Building a Modern-Day Media Relations Strategy at Delaware Valley University

The media gatekeepers no longer hold the only set of keys to your institution’s storytelling.

Imagery defines the current age. Snapchat, Instagram and easy, affordable access to HD video-making has redefined the way stories are shared.

Tom Durso joined Enrollment Growth University to share how his university, Delaware Valley University, is building a modern-day media relations strategy. As Vice President of Marketing and Communication at DelVal, Tom explained his strategic storytelling agenda in today’s image-driven market.

Holding the Keys to Your Own Storytelling Platforms

Stories of students, and marketing those stories to an audience, as well as key remarks from faculty, are well-defined assets of any university’s enrollment growth. Years ago, the keys of circulating those stories and remarks were held by a few local news giants, such as New York Times or Washington Post.

And while high-profile mentions of faculty quotes or student stories can be extremely beneficial, these aren’t the only tools a university’s growth strategy should rely upon.

Today, “you have the capacity to reach your audience without gatekeepers,” Tom told us.

Technology Has Changed Media Relations

Technology has changed everything. Technology now allows you tell your own story.

For a very affordable price, and without many resources, Tom explained we can create a high-quality video simply by using smartphones. With relative ease, one can create a visual experience of a day in the life of a student, showing labs, dorms, food halls, lectures, outdoors, extracurricular activities, etc.

Typically parents and/or students decide during a campus visit whether the student will attend a particular school. But, as Tom said, “If we can give them a taste of that [student life] before they get here, that is worth its weight in gold.”

Start Thinking of Your Institution as its own Media Company

Utilize Snapchat. Tweet directly to your audience. Create a podcast, a blog, that reaches directly to your audience.

Tell Strategic Stories

Tom doesn’t just tell interesting stories: he captures strategic stories. He is careful to understand the underlying agenda of the university.

To strategize your marketing, Tom suggested getting a seat at your university’s Strategic Planning Committee. Then, develop your stories around the institution’s strategic framework. Because, in the end, it’s all about the strategy.

“As our institutions have grown more complex … the pool of stories has gotten more complex, and more numerous,” Tom said. “It is incumbent upon us to find and tell the ones that advance the institution strategically in the best way.”

By developing content and stories around the heartbeat of the university, you will retain current students, attract appropriate prospective students and parents, and provide an exciting community for your alumni to be a part of.

Using today’s accessible tech, find those strategic storylines and then shoot them.

“Storyboard them out,” Tom said. “We are basically filmmakers now as well as writers and media [experts].”

Befriend Your Faculty

Most of you involved with a university’s enrollment growth are familiar with this fact: Faculty are among the top three factors of why a student and parent choose a certain institution.

Garnering a strong, externally validated faculty is essential to a university’s continued growth. A student interested in a particular field may choose a university because its professors are quoted in books, TV, or in newspaper articles concerning that subject. Leverage your current faculty’s expertise and quotability to attract prospective students.

To access this powerful tool, Tom fosters constant relationship with faculty. He frequents faculty classrooms, listening to lectures and taking a sincere interest in them as people.

By building thoughtful relationships, when a quote or interview is necessary, the connection is already present, and faculty are usually happy to assist.

Start Building Your Modern Day Media Relations Office

In today’s world, no longer is an institution’s marketing strategy left to the whims of a select few managing Pulitzer prize-winning newspapers hopefully mentioning a lecture a faculty member gave on astrophysics. While high-profile mentions of faculty members can assist in a university’s image, it isn’t imperative.

More importantly, is what the university has to say directly to their audience. With the advent of constant connectivity to each other, Snapchat, Twitter and other resources provide a unique opportunity for universities to directly reach their respective markets.

Smartphones provide an inexpensive easy way to access high-quality imagery and give universities the power to reach a large audience with important content, putting the information, quite literally, into the hands of the end user.

This post is based on a podcast interview with Tom Durso from Delaware Valley University. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to Enrollment Growth University.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.