Posts Tagged 'Public Relations'
Tags: Academics, Higher Education, Public Relations, Social media
Tags: Blogs, Higher Ed Live, Higher Education, PR, Public Relations, Social media, Twitter, Universities
Andrew Careaga, from Missouri University of Science and Technology, is doing a live chat with Seth Odell later on today on Higher Ed Live about the future of PR in Higher Education and has asked for any thoughts, so thought I’d give my two cents and pose some questions.
Andrew asks what sort of direction we see it heading in.
- In the UK, in the short-term we’ve seen much more scrutiny of the university sector following the rise in tuition fees up to £9k. I think increasingly you’ll see PR teams responding to stories about contact hours, student rights, degree quality – even if they’d prefer the focus was on research
- A greater focus on promoting the digital presence of individual academics, i.e. their blogs, videos, tweets. Especially in large institutions, PR teams will become a focal point for distributing this content out to other audiences (not necessarily the MSM), rather than creating content via their own press releases
- Specialist ‘press office/comms social media feeds (such as Imperial Spark) rather than the PR team having direct control of social media, due to student enquiries
- Don’t think there will be a move away from press releases (or media relations) in the near future. For better or worse, they still appear to work for achieving local and national coverage in some cases.
At a time when more (especially younger) academics are blogging, tweeting and establishing a digital presence themselves, should PR departments be concerned about this, or simply accept that this is a trend they can’t stop?
How do you achieve buy-in from senior management for resources in PR departments (ideally not as the result of a massive crisis)?
When does PR teams engaging with audiences (via digital media) etc, especially when those audiences are prospective students, become marketing? Should we begin to abandon the distinctions between PR/marketing and alumni relations/internal comms?
Are there any particular lessons the UK could learn from the US in this area (or vice versa)?
Join in – it’s at (if I’ve got my time zones right), 9pm UK time.
Tags: coral, Digital media, Higher Education, Public Relations, Universities, videos
Many universities are now producing videos, whether in-house or via external agencies. We’re familiar with those aimed at recruiting students, particularly on the international stage. But if you’re producing videos from a PR perspective, I think it’s important to ask – what are they for?
The below is a video I put together last year to accompany research on how a compound found in coral protects it from getting sunburnt, and the potential for this to be the basis for new sunscreen protection in humans. Unfortunately I didn’t personally shoot the underwater footage from the Great Barrier Reef – I doubt there is a single PR budget for a university which would go quite that far – this was provided by the Australian Institute for Marine Science.
There are multiple reasons for putting together a video, such as the above, from a PR perspective:
- As a hook for journalists, who will then hopefully cover the story (and use the footage)
- Gives you a presence on the second most popular search engine – YouTube – from where the media, and anyone else, can embed your branded video on their site. Index and tag it right, and the SEO works for itself.
- Even thought it’s not a recruitment video, it might indirectly act as one. Potential students are much more likely to remember, and share a video – which they might stumble on completely inadvertently - than text.
- It’s an alternative means of telling a story beyond text and images.
Most importantly, it is simply impressive for the users who watch. Whether they are members of the public, alumni, others in HE or the media, it tells them about our work and establishes an association between an institution and a notable piece of news or research.
It’s also a real boost for internal audiences, especially students. When I’m looking for mentions of the university on Twitter, I love coming across links to our videos or stories from current students saying ‘wow I didn’t know we did this!’ Studying in one department means students aren’t always aware of the full scale of weird, wonderful and fascinating work which takes place at their institution. I remember not finding out until after I graduated that Sheffield has whole labs where you can grow plants in climate-controlled environments, all hidden under a car park. Again inadvertently – using videos/podcasts to tell strong research stories can make them aware of this.
Traditionally, press releases are aimed at a single audience — journalists — and are designed to persuade them that our subjects, events or other “news” are worthy of coverage. But for years now, smaller news organizations have been using press releases as news verbatim. So we shouldn’t be writing solely for journalists anyway. We should write them for a more general audience.
If, however, our goal is to communicate with segmented audiences — prospective students, current students, alumni, parents and the like — then we should definitely reevaluate our content types and how we present the stories. Depending on the audience, a 90-second video may be more appropriate than a press release, or a lengthy article in the alumni magazine.
The one caveat I’d add to the above is that a video, especially when it’s promoting research, doesn’t have to be targeted at a particular segment of a HE audience, and doing so could narrow its broad appeal.
