How to avoid these 5 common education PR mistakes

7 min read

You probably already know that public relations is an important part of building company awareness, credibility and reputation. In fact, research shows that 45 percent of a brand’s image can be attributed to what a brand says and, more importantly, how it says it.

Your education organization is no exception. Like any brand, education organizations need a PR plan to help tell their most important stories to their target stakeholders. However, planning a strategic education PR approach can come with a unique set of challenges and opportunities.

While PR tactics are important for increasing awareness about the launch of a new product or announcing a specific event, today public relations means more than one-off media relations efforts for these things. To go beyond building awareness and position yourself and your education company as a leader, it’s also important to lend your organization’s voice on a variety of topics beyond company news.

If your organization makes the following common education PR mistakes, you’re missing out on opportunities to engage in and offer a unique perspective on conversations in the education space, and therefore, preventing your organization from growing its reach and impact. But don’t worry — we’re here to share some solutions.

Mistake #1: Refusing to lend a voice on issues beyond offerings of your product or service

Every brand leader wants to get their name in the media on a topic of their expertise. And while it would be ideal for your education organization to be featured or profiled in a large education publication such as Education Week or Hechinger Report, the chances of big-name reporters wanting to talk about only your product or service are slim (however great it may be)!

You better your chances of receiving media coverage when you think outside the box to see how you can lend your voice on a variety of issues. Keeping abreast of current events will inspire different media relations opportunities, and you’ll be surprised how many topics your education organization can voice an opinion on.

For example, if you’re an edtech company pitching a new product, try lending your expertise on an issue currently trending in the news, such as personalized learning, technology use in the classroom or standardized testing. We did this in our outreach for test prep company, Academic Approach, to demonstrate expertise on a specific learning method, “grit.” Using these opportunities to connect with reporters, allows you to leverage your PR efforts to discuss how your service helps teachers, administrators and students achieve success, while also commenting on a timely topic.

Speaking out to the media about how your organization will respond to broader issues, whether they relate to politics, technology or education trends, increases your likelihood of being noticed and appreciated among stakeholders.

Mistake #2: Letting a fear of speaking up get in the way

It can be daunting to respond to an issue outside your comfort zone, but if you have a unique perspective, it can be one of the best ways to communicate your expertise. While it’s important to be strategic in how you respond to potential topics, you should act quickly before a reporter moves on to another source (which could be your competitor). Work opportunities to be responsive to current events and industry changes into your education PR plan.

Additionally, not offering to connect the reporter to other sources who can support what you’re saying limits how much you can contribute to a reporter’s angle. Often, for education organizations, these sources are principals, students, teachers or school administrators. To ensure the sources you offer are comfortable and prepared for success, share potential questions the reporter might ask during the interview with the person ahead of time.

Pulling a few strings to get multiple voices from your network is worth the time and energy when it leads to media coverage in an article or television segment that thousands of people will read or watch. Here’s an example of how our client, the Great Books Foundation, was able to show their learning methodology through one school’s experience.

Mistake #3: Limiting your education PR outreach to national outlets only

As we mentioned before, securing your organization’s name in an Education Dive or EdSurge article would be great. But in reality, that’s not going to happen every month.

Local outreach is just as important. Especially if your organization has a regional focus (but even if it has a national reach), it’s vital that you engage with reporters in your city and state. Media relations targeted at local media can help you reach the people who are often most likely to invest in your product or services.

Coverage from a local media outlet, like this article in Crain’s Chicago Business, should be seen as a win, not as a disappointment. Now that articles aren’t only in print, but online and searchable, local organizations can become nationally known with just the click of a cursor. And if a reporter at a national outlet wants to cover your organization, they’re likely to take a look at your local coverage first.

Don’t forget that guest pieces are another great way to get your organization’s ideas in front of a wide range of readers. National and industry outlets such as Education Week accept guest piece submissions. Most local outlets accept letters to the editor as well. While these can require significant preparation, ultimately the content is up to you, giving you more control over what’s published.

Mistake #4: Missing opportunities to share data

If there’s one thing that catches a reporter’s eye in their inbox, it’s that % sign. Journalists and education PR professionals alike use data to tell their stories in innovative, measurable ways.

Luckily, as the leader of an organization, gathering data should be easy. You can create a survey, share trends or changes you’ve noticed as a result of your organization’s work and leverage your industry expertise.

As the leader of an organization, gathering data should be easy. Click To Tweet

Ultimately, reporters want to be the first to share new insights or trends. Data is a great way to catch a reporter’s attention and get your organization in the news.

Mistake #5: Forgetting about social media

When you’re so focused on traditional media relations, it can be easy to forget that today, social media plays a huge role in people’s awareness of your organization. After all, 75 percent of consumers say they use social media in the buying process.

Twitter in particular is a great way to reply to influencers and participate in trending conversations. Check out this list of education-related Twitter chats, where you and your organization can get involved with a variety of topics in the education space, such as #mschat (middle school chat), #Nt2t (new teachers to Twitter chat) or #edtechchat (education technology chat).

Tracking social media interactions is also a great tool to measure your organization’s success. You can easily track who is interested in your organization based on who is interacting with your content and how often. You can also track if a media article mentioning your company was shared online with tools like SharedCount, which counts how many times a URL was shared on different platforms.

As you can see, there are many ways to create a robust education PR plan that can make up for any mistakes your organization might have made in the past. If your organization wants to take its PR efforts to the next level to gain recognition and position itself as a leader in your industry, try reconsidering your approach. For an example of how Prosper Strategies successfully launched a media campaign for an education organization, check out our work with language-learning software Mango Languages. Learn more about our approaches to developing education organizations’ impact through strategic education PR and marketing here.

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