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Seven ways to avoid PR mistakes in 2023

2023 has kicked off with a bang and your PR team will be chomping at the bit to create great content and pitch out new story ideas to get your product or service mentioned in the national and education media.

When batteries are recharged and the creative juices are flowing, you can go off with all guns blazing in the first weeks and months of a new year.

But it’s worth looking at these seven steps to avoid PR pitfalls, get campaigns off to a flying start and achieve the results you want.  

 

1. Make sure your PR delivers on your business goals

Your PR team could be doing a great job crafting messaging that resonates with senior leaders and teachers and getting your product or company name mentioned in the publications, podcasts and blogs they go to for information. The digital skills of your marketing people are crucial for generating imaginative product launches that generate sales leads too.

But blending PR’s ability to build an audience’s trust in your brand with the focused and measurable strengths of marketing can be a powerful combination to help you meet your business goals in 2023.

Read our blog  and find out how you can use PR and marketing to build your reputation, shift opinion towards your brand, and achieve your business goals.

2. Plan, plan, plan

Approaching PR in an ad hoc way with little or no firm plan on what you want it to achieve for your business is a high-risk strategy that is unlikely to get you the results you want.

While an element of flexibility is essential for responding to the changing news agenda and shifting education marketplace, a good PR plan is the linchpin for co-ordinating the efforts of your PR and marketing and ensuring the activity they engage in actually delivers for your business.

The grounding for a successful PR plan comes from asking yourself some tough questions. These are outlined in our blog, along with our top tips for planning a great year for your PR campaigns.

3. Don’t leave keywords to chance

Whether your company supplies software to schools, training for MAT leaders or student record systems to universities, there are some common keywords and phrases the people you want to reach type into search engines when they are looking for solutions to the challenges they face.

Including these keywords in your online content will get your company name higher in the search list and make it easier for people to see how your products and services can help.

But how can you find out which keywords your audiences uses to source information online?

Check out our blog on keyword research and find out which words and phrases you should be using in your online articles and news pieces to reach the right people and put the information they need into their hands.

4. Don’t stifle creativity

When your PR or marketing team has a great idea for a campaign, is there a tendency to step back from activities that are considered to be a bit wild or crazy in favour of what’s been done before?

Make 2023 the year that you consider pushing the boundaries a little more. Even if you end up tweaking the original wild idea, injecting some fresh thinking into your PR could help you stand out from the crowd and take a successful campaign to the next level.

Get some inspiration from our short video and avoid overthinking or stifling the true creativity in your organisation this year.

5. Be ready to manage a PR crisis

No organisation is immune to a PR crisis. If the unthinkable happens – a call from a journalist who has uncovered a major fault in your product, or from a customer who says your products have corrupted their data – you need to be ready.

We have created the Complete Guide To Crisis Management For Brands & Startups in the Education Sector to help you act fast and protect your brand.

6. Get ready for Google Analytics 4

Add 1st July 2023 to your PR calendar as this is the date when Google Analytics 4 will replace the Universal Analytics platform.

But don’t get caught out. You will need to start putting the groundwork in place for the change now as you won’t be able to access your historical data after that date.

Read our blog on what to expect and what you should be doing to get the most from GA4 into and beyond 2023.

7. Don’t miss out on a prestigious award

The new year is a great time to consider entering an education award, such as the TES School Awards or the Bett Awards. An award win – or even a place on the shortlist – can bring added recognition for your brand and demonstrates to prospective customers that your product or service is among the best in class.

Writing an award winning entry can take time, but we’ve done some of the hard work for you here by outlining what you can do to give you the best chances of award success.

 

Read more about the fantastic results we have achieved for our clients and contact us if you’d like our help to deliver PR success for your organisation.

 

Photo by Tara Winstead

How do you measure PR campaign success?

So, you’ve had a great idea for a PR campaign to launch a new edtech offering, raise awareness of your brand in schools or get headteachers to watch a product demo.

