Education PR - Public Relations for Edtech
November 20, 2009

PRSA 2009: How to Optimize News Content

Ninety percent of journalists rely on online search engines to perform key elements of their job, whether researching a story, locating a subject matter expert, or researching a word’s precise meaning.  As newsrooms reduce their staff, journalists are writing more articles with less time and fewer resources, making it ever more critical that companies and their news announcements rank high in search results.  Lee Odden of TopRank Online Marketing outlined the steps required to optimize news content during the 2009 PRSA International Conference. To understand the importance of optimization, it’s helpful to re-examine the notion of “push” and “pull” public relations tactics.  According to Odden, push comprises the tactics used to announce company news, including news release distribution and sharing story ideas with members of the media.  Pull involves bringing journalists to a company’s Web site through optimized news releases, robust online newsrooms and social media efforts.  Achieving media coverage through both tactics enables companies to extend the reach of their news. Keyword Research Begin the optimization process by defining a list of keywords or phrases that journalists or other audiences would use to find a company or products.  Brainstorm a list of possible phrases, and test them with a keyword phrase research tool such as Google Insights for Search, Google Trends or WordTracker.  Research the popularity and variations of the original keywords, revise as necessary, then list the final keywords in a glossary, segmented by popularity and category. News Release Optimization With the keywords in hand, it’s time to put them to use in your public relations campaign.  News releases can be more than a vehicle for distributing news.  If optimized, announcements can also pull journalists, prospects and customers to company content hosted on its Web site or newsroom. Think up and to the left Optimize first for people, then for search engines Use keywords in title, subhead and body Don’t obsess over keyword density Use keywords in links to company Web sites Add digital assets such as images and videos Include a call to action Develop and optimize unique landing pages Newsroom Optimization Three of five journalists say…
Education PR - Public Relations for Edtech
November 19, 2009

PRSA 2009: Digital Revolution – The Chaos Scenario

Are traditional media falling apart before our eyes?  And, more important, are we prepared to pick up the pieces?  Bob Garfield, host of National Public Radio’s “On the Media,” Advertising Age columnist and author, explored this topic during his keynote address at the 2009 PRSA International Conference.  Garfield argued that the yin and yang of mass media and mass marketing – mutually sustaining for more than 400 years – have decoupled. Garfield’s latest book, “The Chaos Scenario,” documents the demise of traditional media as a consequence of the digital revolution.  He supports his thesis with these sobering facts: Newspapers: In spite of 23 percent U.S. population growth in the last 20 years, newspapers have lost 20 percent of their circulation.  Two years ago Robert Murdoch paid $5.5 billion for the Wall Street Journal, a publication that is now worth $2 billion. Magazines: Newsstand sales were down 12 percent in 2008, and 2009 is looking even worse.  In North America, 525 magazines folded in 2008, and another 200 have disappeared so far this year. Broadcast: Television advertising revenue dropped 20 to 30 percent in 2009.  The primetime audience for CBS is down 2.9 percent, 14.3 percent for NBC, and 17.5 percent for FOX. Overall, 75 percent of national advertisers have slashed their 2009 advertising budgets.  As Garfield put it, advertising simply can’t support all the media that are out there. What about the Internet?  Thanks to the digital revolution, the richest repository of information ever assembled is available to all through the Internet.  Can’t content providers and advertisers simply change venue from traditional media to the online world?  Unfortunately, no, according to Garfield.  Millions of Web pages provide a nearly infinite advertising inventory, which drives advertising prices down.  The symbiosis of mass media and mass marketing simply doesn’t work in a microworld. If advertising through mass media isn’t a viable option, how can companies reach their customers during this digital revolution?  Garfield pointed to “listenomics.”  Instead of shouting at customers, he suggested that marketers treat them as genuine stakeholders and listen to what they are saying.  Customers will share opinions and…
Education PR - Public Relations for Edtech
November 18, 2009

PRSA 2009 International Conference

Last week I attended the 2009 Public Relations Society of America International Conference (PRSA) in San Diego.  More than 3,000 public relations professionals from around the world attended the conference, which is the industry’s largest annual learning and networking event.  This year’s theme, “Delivering Value” celebrates public relations as a driver of business outcomes critical to organizational success. During the conference I attended a number of professional development sessions led by the public relations industry’s thought leaders.  In addition, I listened to keynote addresses by Arianna Huffington, Todd Buckholz and Bob Garfield, three of the most influential and respected journalists, authors and commentators working today. PRSA has published recaps of the keynotes online: To Stand Out, Arianna Huffington Says That You Need Drama Despite a Troubled Economy, Todd Buckholz Believes That This is Now the Time for Innovation and Prosperity Bob Garfield: Shut Up and Listen – Or You’re Doomed Over the next week, I’ll be publishing a series of posts to share the insights and knowledge gleaned from attending the keynote and conference sessions.  Four common themes emerged during the conference – Revolution, Optimization, Multimedia and Measurement.  Each post in the series will focus on one of these themes.  Let the conversation begin!
Education PR - Public Relations for Edtech
August 20, 2009

