Challenging the Titans: making media effectiveness your secret weapon


Whichever way you look at the data, Oxford and Cambridge dominate the media effectiveness rankings for UK universities.  It’s not only about awareness, visibility or share of voice. They also manage to scoop by far the largest size of interested audience, as the graphic below reveals.

Here, we’ve benchmarked them against a set of other leading universities. Versus this named competitor set, the Oxbridge institutions achieve 27.4% of the audience which is seeing, reading and engaging with online media coverage about universities in the UK. Only Bristol is putting up a decent fight currently (see also our case study).

There are many reasons why Oxford and Cambridge dominate, as Metricomm’s extensive research in the university sector shows. Firstly, they have an outstanding reputation for research and teaching. Secondly, they are highly visible in the online media which are most effective for the sector because, let’s be honest, journalists can be lazy. It’s far easier to phone Oxbridge for an expert opinion when you can be sure of finding somebody who specialises in what you are writing about. Across other universities, it may be less clear where the subject matter expertise resides.

Thirdly, Oxford and Cambridge are seasoned experts at setting the media agenda. They have absolute clarity about what they want to be famous for and they make sure that key media hear about it, whether it’s a key appointment, a hot new piece of research, engagement with key issues or news about how they are working with industry.

Naturally, other universities would like to compete. Nowadays, they have all invested in business schools, research institutes and world-leading academics. The challenge is to ensure this is known and understood by stakeholders, nationally and internationally.

We can help the UK’s university sector to redress the balance, with the help of detailed, quantifiable insights into media effectiveness that shape communication and media strategy and planning. Here are a few pointers:

1. Discover what the audience is currently taking out of media coverage about your university. Are these topics, subjects and issues that you want to be famous for? If not, what do you want to ‘own’ and excel at? (Clue – the answer cannot be ‘everything’)

2. As an extension of this, make some decisions about which research specialisms and institutes you have, which can contribute to maximum media effectiveness. Again, the correct answer is not ‘all of them’

3. Recognise that strategic decisions and trade-offs are essential because chasing volume of coverage is not an intelligent approach. Collaborate with the leadership team to decide where strategic focus on key topics and media relationships might move the needle

4. Acknowledge that all universities, everywhere in the world, want to participate in the conversation about climate change and sustainability. Unless David Attenborough is batting for your team (and the Open University already has a strong relationship with the BBC), talking about these generics without being specific about your contribution to the field will waste a lot of media relations energy

5. Understand which online media work best for the sector and for your particular university. Online media are far more powerful than most people understand, and definitely more widely influential than social media (which most institutions with a Gen Z demographic focus heavily on)

6. Find out which of your academics are getting exposure in online media, to determine which stars (or liabilities) journalists have already discovered. Learn how these are impacting your reputation and consider which others might be deployed and promoted in the battle of the Titans.

At Metricomm, our superpower is our ability to provide realistic and objective evaluation of online media effectiveness, including concrete recommendations to help move the needle over time. We are not a media monitoring company. We think strategically and use data to support our conclusions about how media coverage can be used to best advantage. We are proud to support the UK university sector in its ambitions to be a global powerhouse, but every university is different.

Contact us on, or using the form below, to discuss how we can help you benchmark your media achievements compared to the sector and competition, understand your media reputation and positioning or improve media performance over time.