for an on-campus entrepreneurship organization. Her passion for illustration and photography inspire her to create something new and unique every day.

Education Market Research Tips for Programs in Higher Ed and K-12

What is Program Market Research?

The goal of program market research is to understand the competition, demand, and trends for specific programs or courses within a university or K-12 environment. Program market research can also provide insight into how a program or course should be designed based on current and future demand, in addition to how it should be positioned from a creative standpoint within the larger education market. This type of analysis can provide much more confidence to an organization that a program will be successful once launched.

Why is Higher Education Market Research and Program Feasibility Important?

The world of education has only gotten more competitive over the last ten years. With the rise of for-profit education, in addition to the adoption of online learning and MOOC’s, education has become both more accessible and more competitive. Prior to launching a new degree program or course, schools must complete a stringent market research analysis in order to ensure success.

Why is K-12 Market Research Important?

Completing market research for K-12 environments is important as it can shine light onto not only what is in demand from a course perspective, but also how it should be delivered. Classrooms continue to advance in regards to what medium subjects are delivered to students in, and keeping up with trends around how information is consumed by adolescents can be demanding. Market research for K-12 can ensure that the right programs and courses are created, which will in turn deliver education in a mode that is successful.

What is the Market Research Process?

The market research process can generally be broken down into three core sections, with each focusing on the three core principles of competition, demand, and trends.

1. Primary Research

Through a combination of qualitative strategies (focus groups and stakeholder interviews) and quantitative research, information is gathered around education drivers as well as large data sets upon which to formulate and execute plans. We follow a research trajectory that begins with qualitative findings that, in turn, inform cogent, useful surveys. We partner with an Ivy League university’s Survey Research Center to manage data-gathering efforts from hundreds or thousands of stakeholders to provide quick, efficient, and illuminating data with which to make decisions about online programs. Primary research tools include:

  • Surveys
  • Focus Groups
  • On ground program data

2. Competitive Analysis

Understanding the competition is an extremely important step in determining program viability. While understanding program demand is important, many times the barriers to entry and the cost to compete are too high to warrant an investment. Benchmarks are generally used to determine how a program or course stacks up compared to others, and can be a good way to determine ROI. Competitive research tools include:

  • Google trends data
  • Google keyword planner data
  • Keyword Spy (analyze competitors paid advertising strategies

3. Secondary Research

Looking to outside resources for insights into program demand can help ensure success. Compiling and analyzing data from existing resources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Department of Labor, local/state/regional agencies, IPEDS, job search web sites, and accrediting bodies can determine benchmarks and requirements, as well as short and long term labor market demands.

What Are the Best Market Research Tools?

There are a wide array of free and low-cost tools that are available to individuals looking to complete market research around a program. The following are just a handful of what is available:

  1. https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/ – Insight into consumers via surveys, trends over time in search queries, and benchmarks for display related efforts.
  2. https://adwords.google.com/home/tools/keyword-planner/ – Understand the cost-per-click and search volume around core keywords that your potential audience might be searching.
  3. http://fedstats.sites.usa.gov/ – Centralized location for federal government data including insights into career and education data.
  4. https://www.surveymonkey.com/ – Complete surveys of core stakeholders and faculty.
  5. http://www.pewresearch.org/download-datasets/ – Large data sets to help provide insight into potential program target markets.

How Can Market Research Inform What to Introduce?

The insights acquired from program market research can shine light onto what programs to introduce based on demand and current competition. Insights from BLS data and other job related data can help to determine what types of degree programs are going to be, or are currently, in demand based on career data. Google trends and keyword data can inform how saturated a market is and can also illustrate how much it will cost from a marketing perspective to enroll a student.

How Can Market Research Be Used to Define Marketing Strategy?

The competitive analysis that is performed during program market research will also focus on the brands of the competition. With education continuing to get more competitive, having a brand that is unique in the market can help to attract students and lead to more organic PR. Insights from this analysis and internal stakeholder interviews will provide insight into what the creative messaging should be for the programs in addition to  what markets to enter and which demographics to target.

By completing a thorough program market research initiative, universities and schools will enter the program creation process more informed about what should be introduced and how it should be positioned within the market. This type of information will help to ensure program success and will also provide upfront insight into costs and metrics, which can prove to be instrumental during the planning and budgeting phase of a new launch.

