Strategic planning helped a small programme gain significant media coverage in its first year

Sheffield Engineering Leadership Academy

The University of Sheffield is the first UK university to introduce an undergraduate leadership programme across all the engineering disciplines – modelled on similar programmes in the United States that aim to create future leaders for the sector. Strategic planning to maximise limited story opportunities helped SELA gain significant media coverage in its first year of operation.

The brief

Launched in September 2014, SELA was keen to gain a profile quickly, to bring in industry support and raise awareness of the programme within the Faculty of Engineering and the University of Sheffield as a whole.

Campus PR was asked to develop a communications strategy and plan, to help SELA identify how best to use limited resources for maximum impact.

Our response

We worked with SELA to identify target audiences and potential routes to reach them and developed key messages which could be incorporated into their website and other communications.

While the launch offered an obvious opportunity to target engineering media outlets and use key messages around the impact of the initiative for the sector, the early stage of the programme meant there were unlikely to be further news hooks during the year. We advised SELA to use the rationale behind its creation (the need for stronger leadership within engineering) or the wider news agenda as a basis to pitch opinion articles, which could link back to the programme.

We drew up a calendar of important milestones within the programme, which could provide regular items of news for SELA’s own website, or be promoted on social media by the students’ themselves. This enabled SELA to easily identify work that could be delivered in house and more specialist, media-focused work that would be delivered by Campus PR.


Our launch press release was covered by The Manufacturer, one of the target publications identified by SELA for their campaign and by other engineering outlets. We successfully pitched an opinion article by SELA Director, Professor Neil Hopkinson, in another target outlet, The Engineer. For a further opinion piece in Guardian Higher Education and a feature in THE, we used a relevant report by the Royal Academy of Engineering as the hook for our successful pitch.