Firstly, to get buy-in from faculty, it’s about building a relationship. It could be by meeting up with them formally or in a social context. Hear something they say in a lecture to develop into an article, use content from a book they’ve written, or spot a subject in the news that resonates with their sphere.
As a Communications and PR professional at a business school or university, the key is to network and get to know your members of faculty, understand their knowledge and research. Get a sense of whether they are happy to have a long conversation or if they prefer short, sharp and to the point questions. It’s important to know their likes and dislikes and how to approach them.
Once you’ve built a relationship and have an understanding of their subject and background, this could trigger newsworthy opinion or comment from them. Sometimes it’s about simply hearing what the member of faculty has to say, or seeing or hearing an opportunity that you think would be just right for them.
You need to build your list of faculty and their connections, so you know that ‘go-to’ person, for each topic, and therefore who to approach as opportunities arise. It will save you time to know which faculty are happy to help and those that would rather not be involved but perhaps might be persuaded by a niche opportunity.
At BlueSky, the business schools we work with always present us with their list of ‘go-to’ people, so that we are prepared to pitch for and respond to media opportunities.
Knowing each member of faculty’s strengths and responsiveness, and who can deliver newsworthy insights in plain English, helps to harness media opportunities. When the deadline is short, you need to know who can respond quickly. There have been instances where I’ve sent quick texts to a professor and, in spite of his busy schedule, his rapid replies with sharp witted comments achieved impressive coverage.
Gaining coverage in high reputation publications is pivotal to winning ‘buy-in’ and building trust with faculty. If you can showcase the great coverage that has come out of your talks and discussions, they can see that the time spent was worthwhile. If you can’t demonstrate this, then it’s more challenging. It’s important to relay why something didn’t achieve a great deal of coverage and to identify alternative opportunities to source media exposure.
Having an eye on the news and what different journalists are writing is important to be able to direct opportunities to the appropriate members of faculty.
At the same time, knowing who is doing something different, listening to their journeys and keeping an eye out for the unusual, is so important.
It’s about being able to present your message across to the members of faculty, so that they understand what you’re seeking. Then, you can get the best out of them.
There is an element of trust both ways, which is why relationship building is so important. You need to trust that the member of faculty when being interviewed by a journalist keeps to the point and conveys a message that promotes the credentials of the business school or university.
While it’s not specific to business schools, and is true of any organisation, educate or encourage them to understand that what they know or may be doing is newsworthy. Explain how you can get the message out there. And make sure any quotes that are provided to the press are natural and written the way the person would actually speak.
At BlueSky, we ask for all written copy to be approved by the member of faculty first before this is sent across to the journalist.
Where the journalist will be carrying out an interview rather than an email conversation, ask for a guide to the possible questions or likely issues to be discussed to ensure they’re fully prepared and are ready to respond to any contentious issues. The briefing of the interviewee also needs to include what to expect in terms of the journalist’s style and approach, particularly if they have a track record of asking difficult questions.
Where it’s an associate rather than full faculty, or current or past student who is being interviewed, it’s wise to ask them to make sure they mention to the business school. Ensure you get that across to the journalist, too.
Faculty are that critical avenue to gain outstanding, knowledgeable, thought-provoking media coverage for the business school. They can enhance the brand and awareness as well as that of their own. So, if you have a powerful ally, cultivate that relationship and maximise the media opportunities for them. You – and they – are then sure to be onto a winner.
For more advice in empowering faculty members to achieve first-class coverage from your business school or university, please give us a call or an email.
Author: Chris Johnson