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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

Should my edtech business exhibit at Bett?

We’re often asked by edtech businesses at this time of year if it’s worth investing in a stand at the Bett education technology show.

So, we thought we’d share a few nuggets of advice to help you decide:

  • If Bett is the best place to showcase your education product or service
  • If it’s the right event to reach your target audience and if so…
  • How you can get the most from the show to ultimately generate leads

 

While you’re here, find out how to effectively target teachers on Facebook too. Get in touch if you need help to give your education PR and communications a boost.

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

Four reasons why you need PR in 2021

Well, what a year 2020 was.

As we enter a third national lockdown with hopes of improvement by the spring, here are four reasons why 2021 is the year to invest in PR.

1. Because technology is a part of our lives like never before

Stuck at home during the pandemic, many of us are spending more of our lives online. We are using our devices for work, socialising, shopping, exercise and entertainment.

This may have changed how your business connects with customers.

You can no longer meet in person with teachers or carry out live demos of your products. So, many business leaders find themselves asking how to connect with their audience in an authentic way.

One way is to meet your audience where they are: online.

Using digital PR and communications, you can connect with current and prospective customers via your online channels.

You can find the right way to reach parents and teachers, whether it’s through online campaigns, virtual events, blogs or video testimonials.

2. To take advantage of a rise in social media and influencer culture 

If your business isn’t engaging effectively with customers on social media, then your business isn’t properly communicating with customers.

In the last year, all social media apps reported an increase in usage.

The likes of YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok, which allow people to create, upload and share videos, have become increasingly popular. Last year, nine in 10 online adults, and almost all older children aged 8 to 15 years, used at least one of these websites and apps, and many watched videos several times a day.

Running integrated campaigns on social media is key to successful business communications.

Choose a theme that relates to your education product, create a key campaign message and be sure to track engagement. Make sure you use the right platform for your campaign and that it’s timely.

Consider partnering with a social media influencer who fits with your brand values and audience. They can help you reach your target audience, build trust, and increase engagement. This could be a blogger, journalist or podcaster. It could be a well-known teacher, edtech expert or education consultant.

Investing in social media will help you connect with current and prospective clients, boost awareness and increase leads.

3. So you can gain your audience’s trust 

Think about what your customers consider When deciding whether to buy your education product or service. Has this changed since the same time last year?

Recognise changes in your customers and their needs. Whether it’s spending power, ways of working, or challenges in education during the pandemic. And allay any fears or concerns.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 88% of us rate ‘trust’ as important or critical when it comes to deciding which brands to buy or use. Out of 8,000 people surveyed in 8 countries in October 2020, ‘trust’ was the third most important purchase criteria, with ‘price’ and ‘quality’ only slightly ahead, regardless of gender, nationality, age or income.

Personal experience matters the most when it comes to building trust. If your business can communicate with clients through friends, family, experts and reviews from trusted sources, then you’ve taken a step in the right direction in helping them to trust you and your business offering.

PR activities like product reviews, case studies, video testimonials and influencer campaigns can all help to strengthen trust among your target audience.

4. To help you manage a PR crisis

Last year was crisis, followed by crisis, followed by crisis.

The coronavirus outbreak, civil unrest and economic downturn.

An impeachment trial, a contested presidential election and a wave of international protests leading to a moment of reckoning on racism.

Not to mention natural disasters like wildfires, earthquakes and floods.

If we’ve learnt anything from 2020, it’s to be as prepared as we can be for a crisis. A well-managed crisis can actually win your brand fans rather than lose them, so the third lockdown may be an opportunity to reflect on how you would manage a crisis.

PR crisis planning means having guidelines in place for an emergency or unexpected situation.

How is your company going to react if the lockdown lasts longer than expected? What will your company do if there was a breach of school data? Or if your education software that teachers rely on for online learning has technological issues?

Don’t get caught off guard.

Identify the risks to your education business, rank them in order of seriousness and put a plan in place for each one.

Your crisis plan should outline your response to stakeholders such as customers, employees and the media. It needs to include key messaging for all of your business platforms, including social media. And make sure your spokesperson is media trained.