But now you need to put some KPIs in place to make sure you can measure and report on how the campaign is performing both during its roll out and post campaign too.

What are the best metrics to use in PR?

That all depends on the type of campaign and what you are trying to achieve.

So let’s say you want to raise headteachers’ awareness of your brand. You might think the number of items of positive coverage secured in the press and on the websites your target audience consumes would be a good goal to measure.

You may want to track the number of speaker slots you secure for your spokespeople or customers on podcasts and at events aimed at senior leaders in schools too.

But does this really get to the heart of what you are trying to achieve for your business?

Focus on actions

Ultimately, you want the brand awareness you are generating with PR to lead to an action.

When school leaders hear about you on a podcast or blog, you may want them to:

  • Come to a specific page on your website
  • View a video on your product
  • Sign up for a free trial of your software
  • Download a white paper

So, the KPIs you put in place need to reflect the end goals.

KPIs for PR

Let’s say you’ve created a guide on improving student engagement to raise awareness of your brand.

Some KPIs you might want to set for this scenario could be:

  • Spikes in traffic to your website following the publication of opinion pieces or podcast guest slots secured by your PR team as part of the campaign
  • Direct traffic coming from any links which media outlets or websites have included in published content
  • Engagement on the site – the number of pages people look at, the average time spent on the page and if they are new or returning visitors
  • An increase in new user activity on your web site over a 3 month period, before, during and after the campaign. You can compare this with data from the same time period in previous years to get a good idea of the impact.

You can measure these using a data analytics platform such as Google Analytics.

If your goal is to capture teachers’ email addresses by placing the student engagement report behind a gated page on your web site, your KPIs will be slightly different.

They should also include x number of downloads of the content from your target audience.

It’s worth adding ‘uplift in traffic to the content landing page’ as a KPI too. An increase in traffic to, and engagement on, your website over the course of the campaign can be a good indication that the content and activity has resonated with people and they’ve made the decision to take the next step.

The benefits of the correct measures

One of the most powerful things about having the right measures in place is that it starts to influence the content and management of the campaign as it progresses.

Success can be measured against the specific KPIs you have set and if you’re not seeing an impact, you can tweak the activity over time and check the changes are making a difference.

The ultimate aim is to achieve your business goals, whether that’s more teachers talking about you online, more signups for a free trial of your software or increased sales.

Measure PR and marketing against KPIs

So before you start measuring anything, define the business objectives you are trying to achieve with the planned activity. Set specific KPIs around these to help you choose the right measurement tools and put you on track to get the results you’re after.

Below are 12 measures you can choose from to help you get the results you want from PR.

Type of measure What it isHow to do it
Back links
Links from quality external websites that send visitors directly to your site from coverage secured by your PR team, such as opinion pieces, case studies or product reviewsBacklinks are a powerful tool for increasing SEO ranking on search engines like Google.

You can monitor web traffic coming from your backlinks by looking at referral traffic in Google Analytics to see which coverage from what outlets have encouraged visitors to you site. There are also tools such as the Ahrefs back link checker which can provide a list of all the websites that have a link to your site.
Site traffic
General traffic to your web site, or visits to specific pagesMonitoring visits to your site, where they come from and how the data compares to that of previous years will help you measure the success of a timed PR campaign. Again, you can use a data analytics tool of your choice ie Google Analytics.
Time on site, bounce rate and pages visited
Useful measures to check the right kind of traffic is being driven to the siteUplifts in time on site and page visits can indicate that the prospects being directed to your content are already pre-qualified by what they have read or heard about you.

Aim to keep bounce rates as low as possible by providing content that is of value to your target audience. You can use Google Analytics to measure these metrics or an alternative tool such as Hubspot .
Search
Direct searches of your brand or productYou can monitor the number of searches for your brand using a tool like Google Search Console.

An uplift in the number of searches would suggest PR activity is resulting in more people becoming aware of your brand. Check search data for before and during a specific campaign to help you demonstrate the impact of life with and without the activity.
Reach/impressions
There is a subtle difference between social media reach and impressions, as explained below.

