Crosstown Digital Communications

Wrap-up from the PRSA Counselors to Higher Education Senior Summit

A couple weeks ago, I had the honor of attending and presenting at the PRSA Counselors to Higher Education Senior Summit in Washington D.C. The annual event brings together some of the top PR minds in higher ed to discuss best practices, strategy and emerging tactics. I shared an updated version of my award-winning presentation from HighEdWeb 2011, “Reinventing News on Your University Website.” The slide deck is below.

I was blown away by how much great information the speakers at the Summit shared. Here are a few of my favorite tidbits:

  • Michael Smart, formerly of Brigham Young University but now out on his own as a PR coach and consultant, said that most reporters don’t want a press release; a customized three-sentence email with a link asking them if they want more information will do the trick. Reporters are busy, stressed and pressed for time nowadays. Don’t make their job harder with your wordy, self-serving pitch. Show real attentiveness to their beats, prove you’ve really read their work. In short, be relevant! EDIT: Check out the informative slides from his great presentation.
  • Multiple speakers noted the value of a university strategic plan in guiding communications strategy. Seems obvious, but so many institutions are missing this piece, or not putting the two together. Tethering communications to strategy to institutional strategy, said Emory’s Ron Sauder and Georgia Tech’s Michael Warden, forces you tothink and act strategically. Do your actions match up against institutional values? What more, it also gives you the power to say no and look smart while doing so.
  • More great nuggets from Sauder and Warden:
    • I love their comparison to Kinko’s. So many higher ed communications office end up being Kinko’s, just providing on-demand services to whomever walks through the door or calls on the phone. Kinko’s is not strategic. Don’t be Kinko’s.
    • If you haven’t seen The Soundbite University – a large-scale study of how higher education has been covered in the national press over the last 60 years – now’s your chance. Definitely worth a look.
    • Another great reference: the 12th annual The Edelman Trust Barometer, which “examines trust in four key institutions — government, business, media, and NGOs — as well as communications channels and sources.” Traditional media still have a high trust value, but interestingly, trust in corporate media (think brand journalism) is increasing.
    • Breaking news: bloggers don’t want to celebrate institutional accomplishments, but rather share consumer-oriented stories. Keep this in mind when pitching.
    • Georgia Tech’s Amplifier is a great example of owned content, featuring quick turnaround commentary by faculty experts on current, relevant issues. This positions Georgia Tech as a thought leader on issues of the moment. It’s similar to BU’s Professor Voices blog.
    • Blogs are great for “telling your story”, but don’t underestimate their power for SEO purposes, too. Better than an “experts guide.”
    • Students are still your best brand ambassadors! Check out the Emory 360 video series for a great example of this in action.
  • readMedia’s Amy Mengel delivered a great presentation on “Developing a Social Content Strategy: Finding the right mix of paid, owned and earned Media.” She discussed:
  • Excelsior College’s Mike Lesczinski also published a great wrap-up from the conference, as well as a short video with Mengel sharing her three takeaways from the pre-conference tour of NPR (which I was sad to miss!). Mengel herself also published a short wrapup.

Thanks to the folks at the PRSA for including me in this great event!

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