When we aim for media coverage it’s not to get it covered by a particular paper or outlet for the sake of it, but to reach the audiences they have access to. Shoot a video to promote research, an event or other news and providing it’s got something to say and is beyond a talking head, then maybe it can reach those same audiences too.
Worth a look: Chronicle of HigherEd article from July 2011 on Top 10 (US) videos posted by Colleges. Many commencement addresses in there but some research too.
(I’d urge you to read the full Meet the Content post ‘The Future of Public Relations in Higher Ed‘, and the comments for much more on press releases and social media in HE).
Tags: CIPR, MCIPR, Membership, Public Relations
The CIPR has announced a change to its membership rules, in an update for the 2011 reality of the PR industry.
Essentially, all those who are Affiliates become Associate members or Members (MCIPR), depending on experience, and Member (MCIPR) grade now requires only two years experience, rather than previous criteria (10 years experience, six years plus a year on CIPR CPD scheme or one year plus the diploma).
From what I’ve seen (on Twitter), this is a move which has been broadly welcomed. Although it does mean higher charges for more practitioners with their membership being upgraded, it makes the grades less stratified, opens up more training opportunities and gives a wider electorate for CIPR elections, such as the one just finished.
Once the changes come into existence in January, 80% of members will be at MCIPR grade.
However, Sarah Williams points out:
But a more fundamental question needs to be asked – has it ever been representative? With fewer than 20% of practitioners choosing to be members (if the CIPR’s figures estimating the size of the industry are to be believed), then can the CIPR ever claim to have been representative?
I didn’t study PR at university, and I daresay nor do the majority of new entrants into the profession each year. Therefore, I hadn’t heard of the CIPR until well after I started working in the sector. Given the cost of joining and the disjointed nature of the industry (what counts as PR?), it’s not surprising that less than 20% of those in the industry join the CIPR. The solution seems to be somewhat of a Catch-22: there is some responsibility of the wider industry to point new practitioners in the direction of the CIPR, but they’ll only do this if they think it’s relevant. But the CIPR will only be so with a broad membership from across the sector.
The changes are definitely a step in the right direction and should be a positive move for future and current members and the sector as a whole – but there is still an underlying problem of representation, and of how to attract younger practitioners.
Tags: CIPR, Digital media, Evernote, New York Times, Public Relations, Social media
One of the topics I’m currently obsessed with is the future of public relations. As such, I’ll offer a brief-round up of some of the recent content I’ve come across on this issue.
Rob Brown, who is currently running for CIPR President, was just one of the latest to ask ‘Does PR need an overhaul‘?
For the record I’m not about to an embark on a “print media is dead, social is the saviour” diatribe. Too often the debate is hi-jacked by social media snake-oil sellers who tell you that a Facebook fan page is a a strategy. But much of the PR profession needs to wake up and fast. Print is declining, in numbers, pagination and breadth of content. The media landscape is shifting.
The PR profession needs to adapt to create content that is valid across a broader range of media and we need to know how to drive people to that content. We now also have the opportunity to create our own spaces on-line.
I would incidentally, be wholeheartedly voting for Rob but unfortunately, voting is not open to affiliate members. But if you can vote and aren’t sure, watch the CIPR TV debate in case you still need to be convinced.
His warning of the snake-oil sellers is warranted. Although there is a great need to understand social media and SEO, when it gets hijacked by aggressive commercial ‘gurus’ (shudder) yelling about obscure metrics, it’s enough to put anyone off.
Last week, Richard Edleman gave a talk (pdf) at the Institute of PR (who I confess, I haven’t come across before). He calls for public engagement to become the standard for the PR industry. One of the four principles suggests is ‘take full advantage of democratised media’:
Our greatest challenge today is deciding where to begin telling a story.
There are four distinct, but related, types of media today:
- social, and
Imagine them as a four-leaf clover.
- In the first leaf, mainstream, we have the traditional delivery vehicles of print or broadcast.
- In the second leaf, hybrid, are the dot.com versions of traditional media and media that is born digital like the Huffington Post.
- The third leaf, social, includes Facebook, Twitter feeds and YouTube channels.
- The fourth leaf, owned, includes a brand or company’s websites and apps — vitally important because every company should be a media company [my italics].