Reach – the total number of people who have received or interacted with your social media content.

Impressions – the number of times the algorithm has served your content onscreen, whether or not it has been clicked on
Large brands often track these metrics as a measure of increasing brand awareness.

While they might be a useful gauge of how social media algorithms are responding to your content, in isolation, they won’t give you any information about what actions people have taken as a result. Generally, unless increasing reach/impressions is your ultimate goal, don’t limit your analysis to these vanity measures alone.
Engagement
The number of likes, retweets/shares and positive comments your content receives on social media platformsThese engagement measures are critical for helping you to see how well your content is being received by your target audience. You can find these kinds of metrics by using a social media management tool such as Hootsuite to view all your social content in one place. Alternatively, get the data directly from the individual platforms.
Connections/followers
These are the people who follow you on platforms including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or connect with you on LinkedInMonitor these if you are trying to grow your audience or reach education influencers with a piece of online content. An increase in followers/connections can indicate the activity you are engaging in is successfully raising your profile. But remember to check the connections you are gaining are relevant and match the audience you are trying to reach.
Downloads/goal conversion/email addresses
These metrics are useful for measuring specific goals you want to achieve with your PR and social media activityWhether your aim is to capture email addresses with a webinar sign up campaign or encourage downloads of a piece of content on your web site, make sure you are clear on the goal so that you can measure success towards it.

It's important to track progress towards goals as a campaign develops and make adjustments to the activity and/or social media audiences and ad spend to ensure you get the best possible outcome.
Cost per click (CPC)
Data relating to the cost per click, click through rate and goal conversion measures on social media platformsKeeping an eye on the CPC rate of your campaign will help you to optimise your budget to get the results you’re after for the best return on investment.

You want to keep the CPC as low as possible, but bear in mind that if the audience you are trying to reach is small or niche multi-academy trust leaders, for example, the CPC may be higher.

If your CPC is high but a lot of the people you are trying to reach are taking the action you want them to, you may make the judgement that the result is a price worth paying.
Click through rate (CTR)

The percentage of people who click on your content when they see itA high CTR, combined with high numbers of people doing whatever it is you want them to, indicates that you are delivering the right content to the right audience and as a result, they are being encouraged to act.
Coverage
Published articles, news items and speaking opportunities secured by your PR team Quality media coverage can boost the credibility of your brand and enables you to build relationships with your target audience by demonstrating that you understand the challenges they face and can help.

Secure the right coverage for spokespeople and customers in the media your target audience reads. We tier all coverage based on a client’s objectives and the readership and quality of editorial.
Sentiment of coverage
The positive or negative tone of coverage Measuring the tone of coverage over time is useful, particularly for brands that want to counter past negative coverage or change market perceptions.

You could score the sentiment of individual coverage using a scale such as positive, negative, neutral, or balanced, or a numbered system to keep track of the overall tone of the coverage received.

Click here to find out more about generating leads for your education product or read more about how measuring PR and marketing can support your wider business strategy in our Guide to Good PR Planning.

Also, read our blog to find out how you can prepare for the changes to Google Analytics coming up in 2023 as they will affect the way you analyse the activity on your website.

 

Photo by Ann H at Pexels

How to generate leads for my education product

A steady stream of leads is key to increasing sales of your education product.  And one of the best ways to generate leads is by using your own PR and marketing content.

When teachers and school leaders search online for information, solutions or answers to questions, you want your content to pop up in front of them. You want your content to solve a problem, so they can get to know more about your business, understand you’re an expert and be open to buying from you.

Content can take many forms including research, a report, an infographic or a podcast.

But what are the specific steps to using content to generate more leads from the education sector?

Let’s look at the process and how you can ensure the leads you’re getting are of the very best quality.

Research, research, research

Kick off by researching key areas – start wide and home in as you go.

When it comes to understanding what your target audience are searching for online, Google is a great place to begin.