Districts Turn to Public Relations to Boost Enrollment

An article in the Aug. 17 edition of the Wall Street Journal sheds light on the use of public relations as a recruitment tool for schools.  Stephanie Simon reports that urban districts are employing public relations to dissuade students (and their parents) from fleeing to charter schools, private schools, and suburban districts that offer open enrollment. According to Simon, the number of students attending urban public schools continues to decline.  In Washington, D.C., enrollment has plunged from nearly 150,000 in 1970 to less than 50,000 in 2008.  Over the last 10 years, enrollment has dropped 25 percent in Pittsburgh and San Antonio, and is down 40 percent in St. Louis. Boosting enrollment helps districts on several fronts.  State funding for schools is based on attendance, with each new student bringing in more money.  In addition, schools with low enrollments run the risk of being closed, so districts hope a positive public image will persuade voters to support levies and bond issues that keep public schools open and operating. Here’s a review of public relations efforts by four urban school districts as described by Simon in the Wall Street Journal article: District of Columbia Public Schools: District spent $100,000 on a campaign featuring radio spots and bus ads, which included quotes from students explaining how glad they are to be in public schools. Pittsburgh Public Schools: City officials have pledged to give full college scholarships to all qualified graduates of city schools.  This fall, that message will be carried by $1.5 million of donated advertising space and media airtime. San Antonio Independent School District: District recently signed an $180,000 contract with a marketing firm to deploy a campaign of radio spots, billboards, Twitter feeds, online banner ads and promotional videos on YouTube. St. Louis Public School District: Administrators have set aside $1 million to pay for publicity, which may include boasting about a top-ranked high school, and highlighting magnet programs in culinary arts, aeronautics and international students. These public relations campaigns vary widely in cost, from a few thousand dollars to more than $1 million.  They have drawn some negative criticism,…
June 18, 2009

AEP Honors the Year’s Top Educational Products

The Association of Educational Publishers (AEP) announced the winners of the 2009 Distinguished Achievement Awards during the AEP Awards Banquet & Gala at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on June 12th. AEP's Distinguished Achievement Awards recognize the best educational resources in four categories: Curriculum, Periodicals, Professional Development, and, for the first time this year, Technology Innovations.  Entries are evaluated on traits such as efficacy, usability, and overall educational value and are judged by an expert panel of educators, editors, designers, and technology specialists. Among the winners in the Curriculum Category are: PCI Reading Program Level Two from PCI Education won the Special Education Category for Grades K-5.  The curriculum is designed for students with developmental disabilities or significant learning difficulties, and helps non-readers become readers by enhancing a student’s sight-word vocabulary. The Key to Tracker from Key Curriculum Press won the Mathematics Category for Grades 6-8.  The online subscription service serves as the online companion to the Key to… workbooks, and offers teachers online tools to increase their students’ knowledge of basic math skills. Discovery Education streaming from Discovery Education won the Reference Resources Category for Grades 6-8.  Discovery Education streaming is a digital learning resource with up to 9,000 full-length videos segmented into 71,000 content-specific clips that are tied directly to state and national standards. Each organization was honored for their outstanding products and leadership in the education industry.  Their respective products are designed to improve students’ knowledge and success in reading, math and science, giving them the skills necessary for future achievement in school and beyond.  In addition, these products offer a unique approach to teaching and learning, providing teachers with more time for instruction and keeping students engaged and on task. For a complete list of AEP Award winners, visit  Soon, all the winners will receive special recognition in AEP's Online Product Gallery. Congratulations to all the winners!
May 19, 2009

Building Sustainable Learning Environments

In early May, CB&A attended the SIIA Ed Tech Industry Summit in San Francisco, which addressed the theme of “Building Toward the Vision K-20.”  One of the keynote speakers, Dr. Mark David Milliron, President and CEO of Catalyze Learning International, gave a presentation entitled “Building and Sustaining Visionary K-20 Learning Environments.” He highlighted five key components educators need to consider as they work toward developing a sustainable learning environment for their students. Blurring and Blending – Rather than debating the merits of face-to-face versus online instruction, schools need to offer a hybrid of both, according to Milliron.  A prime example is Florida Virtual School, where students are offered a blend of traditional classroom instruction with online courses to complete their middle and high school education.  (Other providers include Aventa Learning, which offers online courses to schools to help them broaden course offerings and individualize instruction.) Mobility – The expectations of the Net Generation reflect the environment in which its members were raised.  Today’s students expect wireless network access at school.  In Milliron's view, deprived of this access, they will leave the education environment and go elsewhere.  For example, McDonald’s now offers Wi-Fi access in more than 15,000 restaurants. Gaming – The average age of a gamer is 33.  Surprised?  People of all ages are gaming, thanks to consoles such as the Nintendo Wii.  Research has shown the positive effect of cognitive games on brain development, which offers great promise for schools.  For more information, Milliron recommended Marc Presnky’s work on the benefits of edugaming. Social Networking – A new Nielson Online report puts social networks ahead of e-mail in online activities.  Social networking has replaced old-school networking, Milliron pointed out, as people secure jobs through social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  Students must develop social networking skills in order to compete in the 21st century. High Impact Presentation – High impact technologies, such as the ‘hologram’ CNN debuted on election night, raise the bar on experimental learning.  Many colleges have been the first to adopt these new technologies, cited Milliron.  Examples include “beaming” an instructor to Spain…