My Media Day: Sarah Manning, media & communications officer, Edinburgh Napier University

SARAH Manning is media & communications officer at Edinburgh Napier University.

She says: “Edinburgh Napier University is one of the largest higher education institutions in Scotland with over 17,000 students from 109 countries. The university prides itself on delivering industry-focused courses and this year celebrates its 50th year – having started out as Napier Technical College in 1964.”

She submitted this on Monday, February 3.

What exactly is it you do?

Every day can be different – which I love – but basically my job is to lift the profile of the university and shout about all the great things that go on within the institution; from new research to interesting stuff students get up to. One day I can be meeting an engineering student about his plans to bring electricity to a Kenyan primary school for the first time, pitching a story about an 85 year-old graduate the next, and then discussing why milk may be the key to Olympic success with an academic afterwards.

I can also be planning photo-calls, writing speeches and briefing notes for senior staff, creating PR campaigns to boost student recruitment and coming up with marketing strap lines.

What did your working day today or yesterday comprise?

Today, my day started by looking through our press cuttings – all the stories which had appeared in the Press about the university today.

We (there are two of us in the press office) send out a daily update to senior staff to keep them up-to-date with what is appearing in the Press about the university. I then caught up with some emails and arranged to meet a couple of academics – one about some new funding our School of Computing has, to deliver new cyber-crime workshops, and another about a story connected to the support the university gives to students interested in starting up their own businesses that I am hoping to develop and pitch further down the line.

I then put a couple of stories up on our news website, had a quick look at our twitter feed and scheduled some tweets on hootsuite – directing people to the new news stories.

I then got in touch with two Indian graduates, who are now back in India working in the fields of Drug Design and Biomedical Science, to brief them about writing an informal blog-style piece for two separate news outlets in India. I’d pitched the idea to a PR agency we work with in India last week, who had since had interest from a couple of editors there.

After that, I had a couple of interviews to set up on the back of a meeting I’d had with The Scotsman’s digital editor.

I then had a working lunch – going through a media training presentation I’d created for staff – before returning to my desk to put final plans in place for some filming we are doing next week as part of our student recruitment campaign. We’re trying to do more and more of this and have been really successful with some short films we’ve made for the likes of our degree show and postgraduate recruitment campaign.

My day is ending answering a query from an international student magazine about some of our activity overseas.

How different or similar is your average working day to when you started?

I started out as a broadcast journalist working in radio in Dundee before moving up to Inverness to work on the news team at Moray Firth Radio. Working at Edinburgh Napier is the first job I’ve had in PR – or on ‘the other side’ as my journalists friends like to call it.

I’d say there are a lot of similarities between the roles, in that I am still constantly writing – whether for twitter, Facebook or a press release and still work on a variety of different kinds of stories every day.

I still meet and interview people from across a range of backgrounds, although the pace of the job can be much slower at times without hourly deadlines. Working in such a big organisation can also mean there can be a natural degree of bureaucracy to work through.

I’ve been at Edinburgh Napier for close to two years now and even in that time I think there have already been big changes in the way we work in the press office. We have more and more responsibility for the university’s digital output and try to incorporate a multi-media approach to everything we do – whether creating a short YouTube film or Instagram video from an event or recording a podcast with an academic about new research.

How do you see your job evolving?

It’s an exciting time for the university. Not only are we celebrating our 50th anniversary this year but we also have a new Principal, Professor Andrea Nolan who joined us in the Summer. Andrea, along with her senior team (with input from the rest of the university’s staff and students), is busy creating a new strategy, which will outline the institution’s plans, goals and ambitions over the next five years or so.

There’s no doubt that there are big changes happening in the media industry; fewer and fewer people are reading newspapers and more and more are consuming news online or through social media. As a press office, we are constantly thinking of new and engaging ways to tell a story and reach our audience.

There are also other factors, like changes to immigration policy and student fees which have affected Higher Education institutions in Scotland. Those things ultimately have an impact on universities’ recruitment plans and who they want to communicate with.

What gives you the most job satisfaction?

I absolutely love meeting our students and I am always so impressed by their enthusiasm and ambition. Graduations are also a brilliant time to be in a university press office as it is a real feel good occasion. You often get to meet the families of students you’ve worked with and we usually have a number of stories to pitch and photo calls to organise ahead of the ceremonies.

You can’t beat the feeling of getting loads of really good coverage for a story that you’ve worked hard on, either. A personal highlight for me was creating three micro-videos about our Creative Degree Show which achieved more than 500 views on YouTube.