Summer is on the way and I'm hoping these sunny days continue into next week (as opposed to the thunderstorms we've recently been having!) The reason for this is that I now have a week off to enjoy a break at the seaside with the family (and also limited 3G connectivity!)

All eyes on the World Cup in summer 2014
The forthcoming Brazil World Cup is already dominating the news (and as someone originally from Southampton I'm pleased to see three of our players have made the squad). There's no doubt that this will continue to get some major news coverage and we'll see a number of big brands trying to jump onto the bandwagon - ourselves already included...

'Newsjacking' is where brands take to social media during a big global or national event and attempt to capitalise on the coverage it is getting for themselves. While on the surface this might seem like something PR people have been doing for years, newsjacking takes the practice to the next level, it also has a number of risks attached and is a tricky and delicate thing. But when businesses learn how to effectively navigate Twitter (and other real-time social communities), there’s a lot that can be achieved by playing into the news of the day.

It's with this in mind that the team got chatting a few weeks ago and noticed that Roy Hodgson was to announce his England squad at the Vauxhall car plant in Luton. So we set to work on this Tweet:
All in a usual days work really but we then noticed via our media monitoring software that our efforts had been quoted in a Guardian article highlighting how us universities are now learning to advertise. It's a really thought provoking article so I suggest you take a look and what interested me was not only that we were being monitored by them but that the digital marketing techniques they cite are pretty much standard practice for any well organised big business.

In 2012 the market changed forever
Overall however, I'd agree with their synopsis and feel that the rise in tuition fees has been the driving factor in making good marketing in HE all the more important. However, what must not be forgotten in all this is ensuring the students get the best experience possible. Even the best marketing in the world can't sell a poor product!

This leads me nicely on to a guest Blog post I was asked to write last week for the UK Digital Experience Awards 2014. Here I argue that customer service is the best form of marketing and that as professionals we also need to be marketing ourselves internally to gain recognition for what we can bring to the company. This includes bringing home external awards (something which I'm a big fan of!) It's a good job then that we've just racked up another nomination for the Heist awards in July!

Here we go again!
This is for Best Strategic and Corporate Campaign (with last year's cinema advert the focus). There's a big field for this one with some massive campaigns competing against us so we'll see how we get on. We'll be there again anyway at the Gala Dinner in Manchester with our fellow Bedfordshire nominees in the Undergaduate Prospectus and Internal Communications categories, cheering each other on as usual.

That's enough from me for now. Time to start packing the bucket and spade - here's hoping there's no big Luton/Bedford related news that I miss while I'm out of the office to miss 'newsjacking'...!
One task in my role as Digital Marketing Manager which I didn't realise would have quite such an emphasis is that of giving presentations. Looking back, I have given at least two 20min+ presentations a month on a variety of subjects - it's a good thing this is something I really enjoy! Perhaps it's because I'm some sort of natural showman but I think it's vital for me to get out there and promote the team's work with the hope of imparting some useful knowledge or triggering a brainstorming session.

The stage is set for a full day of
Higher Education presentations
So it was then that Sarah Hampton (from our Marketing team) and myself were asked to present at the Inside Government Future of Higher Education Marketing 2014 conference. This was due to us being commended back in December for our website at the Prospects Postgraduate Awards and we've also recently seen an uplift of 30% in our Postgraduate student applications for September 2013. Our shift to digital techniques to achieve this was to be the main focus - it's a good thing that's in my job title!

We set off to London earlier than usual on 29th April due to the fact there was to be a Tube strike. This would give us plenty of time to walk to the Hallam Conference Centre in Marylebone where we were due to present in the rather opulent Council Chamber (thankfully the weather was on our side!) We had the after lunch slot at 2.20pm so needed to make sure our energy levels were turned up to the maximum to keep the audience awake.

Before our talk we listened to a number of other speakers either from government funded bodies (e.g. the QAA, HESA, HEFCE and the mighty UCAS), to fellow universities (e.g. SOAS, Exeter and York) and the 100+ delegate list read like a who's who of higher education marketing. No pressure then...

The overwhelming feeling I got from the other presenters was that of some very talented and experienced marketers sharing what we need to focus on for the future in what is becoming a very competitive marketplace. Personally, the reason I like HE is that people are willing to share best practice, but this time it was clear people were happy to share what needs to be done but not necessarily how - I hope this is not a vision of our future. Where we differed slightly from the majority was that we had real examples and figures charting the success/failure of everything we did. Perhaps we were being too honest and a little naive?!

Me in full flow on the podium in
the Council Chambers
Despite these concerns the presentation all went rather well, we stuck to time and I made sure that I packed in as many success stories as possible whilst Sarah shared some of our admissions data. I was also very happy to get some great questions in the Q&A afterwards and as hoped it sparked a good opportunity for networking at the tea break (I have a new wad of business cards as a result!)

Jo, the conference organiser shared some feedback with us post event and this was overwhelmingly positive with one person saying it was 'a really engaging and insightful showcase of our work'. All in all, a good days work!

Next up for me is an hour long presentation at our Clinical Education and Leadership away day this afternoon. We're then straight into the launch of our new iTrent jobs site for HR and I've been asked to contribute to the design and functionality of our forthcoming University app. Alongside all of this we're switching our website hosting package and are redesigning our news listings. Finally, is that the dreaded Clearing I see looming on the horizon? When's that next May bank holiday again...?!
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