CU Boulder faculty and staff regularly communicate with experts in their fields through conferences, lectures and published articles. However, public communications is significantly different from academic communications with its own rules and strategies. Communications experts are trained to create consistent and relevant messages that speak to audiences who may be unfamiliar with a field's specific terms, and determine which tools to use to communicate with those audiences.

CU Boulder has a team of communicators who can help design a communications strategy for outreach projects, discuss the news process and determine how to most effectively publicize an outreach event. Having a strategy helps tell a story to relevant audiences on campus and in the community most effectively. 

It's important to start with your department or campus communicator to discuss your project or to let them know about an upcoming event. If you don't have one, contact Sue Postema Scheeres in our office to discuss outreach communications strategies and best practices for publicizing your outreach project locally or in Colorado communities. She can refer you to campus and community partners. 

If you have a news story, also email Strategic Media Relations or call 303-735-0122; do not contact the media directly. 

Strategic Relations and Communications provides support around around all aspects of communications. Our office works very closely with SRC and campus communicators to develop stories and connect with community partners and the media. A model describing the process is described below.

Outreach Communications Model

Communications Processes

A well-defined strategy can help you effectively share your outreach project.

  • Identify objectives. What is your vision for how you want to share your project with the public? What are your goals? What steps will you take to achieve those goals?

  • Target key audiences. Faculty, staff, students? Community Partners? Anyone else?

  • Develop relevant messages. What key information about your project or program do you need to communicate with your audience?

  • Choose appropriate tools, such as paid (ads, fliers and event listings), earned (news stories that are pitched to the media), owned (website, blog, newsletter, targeted emails), social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat). Make sure to use Be Boulder branding.

  • Clarify available resources. Who will write and layout materials? Will the community partner be involved? Do you have funds to create materials?

  • Set realistic timelines. It takes time to develop PR materials for an event or program and it’s important to determine the proper timing. Start a month or two ahead of time!

  • Evaluate how well the PR messaging worked. Did people attend? What tool drew them to the event (social media, ad, flier, news story)?

As with any project, it's important to use the correct tools. In communications, we use owned, social, paid and earned media to share stories effectively.

  • Owned. This includes a website (where a story can have a unique URL), blog, newsletter or targeted email.
  • Social. CU Boulder has developed social media guidelines. Contact Matt Duncan, Director, Digital Engagement and Social Media in Strategic Relations and Communications, to find out more about using social media effectively.
  • Paid. Ads, fliers and brochures can share an event or promote your project.
  • Earned. Every story has an audience, whether internal or external. Sue Postema Scheeres can help you determine whether a story about a project should be shared internally with different units or departments or with the media. Please contact Strategic Media Relations to find out about media training opportunities and to share your story ideas. See below for more information about the news process.

  • Timeline. Do not contact the media yourself. At least a month before desired publication date, discuss your outreach story with a campus communicator to determine audience, potential issues and how to work with Strategic Relations and our office. Stories have many dimensions and communicators want to get the best story coverage at the best time. Sometimes that means moving quickly so that we don't miss a story, other times it means waiting to pitch the story, or it can mean connecting your outreach project or engaged research with a larger story nationally or on campus. 
  • Strong, high-resolution images. Note that most stories need images to draw people into a story. Make sure they are high-resolution images, so they can be used for multiple purposes. If you take photos, try to capture what it would feel like to be a participant in the activity. Take the photo at eye level. Focus on one or two subjects engaged in an activity versus a large group or posed shots. Make sure to get information for a photo caption that tells who is in the photo and what the people are doing. Make sure to get a signed photo release for anyone under 18.
  • Interacting with the media. Prior to talking to the media, it's crucial to work with Strategic Relations about how to effectively talk to the media and create a consistent message. Contact Strategic Media Relations or 303-735-0122 to discuss media relations training or to discuss your story.
  • Find the right audience. 
    • Internal stories are of interest to colleagues in your department or across campus. They can be shared through the CU Boulder Events calendar, Share a Story, the Buff Bulletin Board and through the Public Outreach and Community Engagement website and social media channels. 

    • External stories are of strategic interest to media and stakeholders outside the university and include:

      • Outreach. Programs or individuals presenting in schools or the community.

      • Surprising findings. Things that are surprising or counterintuitive, or go against generally accepted wisdom.

      • Findings with direct applications. "News you can use.”

      • Forecasts/predictions. A report or expert who makes predictions about things like economics or politics.

      • Important new findings. Discoveries that are milestones in your field of study.

      • Research that is topical. Things that may not be groundbreaking but can add to current events conversations.

      • Events and exhibits. Out of the ordinary or of national prominence.

      • Visual projects. Work that would make striking pictures or videos, which may include ongoing research.

      • Programs/initiatives/services. A new service or program, or one that will garner public interest.

  • Follow CU Boulder style guidelines. CU Boulder follows AP style and a story will be edited to ensure it means those guidelines

Download Media Relations Info Sheet

Your outreach project may include an event that would benefit from promotion through ads or fliers (paid media), CU Boulder events listings or pitches to the news media (earned media), and social media. Consider the following as you create event publicity:

  • Start with your unit or college communicator. CU Boulder's team of communicators can help you publicize an event. Start with your unit or campus communicator. If you don't have one, contact Sue Postema Scheeres and she will guide you through the process.

  • Work closely with community partner. Some community partners want to create their own materials, so it’s important to determine that up front. However, it's also important to suggest concise summary text and to make sure the materials properly reflect your view of the event or project and include your CU Boulder lockup. 

  • Create a strong Call to Action. This is an invitation to do something: register for an event, come to a lecture or find out more about the research project.

  • Gather all the facts. This includes who, what, when, why and how. You will need a title, time, date, location, summary sentence, strong image and (usually) logos of supporting partners. We require that our office's logo appear on events we sponsor.

  • Publicize an event on social media. Use the Call to Action, a link to a registration or information page, and a strong image that draws people to the event. Typically, a headshot of a speaker will not draw people; instead, use a photo that helps tell a story about the event. Find out more by reading CU Boulder's social media guidelines.

  • Share with our office. Contact Sue Postema Scheeres about an upcoming event to discuss ways to publicize. Also, make sure to select “Outreach and Engagement” under the interest category section on the CU Events Calendar to have your event promoted on the campus Public Outreach and Community Engagement website.

  • Share through CU Boulder internal news channels. Use the CU Boulder Events calendar, Share a Story, and Buff Bulletin Board to share your event.

  • Contact CU Boulder's Government Relations liaisons. Kirsten Schuchman, assistant vice chancellor for public policy and advocacy, and Kim Calomino, CU Boulder’s local government and community relations director, can forward the event information and your social media posts to chambers and local governments around the state and connect you to community leaders.