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Kivvit's Bryan DeAngelis On 4 ways higher ed communicators can capitalize on March Madness

Kivvit's Bryan DeAngelis On 4 ways higher ed communicators can capitalize on March Madness

The men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments are nearing their championship games. Your bracket sheet was filled out long ago. As a communications manager for a team in the Big Dance, is your PR ready?

For communicators at big-time schools accustomed to high seeds and media visibility, PR is part of your March playbook. What if your team is the next Butler or Wichita State? A Cinderella story leads to a spate of media attention, following by new fans around the country including prospective students, and a surge of pride from alumni and donors.

Here are four ways to maximize your new notoriety:

1. You have a story to tell; don’t wait to be asked about it.

Plenty of media will interview the coach, the athletic director and the athletes, but make sure your university’s academic side has an opportunity to tell its story while the spotlight is on your school. How do you turn this attention to academic advantage? Do you want to expand your pool of applicants into new markets?

Do you have professors or deans who are national or regional experts in their area of study? Do you need to reconnect with alumni in distant markets? Carpe Diem! Now is the time to pitch your wish list of outlets and reporters. Journalists will be looking for angles to piggyback off the attention to the NCAA Tournament. Be ready to feed them good story ideas that accomplish your PR goals.

2. Expand your lineup of spokespeople

Every college or university has a spokesperson for major academic achievements – a dean, resident, or the head of admissions. And you have a coach or Athletic Director ready to go for any athletic news. But the NCAA Tournament is a unique moment when the line between athletics and academics blurs under the spotlight’s glare. Prep your star academic spokespeople (some of them are fans). Develop a message that connects athletic achievements with the culture on campus. Make sure faculty are ready to articulate those connections and communicate how a boost in the school’s athletic reputation benefits the school’s academic mission and energizes alumni, students, faculty and donors.

3. Pass the ball to the social media team

The folks on the athletic department’s social media team will be fully engaged throughout the tournament. The athletic department’s social media have more followers, but the academic social platforms still have important audiences to reach. Those audiences will welcome engagement around the tournament, so make sure your communications team syncs up with the basketball team and promotes new content and stories throughout the tournaments.

4. Get everyone on the bandwagon

There is a natural tension on every campus between athletics and academics. Now is a time for everyone to come together and show their pride for the university. The visibility of the school is about to make a significant leap. Communicate quickly and frequently with the faculty and staff. Help them understand how the athletic success and added attention can translate into a positive boost for the school’s reputation, including its departments, programs and professors. March Madness may only last a month, but your school can sustain the rise in reputation by preparation. 

Published by PR Daily