Trending NowOne of the things journalists tell me they like best are pitches that demonstrate trends. The fact is that trends are always trending—and that’s good for a few reasons, most importantly in my mind, that it gives the runners-up a chance to tell their stories.
 
It’s unlikely that your institution will be the first to do the next big thing more than one or two times—if you’re lucky. The reality is that many will never be the first. And, we all know that if you’re not first, it’s harder to grab a reporter’s attention. This is where trends come in.
 
Even if you’re not the first, second, third, or even 25th university to adopt a new practice, you can still present a pretty compelling pitch to a reporter and land your story in the national media. In order to be successful though, you need to demonstrate that the trend is real with data, as well as anecdotes, from both within your institution and on a broader scale.
 
Don’t be afraid to contact national organizations for help putting your trend in perspective. For example, if you’re working on a pitch related to financial aid, consider contacting the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) to inquire about other schools with similar initiatives, or survey data that would help position your institution within the national landscape. If there’s a student life issue you’re exploring, Student Affairs Administrations in Higher Education (NASPA) might be able to help. Most national organizations are happy to provide information that will help support your pitch, and oftentimes it gets them a little press as well. (Be sure to mention that you’ll credit them with providing the data and that you’ll position them as an expert source for additional information.)
 
Think outside of higher ed as well, if your data needs demand it. A few years ago, I worked on a story about how colleges are responding to the needs of students with allergies, versions of which were published by The Boston Globe and Inside Higher Ed. I relied heavily on data from the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) website, as well as phone conversations with a member of their staff to bolster my pitch, which is the one of things I think made it so successful.
 
As you’re working on back-to-school and other trends in the coming weeks, remember that the team at TVP Communications is always happy to help identify potential data sources, put you in touch with appropriate national organizations, and connect you with other schools doing similar things for anecdotes to strengthen your pitches. Don’t be afraid to call on us!