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.

 

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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

 

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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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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.

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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.

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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. 

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What is integrated PR – and why can’t you afford to ignore it?

Good PR has the power to shift opinion towards a brand. There’s no doubt that opinion pieces, press articles and blogger recommendations encourage a teacher to consider your product in a way that a heavy-handed sales push won’t.

In fact almost half (47%) of buyers rely on media articles before making a purchase, according to Iliyana Stareva in her book, Inbound PR.

So, traditional PR will do wonders for your coverage, but does it deliver on your overall business goals?

Missed opportunities

Even if the overarching objective of your PR activity is to increase sales of your products – a key business goal – it’s quite possible that objective doesn’t appear on your PR plan.

Your team may be focusing on crafting your message, engaging your audience and getting your name in the right places, which are all great ways to raise the profile of your brand.

But that doesn’t necessarily get more teachers to buy your product.

For that, you need to convert prospective customers into sales. This has traditionally been the job of marketing, and marketing does it well, with its ability to focus on a specific product launch, generate sales leads and measure the impact on the bottom line.

However, marketing tends to concentrate on the product you want to sell.

Education PR reinvented

What’s often missing from the marketing approach is an understanding of how to engage teachers in the long term with your brand and spread the word that your company cares about helping teachers do their jobs.

That’s what PR does well.

If you take the focused and measurable strengths of marketing and blend them with PR’s ability to build an audience’s trust in your brand, you have an awesome combination.

The best of both marketing and PR’s talents, focused on your business goals.

That’s why we’re so excited about integrated PR, because it not only raises awareness of your brand, but can also change the behaviour of your prospective customers, making them more likely to buy your product.

Best of all worlds

Integrated PR makes your content work harder by using multiple channels and marketing techniques to make the biggest impact.

This is the philosophy behind the PESO model, developed by Spin Suck’s founder and CEO, Gini Dietrich. The model underpins integrated PR campaigns that combine Paid, Earned, Shared or social and Owned channels to draw your audience in and achieve tangible results.

Here’s how it works:

  1. An EdTech company writes a research report from a survey it conducted into teaching coding in schools.
  2. The report goes behind a gated area of the website where teachers’ contact details are requested before they can access the report. This generates leads for further marketing.
  3. The PR team writes a series of blogs and articles for the education media using the report content. These articles contain a link back to the report download page on the company’s website, increasing the number of signups and generating more leads.
  4. The team engages the help of influential education bloggers to link to the report via their social media profiles. Teachers see the report being recommended by people they trust.
  5. A social advertising campaign is launched on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter to promote the report.
  6. The internal marketing team posts blogs using the report content on the company’s website to achieve further exposure to teachers.
  7. Months of coverage on social feeds, influencer sites and the education press engages teachers with the brand. There are also hundreds of new email leads from the report download.
  8. The integrated PR campaign improves brand awareness, secures new business leads and provides a return on investment.

PR is changing, and the days of focusing on coverage alone are gone. By blending the best of PR and marketing, integrated PR campaigns can build your reputation, shift opinion towards your brand, and achieve your business goals.

 

To find out how integrated PR can help your business, read our white paper, Influence Schools.

Why teachers won’t open your emails…

You want to let teachers and school leaders know about your great new product, service or event so you’ve written a peach of an email and sent it on its way. But not only do you get scant response, most teachers don’t even open the email at all.

Why is that?

Teachers are just too busy.

They’re not just busy, they are insanely busy.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, teachers were working 9 million extra hours without pay every week according to the TUC.

On a typical day, a teacher will move from classroom to meeting to classroom, answering questions in the corridor as they go. There’s barely time for a cup of coffee. Even if they do get round to seeing your email, there will be a more urgent one from a worried parent or head of year that has to be answered first. By then it’s too late for your carefully crafted message to hit the mark.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Once a teacher gets home and the laptop’s back on, there’s barely a moment to skim through the inbox because it’s time to tackle that pile of essays or look through the agenda for tomorrow’s departmental meeting.

It’s hardly surprising teachers don’t get round to reading marketing emails.

Teachers look for advice from a trusted source

When a teacher eventually does find some quiet time to research resources for teaching maths to intervention groups, your email may not be what comes to mind.

Rather than clicking on your link and booking an online demo, a teacher might prefer to talk to other teachers at similar schools to see what they are using. A quick tweet or a visit to a Facebook group will give them the answer they’re looking for in seconds.