 

Robert LeeRobert offers a decade of demonstrated digital marketing expertise, and he has provided results to clients both within and outside of higher education while working as an analyst, team lead, and director. He has planned and implemented digital marketing campaigns for a number of large universities throughout the United States, and he leads Circa on all aspects of client strategy. Before founding Circa Interactive, Robert led digital marketing teams at the higher education organization Embanet.

Three of the Best Books to Transform Your Digital Marketing Company

Over the last few years, our team has been looking for ways to transform our company, push our creative abilities, and ensure that we are constantly evolving to provide better results for our higher education clients. So, our leadership team asked a tough question: How do we ensure that we’re not getting stagnant? Well, the solution was pretty simple. We needed to learn from other professionals, inside and outside of digital marketing. We’re not in the higher education space simply because we believe there is an opportunity in the industry to provide better marketing efforts; we’re in higher education because we believe in the power of higher education. Therefore, we personally challenge ourselves and all of our employees to never stop learning, and I have read a few books that I think are important to help transform any digital marketing company.

1. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

deep-work-cal-newport

Cal Newport, an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, asks a simple question in his new book, Deep Work: How can an invidual focus on the tasks that matter most? This is a question I have been pondering for a while. In the digital world, there are so many distractions, and our clients’ goals are big (rank #1 for computer science online), and they take sustained effort and creativity.

But when you break down the types of work that digital marketers have, it comes down to deep and shallow tasks. Shallow work consists of all the emails, the admin, the busy work that is necessary but doesn’t require a lot of brain power, and Deep Work consists of the big tasks that can move a company forward. For example, filing a report for your client on how many links you built in Q3 is a necessary task, but it’s somewhat superficial work. However, creating a strategy overview that will help that same client rank number one for a relevant student-generating keyword can directly impact a company’s bottom line.

Cal Naughton examines how to build a working life where there is more focus on the deep work. Some of the biggest takeaways from his book are as follows:

  • Social media is a distraction: Yes, I know this sounds like blasphemy. Even though digital marketers need to have a social presence and maintain the knowledge of trends, the constant chirps of tweets and notifications from Facebook and other platforms will distract you from deep, focused work. Turn off your notifications—or completely remove yourself from social media when you’re under a deadline or working on a big project.
  • Slack and other workplace communication platforms can be great, but they can also kill your productivity. If you’re on Slack, then you are probably aware of how many times you’re interrupted by a notification or a message. This constant form of communication helps teams stay connected, but it also distracts individuals. Turn off the Slack function or hit the snooze button and allow your mind to stay immersed in the bigger projects.
  • It’s important to think about focus as a muscle. It’s something you can train. The more you focus on deep work, the more your mind develops. You’re literally developing your neural circuitry. If you can focus on a task, you’re not just being more productive, you’re working on the very structure of your mind to perform at a higher level. Time productivity sessions and follow the Pomodoro technique.
  • While there is a lot of focus on being productive and efficient in the workplace, it’s important to take the same lessons for deep work in the office and apply them to your personal life. For example, Cal Naughton mentions that your mind isn’t like your bicep, which tires after exercise. Your mind never stops, but what it needs is different forms of activity. So, while you might have an important deadline to meet with your client, it’s important to take the time away from your work and focus deeply on relaxing or another activity. Give your mind a break and schedule “free” time for your mind to wander.

2. The Undoing Project: A FRIENDSHIP THAT CHANGED OUR MINDS.

9780393254594_198Michael Lewis is, of course, famous for many books, including Money Ball, but what Lewis didn’t know when he wrote Money Ball was that he was going to miss something critical to the history and logic of his most famous book. In the beginning of the book, readers learn that Lewis owed many of the lessons in Money Ball to two Nobel Prize winners and Israeli psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky.

Basically, the book is about how Kahneman and Tversky created a Nobel Prize-winning theory and how that theory altered our perception of reality. It sounds complicated but there is a key lesson that digital marketers can take from the book: Humans are inherently emotional, not logical. What Kahneman and Tversky were able to show through their studies was that people were making poor judgments in uncertain situations, and they relied on their gut rather than data and logic.

So, what does this have to do with digital marketing? It comes down to a key lesson in communication that can help digital marketers talk to their clients and co-workers. Since individuals make decisions based on emotion, it’s important to recognize how issues are framed. Kahneman and Tversky’s studies showed that people changed the way they responded to situations depending on how it was framed. This is an important lesson for digital marketers. If we can think about how to frame strategies, ads, content, etc., to our clients or to the marketplace, then we may be able to push initiatives that are risky yet rewarding and help educate our clients on the benefits of a digitally focused strategy in the world of higher education.

3. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

creativity_incOut of all the books, Creativity, Inc. might have been the most enjoyable. It’s not just because it’s an unbelievable treasure trove of advice on how to build a creative organization, but it also goes into great detail about how Pixar was created as well as behind-the-scenes insight into their movies.

Storytelling is the root of great digital marketing campaigns, and Pixar and Disney are the best storytellers in our world. What is key about the book is that in order to build an organization that is focused on quality storytelling in their messaging, it’s essential to build candor and positive feedback into their organization. If a company does not share the ability to be candid with each other because of hierarchies that stranglehold opinions, then the organization will never grow.

Everyone in the Pixar building, according to Ed Catmull, from the janitor to the director, has the ability to create an idea that will move a project forward. (Think about Ratatouille and the expression: “Anyone can cook.”)

In our organization, we’re trying to find ways to strengthen the structure that breeds candid and constructive feedback. One suggestion in the book is to hold “Notes Meetings.” It’s a simple concept. Individuals in the company submit questions to a leadership team on things they are struggling with. It doesn’t have to relate to a specific department, and the leadership picks the questions and sends them to the team. Then they have a meeting where everyone freely tries to problem solve the issue. This is an opportunity to improve the way feedback is delivered and develop candor. Great ideas can not become great unless they are challenged by people who care about mutual success.

21122451_10100725895142291_2139116181006518570_o (1)

Joseph 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.

Five Trends That Are Encouraging the Adoption of Tech in Higher Education

In recent years, technology has vastly transformed the higher education scene. Colleges across the country have implemented various innovative methods to advance learning spaces, remodel their libraries and bolster campus security. 2017, in particular, has seen laptops, tablets, ebook readers and fitness trackers become must-have accessories for many college students. Even virtual reality has found a place in enhancing the teaching of certain concepts in the classroom.

As manufacturers and developers continue to prioritize higher education, the impact of technology in colleges and universities is poised to become even more significant in the future. Below are five trends that are spearheading the adoption of technology in the institutions of today and tomorrow.

1. Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality

The world is on the verge of major changes regarding how we all interact with our computing devices. Tech giants like Google, Apple, and Microsoft have been consistently investing in new forms of human-computer interaction (HCI) – notably VR, AR and MR – and products like the Microsoft HoloLens are already influencing the types of hardware and software that are in use in colleges.

This trend is even more compelling when we think about combining VR, AR, and MR with other HCI technologies like cognitive computing and artificial intelligence. As HCI continues to gain traction in higher institutions of learning, the future may see the development of more devices and platforms that combine AI with VR/AR/MR for a more comprehensive experience. Holograms could replace physical bodies in classrooms, and students will perhaps be able to pick their preferred learning setting, such as studying by a brook, or in a virtual Starbucks.

2. Simulation-based Learning

Educators are increasingly employing simulation techniques to facilitate active learning through repetitive and thought-provoking practice in safe, life-like environments. These virtual worlds provide to students a unique opportunity to apply knowledge and make critical decisions while incorporating some immediate feedback or reward system, which makes it easier to grasp hard sciences like biology, anatomy, geology, and astronomy.

Drexel University, for example, has collaborated with Tata Interactive Systems to provide a simulation-based learning system for their online forensic students, where they can conduct clinical assessments in the aftermath of a violent crime. A 3D virtual crime scene, complete with clues and continuous feedback, makes forensics fun and exciting.

3. Internet of Things

Although IoT technologies are primarily focusing on the consumer field, higher education holds a lot of untapped potential for the concept. Smart cities and smart campuses, for instance, are areas of keen interest among tech developers. Some systems in colleges, such as light controls, sprinklers, parking space monitors and building alarms are already internet connected and are significantly improving operations. Future iterations of IoT will likely be more intelligent, requiring less human interaction.

The Internet of Things could also motivate higher learning institutions to create IoT degrees and certificates that meet the changing job market. The “new intelligent things” such as drones and robots are expected to motivate the creation of more than 100,000 jobs by 2025. This will likely drive institutions to introduce new programs, similar to the way hacking has presently driven cyber-security degrees.

The Unmanned Vehicle University is among the few institutions addressing the market by offering programs in Unmanned Systems Engineering. With IoT steadily growing its impact on our world, however, it won’t take long for others to follow suit.

4. Digital Literacy

While previous generations of learners first experienced technology at school, today’s students first interact with technology for entertainment and social communication. This path has put  strains on institutions to incorporate college-friendly devices into their education systems.