Check out our ‘cut out and keep’ guide to crisis management here.

Get started

The best time to start planning your PR is now.

Don’t put it off for another day. Who knows what this year has in store!

If you’re ready to start planning your PR for 2021, get in touch today on hello@theinfluencecrowd.co.uk.

Or have a read of our PR planning guide for some more top tips.

 

Photo by SevenStorm JUHASZIMRUS from Pexels

How to use PR to change teachers’ opinions

A successful PR campaign can totally change the way teachers think about your offering.

Whether that’s an IT system that helps manage school admin, an online game that diagnoses difficulties children have with reading, or STEM training courses for teachers.

Maybe teachers think your educational software is too expensive. Or it’s too difficult to implement in their classroom. Perhaps they simply don’t have the time to take part in a demo and bring in a change at a time when they’re busier than they have ever been.

So what do you need to do to change their opinions?

We’ve broken down one of our recent campaigns to give you some ideas.

1. Find out more about your target audience

The first step we always start with is to understand which teachers you are specifically trying to reach. Think carefully about who you want to influence, be that primary or secondary school teachers, SEN leads, teaching assistants, head teachers or subject leads.

And then ask yourself: how can you help them?

Let’s take the example of a campaign we worked on for Maths-Whizz, an award-winning online programme that raises the maths attainment of children aged 5-13. Not many teachers were aware of the difference it could make to children studying maths in their classrooms.

Our task was to let primary school teachers know about everything Maths-Whizz had to offer, and to get them talking about it. We wanted to encourage them to get in contact to find out how the product could help in their schools.

To get the attention of primary school teachers, whatever we did had to save them time – they simply would not engage otherwise. So, we came up with the plan to rebrand the month of November as ‘Mathvember’ and launch a month-long series of daily lesson ideas, social media challenges and competitions. These would provide primary school teachers with the tools and inspiration to ‘Make Maths Magical’ in their classrooms and encourage them to find out how Maths-Whizz can help them.

2. Put your Education PR plan in place

Once you have worked out exactly how to meet the needs of your target teachers, you can develop your plan. What can you do to let teachers know about your offering, or change the opinion they have of it?

You need an integrated campaign that combines the best of marketing and the best of PR. This involves creating great content, carrying out media and influencer relations and running social media advertising campaigns.

With Maths-Whizz, we engaged teachers in the daily lesson ideas, social media challenges and competitions we had developed via daily posts, social advertising and by getting key influencers on board. We also partnered with the influential teacher community, UKEdChat, which allowed us to tap into their 72,000 strong audience.

The month culminated in a webinar, which allowed the education experts at Whizz to demonstrate their obvious passion for generating ideas that help children enjoy maths. It gave the team an opportunity to talk about the Maths-Whizz product to an engaged audience too.

This integrated campaign gave us lots of opportunities to start a dialogue with teachers about how to ‘Make Maths Magical’ in the classroom and encouraged them to get in contact to find out more about Maths-Whizz.

3. Take stock

The outcome of an effective integrated campaign is raised awareness of your brand, as well as a change in opinion and behaviour of potential customers, making them more likely to buy your product.

The results of the Maths-Whizz campaign were impressive:

  • Web traffic rose by 53% year-on-year
  • 293 people viewed the webinar, which provided advice on how to ‘Make Maths Magical’ in the classroom as well as promoting the product
  • We earned support from key social media influencers such as @VicGoddard of Education Essex fame and @MartynReah. We also received coverage in TeachWire and Teach Primary. This resulted in a 2.8 million reach for the campaign
  • 1525 teachers signed up for the campaign and agreed to further marketing contact from Maths-Whizz

A change in teachers’ opinions can be seen in changes to their behaviour. For the Maths-Whizz campaign, teachers most certainly became more aware of the product and understood how much it could help in their schools. Then they went a step further and purchased the online programme.

We can see this from the huge uplift in sales:

  • Sales leads increased by 168% in the first month of the campaign and 244% in the following month

With this type of integrated campaign, you can engage with, and also help, the busiest of teachers. You never know, this may well shift their opinion, and interest, towards your brand.

