A good eye for a story, plus real determination to communicate great research results, helped put Sheffield Engineering firmly on the map.

University of Sheffield, Faculty of Engineering

The University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering is one of the biggest and best providers of engineering research and education in the UK, with over 5,000 students and an annual research income of over £65m.

The brief

In 2011, the University of Sheffield wanted to raise the profile of its Faculty of Engineering nationally amongst the mainstream, specialist and education media, both on and offline.


In particular, the University wanted an agency that could provide on the ground support, identifying stories and maximising appropriate media opportunities to promote Sheffield engineering research and expertise to key target audiences.


Our response

We worked closely with the both the University’s central media team and the Faculty’s communications team to identify and deliver newsworthy stories to our colleagues working in the media. Some stories we worked on were embargoed press releases, others pitched as exclusives, some purely broadcast or video opportunities. We also spent time developing feature articles targeting print or online outlets.


We also worked hard to raise the profile of individual academic experts, through promoting their research outcomes and through pitching opinion articles and offering them as spokespeople.


Outcomes

Over the four years we worked with the Faculty, we achieved or surpassed all media targets.

We secured a front page story in the Times, that was subsequently covered by 19 other national UK media, gained major international coverage and went viral on social media.

We handled a story that was offered as an exclusive to the BBC which featured on the BBC’s flagship 6pm News programme, resulting in multiple industry enquiries for the technology featured.

A number of the researchers whose personal expertise we promoted are now often asked to contribute in the national media, one writing opinion articles for the Guardian, another commenting regularly in the media on robotics.

Engineering is not an easy area of research in which to gain national media coverage as much of the work is highly technical, often industry sponsored and therefore commercially sensitive.

As experienced research PR practitioners, we were able to handle these challenges, spotting the newsworthy angle, maximising opportunities and balancing the often competing demands of multiple project partners while drawing on our extensive contacts amongst science and health journalists.

The initial six-month contract was repeatedly extended, as the Engineering Faculty and central media team were very pleased with the outcomes we achieved, and only ended after an in-house PR function was created for the Faculty. We still work on an ad hoc basis with the Faculty and with the central media team and have delivered research PR training to the new Faculty communications team.

Over the four years of the contract we achieved 81 national hits, over 690 specialist hits and over 300 mainstream international hits. Local coverage was handled in-house. The media coverage also had further impacts, generating industrial enquiries and research collaborations, increasing traffic to websites and applications to research posts.

“We’ve been really pleased with the work you’ve done with engineering. It’s been a pleasure working with you all for so long and you’ve done some fantastic work for us.”

Shemina Davis, Media Relations Manager, University of Sheffield

“We’d been speaking to Smith & Nephew for a few years about working with us to commercialise the technology and we’d had some excellent publications on the research, but what got the company’s attention was the media coverage which Campus PR helped us achieve. The science on its own couldn’t do it – it was the publicity that clinched the deal.”

Professor Sheila MacNeil, Faculty of Engineering, University of Sheffield

“It’s amazing how the story spread. All good, I’m happy. Many thanks for your help.”

Professor David Lerner, Director of Research & Innovation, Faculty of Engineering, University of Sheffield

“I’ve been contacted by a number of companies (which I’d been hoping to hear from) as a consequence of the coverage you achieved. Good work!”

Professor Neil Hopkinson, Faculty of Engineering, University of Sheffield