How PR can support the education sector

Whether you are an independent school, university, edtech startup or education charity, you may be looking for a number of different public relations services to support your business.

Public relations can come in the form of stakeholder engagement, corporate social responsibility, positive media coverage, crisis communications and more. More recently, you will see PR in its digital form, including website content and social media campaigns. But where should you begin? 

Your PR Strategy

Knowing how and when to use these various PR methods is the strategic part. Your strategy should be created and managed closely in line with your marketing plan, supporting your key business objectives, vision and values. This is where you will really consider what you are trying to achieve. Are you hoping to encourage people to attend a school open evening? Do you want a longer term focus to improve your brand reputation in readiness for next year’s intake? Has your new educational charity suffered some negative publicity?

Whatever it is you are trying to achieve, it will ultimately shape your strategy, which could be a short or long term plan. Get this right from the start and you are more likely to find value in your PR methods. Get this wrong, and you will be taking a scattergun approach that almost certainly won’t get the results you desire.

Your PR Target Audience

When you put together your PR strategy one of the key elements to this will be your target audience. If you are an edtech company you will more than likely be taking a B2B approach, communicating to schools and colleges. If you are a school you will be more consumer led, hoping to attract parents and carers.

Understanding your audience, and their personality profiles, will enable you to consider how, where and when to push out your message. This in turn will shape the tone of voice you use and if you are using visuals, what will resonate with these specific groups of people.

PR is all about being emotive and telling a memorable story. You want your target audience to take action in some way, but you will have to be persuasive first. It could be that you have more than one target audience group, and your key messages will be different for each of these.

The PR Plan

Everything is taking shape and the direction is more clear now that the strategy is formed. Your PR plan will set out the actions that need to take place to ensure the objectives can be met. This could form a number of shorter PR campaigns, or a longer term set of actions. The plan will also include many different PR methods, all identified from the strategy work that has already taken place.

Your admissions campaign could include interviews from previous school leavers, editorial pieces in local newspapers and magazines and a social media plan. Your new edtech product launch may require a longer term plan including feature pitches, case studies and award submissions.

It’s important to keep the end goal in mind and build your activity around this. 

Review, modify and review again

Be sure to consider how you review all of your actions. PR is much harder to analyse than marketing activity, but it can still be done. When there is a clear call to action, this is more straightforward. How many people attended your school open evening? What engagement or leads did you get from your social media campaign? These can easily be measured. But, what about that thoughtful article your CEO wrote, or the press release your head teacher was featured in?

What is measured will depend on the objectives and these should be figured out from the start. Brand mentions, increase in website traffic or a steady flow of enquiries could all be indicators that you are getting noticed. Ensure you have a system to track enquiries on all platforms and keep trying different methods.

PR is not something that can be rushed. It’s a continuous process. It can take many years to build a good reputation and just a moment to ruin it, so don’t rush into anything, keep planning and keep changing! Stay up to date with the latest trends and topics in the educational sector and be one step ahead when communicating with your audiences.

Natasha - CONTEUR-5

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