The competition for students is fierce and colleges, universities, and trade schools need to do all they can to entice the next generation of scientists, accountants, and carpenters into their hallowed halls. Many schools use digital PR to help get the word out about their programs, services, and successful alumni.
Digital public relations is anything done to extend or expand your online presence. A successful PR campaign can do wonders for your brand and catapult you to the top of student’s university choices. We’ll examine 15 ways you can use digital PR to benefit your school and grow your students.
1. Define Your Goals
The first step to developing any digital PR campaign is to understand your goals. While each of these techniques can work for general PR, by understanding and creating goals, you can track how well the PR is doing and if it’s aligning with the goals you set.
Do you want to bring traffic to your website? Do you want a higher number of student admissions? Do you want more notoriety for the school? Make the goals specific so you can accurately track how they are accomplished.
Without goals, your PR campaign has no guide or blueprint. It’s just a mix and match of techniques with no clear destination.
2. Develop a Plan
Once the goals are determined, you need to plan how to use digital PR techniques to reach those goals. There needs to be milestones and timelines. There are many different techniques you can choose to help with digital PR, but not all of them will allow you to reach your goals efficiently.
Choose which techniques work the best for your goals and decide how and when to best implement them. Do you need to build website infrastructure? Do you need to create a list of media outlets, etc?
3. Work with Journalists
Media relations is a powerful method of getting the word out about your university. Some of the most trusted media institutions in the world cover research, information, and students from universities. It includes both local and national media.
Articles that feature your university, staff, and students add to your brand and create trustworthiness with potential students. Google also trusts news outlets, so getting backlinks from them will help your online profile and SEO as well.
An online article can get millions of views depending on the subject and the news outlet. Searches for your university will increase as well as traffic to your website.
4. Press Releases Grow SEO
Do you have something newsworthy going on at your school? Perhaps you created a new program, or a staff member has won a prestigious award? This is worthy of creating and distributing a press release.
You can craft it and send it out on a distribution service or email it directly to your media contacts. It also goes on your website and shared on your social media.
News outlets can pick it up and run it. Having it on your website improves SEO thanks to keywords and new copy. Placing it on social media lets it get shares and likes.
Press releases are great because you control the message and it gets attention.
5. Use SEO on Photos
One of the best parts of college is all the activities that go on from basketball games and speakers to fun games on the quad. Many universities and clubs put these photos online, but don’t put information into the alt and title tags.
These are used to help identify the pictures since Google bots can’t “see” pictures. If you include the school name and what the activity is, then if people look up your information in a Google photo search, they’ll see these pictures.
Google image search is more popular than ever as people seek out more visual information. Photos can also be shared on social media as well.
6. Social Media is Important to Digital PR
People spend hours on social media every day, especially high school students who happen to be looking into colleges. If someone is looking for schools in their area or who specialize in a particular area, then at some point they’ll come across your social media.
It could be Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or one of the many other people use. If your school isn’t very active, then they might lose interest or move on to one that is active. People often interact on social media.
They’ll comment, like and share your posts. They’ll try to contact you and ask questions about the university. If no one is there to respond, then they’ll not think you care about potential students. People expect interaction on social media.
Every social media account you have also increased your overall digital exposure. It’s important to not only have the accounts but be active on them as well.
7. SEO Your Website
When was the last time you had your website updated? Is it mobile friendly? Is it easy to navigate?
Today’s students re tech-savvy and use their phones for everything. Google handles billions of searches every day and that’s only going to grow. A website must be easily viewed on a cell phone and be optimized for search engines.
When students search for schools, you want to show up at the top of the search results. This only happens through the creation of highly authoritative content the use of effective keywords. While there are more than 100 factors in rankings, we know that keywords and content are two of the most important.
8. Backlinks Increase SEO Rankings
We talked briefly earlier about backlinks from media sources. In addition to content and keywords, we know backlinks are another major component to rankings well on search engines. Backlinks are links from other websites to pages on your site.
When you have staff write articles on their expertise for other websites, those websites often provide backlinks to the university bio, etc. The more backlinks your website had from other authoritative websites, it improves your expertise and authority in the eyes of Google.