And it will be an answer they will trust.

A busy teacher wants quick and reliable recommendations before they make a buying decision, so they will turn to places where they can find expert advice. Articles in teaching magazines, posts on an education association forum or a product review in a blog or podcast.

…and what you can do about it

The good news is that there are ways to tell teachers about your product or service – and to encourage them to buy it – without wasting time and effort on emails that never get read.

You can reach those busy teachers and become one of the sources that they trust.

  1. Have a clear objective

First, you need to define your business objectives. Be as specific as possible about what you want to achieve. If you are looking to change the opinions of teachers who have never considered your product, you need to define how many people you should aim to reach with your message to shift those opinions.

  1. Understand your audience and know their challenges

Think carefully about how your prospective customer looks for information and what kind of content they consume. If the teacher you’re targeting reads the TES, listens to the EdTech podcast and is active on LinkedIn, take a look at these channels yourself to see what your audience’s trusted sources are.

Speak to your target customers, do some research and find out what challenges they need to solve. Do they want to save time recording pupils’ marks, or inspire reluctant writers to tell stories? Then think about how your product or service will help a teacher solve these problems.

  1. Create your message

Use your knowledge of your audiences to decide what sort of content will hit home. Carry out some keyword research and see what terms teachers are searching for that could be relevant to the solutions you’re offering. This will help you develop your messaging and show teachers your brand understands their challenges and can help solve them.

  1. Choose your channels

Reach out to teachers using a combination of channels. Increase your coverage on social feeds and influencer sites to demonstrate you’re a source that teachers can trust. Write using the language teachers use in your blogs, and show teachers your creative lesson ideas in action by filming a series of short videos.

  1. Measure your results

Keep track of your most successful channels. If you started with a campaign that focuses on social ads on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, but only Facebook is getting results, then you can shift your spend across to that channel to ensure you’re getting the best value from your outlay.

The days of reaching teachers by email alone are long gone.

But you can engage even the busiest teacher when they trust your brand to help them. And that’s when you’ll find teachers actively seeking you out for solutions.

To find out more about getting teachers to notice your brand, read our white paper, Influence Schools.

 

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.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

PR that delivers: A guide to good PR planning

Some companies launch their PR efforts with vague goals. Sometimes it is in response to a competitor suddenly gaining a lot of traction in the market or it may be a general notion that ‘we need to get our company’s name out there’.

What happens next will determine whether your PR campaign will actually deliver what it needs to or fail at the first hurdle.

For PR to be a success, you need a good PR plan. And a good PR plan comes out of asking yourself some tough questions.

Here is a list of some of the main questions we ask before we start to develop a PR plan for a client. The aim of this is to give you the information you need to start to create a strong plan that will support your overall business objectives.

PR Planning Guide

Ask yourself where you are now.

  • PR success/failures thus far – what was liked/disliked? How is your organisation perceived publicly?
  • Competition – what you like and dislike about them and their PR, how are they perceived publicly? What are they doing that could impact on your business?
  • Threats – changes in the political, technical and economic landscape

Ask yourself where you want to be.

  • Sales objectives this year
  • The vision in 3-5 years
  • Which objectives can PR support – the short or long term objectives, or both?

Ask yourself which audiences you want to influence.

  • Who has bought the message so far and who still needs to be convinced?
  • Are there any influencer organisations, bloggers and forums that can help you reach your audiences?
  • What market breakdown do you need to have to target these audiences successfully eg by organisation type, industry, job title? Or prospects vs existing business.

Then:

  • Define your messages to reach these audiences – what issues do they respond to/what makes them tick (focus on solutions to problems, tapping into emotions etc, rather than product messages). Some keyword research will help here as it can often refine your thoughts about what content this audience is already looking for. It is also worth discussing calendar events relevant to your industry as these may be useful to hook certain messages to.
  • Define priorities – it is likely you will not be able to do everything at once so define your top one, two or three PR priorities and stick to those as a starting point.
  • Define timelines and budgets – when you will target each audience, what resources do you have at your disposal?
  • Finally, define your measures – what will be deemed a success, how will you measure and report on this to determine the value of the campaign? These measures can be defined in many different ways, such as changed perceptions of the brand (which you can measure via surveys), the amount of the right type of coverage in the press, an increase in sales leads, an increase in engagement on social channels, increased web site traffic etc – whatever would be a good measure for the original objectives you set.

Photo by Erik Mclean from Pexels

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