Reasons Why You Need to Know How to Leverage Your Faculty to Get Publicity for Your University

February 12, 2015 - 8 minutes read

An obvious strategy often overlooked or underutilized by universities.

On my drive to the office, I always listen to the National Public Radio. In just 40 minutes, NPR’s morning programs allow me to catch up on the latest news and world events. Plus, NPR does an outstanding job turning news into relevant and engaging stories that made my commute to work enjoyable and educational. To add credibility and outside perspective, NPR reporters often supplement their stories with commentaries and interviews with subject matter experts. Almost every morning, I hear:

“Dr. Smith, from University X, thank you for joining us today. What do you think about this topic?”


“We are pleased to have Dr. Smith from Institution Y on our show today. Dr. Smith, tell us about your new research findings.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if Dr. Smith hailed from YOUR university? What a great way to get free publicity for your school and to position your faculty as experts! Many universities pay to air their message on the radio, but here is a free publicity opportunity for your faculty and the school.

The example above features a radio interview, but reporters and journalists from all media channels regularly need experts who can add value and credibility to their story. Your university could hire a PR firm or ask your internal PR team to publish proactively news releases and pitch stories to producers, reporters, and journalist to increase your institution’s media visibility and brand awareness. This might be a good strategy for some universities, but what if you could turn “looking for opportunities” to “opportunities looking for you”? Would that help you save time and resources?

To understand how you can make media contact you with opportunities (and not the other way around), let’s take a look at how media representatives search for experts for interviews, speaking engagements and other opportunities.

Imagine you are a journalist covering the relations between Russia and United States. If you don’t already have sources to comment on this issue, you first place to find information will most likely be Google. To find subject matter experts for your new article, you would type something along the lines of “US-Russia relations expert” into the search engine (I used Google for this example). There is a 94% chance that you would not go past the first page in Google, so let’s review the results that we see on the first page of Google for out targeted search phrase “US-Russia relations expert”.


US-Russian relations expert – Google Search 2015-04-25

Most of the search results that you see on the first page are from news sites or research organizations. At the top and closer to the middle of the page, we find pages from Columbia University and Georgetown University.

The page with faculty profiles from the Georgetown University ranks second in organic search results. The page is well organized and provides information about faculty’s expertise. The page also links to add expanded faculty profiles with contact information. Nicely done!

faculty experts georgetown university

Faculty Experts on U.S.-Russian Relations – Georgetown University 2015-04-25

Columbia University did a good job creating a page that displays all the recent media placements related to the U.S.-Russian relations that feature their faculty experts. As a reporter, I can easily skim through articles, identify the experts and by clicking through to the experts’ bios find their contact information and reach out to them for commenting.


Our Experts on the Ukraine Crisis and Developments in U.S.-Russian Relations | Columbia | Harriman Institute 2015-04-25

This is just a quick exercise to demonstrate the importance of highlighting your faculty experts. What do your faculty profiles look like on your university’s website? Are they showing up in search results for their area of expertise? Are you making it easy for media to find and reach out to your experts? Do they list multiple means of contacting them? Do you coach your experts in how to respond to media or must media members wade through layers of PR people first?

The easier you make for media professionals to find and contact your faculty experts, the more publicity you can get.

The strategy of highlighting faculty on your website sounds obvious, but it takes the time to implement it right. Trust me, I know how challenging it can be to develop information-rich profiles for your faculty and then optimize them for search engines. The process of collecting and updating faculty profiles becomes even more complicated if your institution has contributing and part-time faculty who might also be employed by other institutions and organizations. This strategy takes time and dedication to implement and maintain, but it is an effort that is worth undertaking and can result in increased web traffic, media opportunities, brand awareness and credibility for your school or research center.

Ensuring that your faculty profiles show up high in search engines can take time. When you want to promote your faculty as experts on a recent trending topic, paid search advertising is an excellent strategy to use.

Did you notice the paid ad by Carnegie Corporation of New York at the top of the search results on the previous screenshot? Carnegie Corporation ran an Adwords campaign to get their page to the top of the search results. Advertisers, like Carnegie, bid on the keywords they want to show up for in search results and pay every time someone clicks on their page. When you want to promote your faculty’s expertise related to the topic that gets a lot of coverage and competition is high, running a paid search campaign could be an excellent option.

faculty ad google

US-Russian relations expert – Google Search 2015-04-25

Faculty is one of the biggest assets of both traditional and online universities. You can leverage their experience and expertise on the web to generate additional exposure for your brand.

Is faculty part of your marketing and PR strategy? If not, is it something important enough to start thinking about it?

Tags: , , ,