How to write a winning education award entry

Award entries are a great way to get recognition for your brand and your products.

Winning a gong for one of your products or services means potential customers have external confirmation that your offering is best of class.

Awards can lead to additional media coverage too, letting more people know about you and your products – not to mention the social media buzz that brings a welcome boost to SEO.

The downside is the entries themselves can sometimes take a long time to put together, so you only want to invest the time if you are certain you will get the recognition you deserve.

So what do you need to do to increase the likelihood of you winning the award you’re after?

Here are our tips:

  1. Choose something that deserves to win

Talk about stating the obvious, but it is likely that if you designed the product, you will think it is the best thing since sliced bread. However, if there are 10 other products on the market that do exactly the same thing, it is unlikely that yours will make the award judges sit up and take notice.

A well written award entry alone may get you into the shortlist for an award but it is genuinely the best products, or the most innovative services that actually win the accolades, so choose what you put forward wisely.

  1. Start off strong 

Think about it from a judge’s point of view. They may have 100 award entries to sift through in a day. If yours is number 89 in the pile, it will need to be pretty special to make them pay attention.

Your first couple of paragraphs will be key. Start with a strong quote, or illustrate what impact it has with an example. If it is a lesson planning tool for teachers, instead of stating that ‘it is the best lesson planning tool available’, why not start with something around how much time a lesson plan takes an average teacher to complete and why it is such an important job, to set the scene.

  1. Assume the judges know very little

It is easy to forget how much internal company jargon you use – a phrase you think is in everyday use in your company may be unfamiliar to a judge.

Spell out any benefits too. The judge may not automatically see that making a core process quicker for a teacher will mean that they can spend more time teaching or planning lessons, so make this link for them.

  1. Prove it 

Every time you make a claim, try to prove it. You saved schools or colleges money – great – but how much money? Use comparisons if possible – 90% of schools are satisfied with your product – fantastic – but even better if you can compare that to an industry average that is much lower.

  1. Get your customers to back you up 

It is one thing you saying that you are fabulous, but it is quite another if you can get a customer to do it. Ideally, quotes or case studies you use should be peppered with facts to back up any claims being made.

  1. Think about the language and examples you use

Use emotive language to demonstrate the importance of your offering – rather than stating ‘our system is reliable’, you could demonstrate it by saying that ‘1,000 teachers rely on our system to deliver engaging maths lessons on a weekly basis so it cannot fail.’

  1. The word count is there for a reason

The judges will not have time to read 10 brochures or watch a 20 minute video you have attached to the award entry. A personalised two minute video walk through recorded specifically for the judges will be far more effective than a professional advert you usually use in sales presentations. Select what you send carefully, and make sure it supports the claims you make in the award entry.

Good luck and if you need any help with your entry, just give us a call.

If you liked this, you may also like our guide to good PR Planning

 

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How can a PR strategy help my edtech start-up?

It’s no surprise that start-ups offering remote working solutions, online learning tools and food delivery services are among the companies that have achieved considerable growth in 2020.

The current climate is bringing significant challenges to some education-focussed businesses, while others have thrived from adapting their offerings or bringing new products and services to market to meet the changing needs of schools, colleges and universities.

But short-term growth doesn’t guarantee long-term business success.

In 2019, there were 5.9 million small and medium sized businesses operating in the UK – but 11% of all businesses ceased trading that year according to government figures.

So, what can fledgling edtech businesses do to help them deliver sustainable growth?

How to help your edtech start-up business succeed

The challenge is that launching a successful new business is all-consuming. Your blood sweat and tears have gone into developing a product or service that you know will help solve the problems your prospective customers are struggling with. Naturally, you want to get your new offering out to market as soon as possible.

The temptation for many edtech start-ups at this point is to focus all efforts on selling to schools. An announcement might make its way on to the news page of your website or an ad could be placed in the print and online media your prospects read. There might even be a handful of social media posts created about the launch. This won’t get your business noticed by your target audience.

All too often, a more strategic plan to raise awareness of the new business or offering is put on the back burner to be picked up once the brand is more established.

However, putting a well-designed integrated PR and marketing plan in place from the start can make the difference between a new business that flies and one that is at risk of falling at the first hurdle.

Here are three tips from us to help your start-up or SME get great results from education PR.

