Part 1: Collaborating with Faculty Experts: A How-To Guide for Marketing Departments & DeansDecember 10, 20194 min read
“I don’t have time to do this.”
“I don’t think I’m the right expert.”
“My subject area is too specific.”
Have you ever approached a faculty member with an opportunity to speak to the media or perhaps speak at an event, only to hear responses like these? Asking certain faculty members to help serve as experts can be challenging. While it’s becoming more widely accepted by faculty that responding to such requests is a great way to build their personal reputation – as well as the institution’s – there is still work to be done in this area.
With my experiences I wanted to share some useful tips to help you better collaborate with your faculty and get more results:
1. Walk the Halls: Stay Connected to Important Faculty Research & Publications
Faculty play a key role in helping you tell compelling stories to a variety of audiences such as media, prospective donors and students. Yet it’s amazing how many communications people are disconnected from important discoveries their experts are working on. They get caught up in day-to-day events and struggle to find time to walk the campus. The first step in collaborating with your faculty is showing them you care. Make yourself approachable as a resource to help them communicate their stories and you’ll see dramatic results. While it may be tough, it is worth the time investment.
2. Take Inventory: Assess Which Experts Can Be Most Valuable in Helping You Engage Various Audiences
With so many faculty members across the campus involved in a wide range of activities, it’s important to develop a framework that identifies who you should be working with. While faculty have deep subject-matter expertise, not all are suited to helping with certain engagements such as broadcast media interviews. To better assess your faculty look at these key factors:
- Does the expert have a deep understanding of their focus area?
- How respected are they among their peers?
- Have they conducted research in this area?
- Have they been published?
- Have they spoken at conferences or received awards for their work?
- Is their field of research relevant to various audiences such as Media, Prospective Students, Donors and Partners?
- How are their writing skills?
- Do they have experience with public speaking to various audiences?
- Can they conduct an interview with a reporter?
- Are they willing to participate or get media training?
- Do they understand the significant value they can contribute in helping you build your institution’s reputation?
- Are they comfortable with being in the spotlight?
- Can they be available on short notice (within hours) for media interviews?
- Are they interested in building their own personal brand?
3. Get Alignment: Get Senior Leadership on the Bus
Consulting with Faculty Deans and other leaders on the campus will help you gain important support for your efforts to work more with faculty. Identifying their objectives at a program level will help you ensure that your work isn’t viewed as another “make work” exercise for faculty. Show them how your work with faculty experts will have potential to impact the following:
- Brand reputation in the community and among peers
- Media coverage
- Increased student enrolment
- Better Alumni engagement
- Increased donations to the school
- Government and research funding
- Corporate partnerships
4. Tap into Peer-to-Peer Power: Focus on Faculty
We all know who our “go-to” faculty are. The people who will enthusiastically help you try out some new approaches. These are the faculty who are doing great research but also can tell a great story and are respected among their colleagues. Identify a manageable group (a range of 3-6 experts is a good number to start). Assess them using the criteria we discuss in point #2. Then get these select experts to invest a little time with you to work on topic strategies and content development. Explain to them what you are trying to achieve and listen to their feedback. Getting their support, and helping them develop their content and stories is the key to success. As evangelists, they can be vital to getting buy-in across the campus.
5. “Opt-In” your Experts: Look for Different Types of Contribution
While media coverage is a big focus for many organizations it often tends to dominate the discussion about experts. Think about the ways your experts can contribute and help you tell your story to a variety of audiences beyond media (see point #3). Faculty can be engaged in a broad spectrum of activities such as:
- Research on specific topics
- Blog posts
- Speaking at conferences
- Speaking at student recruiting events
- Attending or speaking at alumni events
- Attending or speaking at donor events
Build a “Contributions List” that outlines activities where you may need support and get faculty to opt-in. Getting this agreement in advance allows you to better assess where you have “bench strength” to plan for specific projects. At the end of the day, you won’t get 100% of the faculty to jump on board, but we have seen that a good plan and collaborative communication raises engagement and participation.
Deanne Taenzer Vice President
Connecting Experts, Thought Leaders and Great Minds
Peter Evans Co-Founder & CEO
Recognized speaker on expertise marketing, technology and innovation