How can business schools ensure their media budget is being spent effectively? Account Director Stephanie Mullins, from specialist business education PR consultancy BlueSky Education, shares her thoughts. 

At conferences and business education events, I am often asked about the sort of return on investment (ROI) that can be expected from hiring a public relations (PR) agency or from a specific PR campaign. So…

What counts as a strong ROI from business school PR?

It all depends on your goals. You can only measure your return when you have something quantifiable to measure against.

  • Are you looking to increase student applications?
  • Are you looking to attract students from a new market?
  • Perhaps you are hoping to hire highly sought-after faculty?

Depending on what you are looking to achieve, a great example of ROI from your PR could be prompting new quality MBA and MIM applicants or corporate partners thanks to an inspirational story that they’ve read in the press, like the Financial Times or specialist trade media. We often talk about ROI with business schools by using clearly comprehensible examples and statistics that resonate with important stakeholders.

We share examples such as our work to promote a student trip taken by a Canadian faculty of management cohort to Mongolia. In this instance, we arranged a series of interviews that lead to positive pieces of coverage spinning stories of student adventures and advanced education in the local media. The coverage was so influential that it led to the institution’s first-ever applicant from Mongolia – a market they were specifically looking to target. When you consider the pressure that business schools are under to secure quality applications for their programmes as well as bring together diverse cohorts, it’s easy to understand how impactful an example like this one is for PR efforts.

For management education, in particular, case studies really help bring the ROI from PR to life. For example, another of our clients, a French business school, wanted to increase applications from India to their MBA programme. We helped them to increase applications from India by 20 percent through a series of positive student and alumni stories in key publications like The Times of India.

However, when the goal is to increase brand awareness, measuring ROI can be a little more complicated

When discussing this type of PR campaign, we look at the credibility of media outlets and coverage using quantitative facts, like the potential reach using readership and circulation figures, domain authority and the numbers of shares on social media.  But there are other ways to demonstrate ROI for this type of PR too.

How about website traffic? The number of visitors that were driven to a business school’s website as a result of earned coverage and link placement in an article can be directly measured via Google Analytics and is a concrete figure that demonstrates your ROI.

Whatever your PR goals, there is one key take away to remember

Your potential for ROI doesn’t end when the article is published. I always encourage business schools to really squeeze every last drop of ROI out of each and every media mention they secure. Once the institution has a high-quality article placement, there should be as much traction out of it as possible. Social is a big component of keeping the momentum going, but sales and marketing can help too. What about sharing that article in an email? Include a call-to-action such as a link to a landing page where people can learn more information about a programme or where they can schedule a call with someone to find out more.

Media hits have value, by maximising their reach, you’re going to see increasingly greater ROI. From plenty of quality, diverse applicants to new faculty and corporate partners drawn to the school, the return that comes from investing in PR is clear. Whether that’s an outcome of in-house communications teams, specialist consultancies or a combination of efforts, it’s the results that matter.

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