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Tips and Best Practices: Media Relations Skills and Tactics

For the past 30+ years, journalists at the annual College Media Conference, hosted by the Council of Independent Colleges and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, have shared tips and best practices for campus PR pros to gain coverage for their institutions. This series of blog posts highlights the advice of journalists and PR experts on “Perfecting Your Pitch,” “Social Media Tips and Best Practices,” “Pitching Science Reporters,” and “Crisis Communications Best Practices,” and ends with a short post on “Journalists’ Pet Peeves.”


Social Media Tips and Best Practices

  • Maintain a strong social media presence. Many reporters scan Twitter daily to note trends.
  • Use proper hashtags for breaking news. From Marie Malzberg, senior editorial producer of CNN’s At This Hour: College and university PR officers should have a “great presence on social media and use proper hashtags for breaking news. We use social media for everything.”
  • Use brand hashtags that are brief, unique, consistent with the brand, and evoke emotion. From Claire Machamer at the University of North Carolina School of Arts: Share content that makes you look smart, is about your identity, is funny, already has likes, and elicits high-arousal emotions.
  • Plan a strategy for sharing your story. From Doug Haddix, assistant vice president for editorial communications at Ohio State University: “You have the tools to tell your story. If you have the internet, you are a publisher…. But the keys to success involve advance planning” and using tools such as a shared Google Doc that details coverage and logistics, as well as hashtags, branding, graphics, and tweets planned in advance.
  • Don’t jump on every new platform. From Tom Evelyn, former vice president for communications at St. Lawrence University (NY): Institutions shouldn’t spread themselves too thinly across platforms because “the big hot thing today may not be hot tomorrow.”
  • Concentrate on consistent, high-quality social communication. Send four informative tweets each day instead of posting many tweets.
  • Use images to gain attention. Post photos, graphics, or videos as well as text.
  • Build followers honestly. Don’t purchase followers to increase your numbers. From Jeffrey Davis, principal of J. Davis Public Relations, LLC: “You need to build followers the real way—be interesting, be real, interact, follow back, and post information that is interesting to your followers…. The same thing with metrics—you can use tools, but you need to put thought into it—you can’t just print a report and hand it to your boss.”
Laura Wilcox