We're now back to a full quota of staff following a number of summer holidays which meant a team meeting was an urgent requirement!

This allowed me to bring everyone up to speed on current and future projects. We also had a few guests from within the department which helped to keep them all up to date on what we are doing. I feel that these informal meetings give everyone a chance to share their ideas and to talk about what they have been doing. It's also a good chance to have a fancy coffee and enjoy some Portuguese cakes (thanks Angela!)

An item at the top of the agenda was our current winter campaign and the online rollout. This is currently going great guns and is informed by lessons learned from Clearing. For example, this time we've decided to create a series of videos which cross-edit everyone who features in the campaign by theme instead of them featuring in their own individual videos:

This allowed us to use more footage from the people who were more natural in front of camera and also to see if this approach has any effect on audience retention.

Talking of analytics we've been working with our CRM team in order to develop some meaningful statistics from our live chat system. This Clearing we've found that it has been used more than ever (even picking up some of the slack from Twitter) and therefore we need to be able to effectively measure ROI. The system we use is called 'ISL Pronto' and one of my first initiatives was to plug it in to the homepage to see what the take up would be. I can proudly say that it's been growing year on year (despite some initial reservations internally) and is the first port of call for many of our International students.

We've also been beta testing our new internal and external document search which is looking good. There have been a number of tweaks (such as adding icons for the document type and displaying the meta tags on the front end) and the real challenge will come with educating staff on the new naming, tagging and location conventions when adding documents themselves through the CMS. However, we've added this to our staff training programme and have also produced a concise helpsheet to refer to if required.

This Wednesday was a landmark day on both of our main campuses as we hosted our first open day for 2015 applicants. Historically this has been held later in the year but the idea was that by holding it earlier we could capitalise on some early interest. As usual, my team were busy filming at both campuses (I even dusted off some of the old skills to muck in) and videos of the happenings of both days are in the process of being edited as I type.

Finally, we received some great news regarding the Prospects Postgraduate Awards 2014 in Manchester (where we won 'Best Website' last year). I'm not officially able to share it yet but we have been emailed a little logo which we can use. I'll just leave this here...
What a nail biting few weeks. After months of hard work it was finally crunch time and I was promised the results of my PG Diploma in Digital Marketing with the IDM would be with me by Friday 5th September. Monday came and went. No email. Then Tuesday and Wednesday. By Thursday morning I was getting pretty edgy and so too were my course mates whom I kept in touch with via our LinkedIn group. Then (after much manual browser refreshing) the email finally appeared in my inbox!
I literally jumped for joy! To receive a credit was beyond my wildest dreams meaning I could add some more letters after my name (see my profile on this blog) and more importantly enjoy the champagne and takeaway pizza my wife had promised me if I passed!

I can honestly say that it was all worth the late nights and stress and now I can't wait until the graduation ceremony (my first in over ten years) on 7th November at the Royal Geographical Society in London. A massive thanks to everyone at the IDM for their help and support...

Our latest campaign visual
with a focus on our alumni
In other news we are finally winding down on our Clearing activity and are now about to go live on our Winter Campaign (tentatively entitled 'Discover') which is due to run until 15th January 2015. This means that we're due to spend the following week in a frenzy of digital activity: 
  • Creating a campaign landing page
  • Adding the images to the homepage
  • Editing and animating a campaign video
  • Setting up seven different PPC campaigns
  • Designing and distributing a number of MPUs, Leaderboards and Skyscrapers
  • Finalising a Social Media content strategy
It's going to be a busy one so we'll definitely need a constant supply of tea and coffee. We're at the stage now where we've been experimenting a bit with making our landing pages work better on mobile and the media split we're decided on is almost wholly dictated by lessons learned from our previous campaigns (Clearing has taught us A LOT!) We've shared out the responsibility for the above activity amongst the team and hope to have everything live by next Monday.

This isn't to say that we don't still like to try new things and as part of our promotions for our upcoming Postgraduate Open Day we've started trialling some LinkedIn advertising. I've personally heard mixed reports on its success rate so the only way to truly find out is to run some small advertising ourselves!

In other developments I've been tasked with creating a bespoke online  Funnelback search (similar to our course finder) for our documents. This is in conjunction with a project to standardise how we name and tag documents across the University so has also included the need to create a number of help sheets and tutorial videos for staff using our CMS. The finished result should be up and running soon and the idea is that it will fulfill both the needs of staff looking for documents on our intranet and our external auditors.

Finally, I attended a really positive meeting chaired by our Vice Chancellor last week where I had the chance to demo our website to him and go through some of the recent developments. We have a few small things to work on with our online messaging but overall he was extremely happy with how the project is being managed and the outcomes we're achieving. I made sure I passed this praise on to the team as sometimes it's useful to know that the person at the top is impressed with the job we're doing and provides that extra impetus to keep driving forward...
I suppose I should start this post by briefly mentioning the craze that has taken over the internet (and my Facebook newsfeed) in the last few weeks namely the 'ice bucket challenge'. On Thursday we were asked to film our Vice Chancellor performing it and there's absolutely no escaping from it with everyone having an opinion on the validity and ethics behind what has become an extremely popular campaign. Personally, I am yet to be nominated and whilst I feel giving to charity is something we should all do there's no excuse for pressuring people into it! This is because many people already give to charities which reflect their personal beliefs/trials without feeling the need to draw attention to it or 'nominate' others.

With a campaign like this that has caught on so vehemently there are clearly some key lessons for marketers:
  • People like to show off (and demonstrate their popularity by nominating friends). Sadly, many of us have narcissistic qualities as the abundance of 'selfies' also proves. This campaign takes it up a notch and adds a competitive nature to the proceedings. The barriers to participate are pretty low (everyone has access to a bucket, water and some ice) and the video run-times are short (60secs max) meaning a low commitment to consume
  • Everyone is now a content creator as it is now so easy to post video from a smartphone. This further proves that we online marketers need to put video at the very core of our digital strategies and find more creative ways to engage with consumers via the medium
  • This plays of the current cult of celebrity culture meaning copycat ventures will struggle to transpose the same level of engagement and willingness to share content
  • Where the campaign could be improved is added information to educate (i.e. many participants have a limited knowledge of the charity they are donating to). Further to this it does however prove that by incorporating good causes into the marketing mix people can be encouraged to engage with the brand
In other news I have been spending a lot of time in our Google AdWords account and producing daily reports on our continued Clearing activity. The former is becoming increasingly complex as we refine and add more campaigns based on how the user is searching and which courses we are trying to push. I've definitely noticed a ramping up of this since last year and the online spend for some universities must nearly be nearing seven figures! As we near the stage of closure and a final campaign analysis it's clear we have learned a great deal for next year based on how potential students interact with our website and the tenacity of our competitors!

Winter is coming...!
The next step for us will be our forthcoming winter campaign (I'm budget planning as I type) and for that we have created a shift in the way we market from campaign to campaign. In the past ex-colleagues have thrown out everything that was previously done and gone back to the drawing board to create a completely new idea. I have never liked this approach as it is not one big brands take to completely re-invent their visuals and messaging three times a year.

Thankfully our new marketing team have seen the benefit of developing a natural evolution from one campaign to the next. This will allow us increased brand perception and less exhausting work to start from scratch each time! Watch this space...
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