An Academic fine line - balancing education with PR and Marketing ...

I often hear academic colleagues bemoan the public relations and marketing functions of their respective educational establishments. This isn't unique to the OU - this is a recurring theme around higher and further education and is one of those archetypical them/us situations.

While there is an element of truth - I have often held the view that many academics do not make the necessary effort to understand the motivations and demands placed on these marketing and PR types. Having been a guilty party, I think it is better to get to know them. Usually they tend to show a more human and pragmatic side.

They do come, they do go and you do need to cultivate relationship and know that your subject may not always be the Zeitgeist and nor will you always be the go to person. Once you overcome this minor egocentricity they tend to be a useful way of helping develop the courses/content and research you may be involved with.

If you want it tomorrow, only asking yesterday - forget it, that is a clear lack of planning on your part. If you know that an opportunity you are working on has a clear anchor/event that is worth exploiting - tell them.

Some PR/Marketing types will 'get it' - others do not, it really depends upon the work you are doing at the time. Often, you have neglected to explain it in terms that they could equally translate to the greater public. If you do not make sense to them - why bother, it isn't going to make any sense to anyone else.

They are driven by strategic objectives and a high level view of your organisation. Education is niched, nuanced, silo'ed and complex - which is a PR/Marketing nightmare. Try and define your own department in 140 characters (for a tweet) and you will appreciate why they struggle.

If you want impact - be prepared to play the long game, this is all you can do. Be aware that there are opportunities that will arise, come and go --- and of course be nice to the Marketing/PR types I find coffee and muffins works best.


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