Five signs that you might need a different media relations strategy

media relations strategy Toby Roe EFMD

How do you measure whether your business school’s media relations activities are working?

In our experience, business schools use similar metrics to measure the success (or otherwise) of their media relations. Often, these include volume or quality of coverage, whether they are hitting their target media, or share of voice versus peers.

All of these are legitimate and proven ways of measuring media relations output.

What people tend to focus on less is the internal performance of their media relations function.

A powerful media relations programme can bring enormous benefits to your school. It contributes to a positive reputation, and can help reach new audiences, support new enquiries, partnerships and funding opportunities.

But without a healthy working relationship inside your business school, your media relations function will find it hard to deliver consistent results.

Here are five other signs that your media relations strategy might need an overhaul.

Interview opportunities being missed

So, your media relations team generates a terrific interview opportunity in a target title for your school. They ask around faculty and the programme teams and….no-one is available.

“Too busy”, “on holiday”, “not their area of expertise”, come back the replies.

Let’s be honest. No organisation can fulfil 100% of journalist requests. But if this is a regular occurrence, it could be a sign that something more fundamental needs to change.

It could be that faculty and programme teams need a stronger understanding of the benefits of media relations for your school. Or you may need to consider refreshing and re-training your pool of go-to spokespeople.

Poor quality stories coming your way

Business school media stories usually come from a variety of internal sources.

They include faculty, the research department, the Dean, programme teams, alumni and entrepreneurship centres.

Having such a variety to draw upon is fantastic, but what happens when the quality of stories coming your way starts to deteriorate?

This is when the stories presented to your team are not suitable for the media. This is usually because they are un-newsworthy, an overt sales pitch or simply not strong enough for the requested media target.

If this is happening to your team, it could be that you would benefit from helping people internally to understand how journalists judge a story to be newsworthy, or what you need in order to pitch an idea to the press.

Incorrect messages reaching the press

You get a call from a journalist who asks if it’s true that you’ve decided to close your campus to face-to-face teaching for the rest of this year.

This isn’t true, but, upon investigation, you find out that a spokesperson hinted at this when talking to the journalist earlier.

It wasn’t their fault – they were put on the back foot by the journalist and were inexperienced at dealing with the press.

In fast-moving situations, the risk of incomplete, inaccurate or unclear information being circulated increases.

But if they are also getting out to the press, it could be that you need to look at how information is disseminated internally.

It might also be time to refresh your key messages and/or your briefing process.

Unable to get hold of information quickly enough

You have an opportunity to contribute to an article about entrepreneurship. The journalist urgently wants to speak to one of your alumni who has pivoted a venture during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But when you approach your entrepreneurship team, you find that the person who had the closest relationship with them has since left the school. The only way of getting in touch with them is via email, which runs the risk of missing the journalist’s deadline.

This is just an example, but if this is familiar, it could be that you need to re-think your process for accessing case studies (or other media information). Establishing or refreshing an easily-accessed case study library and matching them against upcoming stories or trends will help.

Too many projects for the size of team

We know that marketing communications team have been over-stretched and under-resourced this last year.

Like everyone else during the pandemic, they have been tasked with delivering communications programmes, whilst separated from colleagues and dealing with personal stresses.

The last 12 months have been extreme. But at any time, an overloaded communications team can lead to demotivation, weaker results and poor decision-making.

If that feels like your school, it might be time to re-assess what your communications team is focusing on and decide to concentrate only on the activities that will make the biggest impact.

This will also empower your team to say ‘no’ to projects that are simply a waste of time or won’t benefit your school.

Toby Roe is the Co-Founder of Roe Communications, a specialist communications consultancy for business education.