Re:search Re:imagined – Launching NTU's First Research Reputation Campaign
In March 2021, NTU launched a new multi-channel marketing campaign to raise the profile of its research to UK audiences. Aligning with the REF 2021 assessment period, the campaign is the first research reputation campaign of its kind at NTU, delivering outstanding results over the past year, including 30M+ impressions and a 585% increase in direct visitors to the research section of the website.
In this blog, Senior Marketing Manager, Lauren Dunning outlines the steps taken to launch the campaign, the value of employee advocacy and the key ingredients for success.
Background – the need to raise awareness of research at NTU
Before Re:search Re:imagined, raising awareness of NTU’s research impact was very much a priority for the central and school marketing teams and the PR team at NTU. However, the approach taken was reactive and relied heavily on the goodwill of academics coming forward with compelling research stories and achievements.
At that time, research content was shared on the central and school social accounts, on NTU webpages and where appropriate, as press releases. For journalists and engaged audiences with an existing relationship with NTU, the quality and breadth of research taking place at the university may have been obvious. However, for hard-to-reach audiences and the general public, NTU’s research strengths were relatively unknown.
We needed a step change in the way research is communicated and celebrated at NTU, to raise the profile of NTU research and to demonstrate the breadth and quality of research taking place across the institution.
Campaign aims and objectives
Re:search Re:imagined was introduced in March 2021 and is the first in a series of ambitious steps to influence internal and external perceptions of NTU research.
Aligning with the REF2021 submission period, the campaign was created to meet the following objectives:
- To raise the profile and reputation of NTU as a high-performing university delivering real-world research and impact. Measures of success: impressions, reach, page views, likes, shares
- To demonstrate the breadth and quality of research at NTU. Measures of success: case studies, media content, e-newsletter content
- To increase public engagement with NTU research in the UK. Measures of success: clicks, website traffic, page views, research alert sign-ups, video views, likes, shares
Audiences, assets and channels
Specific audiences that were targeted during the first twelve months include senior influencers and decision-makers, media and industry, prospective students, staff, students, and the general public.
Developed by education marketing agency Waterfall, the campaign thematic uses bold imagery, powerful messaging and iconic audio that can be modified to fit any channel or message. Each case study reinforces the campaign headline by adopting the Re:- prefix, ie: Re:port, Re:store, Re:pair etc.
Assets that were created to launch the campaign include:
- A 60 second hero video
- Corresponding videos for each case study (re: story)
- Shorter video edits for organic and paid social
- Static and moving display assets
- Dedicated campaign landing pages with separate pages for each re: story
- Web banners and branded email templates
- Lamp post banners and physical displays
- Template slides and messaging
To maximise impact and ensure effective use of the budget, all paid activity was split into two main bursts. Burst 1 ran from 24 March 2021 - 31 July 2021 and Burst 2 ran from 8 December 2021 - 30 April 2022.
Paid social was the driving force behind the campaign, delivering over 29 million impressions and 68,000 clicks to the research section of the website. For Burst 1, paid social media activity focused on general Re:search Re:imagined messaging and made use of the hero video, hashtag and animated and static assets.
In addition to the hero activity, highly-targeted sub-campaigns were introduced in sprints throughout Burst 1 to raise awareness and boost engagement from audiences with an interest in the research behind each of the re: stories.
Working with academics
The Research Marketing team met with the academics behind each re: story to fully understand the key beneficiaries of their research, enabling us to hyper-segment the audience for each sub-campaign.
Academics connected to each sub-campaign were supported with their own communication pack with template social assets, copy and tracked URLs to maximise organic performance and impact.
The combination of re: story sprints vs always-on hero promotion worked exceptionally well and drove high levels of engagement and traffic throughout the campaign.
In the first 12 months, the campaign generated over 33.4 million impressions and 71,000 clicks through to the campaign landing page. Since the launch of Re:search Re:imagined, the research section of the website has seen a 585% increase in direct visitors, and double the number total page views, unique page views and users compared with the same time period in 2020.
Over the same period, NTU research was mentioned on social media over 10,000 times and generated a combined reach of 1.46bn (paid and organic). Plus, #ResearchReimagined has consistently been recorded as the most popular NTU hashtag since launch and has generated over 4 million impressions.
With Re:search Re:imagined now firmly established as NTU’s hero research reputation campaign, the Research Marketing team at NTU are exploring new ways to engage audiences in research. On 30th September, the Re:search Re:imagined podcast was released to the public on all major streaming platforms, achieving 100 listens of the first episode in just 24 hours.
For the latest news and updates from the research community at NTU, search #researchreimagined on social or visit the research section of the NTU website.
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