Struggling to promote the great work your university is doing? You may need to rethink how your university works with the media.
Nurturing mutually beneficial and long-term relationships with journalists and the media can be difficult for many universities.
Trying to promote your important initiatives while also providing interesting content for your media contacts is not an easy task.
The QS in Conversation conference aims to address these issues and provide actionable tips to universities seeking to improve their media presence.
We sat down with QS’s Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Zoya Zaitseva, to discuss the event and her thoughts on how universities can work with the media.
How are higher education institutions currently working with the media, and what needs to change?
This depends on the country and on the university’s status. In countries where higher education is considered a service, like the US or Australia, institutions appreciate the importance of proper connections with the media, treating the journalists as partners.
In some other regions, especially the ones where higher education is supported by the state, universities are only learning to treat the editors as stakeholders.
Most of the universities in emerging countries have lots to improve, starting from such basic things as sorting out the usability of their own web sites. Some started adding PR and communication roles to their teams, but many still think that it is not a university’s job to share the success of their own researchers with the world. But if not them, then who?
What do you believe are the biggest blunders that universities make when interacting with the media?
Universities assume you are interested in them, they assume you know the language they use internally, they assume you have time to open the attachment and read three pages of a standard press release about a new joint program or a visit by another rector.
Even when providing precise recommendations, it takes time for them to learn how to communicate in a way which the journalists would find interesting, appealing, and engaging.
Going from, “I need to tell about this new project and report,” to “what’s going to be interesting for the reader,” takes time and a will to change.
What specific feedback or constructive criticism do you hear from journalists about their interactions with universities?
A lot of the above, but also not listening to what the editors say, not thinking about their priorities, and not having realistic expectations.
Plus, a lot of universities send a bunch of materials out without identifying their university’s ambassadors and working with them. They need to identify what’s interesting for the readers and share what they have to say in a way which will resonate with the readership.
You’re hosting some sessions on “University and Media Relations: How to Make It Work,” at the QS in Conversation event in October, what are you looking forward to learning?
I’d love to hear from universities what else they’d like to learn about when it comes to media relations, apart from what a basic manual might look like.
I’d love to hear how they are developing better collaborations with journalists, what are their regional obstacles, and why is it that some universities in the region succeed while others don’t.
You’re also expecting to see some big names attend QS in Conversation as well, aren’t you?
Yes, Rachel Hall, University Editor for The Guardian, and Stephen Hoare, a prominent journalist contributing to The Independent, The Guardian, and other media.
The content of the conference is rich and exciting, I hope all the participants will take back something useful and inspirational.
How do you think the relationship between the higher education sector and the media will evolve in coming years?
I would like to think that universities will start to appreciate journalists more and learn how to communicate with them, as this is their chance to make sure the information presented is accurate and up-to-date, the stories are being delivered the way they were intended to, and the voices of many intelligent university professionals can be heard globally by both academic peers and future students.
If you’d like to learn more about how to improve your university’s relationship with the media, register now for QS in Conversation.