To find out more about getting teachers to notice you, read our white paper, Influence Schools or have a look at our video and blog on how to get the attention of school leaders

 

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

 

How to get the attention of senior leaders in schools and academy trusts

Here at The Influence Crowd we work in all sectors of education, but the one request we get more than any other is from organisations that need help targeting leaders schools and academy trusts.

Many brands are finding that their marketing efforts to headteachers are simply not working anymore, and this is having an impact on their ability to sell more education products and services.

So, if you want headteachers in schools and academy trusts to take notice of your brand, you need to approach things a little differently.

And that starts with research.

  1. Talk to leaders in schools and academy trusts

The first step is to talk to your existing customers and prospects about what they read and where they go for information.

You want to know which education podcasts they listen to, who they follow on social feeds, and which channels they use – are they on LinkedIn or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram? Do they prefer to follow Teacher Toolkit or TeacherTapp?

Start reading the same articles and follow the same people your customers do to get an understanding of what they get from these sources and a better idea of the type of content they like.

  1. Understand their problems

The second step is to ask the school leaders you are already in contact with about the issues they are tackling in their schools at the moment.

Find out which areas they need the most help and advice with – it might be putting catch-up lessons in place that boost pupils’ progress, dealing with staff shortages due to shielding or improving children’s wellbeing. If any of these areas cross with issues your product or service can help with, then you are on to something.

You can take it a stage further and do a keyword search around the subject. This will help refine the words and phrases to include in your content so that it is easily found by search engines.

  1. Target school leaders and MATS on many fronts

Step three is planning a multi-channel approach to getting your content in front of leaders.

Pitch article ideas to education media outlets that cover the issues you want to focus on. Put interesting customers forward as interviewees to the podcasts your target audience listen to. You may also want to work with an influential blogger on a series of guides addressing a key issue, or create a help video that you can push out through an engaging social media advertising campaign.

Follow this plan to strengthen your education marketing strategy and you will have a much greater chance of influencing school leaders.

And if you want to know more about this method, you can download our Influence Schools White Paper.

You may also be interested in our blog What marketing messages will teachers want to hear in September 2020/21.

Photo by João Jesus from Pexels

What marketing messages will universities want to hear in 2020/21?

The coronavirus pandemic forced universities to make some rapid changes to the way they work, including closing their campuses, shifting to online teaching and finding alternative ways to assess their students’ learning.

These institutions now face a whole new set of pressures as they tackle the year ahead.

The logistics of keeping students safe, engaged and learning are only part of the story, and universities will welcome suppliers which can help them with these immediate challenges.

However, to survive and thrive, universities need to take the long view of their roles in a post-pandemic world, and they’ll be particularly receptive to messaging which reflects an understanding of the wider issues in higher education.

That’s why it’s important for businesses in higher education to know what the key trends are in the sector so they can hit the right note with their communications.

So what do you need to consider in your higher education PR planning?

  1. The blended learning model

Many universities were already providing some form of online learning offering prior to the pandemic, with lecture recordings, established virtual learning environments and high-quality multimedia content. But during lockdown, institutions had to shift everything online, with students joining tutorials on Zoom and taking open book exams at the kitchen table.

Now the emphasis is on blended learning with a mix of online and face-to-face delivery.

This appears to be the model most students are expecting as the academic year progresses. A National Union of Students survey found that almost half of students (47%) expected to be taught online in the first term of the coming academic year, but in term two 59% of students expected to be taught via blended learning.

The hybrid model may see students watching live-streamed or recorded lectures from home or within bubbles in their halls of residence, but attending smaller seminars, tutorials and laboratory sessions in person with physical distancing in place.

Universities will need support as they embed this blended learning approach more deeply into the curriculum, and if your solutions can help, it’s important to make this a core element of your messaging.

  1. A tough financial climate

Covid-19 is hitting higher education finances hard. With the pandemic touching every corner of the globe, and travel restrictions changing day by day, it’s harder for students to commit to overseas study. The impact of this is that institutions will be welcoming fewer international students this year.

