The College’s PR and Media team are keen to promote the excellent research work being carried out at Royal Holloway. Recently the team have facilitated research stories being reported on Radio 4’s Farming Today, and in The Times and The Guardian, among others. We caught up with the team to understand more about their roles and how they can help colleagues profile their research.
1. Can you explain the role of the PR and Media team?
At its core PR/media relations is about managing the reputation of an organisation or individual. It is about planning long-term activities which enable an organisation to build goodwill and mutual understanding with the people it engages with. The College’s PR team undertake a lot of activities to achieve these goals. These range from responding to media queries to planning and executing long-term campaigns. At Royal Holloway we work as part of the wider Marketing and Communications Directorate to raise awareness of the College, support student recruitment and support our academic colleagues by promoting their research work, publications of books and securing slots on broadcast media.
2. Could you tell us a bit more about yourselves and the PR and Media team?
Tony Henderson: As I occasionally say to people I have managed to get through life without ever having a proper job (unless you count working in seedy bars). I was a journalist specialising in business and industry reporting and then moved into PR and have worked largely, in the technology and telecoms sectors. Outside of work I’m a champion cheese scone baker and sports nut.
Samantha Daynes: I sort of fell into PR when I went for a three-month contract after being a journalist writing for the national newspapers and women’s magazines – 12 years later, I’m still in the business! No day is the same and it’s a great feeling to be able to raise the profile of the organisation or the work of others to the wider public. I've worked in PR for charities and local government, so higher education is a new one for me and a role I’m enjoying very much.
Emily Edwards: I knew I wanted to get into PR after doing some work experience at an agency in London during the Easter holidays of my second year at university. After graduating from Royal Holloway in 2015, I have dabbled in music, fashion, publishing and consumer PR, before somehow finding my way back here!
3. There’s lots of variety in the work that you do, can you tell us a bit more about your individual roles within the team?
Tony: Appropriately we have a very collegiate approach to work, sharing information and supporting each other on our various projects. I lead the team and am responsible for planning our work programmesetting objectives and establishing priorities for the team, as well as liaising with other teams within our directorate and across the College.
Samantha: As Tony mentions, we pretty much all work together, but my day to day job is finding new stories across the whole university and pitching them to the media, organising broadcast interviews, feature articles or press releases. This can be anything from new research which is being published, to expert requests from the media.
Emily: As both Tony and Sam have said, we very much work together as a team, however much of my day to day job is spent meeting academics and sourcing stories, writing press materials and pitching to the media.
4. What can you offer our colleagues in terms of profiling their research?
Promoting the College’s reputation for world class research and teaching excellence is a core part of our work. We can work with our academic colleagues to develop research material into news stories, identify appropriate media outlets and work with journalists to place stories. We will also provide support ahead of media interviews and identify other channels, such as social media and video to promote the story. But it’s not only research where we can help colleagues, but also if they have a book being published or to position them as an expert commentator on a subject.
5. What can colleagues do to help you to profile their research?
We are a small team of three people, so our resources are not limitless, therefore planning ahead is vital. Letting us know in advance about publication dates for research is great so we can work with the researchers. We appreciate that journals don’t always give much advance notice of publication dates and we will always try to help out at short-notice. However, having an understanding of what work is being carried out is also helpful. Even if the research or a book is not going to be published for some time. We are happy to come along to department or team meetings and provide more information about how we work and hear what academic colleagues are working on.
6. Can you provide some examples of the press coverage you have achieved in the past?
We have achieved coverage in a wide range of media. Emily’s work on the Festival of History featured in a two page picture spread in the local Surrey Advertiser, while photos of our drama students recreating a suffragette march appeared in various media outlets from The Guardian to Time magazine. Sam worked with Professor Simon Blockley, Department of Geography, to promote his work at the Star Carr - a Stone Age archaeological site, and secured coverage in The Times and Daily Mail. Recently our work with colleagues in the School of Biological Sciences who are carrying out various research projects involving bees has featured on BBC Radio Four’s Farming Today.
7. What are you currently working on?
PR is always a mix of the immediate and unpredictable, i.e. the phone rings and a journalists wants to know something/speak to someone/arrange an interview. And events you can plan for such as supporting the graduation ceremony.
8. What do you enjoy most about your roles within the PR and Media team?
Tony: It may sound corny but the people. The Marketing and Communications team are great folk who are very dedicated and hard-working, and committed to the College. As an ex-journalist I’m naturally curious and fascinated by the challenge of communicating things, often quite technical issues, in a way which makes sense to a wider audience. So engaging with academics is great fun, even when I have to confess that I’m about to ask what might appear to be a really daft question (which happens quite a lot!)
Samantha: I've really enjoyed meeting so many new people and finding out about what they are working on, from bees to history of pets to new, innovative technology to better people’s lives. Being able to than share this via the media to the public is always fun and you get a great sense of achievement when you see the College mentioned in the press.
Emily: It has been so interesting meeting different people from different departments and learning about the exciting things they are working on. No two days are the same in the press office and it keeps things fresh and exciting. On a more personal note, it feels great for me to be able to give something back to an institution that has given me so much!