17: Building a Modern-Day Media Relations Strategy at Delaware Valley University w/ Tom Durso

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Tom Durso, AVP of Marketing and Communications at Delaware Valley University, discusses what a modern higher ed media relations strategy should look like, and whether or not the same media gatekeepers are even still relevant anymore.

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Welcome back to an Roman GrowthUniversity, I Mari Colson AVP of marketing at healits education and werehere today with Tom Durso, associate vice president of marketing andcommunications at Delaware, valley, University Tom Thanks. So much forjoining us today, Irik its a real pleasure thanks. So much for having meTom- and I are going to have a great conversation today about what a modernhigher ED media relation strategy should look like and whether or not thesame media, gatekeepers or even still relevant anymore, but before we get toodeep into that Tom. Can you get the listeners a little bit betterunderstanding of both Delaware Valley and your rule there? I would love toORC thanks for the opportunity, so Delaware Valley University was actuallyfounded as an agricultural college in seighteen. Ninety six, as happens withinstitutions, we've evolved quite a bit over time. A few years ago we went touniversity status and we've added significant, graduate and degreecompletion programs, and if you look at undergraduate enrollment now we aresplit evenly about a third third third among our schools of agriculture,business and humanities, and life and...

...physical sciences. So the place isreally diversified were in the heart of bucks, county Pennsylvania. We are notin Delaware. The Delaware Valley comes from the fact that we're in theDelaware River valley- it's maybe a half hour, two tha the rivers about ahalf hour to our east. As far as my role here, we are in the strategicplanning process. We have a president who's been here about a year and a half,it's our first female president, Dr Maria Gallo, and we are trying tofigure out kind of who we are and where we want to go. It's a pivotal time forus and an exciting time, there's so many different opportunities to dogreat work and tell a really compelling story, and I do think that story ishere, awesome SOM, like a very exciting time to be there Tom. The old two stepapproach to media strategy was one pitch content, tot the media,gatekeepers and Gods, and to cross your fingers what is really changed over thelast five ten years? What has changed Eric is the entireonline revolution that has given those...

...of us who are pitching direct access toour readers, our consumers, our users. We are not dependent on editors andassignment desks for us to get our word out. It is a complete revolution andcertainly one that could not have been foreseen when I started doing this workit his resulted in a lot of headaches in some ways, but tru, I'm optimisticabout it. I love that we can have our story out there and our voice out therein a way that is unfiltered to the folks that mad with the most to usawesome awesome love it. You mentioned that you're fairly new to Delaware,Vally University yourself. So when you arrived, how did you go aboutdetermining what to focus your university storytelling inmediaestrategy around? Well, that's still an ongoing process. I've been here for twomonths and a week, so it's still now, but the whole nut of it Eric is to lookat where the institution wants to go...

...strategically. That is what drives whatstories you tell because, as our institutions have grown more complex-and I don't think you can argue that point at all that they certainly havethe pool of stories has gotten more complex and more numerous. So we can'ttell all of them, it's bincoming on us to find and tell the ones that advancethe institution strategically in the best way. Speaking of those kind of mediatgatekeepers as you dive, Inter to treitic plan and develop Amediastrategy around it, getting mentions from the Washington Post in New York.Time still has tremendous value. Talk about the balance you see betweenhaving you and your team take the time to work through those traditionalgatekeepers versus what it looks like to build out your own communicationplatforms and really think of your own institution as its own media companyyeah, and I would even add in there eric that there are also emerging innontraditional gatekeepers that were focusing on these days as well. It'snot just legacy media companies, it's...

...also influential bloggers andinfluential podcasters, shall we say, but in terms of the balance, I'm not sure any of us has quitefigured that one out yet my sense is that the external validation still doesmean something, and old media is not as antiquated and touch as a lot of peoplethink that it is, moreover, because of the reach of social media, even amention in your local paper, or a need story in the weekly in your communitythat can go national at the touch of a butt. Somebody in California can readthat story who would never have come nearer the newspaper twenty years agoyeah. So it is a balancing act and I think a lot of it depends on the kindof students that you are trying to recruit and retain. You know if you're,a a local or a regional school, with not a ton of reach. A lot of effort toget into the New York Times in the...