Many universities are also facing lockdown-related losses of income from the reduced uptake of student accommodation and conference and catering operations.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies states that the total size of the losses faced by the sector is highly uncertain, but could be anywhere between £3 billion and £19 billion – that’s between 7.5% and nearly half of the sector’s overall income in one year.

This could leave some universities struggling to survive.

To be able to continue to deliver high quality education and research, institutions will have difficult financial decisions to make, and brands which understand these challenges and help to address them will be welcomed.

  1. A different student experience

Starting university in 2020/21 will be like never before, with virtual freshers’ weeks, restricted campus facilities and physically distanced social bubbles.

Confronted with this prospect, it’s hardly surprising many students considered deferring their university place for a year. Back in May, a poll by the Sutton Trust found that 19% of students had changed their mind about university attendance this autumn or had yet to decide.

However, the alternative may not be an option either, as the pandemic has put paid to some of the traditional gap year pursuits. Travel is largely off the cards, and jobs in hospitality or retail are hard to come by with so many experienced employees currently out of work and looking for roles.

In this uncertain climate, universities will need to find ways to make the student experience a positive one.

This is the message behind the Universities UK campaign #2020MADEUS which aims to give this year’s school leavers a message of confidence and hope as they continue with their plans to start university courses this autumn.

Institutions may be looking for additional resources to help students make the most of the social aspect of university, by helping students build new friendships despite the restrictions, and focusing on mental health and wellbeing.

Brands targeting the sector will hit the mark if they factor these messages into their PR planning.

  1. Covid-19 and student retention

One of key risks for universities in the wake of Covid-19 is a negative impact on student retention and progression.

Many of the 2020 cohort which universities will be welcoming this autumn have not been at school or college since March and may have missed out on some of the essential learning that would have given them a head start in their higher education studies.

And for the first time ever, students starting their university course will not have taken A levels or any other sixth form qualifications. Instead their grades are based on predicted grades.

This could mean more first year students losing confidence and struggling to get a foothold on their new course in those crucial early weeks and months.

Similarly, current students may find the lack of face-to-face interaction with lecturers and fellow students affects their academic performance.

A blog from the Higher Education Policy Institute suggests that, “With a prolonged absence from more traditional support, many students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are likely to experience a dent in confidence and disconnection from learning, despite the best intentions of universities. Some will leave their studies.”

Universities may be looking for tools and technology that can help them identify students in difficulty, so they can provide targeted support and prevent them from dropping out of their course.

It’s a pivotal moment for universities, and the steps they take now to alleviate the impact of Covid-19 will shape their future. Any PR plan needs to take account of opportunities for universities to focus on the positives as the world emerges from the crisis.

Campaigns and communications which demonstrate a deeper understanding of the new higher education landscape stand the highest chance of success in these extraordinary times.

 

To find out more, why not read our guide to good PR planning.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

 

 

What marketing messages will teachers want to hear in September 2020?

Over the summer holidays, many in the education sector use the relative quiet to plan their marketing and PR campaigns for the year ahead so they can hit the ground running come September.

But this year, things are a little more complicated than before.

Whereas previously, planning often involved updating your messaging to make it more relevant to current policies or trends, this year, a wholescale rethink may be required.

So much has altered in education, that what previously might have headed up the to do list for a teacher or school leader may no longer make it into the top 10 things they need to think about right now.

Covid-19 has changed everything. So what does that mean for your PR planning?

The more things change the more they stay the same

To develop a good PR or marketing campaign in any sector, you need to tap into your audience’s hopes and dreams. Or calm their worst nightmares. This has not changed. It’s just that you need to take a fresh look at what a teacher or school leader’s priorities are as they return to school in September 2020.

With this in mind, we thought it would be helpful to pull together some of the latest research to unpick what teachers will need help with this Autumn. If your organisation can genuinely demonstrate that you are responding to teachers’ current problems, your communications and campaigns will stand out above the rest.

What’s on teachers’ minds

So what are teachers thinking about at the moment?

  • Closing the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers

The Education Endowment Foundation recently examined the existing research available on the impact of lockdown on the attainment gap. The conclusion was that the impact of lockdown would reverse any progress made in this area in the last decade, with estimates indicating the gap would widen by 38%.

