As the world focused on a global pandemic, systemic racism, and a consequential presidential election, Northeastern University’s official news source, News@Northeastern, provided answers. In 2020, the comprehensive news site exceeded 7.7 million total page views, blowing away its previous record of 2.6 million in 2019.
“A university newsroom is like any other newsroom in the sense that it’s a source for accurate and timely information about the issues that dominate national and global conversations,” said Renata Nyul, vice president for communications, who oversees News@Northeastern and other communications functions. “The numbers show that News@Northeastern has been very successful at doing just that.”
While the university’s scientific experts—and their cutting-edge research on COVID-19–played a major role in the avalanche of site traffic, some of News@Northeastern’s most popular coverage centered on issues of race and public policy.
The most popular stories included research about the likelihood of being killed by police based on the person’s race; expert opinion on what one should do when happening upon someone without a mask; and analysis of the effectiveness of enforced shutdowns and social distancing in containing the virus in China compared to the United States.
News@Northeastern’s stories are produced by journalists with years of experience in commercial newsrooms such as The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Sports Illustrated, and The San Jose Mercury News. The team is led by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Filipov.
Readers come from all over the globe to News@Northeastern, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, India, the Philippines, China, and Singapore. Today, in fact, the majority of News@Northeastern readers are not affiliated with the university—underscoring the news site’s role role in elevating the Northeastern brand worldwide.
Beyond the storytelling produced by News@Northeastern, the university’s communications team also secured a record amount of earned media coverage in top-tier news organizations. Among the close-to-9,000 press mentions in 2020, coverage in The New York Times, The Washington Post, WIRED, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Economist, and NPR showcased Northeastern faculty experts and the university’s successful reopening.
“Earned press remains a top priority for the communications team,” said Nyul. “Much of our strategy is focused on working with fantastic reporters and editors across local, national, and global news organizations to shed light on what’s happening—both on our campuses and around the world.”
The university’s enterprise social media team is responsible for pushing Northeastern news out across all social channels, and monitoring online conversations 24/7. The sophisticated listening and analytics capabilities enable real-time data analysis that informs the communications strategy. The university’s social media platforms—including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and LinkedIn—have been successful in generating record engagement. In 2020, social engagement increased by more than 40 percent.
The communications team also includes a group of talented designers and developers who make sure the stories and data are presented in the most engaging way possible. The COVID-19 testing dashboard, which displays the daily number of positive and negative test results from the university’s testing lab, was built by the data visualization team and is one of the university’s highest trafficked sites. The team’s award-winning photographers and video producers capture moments and people, bringing their stories to life in still photos and documentary films.