This helps with SEO rankings and brings even more exposure to your school.
9. Encourage Staff to Guest Post
You have some of the best authorities in their individual niches working at the school. They have lots of information to share with the world and you should encourage and help facilitate. If your staff can provide guest posts to other blogs and websites, then you’re opening up your university to a whole new audience.
It brings notoriety to your school and staff and shows off their expertise in their niche. It might bring students interested in the subject to your school website. They may not have heard about your school had it not been for that article.
Guest posting on blogs and websites outside of your university adds backlinks and gets your brand in front of new eyes.
10. Build Your Own University Blog
When it comes to building authority in the eyes of Google and optimizing for new a varied keyword, blog posts are the best value. Blog posts give you the opportunity to create high-quality content on a regular basis.
Each post can be ranked on Google and used to bring people to your site. Blog posts can feature everything about your school including staff profiles, school life and activities, accolades and much more.
The more posts you have the better. Blog posts 1000 words or more with internal and external links can help build your brand and improve your rankings.
11. Build Relationships with Influencers
There are millions of YouTube and Instagram celebrities out there. Many do wild and crazy stunts for views, but others have good quality content that reaches your potential new students. It’s important to connect with these influencers and see if you can arrange mention of your school or even a visit.
If you allow a science blogger to tour a new facility or interview your staff, then that video can receive millions of views. It’s possible some of your own alumni have YouTube channels and large followings that you can reach out to.
Influencers hold a lot of sway over high school students, so building a relationship can help grow your online presence and bring new students to your school.
12. Paid Advertising Works Too
If you’ve ever seen a search results page, then you’ve seen the ads Google places above and below the results. Google Ads is the leader for paid online advertising.
You can have search, display and video ads for your university. They can laser target the audience for parents or students to make sure your ads are seen by the right people. Drive traffic directly to your website through online advertising.
It’s not just Google either. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have similar advertising platforms that you can use.
If one student comes to your school because of your ads, then the cost of the ads it more than reimbursed through tuition. Depending on your ad budget, you can push hundreds or thousands of people to your site.
13. Retarget People Who Visit Your Site
In addition to creating advertising that seeks out potential students, you can retarget them once they leave your site. If a potential student visits your site from an ad or Google, looks around, but doesn’t sign up for a newsletter and just leaves.
It’s obvious they’re interested, but they haven’t made up their mind. Retargeting allows you to show your advertisements to people that visited your site, so it keeps you at the front of their minds.
They’ll be on YouTube and see an ad for your school and remember that they were going to apply. Retargeting is a great way to bring people back if they’re on the fence about choosing a school.
14. Email Marketing is Effective Digital Public Relations
Not everyone that visits your website will be ready to apply to choose your university. They may have just started their search and you’re one of many on their list.
If they sign up for a newsletter, it means they want to keep receiving information about your school. It’s up to you to create effective email marketing that leads them back to you over and over again.
Email marketing has been around as long as there have been emails to market to. It has one of the highest returns on investments in all digital marketing. Don’t let those emails go to waste and keep them up to date on what’s going on and why they need to choose your school.
15. Perform Regular Evaluations with PR Team
Once you’ve implemented your PR campaigns, take the time to evaluate its performance every few months. It’s important to know how your media presence is, your website traffic, the most popular pages, etc.
It also helps determine what’s working and what isn’t. If your Google Ads campaigns are underperforming, then how can you change them to make it better? Do you need to restock your ideas for press releases?
Tools such as Google Analytics, Google Ads platform and Google Search Console have a wealth of information about your website and its performance over time.
You may need to reallocate resources or budget to other areas to help shore up underperforming areas or to push other areas to the next level. It’s important to not implement and forget your digital PR campaign.
They’re constantly changing and need regular updating if you want to maximize their effectiveness.
Take Your School to The Next Level
If your school is struggling to attract students or you want to attract a different caliber of students, then consider creating a digital PR campaign. It can transform how your school performs online and bring in students and notoriety.
Build your authoritativeness with Google and potential students through media and press releases. If you want to learn more about digital PR and digital marketing, then please explore our site.