What the education comms community is talking about now

In the first few days of the lockdown, we decided to host our popular #CommsED meetups on Twitter. The aim was to offer a virtual space for education comms and marketing specialists to support each other, share ideas and discuss approaches.
It was a stressful time for everyone, with the lockdown so new, so coming together was a helpful antidote to the strangeness. There was a great response and lots of lively discussions, with the lockdown taking centre stage. We talked about positive comms strategies to adopt in the current climate, tips for hosting online events and meetings, ways to stay in touch with audiences plus the best memes and jokes we'd all seen! We thought we'd share a few things that we learned.

At a time like this, finding the right tone is crucial. We discussed how we felt about companies sending marketing and sales materials to schools in the last week or so before closure with @karen_ozjones describing this activity as “tone deaf”.

https://twitter.com/karen_ozjones/status/1242816706197827586?s=20

The importance of being responsive to the needs of schools was also raised.

https://twitter.com/EdFella/status/1242817745458278401?s=20

https://twitter.com/nowpressplay/status/1242817759337160704?s=20

Tilly from Now Press Play summed this up well:

https://twitter.com/nowpressplay/status/1242820964372688898?s=20

How can we cope with lockdown and school closures ourselves? How do we stay safe and still get the work done? This is especially challenging for people who are juggling childcare, getting to grips with new technology and navigating new comms challenges all at the same time. Tilly also shared a lovely way of coping.

https://twitter.com/nowpressplay/status/1242820077080231938?s=20

Remote working was discussed a lot. Some companies, like Pobble, already had experience as Anna Whiteley explained.

https://twitter.com/_AnnaWhiteley/status/1242820619827400706?s=20

Zoom came out as the video conferencing tool of choice but there were a lot of different experiences. It was also noted that broadcasters seemed to favour Skype.

https://twitter.com/AmyatEnjoy/status/1242818561401409536?s=20

Overall the message was to be adaptable.

https://twitter.com/EYFSF/status/1242816459157442561?s=20

We all agreed that it is important to accept that how and when you work might need to change. Spending some time researching the tools that work best for you is important.

Lots of people involved in the chat were also rethinking and developing their offers to schools. There were lots of examples of organisations working rapidly to develop new tools or features to meet the needs of existing customers.

https://twitter.com/nowpressplay/status/1242818941266923525

https://twitter.com/EYFSF/status/1242815536016379904

Incidentally, at Pedroza Comms, we’ve found that all our clients are rethinking and developing their offers to schools too. We’ve rethought numerous PR plans, developed lots of angles and targeted new audiences.

Our advice is; don’t be afraid to put current projects on hold and change your direction temporarily. Make some time to step back and identify ways that you can adapt and develop your offer.

Join our next CommsED chat

We hope that you find these insights useful. Our next CommsED chat will take place on Twitter at 2 pm on the 6th of May. To get involved, search #CommsED on Twitter. If you need any support during this time, we'd love to chat. You can email us or tweet Anna @PedrozaComms or Susan @EdCommsPR

To find out more about our CommsED meetups, click here.


Ed Dorrell and Anna Pedroza

Free insight: Ed Dorrell, Head of Content at the Tes tells us three things to remember

We recently interviewed Ed Dorrell, Head of Content from the Tes at a breakfast event we co-hosted with Roxhill Media, the organisation that provides us with our very useful media database.

Ed shared lots of essential insight and advice during the session and you can access all of it in our free briefing which you can download here. To get you started, here are three things we found out:

  1. News is online – Ed explained that virtually all news content is now handled online and, overall, about two-thirds of the Tes' editorial is digital.
  2. Tes International just launched – a new biannual publication aimed at both school and group leaders and individual teachers.
  3. Podcasts just keep getting bigger – the Tes hosts more than 10 podcasts and they are incredibly popular. The latest is the Tes Technology podcast, which launched in January this year. It joins podcasts covering news, pedagogy (Tes Podagogy), maths, English, FE, behaviour and more.

