Posted on 15 Sep '21

Silver Lining – How the Pandemic Cloud Shifted our Prospectus Perspective

The University of Derby recently won a silver HEIST 2021 award for their postgraduate prospectus. We invited the Production Editor, Heather Turley, to share the changes they made and the impact it’s had on their orders and enquiries.

Every cloud, they say, has a silver lining. Covid-19 has been one great big, black cloud over us all for so long. But for us at Derby the silver lining was the Heist award of that colour this summer for our Digital Postgraduate Prospectus.

Working with small budgets and an urgent need for a different approach, partly due to Covid and partly as a response to the changes that were already happening in the sector, we had to think smart for our 2021 postgraduate audience.

Here is what we did:

#1 Consider the evidence

Printed postgraduate prospectus orders were declining, down 38% year on year in August 2020. The world was a different place, granted – but we couldn’t ignore the facts before our eyes. At the same time, the folk at YouthSight were telling us that prospective postgraduate students preferred to access their content digitally – hardly a surprise, but a solid confirmation that it was time to think differently.

#2 Know the audience

Our internal and external research had confirmed that one size really doesn’t fit all when it comes to postgraduate study. This is a diverse and disparate audience. How could we take advantage of a shift to a digital platform to address this? With the help of YouthSight and our own internal audit, we decided to tailor our digital content to a group of personas. Although still quite broad-brush, this enabled us to view postgraduate study through their needs.

#3 Tell their story

With the personas at the heart of the plan we reached out to our current and recent postgraduate students and worked with them to develop strong case studies that told their story and that would resonate with prospective students. We wrote tailored intros for each persona and developed persona-specific questions for the order form to ensure prospective students were served a case study that more closely aligned to their motivations and aspirations. This would also allow us to have more of an insight into our audience as orders were placed.

#4 Let them choose

In addition to the questions about their motivations for study, we also asked enquirers to tell us what they were interested in so that they would receive only content of interest – so they could filter out accommodation, fees and funding etc if they didn’t need it. We also created separate versions of some content for UK and international students. Much of this linked through to existing web pages; this meant that we weren’t reinventing content but instead curating it for them into one portal that they accessed via an email link once they had completed their order. In that sense it became a digital representation of a print prospectus.

Budget considerations meant that the project needed to be implemented in-house and as cost-effectively as possible. We drew on expertise across the team, including our digital marketing and campaigns experts. All of the development and copywriting was carried out in-house. We created some videos using external suppliers to take advantage of the digital platform and provide a wider range of content.

Next steps

Early results exceeded our expectations, with orders between November and January up 97% on figures for the previous year.

By the end of January 2021, the number of contactable enquirers in the pot were double that in 2020, and from November 2020 – January 2021 the number had increased by 82% on the previous year.

This growth has continued and to the end of July 2021, UK orders were 32% up on 2020. We have also seen additional growth from the international market, which had previously not had access to our printed publication. Making the prospectus accessible to this wider audience has contributed to a significant increase in international applications.

We are seeing good engagement with the prospectus content and across the website as a direct result.

As we prepare for the next recruitment cycle, we are keen to build on this momentum, review progress and gain insight from what we’ve achieved so far – and by the next Heist awards, we will be gunning for Gold!

If you would like help with extending the reach of your content and campaigns to our global FindAMasters and FindAPhD audience, please get in touch with your Account Manager, email [email protected] or call +44 (0)114 268 4940.

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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