Whether accompanying MBA students on international study trips, attending overseas recruitment fairs or speaking at industry events, such excursions provide the ideal opportunity to raise the profile of their school on a wider scale by engaging with local media.
But securing the chance for your faculty to sit down with the most influential titles in the country can prove to be far more challenging than it is at home.
In an environment where your faculty are relatively unknown, your school’s brand carries arguably less clout, and faced with short time frames, differing time-zones and languages barriers, how can you stand the best chance possible of getting in front of the world’s media?
Get the basics in place in advance. Find out who amongst your faculty is making the trip, when they will be travelling and how long they will be visiting for. Then identify times in their schedule where a press meeting could be arranged. It’s also crucial to find out exactly where your faculty are travelling to – knowing they’re in Beijing or Indonesia isn’t enough information to plan press meetings. Details such as the city and district they’ll be staying in, their hotel or event’s venue can provide a potential meeting location, and help you to identify locally-based media.
Is your professor leading a study trip? Speaking at a conference of local business leaders? Meeting local alumni? This information could not only provide an interesting discussion to raise with local media, but also help you to refine your pitching by enabling you to identify the outlets and writers who might be most interested in your school’s international activities.
For example, a study trip which requires students to work on business projects with locally-based SMEs could be appealing to local business or entrepreneurship media, whilst a recruitment trip might be better suited to a local education title.
Before pitching, and certainly before your faculty embark on their travels, take the time to establish the talking points they’d like to raise with local media. This enable you to provide a journalist with a topic of conversation, a potential story idea and an idea of what your professor can provide. Additionally, it will enable faculty to prepare themselves, feel more comfortable during interviews, and keep the conversation focused.
This is the most important, yet most overlooked consideration when attempting to secure media interviews for faculty. Is the topic your faculty wish to discuss with the media as important to the journalist as they are to your institution?
Pitching faculty for interviews based solely on their academic reputations often isn’t enough to convince a journalist to take time out of their busy day for a meeting. Your pitch must hold an element of local and individual relevance to stand the best chance of success. This can be quite easily to provide. For example, if MBA students are taking lectures from local businesses leaders during a study trip, your faculty could discuss the vital lessons to be learned by the next generation of CEOs and entrepreneurs by getting to grips with grassroots business in their country.
Put yourself in the journalist’s shoes. If the story you propose holds little interest to a local audience, or fit with a journalist’s beat, it is likely to be ignored.
Familiarise yourself with local publications, TV channels and media, beyond the names of each outlet. Identify topics of interest and current news trends (and find out what not to talk about!) in order to tailor your pitches accordingly. Identify what your best press targets might be by understanding what they typically report on and whether they take interviews. Also, check their location to ensure a meeting is possible before you get in touch.
It is vital to make meetings as convenient as possible to the media you reach out to. Establish a set period of availability early on, but make faculty aware that they might need to be flexible if a journalist cannot meet these times. Agree a mutually convenient meeting location and stick to these plans. Share headshots and contact details with both faculty and their media contacts ahead of the trip so each party knows who to look for in a room, and can contact each other directly.
It’s also important to consider whether the journalist and faculty member can easily converse? If not, can you arrange for a translator? Local alumni can make very good stand-ins for official translators and be an additional interviewee to put in front of a journalist.
Not all press meetings will result in immediate press coverage, but this fact should not discourage your efforts. Meeting with media whether at home or overseas is about developing relationships. Whilst they might not bring results in the short term, they’ll be beneficial further down the road. A positive meeting with a journalist may encourage them to engage with your faculty in future when writing the next big story, or more likely to respond to your pitches in future.
These results, whilst not providing the immediate recognition your faculty may desire, will help to raise and strengthen the profile of your institution with influential publications and their audiences which is, really, what good PR is all about.