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Get the Word Out
When publicity is just one of a hundred things on your to-do list, it’s tempting to just print some flyers and cross your fingers. But why spend weeks or months creating an awesome event if no one will show up? Make publicity part your conversation from Day 1.
As the in-house public relations and marketing team for UAA, University Relations promotes the news and events happening on a university-wide level, including commencement, convocation, Campus Kick-Off, Winterfest, as well as stories deemed newsworthy on a national or statewide level.
We want you to succeed. On these pages you’ll find current best practices and guidance for the most common publicity needs on campus. We hope these resources will help guide you as you think about marketing and communicating about your event.
Publicize your event
Examples: Any event open to the public (free or admission required) including a speaker, performance, seminar, workshop, etc.
Agree on audience and goals
You’ll be most successful if your publicity focuses on specific audiences. Right away your team needs to clarify 1) Who are our main audiences? 2) What are we asking them to do? 3) What does success look like?
If your audience includes alumni and donors, the Office of Alumni Relations and your college's development officer can assist you with outreach plans.
Think like your audience. Determine what messaging will draw in your target audiences and inspire them to attend your event. If you have multiple audiences, the message you convey to students may be written, packaged and disseminated differently than the message you convey to faculty or specialists in your field. During this process, be sure to consult UAA’s branding guidelines.
Where are your target audiences most likely to see your messages? Make a list of all your potential communications vehicles. Then, think through each carefully and make sure each vehicle is tailored to a target audience and that you aren’t duplicating efforts. Remember, more doesn’t always equal better.
Communications vehicles for UAA events may include:
- Strategic networking
- Social media
- Online calendars (internal and external)
- Digital signage
- News media
Build your communications plan. Assign a person and a deadline to each task and execute. Pay special attention to timing. You may want mailed invitations to reach VIPs before they see the event on social media. You may want internal audiences to learn about something before the public, even if it’s just an hour or day in advance. You may want to reach out to media; prior to that, you’ll need to build a robust event page and make sure you have details, images and a spokesperson ready to go.
After your event is over, analyze your results. How many people attended? When you ask them how they heard about the event, what did they say? How many people clicked on your event webpage and interacted with your social media posts? Once you look at this big picture, you’ll have a better idea of how to adjust your communications plan for your next event so you increasingly spend your time and budget wisely.
Spread your news
What makes a story newsworthy? There are five factors that journalists and University Relations staff consider when deciding if a story is newsworthy. Ideally a story should perform well in at least two of these areas.
Keep in mind that competition plays a part. If there are a lot of newsworthy stories on a particular day, then some stories will be dropped. Although some stories can be delayed until a new slot becomes available, time-sensitive news often will be dropped.
Is my story newsworthy? The five factors
- TimingThe word “news” means exactly that – things that are new. A story needs to be told quickly: If it happens in the future or today, it’s news. If the same thing happened last week or last month, people have already moved on.
- SignificanceThe number of people affected/interested is important. An event that draws thousands gets priority over an event that draws dozens.
- ProminenceFamous people get more coverage just because they have name recognition. If you break your arm, it won’t make the news. If the Queen of England breaks her arm, it’s news. If you win an award from your regional professional organization, it’s typically not news outside your field. If you win an award that has name recognition – Carnegie, Nobel, Man Booker – it’s big news.
- Human interestHuman interest stories are special cases. They appeal to emotion. They often disregard the main rules of newsworthiness; they don’t date as quickly, they don’t have to affect a large number of people, and it may not matter where the story takes place. Human interest stories connect people through emotions – empathy, laughter, surprise or inspiration.
- Bonus factor: UAA missionFor University Relations communicators, a sixth factor is considered when selecting stories for publication or external promotion. We ask how a story aligns with UAA’s mission and priorities. If a story illustrates how UAA is making an impact in our community and easily resonates with a general audience, then go ahead, pitch it to us!
This is huge, tell everyone
Examples: College of Engineering opens new building
Big news announcements require a comprehensive communications plan, which you’ll want to have in place well in advance. Often University Relations can help you distribute big news.
We recommend you contact us and request a communications consultation as early in your process as possible. Through that consultation, we can help you build an effective communications plan including a media strategy.
If you have breaking news and your needs are immediate, please contact (907) 786-1733.
If you have questions about whether a media release is an appropriate tool for the news you'd like to share, contact us for a consultation.
Launch an awareness campaign
Examples: Campus-wide smoke free initiative, “Stalking the Bogeyman” (interdepartmental project with Title IX and research tie-ins), prioritization, accreditation
Typically a long-term initiative or campaign requires a more comprehensive communications plan, which you’ll want to have in place well before you begin talking to your audiences.
For initiatives, we recommend you contact us and request a communications consultation as early in your process as possible. Through that consultation, we can help you build an effective communications plan that fits your team’s resources, timelines and goals. University Relations may be able to offer some support.
After you’ve scheduled a consultation, your team can prepare for the meeting by answering these questions. Be as specific as possible.
- Who are your target audiences?
- What are your goals?
- What are the key dates?
- What size budget do you have, and how much of it can you devote to publicity?
- Do you already have your own social media channel? Web page?
- What regular communications materials already exist in your department? (Example: your department’s monthly newsletter)