Some have been a bit more dramatic in evaulting the future for PR, claiming that it will die or be replaced by something new. Rick Guttridge writes the obituary while looking forward to the next chapter – storytelling:
Great storytelling has always been central to great public relations. But the difference is now there’s no telling what can happen once Joe Public gets his status updates into your carefully honed key messages. As such the emphasis must be placed not just on the context within which content is published or publicised, but also the consistency, creativity, and coherency of a message across all media, social, traditional or other. With that in mind, and a nod of respect to the old guard generalists, it’s time to embrace this specialist future of niche thinkers.
Because in an age where standing still always means falling behind it’s vitally important to understand that we’ve changed the way we think, the way we operate, and the skillset we require from our staff. The end result is that PR jobseekers should be increasingly aware that a degree in public relations may not be the best route to industry success. PR is dead, long live storytelling.
The main points which keep cropping are seem to be engaging with users directly using your own content (rather than relying simply on media coverage), using your own spaces online and telling stories in whatever means works best for your audience and message.
For those who claim that PR is too influential in the current media landscape, one possible, partial-refutation of that argument is that the sector is very much playing catch-up with some of the big mainstream media outlets when it comes to social and digital media, UCG and developing online communities. Arthur Sulzberger, chairman of the New York Times, recently gave a talk at the LSE on his paper’s digital transformation, and the transcript is available. He gives a smattering of examples – the #911plus20 hastag and live coverage of presidential debates.
I haven’t been in this industry very long, and I don’t claim to have a deep theoretical or practical knowledge of it. I’m also coming from an in-house, higher education perspective, rather than that of a commercial agency. But I’m not sure that shift from focusing on traditional media to our users – our communities – has got very far down the line so far, so it’s good to remind ourselves what people are saying out there.
(This plethora of posts comes courtesy of Evernote. Since I’ve set it up on every device I own or have access to, it’s become this super-index of anything interesting I come across, be it cycling routes, social media discussions or essays on the environment. Can’t recommend it enough, especially if like me, you relied on emailing things to yourself for reading later).
Tags: Digital media, Media Standards Trust, press releases, Public Relations, Social media, Universities
I was at a debate last month organised by the Media Standards Trust on ‘Churnalism’ (there is a video from the BBC College of Journalism). It centered around the PR/journalism relationship and the proliferation of press releases. It was mentioned that 90% of press releases never got any coverage, which is extraordinary considering the industry around them.
Yet what’s also notable is that we continue to perceive press coverage as the primary desired outcome of a press release. From a post by Alistair Wheate, from Glide Technologies, entitled ‘Would anyone read your news if they weren’t paid to’?
Who is the target audience for your press releases? If the answer that comes to mind is ‘journalists’ then think again. Do journalists buy your products or services? They might do if you are a well-known consumer brand, but probably not. The real audience is likely to be a mix of your current or potential customers, investors (where applicable), current and future employees, partners and range of other important stakeholders.
Journalists are in most cases an intermediary audience. You communicate with them in the hope that they will say good things (or not say bad things) about your brand that in turn will influence opinion towards your brand amongst those who make an impact on your business.
At the moment, especially in PR which isn’t consumer focused, we are perhaps still too hooked on the idea that public relations is based on media coverage. But what’s the point in achieving those column inches or broadcast time? In order to reach those key audiences, to establish and improve their perception of us, to influence the wider public debate and decision makers. The media are a conduit for this.
But we compete within an environment where users can consume media across borders, time-zones, platforms and outlets, and where those of us in PR still battle with each other for precious space in traditional media. As it’s the area I’m in, I’d ask how can universities add at least another string to their bow when it comes to promoting their work?
Alistair recommends one solution:
Take a new approach to how the story is presented. You may be able to get away with presenting a boring wall-of-text press release if the only people you expect to read it are those who are actually paid to do so. This is particularly true for larger companies who can get away with very lazy presentation – journalists will write about you anyway just because you are such a big player. If you write with the notion in mind that you want a more general audience to choose to read your story over and above other stories on the web then presentation becomes much more important. It’s no longer a case of a journalist choosing to read your bland press release over and above someone else’s bland press release but a potential customer choosing to read your story versus an engaging well-written blog post or news story.
Universities have an opportunity to leapfrog the mainstream media and explain our research, teaching and wider contributions to society in forms beyond the text-based press release. Whether it’s video, audio, slideshows or hosting debates, events and using social media to engage with different stakeholders, it seems like an inevitable direction. We have websites, and access to the tools needed to reach the public.
Content is still king, but new ways of telling our stories are also essential.
