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3 Takeaways from the 2016 College Media Conference

The Hodges Partnership’s higher education team recently spent three days at the 2016 College Media Conference in Washington, D.C. Organized by the Council of Independent Colleges and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the event included participation from about 100 colleges and universities, media panel discussions and great networking.

How often do you get to spend a few days, talking PR with some of the best and brightest in the higher ed community? Kudos to the organizers – it was a great event.

A lot of the panels included takeaways we regularly use when pitching faculty experts. Here are a few of our favorite takeaways.

  • Is the experts guide dead? Each media panel discussion included journalists from different beats, like science, business, higher ed, etc. NPR’s Christopher Joyce recommended communicators send a pitch with a story idea and corresponding expert (he doesn’t like emails that just include a rundown of experts). He rarely uses expert databases on college websites. On the other hand, CNN’s Marie Malzberg, a senior editorial producer for At This Hour, regularly flags emails with experts and revisits them later. Other journalists also mentioned utilizing expert guides as a tool for their research. Takeaway: meet journalists where they are – some will use expert guides, some will not.
  • Utilizing video to highlight expertise. Trying to land national TV interviews for your faculty experts? Malzberg likes to see potential guests on camera before booking at CNN. She recommended getting faculty on camera and sending via a Dropbox link. At Hodges, we also like to pitch interviews in the university’s local market, and then utilize the online video when pitching national TV.
  • Other keys when pitching experts: CNBC’s Kelli Grant explained that her three-person personal finance team often is researching on the fly and needs experts with an interesting point of view. Accessibility is incredibly important: It’s vital that she be able to interview experts that day to meet editorial deadlines. Christopher Joyce at NPR reminded everyone of the importance of experts that “speak English” – he covers science stories that are relatable to the general public and likes experts to use metaphors and similes to explain complex subject.

Were you at the College Media Conference? We’d love to know your takeaways in the comments below.

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POSTED IN: Media Relations, Public Relations, The Hodges Partnership

Cameron McPherson

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  1. Cynthia Price

    One take-away was to find new (different) outlets to pitch. Everyone wants to be in The New York Times, Chronicle of Higher Education, etc. but there are so many other outlets that we could pitch our stories to. We need to take the extra time to learn about those outlets and the reporters.

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