Faculty Media BrandsBack to Table of Contents | Back to Recommendations
- Universities recruit and retain faculty based on their "academic brand" and must recognize they also have a "media brand" that should be developed and promoted.
Universities have long based their faculty recruitment and retainment efforts around "academic brands": a candidate's teaching and research record. In doing so, institutions implicitly recognize that faculty have distinct brands separate from their institutions. In particular, the volume and prominence of a faculty member's presence in the academic literature of his or her field is used as a key measure of "prestige".
Yet, when it comes to presence and visibility in news outlets as opposed to academic outlets, institutions often ignore or downplay the role of the faculty "media brand". The ability to garner significant national media attention is rarely considered for tenure and promotion review in the same vein as academic publications at many institutions. More importantly, however, many university public relations offices tend to "round-robin" their news bureau staff across all departments on a preset schedule, ensuring equal attention to all facets of the institution, but preventing the kind of focused attention that can really build an individual faculty member's media brand. The resulting stream of generic press releases reinforce an "institutional brand", but often fail to emphasize the faculty brands and relevance to current events that have become the primary driving factors of national news coverage of higher education today.
Some institutions have taken steps to address this by producing media guides listing specific faculty members available on short notice to comment for news stories. This plays into the shift towards the "soundbite university", but also builds those faculty as the go-to individuals for the news media in their topical areas, building their media brands. Universities with "high academic brand" faculty benefit indirectly from the prestige those faculty lend it and the students and funding they attract. Similarly, "high media brand" faculty bring national and international visibility to their institutions, which can have substantial benefits in attracting students and funding opportunities.