IN THIS AGE OF 24/7 NEWS, THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR MEDIA coverage are wide. But getting institutional ink--whether it's in a traditional print source, on a website, or via social media--still has its challenges. Often the story isn't institutional news itself but news related to a faculty member or administrator or news on which one of these experts can comment. Following are 17 ideas for helping to make--and shape--this attention.
1. Think like an editor.
When pitching a story about an institutional expert, "you need to ask the question, 'Why would it be of interest to a reporter, readers, or viewers?'" says Bill Tyson, president of Morrison & Tyson Communications, a firm that generates coverage for colleges and universities. As Dick Jones, principal of Dick Jones Communications, puts it, "The real business of higher education is the transfer and creation of knowledge, and those are the stories that college media relations people should tell."
2. Connect current events to your experts.
During protests in Iran over the recent presidential elections, Manny Romero, director of communications and publications at Marymount Manhattan College (N.Y.), let the media know about Ghassan Shabaneh, an international studies professor who has visited Iran and has contacts there. The professor was a guest on the TV program Worm Focus and was interviewed by CNN. Another example: In 2008, the University of Central Florida's news and information office launched a campaign to promote economist Sean Snaith's expertise in the midst of the U.S. economic downturn, says Grant J. Heston, assistant vice president for News and Information. Each of the 1,000 customized media pitches sent throughout the year highlighted Snaith's unique analysis. Staff also sent online video clips of previous interviews to national reporters and television producers. References to or quotes from Snaith appeared in 1,200 media placements.
3. Make your media relations page a destination.
The news media section of Quinnipiac University's (Conn.) website includes a "hot topic of the day," which lists a university expert (including contact information) who can comment on that topic. A recent post covered President Obama's meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and suggested public relations professor Alexander Laskin, a native of Russia, for comment.
4. Send out a tip sheet.
Jason Hughes, director of public relations at Lynn University (Fla.), mentions experts in a weekly tip sheet sent to local and regional press during the academic year. Each sheet includes a top tip followed by a sources piece that highlights a faculty, staff, or, on occasion, student expert. One past sources piece was written on Sindee Kerker, an associate professor of criminal justice who was on the O.J. Simpson trial prosecution team. She has been featured on several local TV broadcasts. Lawrence MacIntyre, assistant vice president for University Communications at Indiana University, meanwhile, says he issues two or three tip sheets and advisories a week to selected national media outlets. "Sometimes there is no response, and sometimes we'll get five or six hits." Each one features photos and quotes from two or three faculty experts. South Texas College has a similar effort. Twice a year staff members produce and e-mail calendars to local reporters highlighting the events and new announcements that they may want to cover, says Helen Escobar, coordinator of public relations.
5. Get acquainted with local journalists.
Staffers at a local newspaper or TV station might not be as familiar with your institution as you think. "We should never assume the people in our institution's hometown know all about us," says Marc C. Whitt, associate vice president for public relations and marketing at Eastern Kentucky University. …