Using Public Relations to Advance Student Affairs Activities

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The Student Affairs Department at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) defines student affairs as, “educational partnerships and academic support programs that promote student learning and help students integrate academic development and personal growth.”

Student affairs professionals apply public relations without even knowing it. An advising center typically will host an event to encourage students to schedule an advising appointment. A career center hosts a job fair. Dining services offers free food during exam times. These are all public relations strategies and tactics. The purpose of these activities is to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with the students.

The purpose of public relations is to “create mutually beneficial connections between an organization and their audiences.” This is achieved through research, planning, implementation and evaluation of public relations efforts.

Research can be applied to student affairs through surveys, interviews or focus groups to determine what type of events and activities students are interested in. Planning is simply the process by which you develop what you are going to do.

Goals are broad statements about what you want to achieve. Objectives are specific, measurable and identify a specific audience. Strategies are the channels used to achieve objectives. Tactics are the creative elements and tools used to deliver a message.

For example, you have conducted a survey and determined that the majority of your students drink coffee. You would take this information and create an event such as drinking a cup of coffee while having an informal meeting with your academic adviser. Actually hosting the event is the implementation phase. Evaluation determines the success of the efforts; evaluation in student affairs is often done through a survey.

A variety of strategies and tactics can be employed in student affairs, but these will be the most common:

  • Special events
  • Social media
  • Flyers and posters
  • Brochures
  • Workshops
  • Emails (used to gain publicity)

Jason Howell is a senior public relations major at Middle Tennessee State University. He has interests in public relations pedagogy, social media, strategic planning and higher education. You can connect with him on Twitter @jason_howellPR.

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