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Visibility, making news and earning placements in #highered #admissions

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The Communications and Marketing staff at Augustana grows weary of my charge to them “to make news.” They’ve asked me to both to “clarify what I mean” and “provide  some examples.” I’ve done my best through the years to clarify and provide examples and I believe the team has responded well.

They understand the concept and they work hard to balance the various degrees of making news.

At Augustana we believe every story is news worthy. However, we try to differentiate between those stories we believe to be placement worthy and those stories that are simply news. I’ll be the first to admit this is a difficult balancing act, particularly when most stakeholders think that all stories are placement worthy.

(I suspect other C & M types know exactly what I am talking about! Furthermore, I’ve been in this category myself from time to time.)

The balancing act is complex, but manageable if you adapt and adopt the right systems to identify, manage and produce news and placements. We’ve had a good deal of success in both areas, with expanding news coverage and an increasing number of placements for stories and op-eds. The success is not accidental or serendipitous.

Below are a couple of tips I put together for those who are seeking to place op-eds,in particular, which are often a good way to increase visibility:

1. Believe that you have something to say: It takes a certain amount of confidence to put pen to paper and stand behind what you write within the public eye. You have to think that your opinion and experience matters and adds value to the conversation in which you hope to engage.

2. Believe that other are interested in what you have to say: This one is tricky. Don’t make the mistake to think that in order for people to be interested you need to have similar viewpoints. Often it’s better to take a stand contrary to popular belief. People are not seeking reinforcement of their view, but a perspective that invites them to think in a different way.

3. Pick a timely topic about which to write or speak: Many people want to stick the their comfort zone. I have worked with various colleagues, who are experts about important topics to higher education, but the topics about which they are passionate are not timely and therefore their opining is not in demand.  A great way to pick a timely topic is to think about what professional associations are discussing at a forth-coming conference or meeting. Offering some advance perspective on an issue is a great way to get attention and shape the conversation.

4. Make a connection beyond your idiosyncratic world: I’ve been fortunate to write to essays about admissions that were published nationally, but both made connections to something more accessible than college admissions. One essay compared student recruitment to the TV show “Deadliest Catch” and the other compared student recruitment and the Iowa Caucus. These essays worked because the introduced people to my world (admissions) through a different world.

5. Timing is everything: If you are serious about visibility, making news and earning placements, seizing the moment is more important than most other things on this list. You can’t wait “to get around to it.” Just like the advice offered above about writing about something that will happen at a conference, understanding that timing is everything is critical. Gaining visibility and earning a placement is about getting the right content produced at the right time…great content at the wrong time will sit idle.

6. Pick the right outlet: News and placements are dependent upon aligning message with messenger. It’s important to identify the right outlet, with the right personality, for the piece you seek to place. Finding the right niche takes time, but pays off in the end. The right outlet makes all the difference in the world.

I am sure you will agree that none of what I’ve written is “rocket science” (probably not all that original either).

What advice do you have about visibility, making news and earning placements?

W. Kent Barnds

a.k.a. @bowtieadmission

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1 Comment

  1. Beth Roberts says:

    Timeliness works because it has that “tension” built in — and some tension is necessary for every story, even if it’s considered “evergreen.” Tension doesn’t have to be negative — it just the area where opinions matter. Readers want to care about what they read one way or another. So good content has tension, and that’s what makes it a story. (Characters can’t hurt, either.)

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