Barbara Goldberg   jeffBray

By Barbara Goldberg and Jeff Bray

Shaping Perception - CCC #1 8.2014Our own Barbara and Jeff were invited to draft an article on why career colleges shouldn’t rely solely on social media to share messages about their campuses and programs. They offered six examples of why traditional PR continues to play an essential role in any PR campaign. Following is a condensed version of the article that appears in the July-August issue of Career College Central.

We live in an age of “Now.” Students and prospective students are turning to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other sources via smartphones for the latest news and information. You can’t go anywhere without seeing crowds of people with their faces buried in mobile phones and tablets. It seems there’s an app for everything, but is there an app for PR?

You’ve ramped up your social media presence to speak with students where they are – online. Even advertising and marketing has gone digital. We’re not saying you shouldn’t be communicating there…just that it shouldn’t be the only place.

PR pros recognize the benefits social channels offer. There’s no denying they can be…and are…effective tools for shaping perception. We use them daily, and counsel clients to do the same. But they are just some of the tools in the PR arsenal. Too many career colleges focus only on what’s cutting edge, forgetting the need to remain on solid ground with ongoing reinforcement of their digital messaging. They’re ignoring the value traditional PR brings to new wave marketing and advertising.

Shaping Perceptions - CCC #2 8.2014

Are your enrollment numbers falling behind projections? Are you losing out to schools down the street or across town? Maybe you need a solid dose of traditional PR.

Here are six good reasons why schools should use traditional PR to complement, and build upon, their social initiatives:

  1. Independent third-party endorsements can be very strong selling tools. When trusted friends speak highly of you or media, as an independent observer, spotlights you in a broadcast report or print article, your messages are seen as non-biased because they’ve been researched and reported by journalists not on your payroll. That may be the most important result traditional PR delivers.
  1. Awareness andPerception go hand-in-hand. They’re how prospects find you, how you are seen in the community, and how pride in your school and programs are created. Good PR uncovers and showcases the value you provide. Stories on charity-campus partnerships, for example, reinforce your standing as a “good citizen,” build positive perceptions, elevate you profile, and generate media buzz that reinforces advertising and marketing. Your story; your words.
  1. Internal Morale, if not strong, can adversely affect staff, current students and external audiences. What are you doing to build morale in your school? You can’t Tweet or post on Facebook if you’re doing nothing. A good PR team can create newsworthy/“post-worthy” events to spotlight on social media and develop newsletters, email updates, internal memos, or enticing collateral and web content that sparks interest and builds morale.
  1. Awards elevate your credibility, position you as a winner, provide  media exposure, and build morale. But, when’s the last time you applied for a prestigious award…much less won one? Winning awards requires strategizing and independent perspective to creatively position submissions so you stand out. Outside PR can deliver on all counts. In the last six months, we helped a for-profit school win six Stevies, two Best in Biz Awards, and recognition as one of America’s 50 Most Engaged Workplaces! The prestige that brought was priceless.
  1. Community Outreach, when timely and noteworthy, can generate media exposure. Even without media, it builds community awareness and perceptions that can be every bit as powerful as news stories. A PR firm can research and develop events that capture audience attention. We created a designer scrubs charity event and enlisted celebrities and local leaders to decorate scrubs to introduce a new healthcare school to the community, aligning the campus with charitable groups and hosting an event where personalized scrubs were auctioned to benefit each designer’s favorite cause. Innovatively introducing the school to the community, it generated goodwill and media coverage that could be utilized online and used for collateral material. A win…win…win for the school.
  1. Minimizing Damage during crises. Stuff happens – we all know that. But it gets handled more effectively and efficiently when you’re prepared. Effective public relations encompasses crisis communication planning. Likely scenarios and responses are prepared and rehearsed in advance to ensure responses are appropriate and timely. Ideally, you’ll never have to use your crisis plan but, if emergencies arise, you’ll be glad it’s there.

Are you using a PR team to complement your social media initiatives? If you’ve answered “no,” maybe it’s time to rethink your priorities.

Traditional PR – it still works!

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