Because smartphones and computers now feel as natural to students as pens and books, colleges and universities are looking into lessons that encourage them to solve real-world problems using modern technology. In some schools, an English composition course includes creating a blog and reading web scripting, while in others, history students learn how to visualize and map information digitally.

The intent of this approach is to create self-directed learners, who know how to put together the technologies they’re already familiar with to find up-to-date information and create new solutions.

5. Blockchain and Credentialing

Blockchain may not seem relevant to institutions of higher learning until we discuss it around the aspects of badging and credentialing. In essence, Blockchain is shaping up to become the technology that enables students and young professionals to maintain lifelong, cloud-based learner profiles, which can accumulate qualifications and badges based on courses and programs. Employers would then use these profiles to identify their future employees.

Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn last year, which had itself acquired Lynda.com in 2015, is proof that learner credentialing via blockchain could take off in the coming years. Now, if a student takes a course at Lynda.com, their LinkedIn profile reflects it.

The push into artificial intelligence by Microsoft and other major companies could play into creating a marketplace where employers easily find qualified and competent employees online. Institutions of higher learning will likely be among the main contributors of data into these profiles.

Final Words

Recent advances in technology, coupled with the escalating demand for quality education are forcing greater scrutiny on the value that institutions provide to students. Consequently, educators are changing the way they teach, strategically incorporating a variety of innovations and team-based methods of delivering content.

If the trends above continue to gain ground, the near future may see even more disruptions to traditional learning experience, with more institutions experimenting and embracing new strategies.

Vigilance Chari currently covers tech news and gadgets at LaptopNinja. She is an International presenter and published author. When not writing, she spends her time as an enthusiastic professional party planner and part-time painter.

5 Qualities of High-Converting College Websites

At Circa Interactive we’re fortunate to work with a few outstanding partners. Below, our friends over at Finalsite put together five useful tips to increase the conversion rate on your institution’s website. Enjoy!

 

The term “conversions” covers a wide landscape of actions happening on your college or university’s website. It can mean a prospect did something as small as subscribing to your bi-weekly newsletter, or something as big as applying. It is the term used when a current student purchases a ticket for an upcoming football game, when a parent orders some swag, and when alumni make donations. In short, a conversion happens every time a form is submitted on your website.

When someone makes the decision to submit a form, it means that the perceived value of what you’re offering them is greater than giving you their personal information, their most prized possession in today’s world of sponsored posts and spam.

 

Therefore, a high-converting website has five main components:

 

  1. A website that drives qualified website traffic: The first part of getting conversions is getting qualified visitors to specific pages of your site.
  2. A semi-controlled website experience: You want certain visitors to go to certain pages and forms, so guide them there.
  3. Content that influences a conversion: Use visual and textual storytelling to appeal to the logos, ethos, and pathos of your target audience.
  4. Forms that facilitate a conversion: Your form length should vary based on what the user is receiving in exchange.
  5. Follow-up campaigns that engage a recent conversion, and nurture a future one: When someone converts, it means they’re interested in something — so never lose out on an opportunity to capitalize on that momentum.

 

Let’s dive into a little more detail on each of these five qualities:

1. A website that drives qualified traffic.

83% of search query paths (AKA, a simple Google search) begin with an

unbranded term such as “best colleges in Georgia for chemistry,” or “affordable liberal arts colleges.” This means that less than 20% of searches include a specific college or university name.

While this data may be a sign word-of-mouth-marketing (WOMM) may be dead, it’s also a sign that getting qualified traffic to your website is harder than ever. In addition to the mass amount of website traffic stemming from unbranded

searches, 60% of all organic clicks go to the top three search results. (Top of

the page means top of mind for lazy, quick-to-make-a-decision high school students.)

So how exactly do you combat this to drive qualified website traffic and boost your conversion rate? You have two main options:

  1. You can implement an SEO strategy to earn your website and its pages a Page 1 presence. This is a critical long-term strategy, but doesn’t always yield the best short-term results due to its complexity and time it takes to earn authority.
  2. You can invest ad dollars into a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ad or social media ad strategy. These strategies often yield to best and most immediate results as you have more control over the journey the website visitor takes. For example, when someone searches for “best liberal arts colleges in MA,” you can pay to direct them to a landing page about your school’s liberal arts programs with a form to learn more.

 

A combination of SEO and PPC will be most successful, but if you’re looking for an immediate fix to drive new conversions, go with PPC.

