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.

Attracting today's new post traditional learners meansadopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollmentgrowth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, andHelix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percentbrand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges.Downloaded today for free at Helix educationcoms playbook. You're listening to enrollment growth university fromHelix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking togrow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growthtechniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place.Let's get into the show. Welcome back...

...to enrollment growth university. I'm Aericleson, AVP of marketing at Helix Education, and we're here today with Tom Derso, associate vice president of marketing and communications at Delaware Valley University. Tom,thanks so much for joining us today. Are It's a real pleasure. Thanksso much for having me. Tom And I are going to have a greatconversation today about what a modern, higher ED media relations strategy should look likeand whether or not the same media gatekeepers are can still relevant anymore. Butbefore we get too deep into that, Tom can you get the listeners alittle bit better understanding of both Delaware Valley and your role there? I wouldlove to Eric. Thanks for the opportunity. So Delaware Valley University was actually foundedas an agricultural college in one thousand eight hundred and ninety six. Ashappens with institutions, we've evolved quite a bit over time. A few yearsago we went to university status and we've added significant graduate and degree completion programsand if you look at undergraduate enrollment now we are split evenly about a third, third, third among our schools of...

...agriculture, business and humanities and lifeand physical sciences. So the places really diversified. We're in the heart ofBucks County Pennsylvania. We're not in Delaware. The Delaware Valley comes from the factthat we're in the Delaware River valley. It's maybe a half hour to thethe rivers, about a half hour to our east. As far asmy role here, we are in the strategic planning process. We have apresident who's been here about a year and a half. It's our first femalepresident, Dr Maria Gallo, and we are trying to figure out kind ofwho 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 do great workand tell a really compelling story, and I do think that story is here. Awesome something a very exciting time to be there tom the old two stepapproach to media strategy was one pitch content to the media gatekeepers and Gods andto cross your fingers. Well, what is really change over the last fiveten years? What has changed, Eric,...

...is the entire online revolution that hasgiven those of us who are pitching direct access to our readers. AreConsumers, are users. We are not dependent on editors and assignment desks forus to get our word out. It is a complete revolution and certainly onethat could not have been foreseen when I started doing this work. It isresulted in a lot of headaches in some ways, but true, I'm optimisticabout it. I love that we can have our story out there and ourvoice out there in a way that is unfiltered to the folks that mad withthe most, to us, awesome, awesome, love it. You mentionedthat you're fairly new to Delaware Valley University Yourself. So when you arrived,how did you go about determining what to focus your university storytelling and media strategyaround? 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 ofit Eric is to look at where the...

...institution wants to go strategically. Thatis what drives what stories you tell, because as our institutions have grown morecomplex, and I don't think you can argue that point at all, thatthey certainly have, the pool of stories has gotten more complex and more numerous. So we can't tell all of them. It's in coming on us to findand tell the ones that advance the institution strategically in the best way.Speaking of those kind of media gatekeepers, as you dive into your strategic planand develop a media strategy around it, getting mentions from the Washington Post inNew York time still has tremendous value. Talk about the balance you see betweenhaving you and your team take the time to work through those traditional gatekeepers versusorder looks like to build out your own communication platforms and really think of yourown institution as its own media company. Yeah, and I would even addin there, Eric, that there are also emerging and non traditional gatekeepers thatwere focusing on these days as well. It's not just legacy media companies,it's also influential bloggers and influential podcasters,...

...shall we say. But in termsof the balance, I'm not sure any of us has quite figured that oneout yet. My sense is that the external validation still does mean something andold media is not as antiquated and out of touch as a lot of peoplethink that it is. Moreover, because of the reach of social media,even a mention in your local paper or a neat story in the weekly inyour community that can go national at the touch of a button. Somebody inCalifornia can read that story who would never have come nearer the newspaper twenty yearsago. Yeah, so it is a balancing act and I think a lotof it depends on the kind of students that you're trying to recruit and retain. You know, if you're a local or a regional school with not aton of reach. A lot of effort...