Click here to download the full briefing.

If you subscribe to our newsletter, you will already have received this briefing in full. For more tips on pitching to journalists, read our article 'Education PR: what journalists really want to know.


Good Luck to our brilliant Associate Director Susan Higgins

Susan Higgins has been Associate Director at Pedroza Comms for the past five years. During this time, Susan has been involved in a huge array of projects, helping to guide, promote and develop our clients’ public profiles. She has worked with the BBC, First News and Sparx and many others, and she has been instrumental in helping to establish Pedroza Comms as a leading specialist education consultancy.

Susan has now decided to take the next step in her career and will be going in-house as Head of Communications for the Edge Foundation, an education charity promoting the importance of a broad and balanced curriculum.

Although we are sad that we will no longer be working closely with Susan, we are delighted that she is taking on this exciting new challenge and we wish her the very best for the future!

Susan is also the co-founder of CommsED, our exclusive network for senior comms and marketing professionals in the education sector. We are very pleased that she is going to continue to lead CommsED with Anna and she will remain a valued part of our professional network. Good luck Susan!


CommsED Nov 2019

For those in comms and marketing, education is a challenging sector. It’s highly political, the workforce is fragmented and behaves more like a consumer market than a business one. Most importantly, the stakes are high – after all, we’re dealing with children’s futures.

So, although we love it, being an education comms and marketing professional can be tough.

CommsED is our way of making things easier. Everything we do is based on a belief that a problem shared is a problem halved. We run CommsED because we think it’s good to have a chat, a laugh and even a moan with people that do similar things to you.

We hosted our second CommsED event in November and it is clear that what we're doing is working. We have a growing waiting list, more people turned up than we could fit in and no-one wanted to leave. Clear signs of success!

Shelley Morgan, the driving force behind Bett 2020, described it as: “Small, intimate, and enough time to talk to people.” More than anything, people told us it made them feel special.

Andrew Carrick, comms strategy expert and fresh out of agency land, summed it up: “We’re a special niche with some lovely people who do comms AND care about their education world, so it’s nice to meet like-minded people with the same challenges who probably work on their own or in tiny teams.”

Finally, a shout out to Roxhill, the leading real-time media intelligence platform, who sponsor CommsED and kept us all hydrated. A couple of glasses of wine are always appreciated by the education comms crowd!

If you’d like to know more about CommsED, please get in touch with Anna or Susan:

anna@pedrozacommunications.co.uk or susan@pedrozacommunications.co.uk.


Why do we need PR in education marketing? 


Selling to schools is a challenge. First, you need to capture your audience’s attention and once you have it, you then must convince them to act.

Motivating people to change something they do in the classroom, or across the whole school requires you to be persuasive, trustworthy and inspiring. As humans, we naturally like to stick to what we know. 
This is where PR can be incredibly effective. Why? PR is fundamentally different to marketing because it is not based on buying our attention; it is earned attention. PR is all about securing attention based on merit. When an impartial third party is doing the talking, it implicitly communicates to your audience that what you’re doing is important.

Getting teachers talking about you

The media gets us all talking; to our friends, colleagues and families. We share things with each other; tips, advice and opinions. Those in education are exactly the same, and that includes the half a million people who are teachers.

Coverage in the media gets teachers talking about you and what you do. It powers thousands of social media shares and posts every single day. It builds your credibility and engages your audience. Because however much you tell your audience what you do is amazing, they’re unlikely to believe it or act on it until they hear from a colleague or friend. It’s human nature.

PR vs. Marketing

Many of our clients ask us why they should invest in PR over marketing? At Pedroza Comms, we see how the strongest brands are built on what people are saying about them, rather than what they are saying about themselves.

Creating engaging marketing content is important but you need to build your foundations on trust. Trust is fundamental in driving your audience to support your brand and share your content. This is where you can leverage PR to demonstrate that the wider world is interested in your brand and what you are doing.