Pro tip: When you send a searcher to a specific landing page on your website with a form, be sure to remove the primary navigation to further “force” a conversion. You can include your navigation on the “thank you” page.

 

2. A semi-controlled website experience.

The website experience can begin in search, but when it begins (or progresses) to your website, you’re also going to want control. This comes in two main forms: Calls-to-Action (CTAs) and specific landing pages.

A good first step to a successful CTA strategy usually begins by placing 2-3 CTAs right above the footer, as the bottom of the page is one of the highest-converting locations. However, the CTAs used on each page should vary based on the content and end-goal. For example, admission pages should have CTAs that drive traffic to inquiry and open house forms, while athletic pages should have CTAs that drive traffic to pages where they can read athletic success stories or meet with a coach.

While CTAs can be used to drive traffic virtually anywhere on your website, you’ll want to use them to drive traffic to specific landing page. Landing pages are where you earn your conversions.

A different landing page should be made for every type of conversion on your website. These pages include a form, as well as compelling content that influences them to fill out that form. When you build a landing page, it is a best practice to have the following content:

  • A value proposition
  • Photos or a video
  • Testimonials and social proof

 

3. Content that influences a conversion.

Take a quick moment and do a role reversal: If you were a prospective student who just did a broad search in Google, and you were sent to a plain page with a form, would you fill it out? Or, if you were an alumni who just received an email to give back, and were sent to that same type of page, would you give back? Chances are, that’s a resounding “no.”

Conversions require content. And lots of it. Your school’s homepage, interior pages, and landing pages all require content that engages a particular target audience. Content should appeal to all stages of the applicant’s journey through awareness, consideration, and decision.

As you build out your content and website pages, ask yourself:

  • Who would find this content useful or interesting?
  • When should we share it?
  • How should we share this content?
  • Where should this content live?
  • What happens next?

Content is a broad term, but the most effective forms of content are social and authentic — meaning look to student testimonials, a student-run blog, and social media to serve as your primary source of content.

4. Forms that facilitate a conversion.

Forms may appear to be the easiest part of a high-converting page, as they are the tool used to gather information. But for that exact reason, they are complex.

Forms need to appeal to two very different types of website visitors:

  • Low-Commitment Visitors: These individuals are just shopping and browsing. Therefore, they are less likely to give you a lot of personal information. Forms for low-commitment visitors include pieces of content (like an informative whitepaper) or a newsletter subscription. Keep the form only 3-4 form fields in length for optimal conversion rates.
  • High-Commitment Visitors: These individuals already know and love your school. It doesn’t matter how long your forms are, or how hard they are to find, they’re ready to fill them out.

Most of your website visitors — especially those in the awareness phase of their journey — will fall into the low-commitment visitor category. It’s important to have a mix of forms that appeal to low-commitment and high-commitment website visitors to fill your admissions funnel. For example, a newsletter sign up form with 1-2 form fields will help fill the top of your funnel, while a longer open house visit form that is 6-8 form fields will help fill the middle of your admission funnel.

 

5. Follow-up campaigns.

When someone makes a conversion, that’s their way of raising their hand and saying “hey, I’m interested!” And, you should use every digital opportunity you can to spark another conversion. Here are some good tools to have handy:

  • A Thank-You Page: This is the page that comes after the form submission. Here, it is a best practice to have the content/information related to the form submission, as well as other similar content they may be interested in.
  • A Page Pop: Putting a PagePop on a thank you page provides you real estate to drive traffic to a specific page or form to move your user further down the funnel.
  • A Follow-Up E-mail: Whenever someone submits a form, there should always be a follow-up email with the information requested, and additional information.
  • Email Campaigns: Based on form submissions, build different email campaigns. For example, individuals who have only filled out your inquiry form, but have never attended an open house, should receive nurture emails to spark a conversion on that form. Another example is alumni who have signed up to volunteer but haven’t donated money. Today’s consumer requires specific, personalized content to move them down the funnel.
  • Social Media Campaigns: Instagram and Facebook are two great social media networks where you can go after those who have converted on your website. In this case you can remarket to them and drive them to new pages on your website on which they may be interested, and where you can garner another conversion.

For more tips and strategies for a high-converting website, download Finalsite’s eBook “The Ultimate Website Guide for Colleges and Universities.”

