Telling the story in your community

Public Relations

Telling the story in your community

How to share the story of your international education programme with your community

YOU WILL LEARN

  • What you have to gain from sharing your story
  • How to identify audiences and channels
  • Tips on turning a story idea into a successful story
Start this project Takes up to 10 minutes
Beginner
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Introduction

Sharing news about your international programme is a great way of enlisting the support of your local community.

It doesn’t have to be costly or time-consuming, and you can start small.

The best way to bring people in and have them empathise with others is to tell stories

Lee Unkrich US film director

 

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The power of sharing your story

ENZ ORIENTATION G9C3917

Do you struggle to answer the ‘what’s in it for me’ question when you try to tell the community about your international education programme

If you don’t have communications support or special budget, it may be a task that ends up in the too-hard basket

But there are lots of reasons why sharing stories about international education is of value.

Sharing positive stories about international education will help:

  • Create a more supportive, welcoming environment for visiting students

  • Increase the number of local families willing to host students

  • Your community to understand the importance of domestic students building international skills, to help them succeed in an increasingly global world

  • Generate low-cost word-of-mouth for your international programme offshore

  • Foster a more supportive operating environment for your staff/team who work on your international education programme

  • Create opportunities for visiting students to have work experience

Follow these simple steps to tell stories that successfully show your community the value of your institution’s commitment to international education.

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Step 1: Choose a goal

How could your institution benefit from spreading the word about its international programme?

Think about what you’d like to achieve, as this will help inform what sort of story you tell.

For example, you might want to

  • Recruit more homestay families

  • Tell domestic students’ parents about the benefits of having their children study alongside visiting students

  • Encourage more domestic students to head offshore

  • Show how your international education programme benefits the regional economy

 

He aha te kai ō te rangatira? He kōrero, he kōrero, he kōrero

What is the food of the leader? It is communication.

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Step 2: Identify your audience

Your chosen audiences might include:

  • Parents of domestic students

  • The local business community

  • Local councillors and mayors, and regional councillors

  • Other educational institutions

  • Organisations that may be able to offer volunteer opportunities to your students

  • Current and potential homestay families

  • Cultural or special interest groups

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Step 3: Pick a channel

Once you’ve identified your audience, you’ll need to find the best ways to reach them. You can use your own internal channels, or use other people’s channels to spread the message further afield.

Channels include:

  • Social media: Facebook, LinkedIn (corporate and personal), Twitter, Instagram and podcasts

  • Institution-related publications/platforms including websites, annual reports and newsletters (email or hard copy)

  • National or community media - newspapers, radio stations and websites

  • Events - presentations and speeches

  • Blogs

  • Community meetings

  • Awards ceremonies

  • PTA meetings

A newsletter article, a speaking opportunity or a LinkedIn post can be just as effective as a media article. If a story you shared with local media doesn’t get published, look for other ways you could share it.  

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Step 4: Find a story idea

Film screenshots 0011 Layer 18

Think about the kind of stories most likely to engage your audience. What do they care about? What stories might interest them?

A story could highlight something new – a new programme, initiative or cohort of students.

It could be related to a topical event that everyone’s talking about, or follow up a previous story.

If possible, it’s good to also include a human interest element as the emotion of others can help an audience relate to the message. A human interest story puts people at the heart of the events.

Don’t limit yourself to talking about education: students also bring social, cultural and economic benefits to New Zealand.

Need more homestay families? Show how a visiting student has enriched the lives of a host family.

Want to highlight the benefits of international education experiences for domestic students? Showcase a group of students just back from a life-changing trip to Japan.

It’s important to include mention of how your international programme, initiative, or student is making a positive contribution, or adding value.

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Step 5: Tell the story

Things to think about when you’re telling your story:

  • Make sure the story supports your mission

  • Keep it positive

  • Keep it simple

  • Aim to create an emotional reaction from your audience

  • Use facts and figures where appropriate to show credibility and add weight to your story

  • Decide whether the story needs to be seen or approved by anyone before you share it

  • Don’t include anything sensitive or controversial – your story may be shared more widely than you expect

  • If you’re creating a written story, use good quality photos (over one mb). If necessary, credit the photographer

  • Bring in other people to tell the story – staff, parents and students. For example, you could ask domestic students to interview visiting students about their experiences

  • Incorporate messages about the value of international education into stories that are already being distributed through your channels

  • Events take more time to organise, but can be a great way to bring communities together

At its heart, international education is about people and their journeys. The more you can keep the focus on people, the more powerful your story is likely to be.

 

He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata

What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.

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Step 6: Repurpose

Don’t forget to recycle… your content.

Just because your story has been used once doesn’t mean it can’t be used again.

Get more bang for your buck by sharing a great blog post on your social channels, including it in an alumni newsletter and then adapting it for use as recruitment collateral.

The more you share your stories, the easier it will get.

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Extra resources

You can find more advice on identifying audiences, channels and story ideas here on the Skills Lab.

See Intellilab  for evidence and case studies that look at the broader value of international education to New Zealand.

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Summary

  • Be clear about what you want to achieve

  • Match the story to the audience

  • Keep stories simple, positive and people-focused

  • Get creative about repurposing your story

  • Make it easy for you, and meaningful for your community

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