...to get into the New York Timesand the Washington Post probably doesn't make sense. You want to focus more on yourregional media. And the second part, which you mentioned, is building yourown news operation within and I think that's where what I mentioned earlier,where you have the capacity to reach your users without gatekeepers, and so thatmeans you need to be it's not about telling the stories that you think themedia will pick up on, because they might not be your most strategically importantstories. It's about posting on your site and tweeting and putting on facebook andsnapchat and all that, those stories that are advancing your institution strategically. Thatwill make you stronger because it will help you recruit and retain students who aremore likely to stick around, to form a stronger affinity with the institution andbecome therefore stronger and more generous alumni. Tom Whether you're trying to target thosekind of traditional media annals versus the new media channels, versus the hyperlocal mediachannels, is there still a benefit of...

...deliberately setting up your faculty to betopical thought leaders and celebrities to be called on by these players when relevant eventstake place. Absolutely Eric, and I'll tell you my thinking on that.Is that all the day to show that students and parents, when they're askedwhat are the most important factors in determining where they're going to go to school, a strong faculty is usually in the top three. Yeah, 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'minterested in that, that's a good sign that if I go there it's goingto be a good experience for me. And just two months into this newrole, how have you gone about trying to build those bridges between your facultyor has your staff arety? You know, are you inheriting a system where thosestructures and relationships already existed? I'm inheriting one of those, for sure. Our team is done a nice job...

...working with faculty and getting to knowthem and figuring out their areas of expertise. At the same time, I'm makinga point of going and sitting with every single academic department share on campus. It's going to take some months, but I have found that to bean 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 a call coming out of the Blue Esk and in the comment onsomething it's yeah, you know, it's there's been some trust. They're built. I love it. I love it, Tom from an overall storytelling perspective,what platforms, what new ways of communication, are your department focused onthat you just weren't five years ago because, frankly, they just didn't exist.I think snapchat is probably the biggest example of that, because it's maybethe newest player and all this, but instagram, I don't think we weredoing five years ago, you know, and those are both very image heavy. So we're using images a lot more to tell stories and at the sametime multi media has become much more influential...

...because the day to show the perspective, students love to look at videos. That's what gets the most traffic onfacebook and the most eyeballs, and so video platforms to tell stories are becomingever more influential. Yeah, and so how has that change of the lastfive years in terms of if you were trying to get picked up by nationalplayer, putting together in eight hundred to one thousand, sixteen hundred long formarticle with a single photograph that, if they liked it, they could justgrabbed and steal it. What are you producing now, both to run onyour own communication platforms as well as to pitch? How is that change interms of, you know, the form of the content that you're creating forpitching? Well, I think the rise of mean honestly handheld technology. Wecan use our phones to shoot video and it's pretty good. It's not likeyou know, this awful jerky grainy stuff. You're getting good images and with somevideo editing you can put together some pretty nice packages with not a tonof outlay of financial resources. Showing your...

...campus, showing prospective students and parentswhat your campus looks like, where they're going to study and live. Getthem into the labs, get them into the fields and into the classrooms,into the residence halls, get them to see what you are because here,as it at so many other places, Eric, the campus visit is soimportant. Once they get on campus and experience the place, that's often whatseals the deal. If we can give them a taste of that before theyget here, that is worth its weight in gold. At the same time, again, find those strategic story lines and then shoot them, storyboard themout. Maybe you're we're basically filmmakers now, as well as writers and media 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'veposted and see who you are and whether it's good news or bad news,there's a great opportunity to showcase who you are in that visual way that justcaptures people emotionally in a way that, as much as my writer's heart painsto say, words just can't time such...

...goods. Of any final next steptips for folks hoping to move to a more modern media relation strategy at theirown institution, Eric, I would just say it's really all about the strategyour work. We're asked to you more with less, which means we can'tdo all of it. So what we do has to have as much influencein impact as I can and that means being strategic better work. So findyour strategic plan and get a seat on the strategic planning committee to do thenext one so that you have that seat at the table and you can hearfirsthand exactly where the institution says it wants to go. Those, those arethe stories that you have to tell. Such good stuff, Tom, thanksso much for joining us today. What is the best place for listeners toconnect with you if they have any follow up questions? I love twitter,Eric. So I am on twitter at Tom Derso, T O M DuUrso and I'd be happy to converse with...

...anyone there. He's a good followfolks. Tom, thanks against so much for joining us today. Eric.Thank you. I really appreciated you've been listening to enrollment growth university from HelixEducation. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the shownitunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Untilnext time,.

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