3 Creative Ways to Attract Prospective Students to Your College

Higher Education Marketing Challenges

Today in the United States there are approximately 5,300 colleges and universities. With such a large number of schools, todays higher education market has become as competitive and  challenging to navigate as ever.  Traditional marketing techniques are no longer sufficient to attract new students. It is now crucial for colleges and universities to understand and market the importance of innovation, social responsibility, and new technologies to attract the current college-bound generation.

Who is a prospective student?

To effectively attract new students, it’s important to first identify prospective students. There are two types of prospective students– those who are aware of your school and those who are not. Initially the goal is for both types to choose your college/university. And even if the goal is the same, the approach should be slightly different.

What are prospective students looking for?

1. Students aware of your institution most likely have a list of schools and programs they are interested in. The first place they will seek more information is the school’s website. To remain effective, Higher Education website should be:

  • Mobile friendly – most of the times the first interactions with the website happens from mobile devices. Having an easy to navigate mobile friendly website is a key not only for a user, but also for search engines.
  • Easy to navigate – colleges and universities websites usually are quite large and complex. By making sure the website has a clear navigation system with the most important pages no further than 3 clicks away from the home page a search box, and a request form on the homepage provides an easier flow through the website and a better user experience.
  • Informative – when creating content, schools should not forget who they are trying to reach. The content should focus on the reader and provide insightful information, tips, and best practice guides, news and other. In other words, always consider what a student wants to know rather than what an institution wants to inform a student.

2. The next group of students to consider are those who haven’t decided on their top 10 schools and still are looking around. To increase brand and program awareness there are a few things colleges and universities should do.

  • It’s not a secret that Pay-per-click (PPC) is a great channel to use in order to introduce new prospective students with schools and their programs. It works exactly the same way when new brands and businesses want to be found by customers. Google Adwords, Bing, Linkedin, Facebook and Instagram are main channels to go for. By creating a strategic lead generating PPC campaign, universities can increase the number of students signing up for programs or seeking more information.The only drawback of using these channels is the cost.
  • Higher education institutions should also make sure their websites are optimized for on-page SEO.

New ways to attract prospective students

There are many ways to reach future students. Traditional methods such as high schools visits, educational fairs and print material are still very useful way to market colleges and universities.  However, these methods might not be enough to make a university stand out among competitors. To reach prospective students where it will make an impact requires a tailored approach to the incoming students media habits.

  • Snapchat –  not merely a popular social app, Millennials are now using Snapchat as a form of news or following beloved brands. According to Lendedu, an online student loan marketplace, 58% of college students are checking Snapchat first, Instagram second and Facebook last. Snapchat reached a high interest and popularity not only among  users, but also brands and colleges. For example, in July 2017, The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay sent the acceptance announcement to the student via Snapchat with animated video confetti.

Schools can create their own geofilter that allows students to use it when they are on the campus or at specific events. These type of filters appear on the user’s display allowing them to get a closer look at the real life of that school. It promotes brand awareness, as well as serves as a great advertising for school. Snapchat opens a door to promote the schools the best way possible. It can show the unique personality of the school and create a connection with current students, as well as help them keep in touch with alumni.

  • Live Videos –  Blogs and other written content are still relevant and very important for digital marketing. Schools should use as many ways to interact and connect with millennials. Live videos are a great way to do so. It allows viewers immediately engage with current events. A lot of higher education institutions already publish various content to Youtube, but live streaming that functions similar as Snapchat could support the interaction with potential students and alumni right here and right now by showing schools’ events, lectures and other creative content.
  • Influencers – From the recent study millennials rely on word of mouth more than other adults when researching consumer goods. This study could identify millennials trusting only honest and true opinions by the people they respect and look up to.Today there are so many influencers in various areas starting from entrepreneurs to style blogs. Higher education institutions should keep relationships with alumni and try to follow their journey after the graduation. By keeping close relationships with influencers is a way to attract their followers to the school. Schools should organize panel style meetings with influencers where they could share their experiences with audience and answer their questions. This type of relationship would promote different school programs and brand awareness.

Millennials tend to choose brands that have a clear voice, character and are creative. With today’s technologies, social media platforms and apps there are endless ways colleges and universities could promote their school and program, as well as show their personality to prospective students.

 

Martyna's headshotMartyna is a graduate from Vilnius University in Vilnius, Lithuania. With 2 years experience in digital marketing industry, Martyna adds in-depth understanding of on-page and local SEO to the Circa team. Her passion and continual education in SEO initiatives help contribute to Circa’s expanding higher education digital marketing presence.

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.