Media monitoring and higher education

by | May 2, 2016 | Public Relations

1964 was an interesting year for education administration.

In a time when the men and women of Harvard College and Radcliffe College were only allowed to interact under certain pretenses, at certain hours, Harvard Dean John U. Monro claimed that parietal rules were being misused for “parties and sexual intercourse.”

One can only imagine how quickly Monro’s words were dissected and relived in newspapers across the country. And soon thereafter (due to sensationalist headlines), Harvard was known as an institution with an “orgiastic” social scene.

Administration was appalled, and students rejoiced because they felt the residency rules were outdated and an invasion of their privacy.

Though the process of monitoring and analyzing media wasn’t as sophisticated then as it is now, having a better understanding of how different stakeholders perceived the issue could have been an eye-opener for Harvard administration. Monitoring the news to see if similar issues were affecting other Ivy League schools could also have helped set the standard for administrative policies and give Harvard a competitive edge, without compromising its tradition and values.

It seems as though almost every year an educational institution is thrown into the fray of controversy — sometimes because of something they’ve done, and sometimes because of things outside of their control. The list of scandals only continues to grow, especially with the rapid rise of social media and communication technologies.

From The Great Harvard Sex Scandal to a voyeurism incident at the B.C. Institute of Technology in 2016, it’s pretty clear there’s a strong demand for media monitoring and analysis services in the higher education industry. Here are a few examples of recent incidents at North American education institutions and how media monitoring and analysis intel can benefit administrative departments.

Protests at Duke

At the beginning of April, numerous students overtook Allen Hall at Duke University to protest minimum wage and working conditions at the university. “This movement isn’t going anywhere until all Duke workers are treated with dignity and respect,” quipped one of the students — and they’re right, based on recent media data.

According to Agility PR Solutions Enterprise software, just over 900 articles that include “Duke”, “Allen Building” or “Allen Hall”, and “sit-in” were published across April 2016.

This information is extremely important to Duke, but only if disseminated properly. It’s important to analyze the news to understand the following: How is the university perceived by the public? How do journalists feel about both Duke’s and the students’ positions on the matter? How is social media reacting to the news? Are audiences supporting a certain side of the argument?

This intel can give Duke’s administration a 360-degree view of the matter at hand. By understanding what’s being said, identifying their influencers and badvocates, and having a list of top issues and arguments, Duke can create an appropriate strategy and corresponding messaging to handle this PR crisis appropriately.

Hazing at Dartmouth

The Greek system has long been accused of using hazing rituals to pledge new members. Back in 2012, two graduates from Dartmouth College came forward to both Rolling Stone and Huffington Post to share their stories about being hazed. These exposés fueled the flames of a long-debated issue: should Dartmouth allow Greek culture on campus?

During his presidency from 1998 to 2009, James Wright tried to eradicate the Greek system at Dartmouth but received massive push-back from students, alumni and administration. The next president, Jim Yong Kim, decided he would leave Wright’s efforts in the dust and not pursue the overhauling of the Greek societies on campus.

Besides listening to various opinions, how can current President Philip J. Hanlon and Dartmouth administration understand the severity of the issue and make an informed decision?

The college can use media monitoring and analysis to gather intel on the Greek society as a whole—how Greek life affects other higher education institutions, positive and negative aspects mentioned most in the news and on social networks, and how other organizations have handled backlash from hazing rituals.

This information can be used to communicate changes to the societies and the justification for those decisions. This intel can also shape the future of Greek societies and the impact that they have on higher education institutions.

Social media harassment at Dalhousie

What happens when personal social media activity rocks an entire institution? Just ask Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada.

Thirteen male students of Dalhousie’s dentistry program had created a Facebook page specifically for their graduating class titled: “Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen” Upon investigation, the group was home to countless hate messages towards female classmates, as well as sexually-driven, misogynistic polls. The fourth-year students even went as far as publicly discussing using chloroform on other classmates.

This incident came to be known as “The Dalhousie Facebook Scandal”.

An investigation proved that Dalhousie University needed to revamp its social media policies for students, as well as its policies surrounding misogyny, gender discrimination and homophobia online and on-campus.

But what if Dalhousie had been using media monitoring software to monitor relevant public group pages? Requiring that any Facebook group associated with the university and its programming be public allows the administration to closely monitor content and socialization within the group. It also allows transparency and encourages participants to be on their best behaviour.

But no one likes big brother, right?

So besides monitoring social media for brand mentions, sentiment, and keywords specific to the scandal, Dalhousie could also use media monitoring to understand how policies at other education institutions can impact future policies.

Has any other Canadian institution implemented a strong anti-discrimination policy? How? Has this approach worked across North America? Media intel can provide the answers to these questions, as well as arm Dalhousie with the ability to clearly communicate upcoming changes and their impact.

Other use cases for media monitoring and analysis in the higher education industry

Besides using media monitoring and analysis for crisis and reputation management, higher education institutions can implement monitoring programs to:

  • Make changes to programming and curriculum according to industry standards
  • Understand how policy changes at one educational institution will affect the same changes at another
  • Quantify the impact higher education spokespeople have on industry-related news
  • Understand how students feel about different issues and aspects of the institution
  • Track media mentions of brand to justify earned-media efforts
  • And more.

Looking to implement a media monitoring and analysis program at your organization? Find out more.

Agility PR Solutions
Agility PR Solutions provides powerful, yet easy to use media database, monitoring, and analytics solutions for tomorrow’s communicators. Since 2003, clients have trusted our tools and services to help them identify and connect with influencers, capture coverage, and measure impact of everything they do. Whether we do it for you or help you do it yourself, our team of media experts make it easy to monitor and measure traditional, broadcast, social and online coverage.