Coverage on a platform or in a publication is an implicit endorsement and a valuable way to build and establish trust with audiences and prospective investors too.

PR also strengthens your position as an expert in your field. If a platform or publication is citing your opinion, that further reinforces trust in your brand.

So why do we need PR in education marketing? Because a third-party endorsement is the most effective way to build trust with your audience, to raise your profile and to strengthen your brand.

Click here for tips on how to get the most value from your PR.


Education marketing and communications: Could coaching help you achieve more?

Many education organisations I work with will employ just one person to oversee their marketing and comms. And even in larger organisations, comms and marketing is regularly one of the smaller teams. I am always impressed with the breadth of work that marketing professionals do; spinning lots of plates to keep their organisations in the spotlight. If that's you - well done!

Marketing and comms is a challenging role that can be quite isolating. You’re typically not part of the senior leadership team, which can limit your input on wider strategy and of course there's always that pressure to deliver results.

My own experience in education marketing and comms has seen me working on both client and agency side, managing teams of staff and working alone. I know the pressures and challenges of marketing and comms roles all too well.

That’s why I’ve decided to offer specialist coaching support to education marketing and comms professionals who want to increase effectiveness. Here are just a few of the skills you can expect to gain from working with me:

  • A marketing vision and strategy which is understood and supported by your senior team
  • A refreshed proposition that engages your target market
  • Greater insight into how to analyse data to understand existing and potential customers
  • Increased confidence as an education marketing and comms expert

Here's some feedback from one of my coaching clients, James Bywood, Marketing Manager at Penstripe:

“Anna provides an excellent marketing sounding board. Not only helping me to create a rounded marketing strategy but supporting the implementation through her logical approach and experience of ‘what works’. I can now confidently communicate my vision for the marketing to peers and management and look forward to seeing this increased focus reflected in new leads and an increase in sales conversions."

Here are just a few of the skills that you can expect to gain through working with me:

  • Ability to clearly communicate your marketing vision and strategy
  • Ability to confidently set tangible new goals and measure them
  • Ability to create a proposition that engages your target market
  • Increased confidence as an education marketing and comms expert
  • Develop a thriving marketing and comms function
  • Ability to analyse data to help you understand existing and potential customers
  • Increased engagement with new audiences

Whether you need a sounding board, a listening ear, (or simply a place to have a rant!) I’m here to help. If you're interested, please call 07813 938 020 or click here to book a free 30-minute consultation.


CommsED – a new star in the education comms world

In the education comms world, making connections is essential and at Pedroza Comms, our networks are incredibly important. They help us to spread the word about campaigns and activities, to build new partnerships and to provide our clients greater reach for their campaigns. We also try to help those in our network by promoting their campaigns, sharing content and helping with contacts and other advice.

Our new CommsED network is for those involved in education comms and marketing and aims to help us all to make new comms and marketing contacts across education. CommsED was launched on Wed 26 June at the RSA in London and refreshments were kindly supported by Roxhill, the topic-led media database.

The launch event brought together a mix of senior people from across the education sector. Participants were carefully selected to give a good balance from different areas of education. It wasn’t about the size of the crowd, instead the aim was to host an event where guests could make useful connections, share ideas and be inspired.

We’re pleased to say the first CommsED was a storming success with brilliant conversation, networking and new connections. Thanks to our founding CommsED posse: BAFTA, BBC, BEIS, Imperial College London, Lit Film Festival, NASEN, Pivotal, Place2Be, Pobble, Sparx, The Week Junior, Third Space Learning and Vision Teaching for helping to launch our CommsED star!

We’re planning our next event for the early autumn and we hope that CommsED can help everyone involved in education comms and marketing to grow their networks and build supportive links.

If you’d like to know more about CommsED do get in touch with Anna at anna@pedrozacommunications.co.uk or 07813 938 020


Practical PR tips for edtech to engage schools

The recent DfE edtech strategy highlights that schools and edtech need to communicate more effectively. PR is all about communication and putting things in plain language that can be understood by non-techie people. This makes it great for explaining new, and sometimes challenging, edtech products and services.

