Key Takeaways from our 2020-21 Webinar Speakers
When the first news of the 2020 lockdown came, FindAUniversity were busy prepping for our 8th Postgraduate Marketing Conference in London. Needless to say, that event didn’t go ahead as planned, but we’ve learned a lot from the alternative approach we chose – and we’d like to think our colleagues and community have too.
How we adapted
We still wanted to provide higher education colleagues with insights and advice from experts across the sector. So, our Events team met to discuss our options. With physical events not looking possible for the foreseeable, we decided to pivot and offer a monthly webinar series, free of charge. Why? Because we wanted the webinars to be inclusive and support the sharing of information and expertise during a difficult time.
We have been delighted by the response from speakers and attendees.
Since August 2020, we have hosted 11 webinars with 19 speakers. Over 1,500 HE colleagues attended a webinar - 85% from the UK and 15% from around the world including Ireland, Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Australia.
In total we’ve been live for more than 14 hours of airtime (at least half of which have featured our compere’s cats) and had over 388 replays (and counting). But it's not just about the numbers. It’s been genuinely wonderful bringing a wide range of colleagues together to network, share expertise and answer questions. We’re looking forward to carrying this on, but, for now, here are some key takeaways from the ‘first season’ of our postgraduate webinars:
#1 The Graduate Route
Our first webinar in August 2020 focussed on the new UK Graduate Route post-study work visa and featured Jenny Wilkinson, Director of Student Recruitment & Business Development at London Metropolitan University, alongside Fraser Deas, Head of Education Services at the British Council China. Whilst noting the opportunities this new option clearly presents for Masters and PhD recruitment, Jenny and Fraser highlighted that the Graduate Route can't just be employed as a standalone marketing tool: it’s important to include it alongside broader messaging around employability and post-study opportunity.
#2 PhD marketing and recruitment
In our September 2020 webinar our own Dr Mark Bennett, Associate Director - Editorial, Policy & Student, shared the results of our 2020 Future PhD Student Survey, offering detailed insights into what prospective PhD students are thinking or looking for. Mark explained that not all PhD prospects are continuing students and therefore we shouldn’t assume they automatically understand PhD study; in fact, they may know surprisingly little. Results also indicate that while supervisors are a significant part of a university’s appeal, potential PGRs are most interested in people and potential partnerships, not just résumés and research records. The challenge for marketers and recruiters, working alongside academics, is to show what research staff care about and how they work with students, not just present their accolades and achievements.
#3 Virtual events
COVID-19 didn't just cancel our physical events: it also presented challenges and opportunities for colleagues. At our September 2020 webinar, Elliot Newstead, Head of UK Student Recruitment and Outreach at the University of Leicester, talked about maximising the impact of virtual open days. Many of the tips at this early(ish) point in the pandemic were highly practical, but Elliot also highlighted the need to include funding as not all prospects understand the options available, and with events attracting a wider international audience, institutions should focus of promoting their home country as well as their institutional/city messages.
#4 Content strategy and evaluation
Our October 2020 webinar saw Azeem Ahmad, Digital Marketing Manager at Staffordshire University, talk about the importance of using the right metrics to review and make changes to your content strategy and plans. In particular, he suggested we should stop using time on site as a siloed Google Analytics metric, and instead measure how engaged users are with your content. He walked through how to set up scroll depth on target pages and YouTube videos using Google Tag Manager. This one is a great watch if you want to roll your sleeves up and get a bit more technical.
#5 Award-winning campaign management
We invited HEIST award winners, Fiona Jardine, School Marketing Officer, and Ray Addison, Marketing Manager from the University of Aberdeen, to share their campaign advice at our November 2020 webinar. They talked about how they planned to reuse their award-winning campaign, and the importance of reviewing and refreshing materials to help with the longevity and relevancy.
#6 Student-led marketing
Our February 2021 webinar featured Hailey McKee, Public Relations Manager, and Hannah Schweitzer, Strategist and Project Manager, from Boston University, talking about their institution’s F*ck It Won't Cut It campaign – an initiative that got the attention of US students and media, as well as our webinar audience! Hailey and Hannah reminded us how powerful listening to your own student body is - reach out to them at the campaign planning phase to inform your ideas and make sure you answer their questions in your communications.
#7 Digital trends
Digital marketing continually changes so we invited Daniel Rowles, Programme Director at Imperial College Business School, to share the 10 digital trends to help with postgraduate recruitment at our May 2021 webinar. Daniel's advice was wide-ranging and the toolkit of resources he shared was generous to say the least, including how Google is cracking down on website pop-ups and CTA’s that interrupt content and if overused, will impact your search ranking and advertising quality score.
What is next?
We are not stopping there. We plan to continue our webinars for the rest of the year.
Next up is ‘The power of content in a cookie-less world’ in September, delivered by Trina Everall, Co-founder of Stori, and Drew Hayward-Wright, cookies and programmatic advertising expert. They will share what Google’s phasing out of third-party cookies means for HE marketeers and cost-effective ways to engage prospective postgrads. We are looking forward to hearing their advice and we hope to ‘see’ you there - you can sign up now.
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