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Marketing Conference

Autumn 2017 - 'Content is King: Building Relationships With Prospective Postgraduate Students'

Our most recent Marketing Conference event took place on Tuesday 28th November 2017 in Manchester Hall. The event featured a number of sessions from leading professionals in the Higher Education marketing sector, as well as opportunities for discussion with colleagues, interactive sessions and a panel discussion.

This event was for those accountable for delivering marketing and recruitment communication strategy, right through to those who are working operationally to attract prospective postgraduate students in an ever-changing marketplace.

Please note that this event has taken place. To view a conference report, click here. Or, if you’d like to be the first to find out about the next FindAUniversity Marketing Conference, or have a particular topic you’d like to see being discussed, please contact our dedicated Events team by email: [email protected].

Schedule from Marketing Conference | November 2017:

Conference schedule:

09:45 Registration opens & refreshments
10:00 Welcome
10:10 "Communicating your research strengths without alienating your academics"
Laura Tyler - Research Communications Manager at University of Glasgow
10:55 Award-winning Case Study - "Parallels between modern dating and marketing”
Jack Tomlinson - Postgraduate Marketing Manager at St George's University of London
11:25 Morning refreshments
11:40 Student panel Q&A: "Find out what prospective PG students are looking for, and where they are looking."
Chaired by Jemma Davies, International and Postgraduate Marketing Manager, Birmingham City University
12:25 Lunch
13:35 “Tips to build engagement with your Chinese audience via Chinese social media”
Steve Thompson - Deputy Director of Corporate Communications at The University of Sheffield & Jimmy Robinson - Co-Founder at PingPong Digital
14:20 “Don't be content with average content”
Dave Musson - Content & Social Media Strategist at Net Natives
15:05 Afternoon refreshments
15:20 Award-winning Case Study - "A Flying Start"
Anette Skott - Marketing Manager at BI Norway Business School
16:00 Closing remarks & networking drinks
17:00 Finish

The FindAUniversity Marketing Conference was sponsored by HEERA

The Higher Education External Relations Association is the professional body of staff working across the areas of press & public relations, marketing, alumni relations and fundraising in the higher education sector. Find out more here.

Conference Report

Drawing together a range of experts from across higher education marketing and recruitment, FindAUniversity’s autumn conference considered the role – and value – of content in attracting and engaging with prospective postgraduates.

What follows is a brief summary of the topics discussed by our speakers. For details of the next FindAUniversity Marketing Conference, please email [email protected]

Session 1 – “Communicating your research strengths without alienating your academics

Laura Tyler, Research Communications Manager (University of Glasgow)

The event began by addressing a key concern for postgraduate marketing: how to present the research students draw upon and participate in, without distancing the academic staff responsible for guiding and producing that work.

Tyler drew on her experience at Glasgow to offer a candid, compelling and remarkably comprehensive case study, overviewing a series of successful (and unsuccessful) processes for managing a substantial content project.

Key takeaways included the need to secure early support from senior leadership and academics, to recognise (and manage) the varied working practices familiar to staff from disparate teams, and to have a clear sense of the content’s audience and format.

The end result was an impressive (and impressively-focussed) set of content themes that nonetheless communicated the university’s research strengths across a range of areas. Tyler concluded by discussing the ways this material could then be extended and repurposed, including its potential value in engaging prospective PGR students.

Session 2 - Award-winning case study: "Parallels between modern dating and marketing

Jack Tomlinson, Postgraduate Marketing Manager (St George’s University of London)

Continuing the conference series’ tradition of exploring successful and innovative marketing campaigns, Tomlinson explained how a focus on engagement had achieved a 79% conversion rate for recruitment to St George’s Physician Associate qualifications.

Tomlinson first highlighted the challenges faced by a specialist provider of easily misunderstood qualifications, facing increased competition. He then moved on to St George’s solution: viewing the relationship with its prospective students as exactly that.

By semi-seriously calling on the audience to reflect on patterns of trust and communication in dating, Tomlinson offered a compelling context for a shift in marketing practices. This included a focus on maintaining relationships (rather than front-loading messaging) and personalising them.

Session 3 – Student panel and Q&A

Chair: Jemma Davis, International and Postgraduate Marketing Manager (Birmingham City University)

Another traditional item in the our conference programmes, this session allowed delegates to gain feedback from a specially selected panel of prospective PGT and PGR students.

Expertly chaired by Jemma Davies, of Birmingham City University, the session covered a range of topics prompted by audience questions. Key insights included student expectations of social media messaging, perceptions of value for money, awareness of loyalty scholarships and incentives to attend physical fairs or recruitment events.

Session 4 – “Tips to build engagement with your Chinese audience via Chinese social media

Steve Thompson, Deputy Director of Corporate Communications (University of Sheffield) and Jimmy Robinson, Co-Founder (PingPong Digital)

If Chinese recruitment is a niche topic in higher education marketing, Thompson and Robinson’s presentation quickly demonstrated how substantial that niche is.

Drawing on his experience at a specialist digital marketing agency, Robinson began by outlining the scope of the Chinese student recruitment market, before providing a remarkably clear overview of Chinese social media, summarising the available services and explaining how prospective students actually use them to research universities and courses.

The session continued with a case study, in which Thompson described the University of Sheffield’s successful transformation into one of the most visible universities on Chinese social media, with substantial growth in followers and engagement. The benefits of this extended beyond recruitment to the development of alumni as brand advocates and the identification of the university as a thought leader in relevant areas.

Finally, Robinson concluded with a series of valuable takeaways for engaging with Chinese students and meeting their information needs through social media content.

Session 5 – “Don’t be content with average content

Dave Musson, Lead Social Media Strategist (Net Natives)

This penultimate session began with a simple suggestion: in the face of an increasing number of ‘things’ for content to be (and be communicated through) have marketers lost sight of what it is that makes content itself engaging and worthwhile?

Musson responded with an exemplary piece of actionable and engaging content, presenting an entertaining and illuminating audit of current best (and worst) practice in higher education content and social media communications.

Insights ranged from the social media capital invested in campus squirrels to the value of risk-taking in guest-blogging, takeovers and tone of voice. Throughout, Musson made a compelling (and refreshing) case for the merits of resonance and audience value over crude engagement metrics and vanity metrics.

Session 6 – Award-winning case study: "A flying start

Anette Skott, Marketing Manager (BI Norwegian Business School)

The conference closed with another award-winning case study, this time exploring an incredibly innovative campaign by BI Norwegian Business School.

BI’s ‘Flying Start ’ video turned the institution’s recruitment challenges on their head. Instead of attempting to bridge the gap between Scandinavia and more familiar anglophone study destinations, BI created a range of content centering on an individual student (selected through an accompanying promotional competition).

Skott’s presentation walked through each stage of the campaign, sharing the challenges involved and reviewing successful outcomes that ranged from coverage on German TV to a prestigious CASE Circle of Excellence award.

These great examples of innovative content provided a fantastic conclusion to the programme and the audience was appropriately impressed. In fact, if universities struggle to locate their marketing and recruitment staff in 2018, it’s possible that some may be found studying for a business degree in Norway...

Those still able to make it to the UK are welcome to get in touch with questions or suggestions for our next event. Simply email: [email protected]

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