Here are 9 practical PR tips we regularly recommend to edtech companies to help them to communicate effectively with schools, to engage teachers (and others) and help to support their sales

1. Prove that you make a difference

Research that shows how your tech makes a difference in schools is a really valuable PR asset and can be used in press releases, opinion and comment. Services like Edtech Impact or BESA’s LendED can help edtech companies to engage directly with schools to gather valuable feedback, or work with other partners, such as universities.

2. Know your audience

The media that is consumed by your target audience is where you need to try and place coverage. It may be tempting to reach out to as many journalists as possible, but your time will be better invested if you target the media your audience will see.

3. Big education issues attract attention

A look through the national print and sector media will give you an idea of the issues that are newsworthy, for example, school funding, teacher workload, or teacher recruitment. The trick is to think about how the impact of your product or service links to prominent themes in the news. How does it make a difference? What have you discovered that could help schools and teachers?

4. Lose the tech

Don’t waste time trying to PR your latest technical development to education or mainstream media. The ‘tech’ in edtech is rarely a hook for an education journalist. Instead, reach out to edtech bloggers & influencers (more on these below) and invite them to try out the tech pre-launch. Ask them for reviews and help to promote any blog on news item on your website

5. Influencers

There are plenty of ways that you can work with influencers to spread the word of your product or service. An influencer doesn’t have to be someone with hundreds of thousands of followers.  Instead, they need to be respected by your target audience.  If you’d like to know more about how to find and work with influencers, download our step-by-step guide to influencer marketing.

6. Exploit coverage to the full

Make sure you squeeze maximum value from any PR to ensure your PR activity supports content marketing and SEO. Also, show coverage to your sales team so they can share it with existing customers and prospects.

7. Do it yourself

If you’re struggling to find ways to PR your edtech company why not create a new initiative or event? Events like Maths Week London, which has been developed by edtech company Sum Dog, or Lit Film Festival produced by A Tale Unfolds are both good examples of this approach.

8. Be opinionated

An issue that is repeatedly covered by the media is how tech will change the classroom. If you have strong opinions about the use of tech in schools, then there could be some great opportunities to comment on news stories. Set up Google alerts for keywords to monitor the media and when a story breaks, issue a comment to your target media. Click here for more advice on how to get a letter published in a national newspaper or online news site.

9. Finally, don’t forget parents & children

Mainstream media regularly reports on education from the perspective of its impact on children and young people. Parents are often asked to comment or may feature in case studies. Unlike the education sector media, they are less interested in the difference something might specifically make to teaching in the classroom. To appeal to mainstream media identify how your edtech product or services makes a difference to learners’ lives. Develop stories and angles that link to this and your news story is much more likely to appeal to mainstream media.

Good luck generating coverage for your edtech company. Please get in touch to tell us what you have found that works for you, or if you’d like to talk about the ways that we can help you to generate more effective PR.

 


We’ve Partnered With The Education Media Centre

Would you like to help a small charity to champion the cause of evidence-based education and raise the profile of your own work at the same time? Now you can!

We’re delighted to announce that Pedroza Communications has formed a partnership with The Education Media Centre to help organisations get noticed in the schools sector.

The EMC is the UK`s only independent charity dedicated to raising public and media awareness of research and evidence behind the education stories in the news. The EMC exists to provide journalists with briefings on new research and help education institutions to communicate research more clearly.

Under this new arrangement, the EMC will introduce us to their supporters and in return, we will give the charity 10 per cent of everything their supporters spend on our services. This in turn will help the charity step up its work with the news media, ensuring that the best evidence about what works in education gets to those who can use it.

Everyone who works with us in this way through the EMC will be acknowledged on their website as an EMC supporter, have a link to your website on theirs, and you'll be able to mention you are an EMC supporter on publicity materials.

