If education is going global, are our communications functions global enough?
By Suzy Giles, Head of Global Communications and Branding, International Baccalaureate Organisation
I’ve recently been surprised to find myself having conversations about how some education institutions in the UK are still looking at the best approach to managing communications and marketing functions. Should they have marketing and communications in one department, or as separate functions, should they sit with recruitment and admissions or with the top office? This debate is not new, in fact it’s been a topic of conversation for a number of years. But is this really the most strategically important issue which leaders of marketing and communications should be debating?
Whatever the makeup of the function, it’s the output which counts. And in the current climate of increased competition, the approach of BREXIT and the desire to show how the UK’s education is world leading, then how these functions are set up to operate in a global context is arguably the most important debate.
Our global footprint
Thanks to the way media operates these days, our communications footprint is much wider than the domestic markets we may be located in. Potentially any communication could reach the 40 per cent plus global population that use the internet. But are we managing that global footprint effectively, and are we always leveraging the talent and expertise across our communications and marketing teams to extend our global reach? Those education institutions with offices overseas have an advantage, they can work their stakeholders on the ground. But what if you are trying to communicate from your main location to a diverse set of stakeholders? How can we make sure our communications functions are adding value to the global effort?
- Do the research – global influencers come in many forms – journalists and bloggers but also collaborators and thought leaders you may have worked with on key projects. Good media monitoring tools can find out who is writing about you in overseas markets – but combine this with a good social media monitoring tool to see which of those influencers have extensive reach themselves – and target them appropriately.
- Is your content globally relevant? – do a sense check of your content to see how globally relevant and understandable it is to your target stakeholder. What are the key issues occupying the markets you want to raise your visibility in? Produce content which shows your relevance.
- Adapt your content when needed – in global communications, one size doesn’t have to fit all. What is written for a UK audience can sometimes benefit from a slightly different angle and even use of language for other markets. And translate it – you’ll increase engagement in target markets.
- Make use of the expertise you have around you – marketing functions often spend time creating new content for campaigns, when the communications team may have already written blogs or press stories which can provide engaging and thought provoking content they can use – don’t reinvent the wheel – play to the skills of your marketing and communications teams.
- Benefit from your international colleagues – international recruitment teams have the ability to communicate your messages in real time and can meet influencers face to face. Work with them to develop globally timed content, using social tools effectively. Their research on the ground is invaluable and they can bring useful content back to the marketing and communications teams.
- Engage a global PR agency – sometimes it just isn’t possible to get the penetration you want with the teams and tools at your disposal. Global PR agencies can be invaluable in getting your content to the right people, and can manage key stakeholders on the ground. Just be very clear about what you want to achieve and how much you want to spend.