Audiences today are generally believed to be highly skeptical of mainstream journalism. But according to audience research, people are still eight times more likely to believe independent, journalistic-focused media than paid marketing and advertising.

That knowledge drives Colorado State University’s strategic storytelling efforts, and increasingly earns recognition for CSU. The result is ongoing support for national brand awareness, recruitment, grant applications and fundraising campaigns.

For decades, marketing and communications teams have earned regional and national awards for telling Colorado State University stories through independent media channels. That long-term success with awards is one way to measure success, but it doesn’t measure the sort of impact with audiences that is now accessible through analytics and media tracking reports.

Using these tools, the Strategic Communications team in CSU’s Division of University Marketing and Communications determined that its efforts with communications teams across the campus has more than doubled CSU’s media coverage in top-tier publications and channels in the last six months. By the end of 2022, hundreds of stories about CSU research, faculty members and subject matter experts were appearing in outlets that include The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN, The Washington Post and others.

“We have partnered with our colleagues to focus more on topics colleges and divisions have identified as having the greatest value to their respective strategic plans and priorities,” said Greg Harrison, assistant vice president of strategic communications. “We then created long-term content calendars so we could be more proactive in our pitching efforts. We have really benefitted by working even closer with communicators in the colleges and divisions.”

Marketing and Communications restructured the department last spring by hiring Harrison and refining staff assignments to focus on partnering with college and division-based communicators to mine for strategic stories. The communications team also defined criteria for top-tier assignments. University media relations efforts are led by Jennifer Dimas and Allison Sylte.

Colorado State University’s extensive and varied stories attract audiences through print, online, streaming and broadcast channels. That broad distribution translates into millions of additional actual readers/followers, based on industry benchmarks that compare potential audience members to those who actually read, watch, or listen to the stories.

“The substantial media coverage reflects the broad nature of interesting and important projects that continually emerge from the research, teaching and service activities being done at CSU,” said Greg Luft, interim vice president of marketing and communications for CSU. “With those stories identified and developed across campus, it is clear that strategic initiatives in Marketing and Communications have amplified those stories with wide-ranging success.”

But this recent effort is just a start. The Strategic Communications team also is working with college and division communicators to better identify niche publications and key influencers for specific areas of research and inquiry. For example, what trade journals and social sites do veterinary medicine experts read? What sort of content is of interest to agricultural public policy makers and grant providers? What types of stories attract potential students, and what types of media are most effective for any given audience?

The new year provides promising opportunities to tell even more of CSU’s compelling stories and expand their reach even further.