For example, you can find out what headteachers are searching for in relation to your education product or service by using Google Trends and a range of other keyword research tools.

We’ve written a full blog on how to do this here.

Other research ideas 

Once you’ve carried out keyword research, there are other ways to find out more about your target audience and what they’re looking for:

  • Research the media that teachers read. Whether that’s Teach Primary, Times Higher Education or Independent Schools Magazine, you’ll get a view on what interests the very people you want to attract.
  • Hang out with them online. You may follow headteachers on LinkedIn or hop onto a UKEdChat. During these weekly Twitter discussions about education, you’ll find out about the issues education professionals are facing at the moment and can also ask questions and become a part of the discussion.
  • Interview schools you with to get as full a picture as possible about your target audience. Find out how they like to receive content. Is it via email or do they prefer to listen to podcasts?

Then use all of this information to understand what they need more of or less of. What bothers them or excites them. And most importantly, how your education product can help.

Look at pre-existing content

Once you’ve found the area you’d like to focus on, you can delve deeper to find out more.

This includes:

  • Looking through any pre-existing content you have access to already, like case studies or previous reports.
  • Taking advantage of research that already exists in the public domain, for example Teacher Tapp regularly surveys their database of 8,000 teachers about what’s going on in schools and publishes the results.
  • Interviewing experts in your organisation or externally to ensure you have interesting, relevant and useful information to share with potential customers.

Generating content through leads – an example

Background 

Let’s take the example of an organisation that helps students get into the top universities around the world. We worked with them to generate leads among affluent parents in London. Our research showed that these parents were comfortable supporting their children when they were applying for Oxford and Cambridge. Yet they found it more difficult to help with the application process for the Ivy League universities in the USA as the system is so different.

We decided to develop a Beyond Oxbridge guide for parents, explaining the main differences between the UK and US university system.

Expertise 

Within the business itself, there were a series of experts we were able to interview in order to develop the content, including course work and exam tutors, university admissions professors and previous students.

They gave us all sorts of useful information, such as how the application process works, what life is like on campus and how to get an athletics scholarship. They explained how undergraduate courses in the US allow for a wider range of subjects to be studied and how to finance a degree in the States.

Research 

We carried out our own research as well, using the QS World University rankings for top institutions according to subject. We were also able to tap into existing research, such as information on employment opportunities and average graduate salaries according to university attended.

This process made sure we had all of the relevant information to prepare the best content possible for potential customers.

Create the right content

The next step is to start creating your content. Choose the medium you think will work best for your audience. If you’re not sure, then try out one and test the results.

Your content can be in written form, such as a report teachers can download, a series of top tips emails you plan to send out, or a blog post for your website. It can also be multimedia content, like a video or podcast interview with an expert, an infographic guide or a webinar training session.

An example 

For our university admissions organisation, we opted for a guide format that was hosted on a gated landing page on the client’s website. In order to download the report, parents had to share their email address for further contact by the marketing team.

On the back of this guide, we also developed additional pieces of content, such as articles on the Beyond Oxbridge theme for education publications and infographics for social media. All content had links back to the landing page with the report on it, so we could use Google Analytics to track where leads were coming from and assess which content was producing the best results.

The content generated 428 leads in just a few weeks of promotion, plus additional web site traffic for the company.

Don’t forget the follow up once you generate leads

Be prepared for what you plan to do once the leads start coming in.

Drop them into your lead nurturing programme or follow up with a phone call or an invite to a demo of your education product. Maybe you could offer a free trial or some free consultancy.

You can continue to use relevant content at each stage of your customer journey to help move them along the marketing funnel, such as targeted email marketing or a case study from one of your clients.

Follow these steps and in no time, you’ll be an expert at using content to generate leads for your business and it will support your overall education marketing strategy.

If you want to know how to get your education product noticed by senior leaders in education, you can download our Influence Schools White Paper. You may also be interested in our guide to good PR Planning.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

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