(Fiona Fox of the SMC, who chaired the MST debate, posted on it)
Tags: AVE, Communications, impact, metrics, PR, Public Relations
It’s not always easy to measure your impact on an institution or an effort, either individually or as a team. Often, we get so caught up in planning, research, big ideas, and the drama that comes with any job that we lose track of the very simple question – are we making things better?
This isn’t to say that detailed measurement efforts aren’t necessary, but rather that starting with the basic question, “Did I help?” might help provide some good direction and enable you to either change course or press forward before getting bogged down in the detail of precise metrics.
I couldn’t agree more. Especially with social and online media, where conversations, retweets, comments or posts can’t be reduced to an AVE figure, I think we have to accept that we aren’t always going to be able to quantitatively measure the ‘impact’ of a story or campaign. Instead, I think it’s important to focus on explaining the process and what was achieved, just not with metrics.
One question is can we simply substitute Facebook page likes, LinkedIn discussions, video views or web page hits (or bounce rate, or length of time on page) as alternatives?
These are just a couple of ill-formed late night thoughts, but thought I’d put it out there.
Tags: Public Relations, Sheffield, Social media, Video
I recently worked on a great release, and I think it’s a real example of how social media, stunning digital footage and above all, a good story, can achieve a lot of coverage.
Two students, Alex Baker and Chris Rose, had sent a helium balloon into the upper atmosphere, along with two cameras in an insulated box below. They’d done this in their spare time, and with a budget of £350. It was carefully planned, and properly done – and they achieved some fantastic footage from as high as 37km. Once the device traveled down, via parachute, they collected it in a field towards Cambridgeshire using a GPS device.
I first found out about the video via a tweet from a student in the same research group as them, linking to the video. I only spotted it as it mentioned ‘@sheffielduni’. From the names on the video, I was able to track down the students, and get in touch with them. Just shows that you can find relevant stories via social media.
Having emailed Alex and Chris, I met up with them so they could provide me with more info, and with more images - hundreds – something which, especially given the quality, is bound to make me optimistic about a release! Obviously we could embed the YouTube video in the release, and link to that when it was distributed.
Once the release was sent, things got a little bit busy. The local press, from ITV Calendar, BBC Radio Sheffield and Hallam FM all did interviews, and articles appeared on the BBC, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Channel 4 News website, and an interview followed on ITV Daybreak. Interest came from a whole host of places including a Norwegian paper and a Ukrainian magazine, among others. Even got a mention on a New York Times blog.
Also remarkable was the online reaction, with dozens of emails from members of the public in North America, Europe and Asia asking different questions about the music on the video, equipment used or simply to say thank you. It also generated over 51,000 page views, a stunning amount. The video, which I’ve embedded below, is now topping 170,000 views.
I must give credit to Alex and Chris, who spent a lot of time responding to emails from the media and the public, and were very flexible in going to interviews, including down to London for Daybreak.
It’s been a really great story to work on, and with such strong images and video, it’s not surprising it got the coverage and attention it did.
Tags: Bebo, Facebook, Guardian, Media, MySpace, PR, Public Relations, Twitter
The Guardian’s Charles Arthur, discussing more broadly when Twitter was hit by a virus last week, stated the below about who is actually using Twitter:
But for people in the media business, it has rapidly – in less than four years – become their peripheral nervous system: it tells you what’s going on around the world, or within your sphere of interest; it helps for bouncing ideas around, for staying abreast of what you have to know. Twitter creates its own little cities of specialism and knowledge which don’t (unlike Facebook) require you to “befriend” the other person; you can follow pretty much anyone you like.
Some people – hello, commenters – will complain that they “don’t see the point” of Twitter. Sure, if your job or your business doesn’t depend on just-in-time information, or if you find it hard to engage with other people in a supportive way, you’re going to find Twitter perplexing.
I couldn’t agree more about its necessity for those in the media, and PR. Not necessarily for seeing breaking news about your organisation (although having multiple relevant alerts is a must), but for finding out news and analysis more broadly about your sector, which you would otherwise not find. Every day I’ll find things to read about Higher Education, or Sheffield, or public relations, or the media industry, which are useful for me to know. So maybe the echo chamber isn’t too bad a thing.
Almost exclusively, those I know personally who also have Twitter accounts are journalism graduates or involved in politics. There is no reason why it should be only those in a few sectors which dominate it, but like MySpace and Bebo, it has grown into a target audience. I’ve thought before of Facebook as the ultimate hyper-local news network, informing you about the goings on of your friends, with no two people’s the same. Twitter is, for those in certain sectors, the professional version of this.