We all know the definition of public relations includes the phrase “building mutually beneficial relationships.” But what does this mean for college students?
As members of PRSSA, we have the unique ability to learn about our craft while practicing it at the same time. From exceptional member meetings to guest speakers and agency tours, there’s a lot to write about and share with the general student body. Chapters are always encouraged to share their outstanding activities via Chapter News, but Chapters should also share this information with their peers through their campus newspaper.
So how do you build these relationships to get the word out?
Don’t just solicit the staff with release after release; become friends with the staff or at least get to know some of the editors on a personal level. What classes are they taking? Where are they from? When you see them on campus, catch up like old buddies. Media relations isn’t just about getting an article in the paper — it’s about making a sincere connection with another person.
In the case of campus media, we’re all students. There’s no need write as if you’re addressing the president of your university. Once you’ve established a friendship with your campus newspaper staff, you’ll be able to send press releases without the highest level of formality. Ask if they saw last night’s game or are excited for graduation. And once you’ve established a real connection, you’ll better understand what kind of stories they’re really looking for.
Be available for any extra questions your campus paper staff may have. Connect them to other sources. Send other story ideas that may not necessarily involve your Chapter. Being a resource — and replying quickly when they need you — will make it more likely that your campus newspaper staff comes asking you for stories.
And why do these relationships matter?
Building relationships with your campus newspaper staff is essential for two reasons. The first, of course, is to share all the great things your Chapter does with the rest of the student body. As we all know, earned media placement is much more effective than paid.
The second reason is to practice your media relations in a smaller, safer setting. Misspelled a name at the bottom of an email? Sent a pitch to the wrong person? Better to get those newbie mistakes out of the way in college than to make them at your new job.
For students who want to get to know their campus newspaper staff, just ask them out for coffee. Journalism students rarely say no to free coffee. For students who want to learn even more about media relations, PRSA offers regular media relations webinars to give you some more insight.
What other ideas do you suggest for working with a campus newspaper?
Teresa Lane is a senior at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, and the 2014–2015 president for WSU’s Jay Rockey Chapter of PRSSA. Follow her @TeresaRHLane or connect with her on LinkedIn.