Journalism has undergone a seismic shift in the past decade. With a variety of media for individuals to voice their opinion, virtually everyone has the power to publish their story. This may seem a detriment to the foundations of traditional public relations, but the opposite is true. In 2020, education PR is as prevalent as ever. Not in spite of the digital advancements, rather because of them.
The COVID-19 pandemic presents another disruption to media outlets and publishers, where reporting must pivot with the national conversation to stay relevant. Yet the role of education media coverage remains as important as ever. Education reporters help communities understand school closures (and eventually, openings), plans to implement remote learning – and above all – how at-risk student populations will receive health care and meal services while off campus.
For all this turbulence, education PR prevails, and there’s reason to be optimistic. A recent analysis predicts that PR and communication services will report an uptick as brands seek to manage crises and communicate critical news to the public.
And brands are more exposed than ever before; consumers are more watchful. The ability to influence your target market is a incisive tool for PR experts, and the increase of new communication media has only sharpened your blade. Additionally, with the rise of brand transparency, reputation remains a top-level concern.
According to our 2020 Education Marketing Trends Report, in an attempt to enhance reputation, 9 out of 10 education marketers are sustaining or ramping up thought leadership efforts this year. Whether you’re trying to win entire regions or catch the attention of targeted superintendents in an account-based strategy, the need for education PR is everywhere.
Here are six ways to add value by leveraging the power of PR:
1. Leaving a Digital Impact with Education PR
While PR has a reputation of being tricky to measure, new tools have allowed marketers to make significant progress in solidifying the traditionally dotted line between PR and revenue. PR programs accelerate your progress toward achieving your education business goals when executed strategically and measured thoughtfully.
With this abundance of digital tools, there are new ways to measure the value of education PR. While some traditional metrics for PR are still important (awareness, mentions, etc.), we have more data than ever to track PR success.
In 2020, we have seriously sophisticated PR tools at our disposal. By tracking the digital impact of PR, your marketing efforts become intertwined, creating a synergy that saves time and resources. With tools like TrendKite, measuring traffic, SEO impact, and social amplification is easier, and essential for optimizing your education PR efforts.
In simple terms, “Measuring digital impact answers the question, ‘Is my PR coverage driving traffic to my website or other digital properties, and if so, what action are those visitors taking?'” By understanding how people interact with your site and content, you can begin to tweak the process to provoke more high-value actions, such as requesting a product demo.
Bonus Education PR Tip:
Michael Smart has built a strong reputation for his expertise in media relations. He offers this quick tip on leaving a digital impact in the form of SEO: “Use a question as the headline for your next blog post or news release. And then have the first paragraph be a direct answer to that question, written in natural language.”
He goes on to explain that this strategy increases your chance of being a featured snippet at the top of Google’s results page when interested parties search on the question in your headline. This should prompt education PR professionals to consider what questions are being asked around your product/service. What problem does it solve? Finally, how can you employ this strategy to develop thought leadership in your desired space? All these questions are critical for your digital impact.
2. Keeping Your Brand Relevant with Education PR
The word “awareness” gets tossed around a lot in relation to PR. As an education marketing agency, we focus more on “relevance.” PRSA defines public relations as, “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
Note the inclusion of “mutually beneficial” in this carefully crafted definition. If the information being communicated was irrelevant to the public, it would fail to be beneficial. Gaining exposure for your products or services is pointless if the audience doesn’t need what you’re selling. Truly effective PR puts your brand in front of interested prospects, making you relevant to their lives.
The need for relevance calls for due diligence in your PR targeting, prior to any pitches being sent out. Are you trying to sway the opinion of the public surrounding a prospective school district on the importance of SEL in a struggling region? Perhaps the smaller, local media outlets are your best bet.
Is your edtech product scaling efficiently across multiple states? Pursuing bigger outlets could spark further growth. Whatever the case may be, make sure you dedicate time to research where your target market is, and what they care about. Take a look at how our team recently employed these tactics to secure multiple placements in the Wall Street Journal.