No one will be more acutely aware of this than the head that knows how many children are in receipt of pupil premium in their school or the teacher who has struggled unsuccessfully to get a response from the parents of the child who has only submitted a couple of items of work for marking since lockdown began.

These children will be front and foremost in the minds of educators as September nears. Brands that are sympathetic to this challenge or that prove they can help reengage learners will fare better than those that can’t.

  • Developing and delivering a catch-up curriculum

Teachers will be facing the prospect of working out how much learning pupils have missed during lockdown, and the need for a catch-up curriculum could be causing some sleepless nights.

According to Teacher Tapp, the teacher survey app, some year groups and subjects have fared worse than others during the pandemic. 63% of Key Stage 2 teachers say they have only delivered half or less than half of the intended curriculum, and for Key Stage 1 and Early Years, the figure is 57%.

Helping children catch up on essential primary learning will be a priority.

For secondary schools, art, design and technology and PE teachers were most likely to say that pupils missed out on at least half of the curriculum they should have received. And only 11% of English teachers say they had delivered the entire curriculum during lockdown.

Schools will be looking for support during this catch-up phase, and if your business can help teachers focus on key learning priorities to make up for lost time, make sure that’s reflected in your messaging.

  • Pupil mental health

The emotional impact of living through Covid-19 cannot be underestimated, and schools will be concerned about their pupils’ state of mind at the start of term. Children may have felt the impact of strained household finances, family illness or bereavement.

Bright Minds carried out a survey of young people with a history of mental health difficulties which found that 80% of children agreed the coronavirus pandemic had made their mental health worse, and 41% said it was much worse.

Younger children are also affected. Parents and carers of children aged between four and 10 years of age reported that over a one-month period in lockdown, they saw increases in their child’s emotional difficulties, according to a University of Oxford study.

With pupil wellbeing at the top of the agenda, schools may be adapting their timetable, staffing and classroom space to provide additional emotional support for individuals and small groups. Headteachers and SENCos may be keen to access resources which strengthen a school’s approach to pastoral care in the coming months, and they are likely to welcome brands which understand the importance of good mental health.

  • Teacher mental health

Teacher Tapp regularly measures the anxiety levels of educators. Following the announcement that schools should start planning to re-open for select primary school year groups from the start of June, 16% of state school teachers and 40% of headteachers reported feeling highly anxious.

September 2020 could see a similar pattern of anxiety levels among the teaching profession.

Teaching staff may be concerned about the extent of the work ahead of them in tackling learning losses, they could also be anxious about the safety of their work environment and the changes imposed on them by social distancing measures. Of course, many staff members are carrying the burden of family worries too.

Schools are likely to be focusing on teacher wellbeing by renewing policies and procedures and providing additional training for staff. Organisations which understand the challenges and can offer flexible CPD options could be well placed to help schools support their teams.

  • Maintaining safe distances while learning

Each new school year brings something of the unknown – there are new cohorts, colleagues and timetables to get used to. This year, there’s the added task of keeping everyone as safe as possible from Covid-19 infection – which is no small challenge.

Depending on the age of the children, teachers may find themselves reinforcing the social distancing message endlessly throughout the day, ensuring equipment is sanitised and teaching children in their bubbles.

Schools are expecting to welcome all children back in September, although this could change, of course, and the government advice is that “while coronavirus (COVID-19) remains in the community, this means making judgments at a school level about how to balance minimising any risks from coronavirus by maximising control measures with providing a full educational experience for children and young people.”

This may involve rearranging classrooms, removing assembly from the school day and staggering start and finishing times. School suppliers should consider how their solutions can help schools as they go through this period of change.

It’s likely that school leaders and teachers will spend this summer planning for the unpredictable as nobody knows exactly what September has in store. But by tuning in to teachers’ thinking, education companies can ensure their messaging hits the mark.

The best PR and marketing campaigns will do what they’ve always done – understand teachers’ challenges and find ways to help.

 

To find out more about planning your education PR campaign, you might like to read our PR Planning blog. 

Photo by nappy from Pexels

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