A high degree of influence.

 The impact of online media coverage on the reputations of universities. 

The reputation challenge.

  • The university sector is a jewel in the UK’s crown. Nevertheless, universities are under considerable pressure to meet the expectations of fee-paying students and face increased competition from alternative education routes such as apprenticeships.

  • Universities rely on strong reputations to attract students, talent and investment – which is increasingly hard and exacerbated by additional competition from top universities overseas.

  • Reputations are hard-won and easily dented in the sector, where public and political scrutiny is a fact of life.

  • Online media coverage can make or break reputation globally.

  • Universities face significant challenges when it comes to positioning against key competitors:

    • The market is saturated with information that complicates customer choice.

    • There may be a gap between projected positioning (what the university thinks it is known for) and perceived positioning (what people understand about the university)

    • Unfavourable coverage often achieves more prominence than helpful coverage, so organisations are known for the wrong things.

    • Some universities are better than others at achieving coverage in influential media.

  • This report considers the role played by online media coverage in influencing the reputations of universities in the Russell Group.

Shaping opinion.

  • Tribe used its PRSV methodology to evaluate online media coverage for the 24 Russell Group universities in the UK.

  • Analysis of content from September 2018 to January 2020 reveals what the online news audience will have seen, read and reacted to when looking for information about these universities.

  • We also show long-term trends in key issues affecting universities, all of which impact reputation and require monitoring in respect of individual academic institutions.

  • The findings reveal how online media content has shaped perceptions of the universities during the period. This may or may not be in line with the positioning elements they wish to emphasise and sometimes highlights issues that need careful PR management.

  • The report also shows that some universities are far more effective – punching above their weight – when it comes to obtaining coverage in publications which will reach and influence their target audiences.

  • Our insights go beyond traditional media evaluation to shape communication implementation and planning, increase the effectiveness of PR and proactively manage reputation.

PRSV – what you need to know.

  • Audience impact is at the heart of PRSV evaluation, revealing how people respond to media coverage. This is far more robust than vanity metrics such as volume of press clippings, impressions or AVEs.

  • The PRSV algorithm calculates the probability that the audience has seen, opened and actually read PR-generated content. We call this the engaged audience.

  • The content that appears in Google search results is the basis for our analysis because online media are now the most influential channel, with some news sites reaching audiences far larger than those achieved by social media. Nowadays, people turn to Google first for information – about 90% of consumer journeys start with a search. The information returned in search results has a significant impact on audience decision-making.

  • Not all media are created equal, however. For any given topic, PRSV calculates which media have been most effective in reaching the interested audience.
  • To prove the validity of PRSV results, we correlate them against independent data sets, such as consumer search trends, website visits, sales or recruitment figures. This allows us to illustrate the impact of PR on real-world audience behaviour and outcomes.
  • All of our analysis is carried out at very high levels of statistical significance, which gives us confidence that the findings cannot be down to chance alone. PRSV allows organisations to #GetReal by providing insights which genuinely answer the ‘So what?’ question and add value to PR planning and campaign implementation.

Universities attracting highest engaged audience through online media.

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