Posted on 22 Jul '21

What We Learnt from our Student Ambassador Competition

Dan Williams, Senior Marketing Officer at FindAUnversity, led on the delivery and review of our 2020/21 ambassador initiative so we invited him to share the key learnings with you.

Influencers, ambassadors, brand representatives - whatever we call them, marketers just can’t get enough of peer-to-peer recommendations in their marketing mix. Here at FindAUniversity, we know just how powerful word of mouth can be for postgrad recruitment and over the past year, we introduced our FindAMasters and FindAPhD ambassadors. Here, are some exclusive insights into the process, including our successes, learnings and our plans for the future!

What did we change?

Our ambassador initiative came from a review of our annual £12,000 scholarship competition. Every year we offer a £6,000 prize to one Masters and one PhD student. However, we realised that we often weren’t getting the most out of our winners – we would hand over the cash, wish them well and that would pretty much be it! For 2020, we switched things up, and the chosen ‘ambassadors’ would, in return for their £6,000, deliver engaging written and video content documenting their first year of postgraduate study. The scheme gave them a worldwide platform to publish on, and our audience a unique look at a real student experience.

The process and outputs

Our entrants submitted a video, and a short-written piece alongside their application, and after whittling down to a shortlist of 5 potential ambassadors for each level of study, we undertook a day of Zoom interviews (remember when they were a novelty?) to get to know everyone better. We were genuinely impressed by the passion of our shortlisted candidates and after a difficult decision, we announced Rosie from Cranfield University and Maria from Kings College London (pictured above) as our respective FindAMasters and FindAPhD ambassadors.

Over the course of a year, Rosie and Maria produced four written blogs and four vlogs centred around their experiences of starting postgraduate study. Topics ranged from starting study during covid, to tips on preparing for interviews, to advice on managing mental health and wellbeing. We also sought to engage our ambassadors with the FindAMasters and FindAPhD brands, having them speak at our Virtual Study Fairs and using their own social media platforms to authentically engage prospective students with us.

Our two ambassadors proved enthusiastic and excellent communicators – submitting content on time that adhered to our briefs and offering additional ideas for content. We weren’t able to meet in person, but we kept up our relationship going with a welcome pack, Christmas gifts and regular catch-ups.

The impact

In terms of measurable return, the results were honestly a mixed bag. Despite a bigger investment into the distribution and promotion, the written blogs performed no better than our usual guest-authored content in terms of traffic and engagement with our site.

Where we noticed the greatest impact was with the video content. These delivered up to 4x the number of video views compared to our other video content on our YouTube channel, as well as contributing to a noticeable rise in subscribers. The videos also had good engagement, with prospective students following up with our ambassadors with specific questions about their experiences.

What have we learnt?

Well, a couple of things.

  • Authentic and accessible content works – the ‘real life’ feel of the ambassadors’ video content gave a visible insight into what postgrad study can be like, and clearly struck a chord with our audience.
  • You don’t always need a huge investment in ambassador initiatives. We have had several enquiries from prospective students volunteering blogs and video content for us, looking to share their experiences on a worldwide platform.
  • Finally, as a competition, we realised that the relatively high barrier to entry (video production skills, a longer written application) can put a lot of entrants off.

Our plans for 2021

Going forward, we have decided not to pursue our ambassador initiative in the same way. Our 2021 Scholarship competition will now focus on mass engagement, with a simple application process to allow as many prospective students as possible to take part. But that doesn’t mean we are done with student-led content!

We are always on the lookout for guest contributions from students and later this year we will be developing plans for a community of student ambassadors that can share their unique insights with our audience (watch this space).

We have also recently introduced the integration of The Ambassador Platform with Institution Profiles on Allowing universities to put their own ambassadors directly in touch with our global audience – who better to sell your university experience than your own students?

If you have any questions or would like more information about any of the above, please contact the team at [email protected]

FindAUniversity take pride in being experts in postgraduate education. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter for regular insight, comment and case studies.

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