Law Schools – More than an Image Problem but PR can Help

We often work on education PR campaigns for institutions of higher education to help them successfully confront their issues and refresh their communication strategies. Law schools in particular face unique challenges thanks to a flood of change: The economy is down, law school applications are down, the cost of a top notch legal education is up, the percentage of JDs serving coffee is up, the pressure to rank high in US News & World Report law school rankings is up, taxpayer support via state funding is down and some schools are even getting sued by alumni.  What’s a law school to do?

Here’s a hint: it’s not spin, nor is the answer in winning lawsuits against unhappy graduates and moving on business as usual.  Today’s law schools have to demonstrate shifting priorities and a more current approach – or –fall by the wayside. This means attracting the best faculty, keeping up with technology and the means by which we are all conducting our business these days; it means global interactions and the ability to seamlessly cross borders and cultures in pursuing legal options, relevant coursework for the changing needs of business and our culture, interdisciplinary studies, effective career support and new ways to help students finance their education.

Additionally, though, law schools must actively communicate their changing priorities and new developments, then galvanize students, faculty, alumni and other internal audiences to serve as brand  PR ambassadors. Social media should not be overlooked as an effective means to do so.

According to a study by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, 100 percent of universities now use some form of social media for outreach. Most schools are already on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and   LinkedIn. Many schools do a good job of disseminating information on social media. What’s often lacking is engagement. Proof – scan the Twitter page of any university of your choosing. They’re probably tweeting multiple times a day on various topics. But how many retweets and replies do you see? Hardly any.

We hear all the time, for example, that legal professionals have strong allegiances to their undergrad schools but very little to their professional schools.  The fact is, though, that for every disgruntled law school student or graduate, there are many more who are satisfied with their law school experience. However, colleges and universities can only talk so much about their merits, accolades and accomplishments. It’s time to ask supporters, especially alumni, for help. Here are some ideas:

  • Establish a university hashtag that supporters can use to talk about the school on Twitter. Encourage stakeholders to post fond memories, unique experiences, etc. with the hashtag.
  • Monitor for enthusiastic blog posts about the university and share on the university’s own channels. Bloggers will welcome the boost in readership, other bloggers will aspire to be featured, and audiences will appreciate reading something that reinforces their law school pride.
  • Jump on the bandwagon and participate in Internet memes. Internet memes have built-in viral appeal and showcase a university’s personality.

When universities, or any organization for that matter, don’t do their part to highlight “customer” satisfaction, the negative perspective will fill the void. Help your supporters tell your story, they will be the most effective recruiters and most staunch defenders for you.

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