Public relations for education can be a challenging line of work. If you’re good at it, you might find yourself with bylines in the local news, an abundant endowment fund, or as Richie Escovedo of Mansfield ISD found out, a swarm of student protestors.
Approximately 100 students from Timberview High School held a demonstration at the Mansfield ISD administration to show their concern over the decision to transfer a popular coach. Escobedo’s media monitoring story, which is chronicled on his blog, tells of how he successfully managed the media issue.
Public relations for education are not much different than corporate communications. The biggest difference would be the fact that you communicate about a different, less tangible product: trust. Part of the success plan was to share key messages about positive community engagement to keep the media and key constituents aware of policy changes. In education, as well as business, transparency and honesty are two points that are on the checklist for communications planners.
If you’re looking to read more about this niche in public relations practice, I recommend the following books as a good starting point:
Carnoy, M. (2004). Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education by David Kirp. (N. A.-L. Sutton, Ed.) Comparative Education Review , 48 (4), 466-469.
David Kirp, explores the international trend of commercializing the university. Kirp explores the methods colleges and universities are using to operate more like a for-profit business, and how these methods may propel the missions of the institutions, or in some cases, how institutions are hindered.
Gibbs, F. M. (2009). Marketing higher education theory and practice. New York: McGraw Hill.
The authors include tips on reputation management and marketing of education. The book has a great idea called The FACTS Method that can be applied towards any product.
- Focus on the quality and the customer.
- Ask the customers what they need and want.
- Clarify: your image, identity and product benefits. Clarity builds customer loyalty.
- Tell: tell your customers about your differences clearly, consistently and frequently. This is the essence of the project achieved by utilizing a variety of communication channels.
- Show: added value. Design appealing symbols and slogans to give verbal cues of the identity.
Salis, B. (2009). Putting the public back in public relations. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education.
This one is not specifically about education, but it important in my library because it’s a reminder about the essence of PR: people. Basically the intention of this book is the transform the public relations industry back into one about the people in the digital age. The book tries to emphasize a new set of priorities in PR brought upon by social media.
Twithchell, J. B. (2004). Branded nation: the marketing of megachurch, college inc., and museumworld. New York: Simon & Schuster.
This book brings together three cultural institutions that have turned to branding to increase their appeal, and then criticizes to no end. I would not really recommend this book to anyone that takes branding seriously, it is always nice to read something that disagrees with the norm, in order to understand different viewpoints and learn from them.