  1. Get the messaging right

Let’s say your company has developed a new tracking tool to help schools monitor the impact of catch-up lessons on pupils’ achievement and your sales success relies on teachers knowing that it’s superior to other solutions on the market.

Launching a campaign designed to knock or discredit your competitors might bring short-term gains, but this approach will put you at risk of damaging your brand.

You will get much more positive and sustainable results from shaping a strategic plan of PR and marketing activity that incorporates language that resonates with your target audience, highlights your credentials as thought leaders in pupil assessment and showcases testimonials from customers that back up what you’re saying.

  1. Make the most of positive customer stories

You are much more likely to spark the attention of heads and teachers in schools by having other educators talk about how great you are in a radio interview or podcast boosted on Facebook than you will talking about what you do well yourself.

Customer advocacy has been shown to increase the effectiveness of marketing efforts by as much as 54% and word-of-mouth is the primary factor behind up to half of all purchasing decisions

Make sure you have a way to identify and capture the great stories and experiences of your existing customers as the business develops and grows. When 80% of word-of-mouth comes directly as a result of personal experience, you can see why positive customer stories are so critical to the successful promotion of any new product or service.

  1. Create great content

Don’t be tempted to blast your prospects with technical details of your product – few teachers will be interested in the fact that the new app you’ve launched to support children’s literacy development is built on API technology.

You are much more likely to turn your prospective customers into sales if you focus on creating quality content that adds value and helps them solve the problems they face.

It’s getting harder to reach senior leaders in schools and academy trusts. So, if your company provides CPD to primary schools, a series of blogs on how to support the wellbeing of under-fives is more likely to be read by your target audience of school leaders than a company newsletter. If they have found the content useful, they will be much more likely to contact your organisation when they need to arrange behaviour management training for teachers across the school.

Avoid peppering your digital content with too many keywords and phrases designed to influence your SEO too. Google is getting much smarter at spotting corporate generated promotional materials and this will have a negative impact on your SEO ranking, making it less likely that your content will be seen by the people you are trying to reach.

It’s better to choose a few strong keywords, rather than overdoing it.

Find more information on how we can help your start-up get the most from PR here.

If you want to know how to get your brand noticed by senior leaders in education, 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

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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

 

 

Checklist for selecting a PR Agency

You have finally decided that you need a PR agency to help you get noticed by your target audiences. So, what points do you need to consider when choosing which will be the right agency for you?

Here are some guidelines to help.

  • Sector knowledge: Is the agency able to successfully demonstrate that they have achieved the outcomes and coverage in the publications/blogs you want for other clients? Do they understand the market – the issues that affect it and the journalists, bloggers, Twitterati and industry influencers in this sector?
  • Channel knowledge: Do they understand the difference between how a campaign should be pitched to a journalist and how that same message would work on social media? Do they know which channels your target market uses? Do they know if Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter would be best for your campaign?
  • Reputation: Ask to speak to some of their clients. Are they happy with how the agency works to achieve their objectives?
  • The pitch: Does their sales pitch to you meet the objectives of the briefing? Can they answer the question, “What is the first step in this campaign?” as this demonstrates they have thought beyond the creative stage and have also considered how the activity fits with your objectives?
  • The team: Ask who is going to work on the account (it is not always those that will pitch for it) and their experience of this sector. You could even ask to see examples of campaigns the individuals have worked on if you have doubts. Do they understand what makes a good story for a journalist or how to influence bloggers? Do you feel you can work with the team in the long term?
  • Crisis management: Depending on your product and sector, the ability to demonstrate knowledge and successful management of PR crises could be key too.
  • Costs and methods of charging: Ask about their fees, but also how expenses are calculated. Some agencies charge for a lot of additional expenses, which means costs can add up significantly over and above a monthly retainer.
  • Governance and policies: The agency should not currently handle the PR for any direct competitor to you and should have a policy of informing you of any future potential conflicts of interest.
  • Measurement: This is quite possibly the single most important element. What measurements will the agency use to evaluate the PR campaign? Will they work to specific targets, and do these relate to your business goals? Or do they just offer rather vague commitments about where they can get coverage? You should also look at how frequently they will report progress against objectives, as this will be crucial in establishing whether the campaign has been a success or not.

These are the key elements to selecting the right PR agency for your campaign, in our view. If you have other factors you feel should be added to this list, I’d love to hear from you at catherine@theinfluencecrowd.co.uk.

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