3. Education PR Helps You Maintain Strong Customer Relationships
Once you’ve secured a customer, the process begins again. Remember that B2C relationships are relationships nonetheless. If your customer feels undervalued or forgotten, they will move on. While a significant number of marketing efforts focus on lead generation, customer retention is critical for profitability.
A customer’s lifetime value is too often neglected in the sales funnel. This is unfortunate, as the age-old 80/20 Pareto principle remains prevalent in marketing. That is, 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers. By neglecting the loyalty loop portion of the customer journey, your company is certain to lose potential profits.
Simply put, PR draws your customers closer. If you follow the advice we lay out in section two, your targeted education PR efforts will continually build a sense of trust in your brand, the foundation for a customer bond that turns into loyalty. Not only will your customers stick around, but they’ll be more likely to recommend your brand. It’s easier to grow your revenue when you have a reliable customer base. This leads to the next point:
4. Transforming Customers to Evangelists with Education PR
A bond can turn into loyalty. Loyalty can turn into recommendations to friends and colleagues. Now you have developed evangelists. If you have built a base of enthusiastic customers who rave about your products or services, PR can turn them into an army of evangelists who wield far-reaching influence. Consumers trust recommendations from peers far more than any education marketing communication you may throw at them.
In fact, according to this 2020 article, people pay twice the attention to posts and recommendations from their friends. Not only are they paying attention, but 76% of individuals say they’re more likely to trust content shared by “normal” people than content shared by brands. This trust is so strong that 82% of consumers proactively seek referrals from peers prior to making a purchasing decision. As the numbers indicate, the power of evangelists is undeniable.
Education PR expert Saul Hafenbredl shares a valuable PR tip when it comes to fostering the desired transition from customer to evangelist. “You want to highlight the work that the schools themselves are doing, rather than what you as a company are doing. Focus on what you enable schools to do in their classrooms.”
Telling your customers’ stories will make them feel more valued. Hafenbredl has seen this strategy result in peer recommendations countless times. It’s often the case that prospects need only to hear the success stories of others to cement their decision to work with you.
5. Education PR Can help Validate your Sales Team
Winning a key account is a big deal internally. PR can make it a big deal externally, too. School districts like to see a record of success, and talking about your wins publicly via PR reassures them that you’re a credible partner. In this way, one sale can lead to the next.
Hafenbredl provides an example of this strategy in action: “School districts in the same cohort – whether it be geographical, enrollment size or socioeconomic status – tend to notice what their peers are doing. If one district successfully implements a new product or service, that district’s peers know about it. Earning positive local media coverage about the implementation raises awareness even more. That’s powerful exposure for your brand.”
The sales team can take the positive local PR down the road to nearby districts to use as leverage. Hafenbredl calls this process “selling the neighboring district.” Through the power of education PR, momentum triggered by a sale creates a snowball effect that empowers the sales team.
6. Education PR is More Trackable than ever
As we touched on earlier with the digital impact of PR, tracking your efforts has never been easier. Media intelligence platforms, website analytics, and CRMs are powerful and easy to use. Website traffic isn’t the only measure of your education PR campaign – you can affect a consumer’s attitudes and preferences without them ever landing on your site – but it’s a helpful proxy to see if what you’re doing is working.
TrendKite highlights a few important metrics to monitor in your next campaign, including mentions, share of voice, audience relevance, key message alignment, sentiment and SEO impact. These leading indicators act as signals for what you have reason to expect. In contrast, the key performance indicators they list are PR metrics that have quantifiable value. These include social engagement, website traffic, lead volume and quantity, and revenue (as it relates to PR). If you’re still using ad value equivalency to measure the impact of PR, please read this and then call us.
The process of connecting PR to the bottom line is different for every education organization. It takes cooperation, creativity and experimentation. But the reward is worth the effort. PR can be a major force in your education marketing strategy when it comes to delivering leads, closing sales and retaining customers.
Let’s start a conversation about how PR can work for your education, special needs or workforce development organization.