Friday, November 21, 2008

November Lunch Recap, Part I

Thank goodness for private venues!

After last month's non-private private-room debacle at Mackeys, I was relieved that this month's lunch involved a private venue -- the George Washington University Alumni House -- that actually delivered on the "private space" promise. And lo and behold... Attendees could actually hear our speakers. (By the way, for those who attended yesterday and are reading this, yes, this month's recap is a little weird to write since I was one of the guest speakers.)

But back to the lunch...

Topic: It's Academic! Higher Education PR and Communications

Guest speakers: Tracy Schario, Director of Media Relations, George Washington University, and me (Robin Ferrier, Communications Manager, Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus)

First off, let me just say how impressive Tracy was. The stories she shared about her "day-to-day" life handling media relations for GW were crazy! It would be too difficult -- and long-winded -- to repeat the stories so I'll just share some of the wisdom she shared:

-- University PR is chaotic. (I can attest to that!)
-- Running GWU is like running a small city, and Tracy's job is like being the press secretary for a small city. She gets involved not just in media relations, but in labor issues, crisis communications, etc.
-- GWU's media relations department gets more than 600 media queries a year, and puts out more than 300 news releases. (Very impressive! She also said she's trying to whittle down that 300 count... which is a challenging thing to do in a university setting.)
-- At many universities, stories printed in the student newspaper stay "campus" news... at GWU, because of its location in D.C., stories from the student newspaper often become local news covered by larger newspapers, including The Washington Post.
-- The blogosphere has (not surprisingly) become central to what Tracy does. 52% of media coverage for GWU now comes from the blogs and 48% from mainstream media.

But perhaps Tracy's wisest words were her closing:

"I'm often asked what is PR? There are a lot of definitions out there. The one I adhere to is that PR's job is to protect and to promote responsibly."

So there are Tracy's words of wisdom. Tidbits from my presentation will follow next week. So stop back by Monday afternoon to find out more about higher ed PR.

-- Robin

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