Fran Abrams, CEO, Education Media Centre says:

“I’m delighted that EMC is forging this new relationship with Pedroza Communications. Our mission as a charity is to try to get the best evidence about education to those who can use it, and we hope this arrangement will enable us to do more to further that aim.”

We’re looking forward to working more closely with the EMC, supporting the charity, and having the chance to work with an even wider range of organisations and businesses involved in education.


How you can use new research to generate PR

If you look through any newspaper or browse any education news platform, you’re likely to see stories linked to new research. In this article we look at how you can use research to secure valuable coverage.

Why research is important for PR

New findings from research can be a great way to create a news story that will attract media coverage. In the education sector, that could be brand new information that typically examines an education issue or concern- anything from the off-rolling of students, to the use of learning platforms in secondary schools, to the ways in which schools are using lunchtime supervisors, can warrant research. Types of research can include:

  • Large scale, long-term research studies
  • Small research studies
  • Individual surveys
  • Annual ‘state of the nation’ reports that compare year-on-year findings

How can you conduct useful research that doesn’t cost the earth?

Unless you’re a university or you have access to a large in-house research team, it is likely you will need to commission an organisation to undertake the research. This could be a university department, a market research company, a polling company, a think tank, or simply a freelance researcher.

If you’re a membership body, or you represent a particular audience, you may well be able to research your members and gather useful insight. Members can provide valuable information but be aware that journalists may be more sceptical about the findings if they feel they are self serving.

Another option is to mine the data that your organisation collects and look for findings which have wider implications. For instance, The Key publishes a useful annual report about the schools sector which is based on their own data.

A quick word on opinion polls

Opinion polls are a useful and cost effective way to gather information from a particular group of individuals, such as teachers. They can help to inform more detailed research but they are also used in PR as stand alone research. This is OK, but ensure you work with a Market Research Society accredited polling company and that the sample size is large enough to be able to extract useful information. A minimum sample should be 1001 respondents, but if you plan to cut the data at a regional level, the sample needs to be larger so that the data is still robust. More information about polling can be found here.

Creating a research-led story

Although there may be many findings that are interesting, it’s essential that you think about what is actually newsworthy. What is going to appeal to the journalists you plan to target? Is there more than one angle?

Draft the release and ensure you explain the research methodology, who undertook it and when it was undertaken. Be prepared to share the full report and possibly the underlying data that has informed the research.

As well as the right news line, make sure you can offer a range of spokespeople and case studies. These can include:

  • A representative of your organisation who can discuss the research findings and their implications
  • An external expert who can provide comment on the wider picture (sometimes one of the contributors to the research)
  • Individual ‘case studies’ who can talk about their own experience, for example if research was about workload in early career teachers, then a teacher who has been in the profession for a couple of years would be ideal.

Pitching your research story – what NOT to do  

Ed Dorrell, Head of Content at Tes has some useful pointers for education PRs pitching research stories:

  • Avoid overblown claims about the implications of research such as "a revolution in teaching methods”. Instead, let the research speak for itself
  • Avoid confusing correlation with causation – a common mistake. A correlation alone does not imply causation
  • Don’t ‘dress up’ small research studies to appear something more than they are. Be honest about the scope of your research
  • Don’t claim conclusions which seem too good to be true. Most journalists can smell an exaggeration a mile away!

Don’t let the tail wag the dog

Research should never be commissioned simply to generate headlines, that may be a consideration, but the value of research is much more than just coverage. It can help to push forward a debate, influence thinking and help an organisation to hold a more authoritative position. It also provides valuable material for talks, sales information, newsletters, social media and online.

What’s important is that you don’t miss opportunities for media coverage. Make sure you plan early on and ensure your research asks the right questions to provide useful insight and some valuable news angles.

So there you have it. Good luck pitching your education research. As usual, if you have any questions about how to use research in PR then do get in touch. We’d love to hear your ideas and discuss any ways that we could help.