Washington Post probably doesn't makesense. You want to focus more on your regional media and the second partwhich you mentioned is building your own news operation within, and I thinkthat's where what I hav mentioned earlier, where you have the capacity toreach your users without Gat keepers, and so that means you need to be it'snot about telling the stories that you think the media will pick up on,because they may not be your most strategically important stories. It'sabout posting on your sit and tweeting and putting on facebook and snatpchatand all that those stories that are advancing your institution strategicly.That will make you stronger, because it will help you recruit and retainstudents who are more likely to stick around to form a stronger affinity withthe institution and become therefore stronger and more generous alumni tome.Whether you are trying to target those kind of traditional media channelsversus the new media channels versus the hyper local mediy channels. Isthere still a benefit of deliberately...

...setting up your faculty to be topical,thought, leaders and celebrities to be called on by these players whenrelevant events take place? Absolutely Eric and I'll tell you my thinking onthat is that all the day to show that students and parents, when they'reasked what are the most important factors in determining where they'regoing to go to school, a strong faculty is usually in the top three and there'snothing like external validation of hey professor x is quoted in the paper.That must be because he's really an expert in this. So if I'm interested inthat, that's a good sign that if I go there, it's going to be a goodexperience for me and just two months into this new role.How have you gone about trying to build those bridges between yourfaculty or has your staff already, you know. Are you inheriting a system wherethose structures and relationships already existed? I'm inheriting one ofthose for sure our team has done a nice...

...job working with faculty and getting toknow them and figuring out their areas of expertise. At the same time, I'mmaking he point of going and sitting with every single academic departmentchair on campus, it's going to take some months, but I have found that tobe an invaluable way to let the faculty know that my team and I are interestedin their work genuinely incredibly, so that when we call on them it's not acall coming out of the blueasking them to comment on something. It's a you know, there's been some trust therebuilt. I love it. I love it Tom from an overall storytelling perspective. Whatplatforms, what new ways of communication are? Your Departmentfocused on that you just weren't five years ago, because frankly, they justdidn't exist. I think snapchat is probably the biggest example of that,because it's maybe the newest player and all this but instagram. I don'tthink we were doing five years ago. You know, and those are both very imageheavy, so we're using images a lot more to tell stories and, at the same timemultimedia has become much more influential, because the daity showthat perspective students love to look...

...at videos. That's what gets the mosttraffic on facebook and the most eyeballs, and so video platforms totell stories are becoming ever more influential yeah, and so how has thatchange of the last five years in terms of if you were trying to get picked upby national player, putting together in eight hundred a sixteen hundred longform article with a single photograph that, if they liked it, they could usgrab and steal it? What are you producing now both to run in your owncommunication platforms, as well as to pitch? How was that change in terms ofyou know the form of the content that you're creating for pitching? Well, Ithink the rise of EAN, honestly handheld technology. We can use ourphones to shoot video and it's pretty good. It's not like you know this awfulJerky, grainy, stuff, you're, getting good images and, with some video editing, you can puttogether some pretty nice packages with not a ton of outlay of financialresources, showing your campus showing...

...perspective students and parents. Whatyour campus looks like, where they're going to study and live, get them intothe labs, get them into the field and into the classrooms into the residencehalls, get them to see what you are because here as it at so many otherplaces Eric the campus visit is so important once they get on campus andexperience the place. That's often what seals the deal if we can give them ataste of that before they get here. That is worth its weight in gold at thesame time again find those strategic storylines and then shoot them story,Bor them out. Ay we're basically filmmakers now, as well as writers andmedia people, and when you're in the news people are going to look for that.The media are going to go to your website and see what you've posted andsee who you are and whether it's good news or bad news there's a greatopportunity to showcase who you are in that visual way that just capturespeople emotionally in a way that, as much as my writer's heart pains to say,words just can't...

Tom such good stuff. Any final nextstep tips for folks hoping to move to a more modern media relation strategy attheir own institution Eric. I would just say it's really all about thestrategy. Our work were asked you more with less, which means we can't do allof it. So what we do has to have as much influence an impact as it can, andthat means being strategic, better work, so find your strategic plan and get aseat on the street Taou Planning Committee to do the next one so thatyou have that seat at the table, and you can hear firsthand exactly wherethe institution says it wants to go those. Those are the stories that youhave to tell such good stuff tom thanks so much for joining us today. What isthe best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any FOLLOWIquestions? I love twitter, Eric so IAM on twitter, at Tom, Durso, Tomd, Ur soand ID be happy to converse with anyone.

There he's a good follow folks Tomthanks against so much for Joiing us today Eric Thank you. I reallyappreciate it. You've been listening to enromantgrowth university from helicks education to ensure that you never missan episode subscribe to the show in Itunes or your favorite podcast player.Thank you so much for listening until next time.

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