Back in June 2012, when I first started this Blog, the idea was that it would be in equal parts therapy, a document of the team's work and a place to share our innovations with the University and wider HE marketing sector.

St. Paul's cathedral made a particularly
impressive (and prophetic) backdrop

Little did I know that two years (and 49 posts) later I'd be up for a national award at the inaugural National UK Blog Awards 2014 and with over 900 entries, just making it into the shortlist was a massive achievement for me. The ceremony was due to be held at the very swanky Grange hotel in St. Paul's and was all the brainchild and hard work of Gemma Pears and Becki Cross who saw the need for bloggers from all sectors to be recognised on a national scale. Needless to say they did an amazing job of laying on a truly memorable night for all involved.

So, as soon as I finished work on Friday I rushed home to get dressed up in my trusty Matalan Tux (the cost per-wear is now down to 13p!) and headed down to the big smoke. The hotel was definitely a very impressive venue just across the road from the cathedral and I grabbed my event lanyard for a bit of networking and lots of food (the Content Click sponsored cupcakes were particularly nice). There was also a very tempting candyfloss and popcorn stand and I was suitably impressed by the scale of the whole event.

The Grange made a brilliant venue
with great views from the top floor
At 8.30pm we took our seats for the awards ceremony to begin! Having looked at the competition I was certain that this was not going to be my night. They seemed to blog with much more regularity and also have a more monetised publishing model than this lowly blog with its modest readership. In fact, I was so certain I wasn't going to win that I promised my wife I'd shave off my beard if I did...

I was up against bloggers who have appeared on TV with their work and was amongst special guests who included BBC Click, the original Stig from Top Gear and the Mayor of Camden. The awards then started with a bang (and an Oscar inspired selfie) and I really enjoyed being at a ceremony which was refreshingly un-corporate. What was great was that as well as the usual big brands there were also lots of people there who just enjoy writing their blogs for themselves from home. This meant there was a real mix of people making it all the more refreshing.

My category was up fourth and then the announcement came: "Winner of the organisation category - the Digital Marketing Team Blog!" Woah...

On stage collecting my award from the
very generous judges!
From then on the whole evening became a bit of a blur. I was absolutely shocked and flattered to have won such a prestigious prize against such brilliant opposition. I really didn't feel I deserved it but whilst sipped a refreshing gin and tonic and waiting for my photo (and video interview!) I had an opportunity to chat to the judges in my category. Elliot Simmonds from DJS Research and VoicED and Julian Stanley the CEO of the Teacher Support Network were a couple of really friendly guys and whilst comparing the delights of the Grange to a Travelodge they assured me that there was a particularly stringent mark scheme to decide on the winner. I must be doing something right then!

I came away from the evening with a brilliant trophy, a winners certificate and a hilarious goodie bag (containing carpet samples, tea, wallpaper rolls, Brazilian cocktail mixer, wedding magazines and a USB stick). I also made some really good contacts and have some amazing memories for the future.

Finally, I'd like to sign off my fiftieth post by thanking my team - as without their excellent work I'd have nothing worth blogging about! Now do I shave off my beard as I promised or not...?
One thing you can be sure of in digital marketing is that if something works then you do it again! The phenomenal success of our last cinema advert (and accompanying online campaign) meant that it was a foregone conclusion that we'd be repeating the same activity a year later - so here we are...

In many ways the process has been a lot easier this year due to us already knowing the production company we'd like to use (Spectrecom again obviously) and we have a tighter grasp of the budgets and schedules required to get this thing moving.

After getting three different concepts the one we chose was entitled 'Good Choice'. This had an emphasis on showcasing the range of reasons people might want to go to University but also would lend itself to being a conversion activity as part of our pre-clearing campaign (where students decide that we are their first choice after adding us to their UCAS form).

Our new School of Art and Design which
was a brilliant location for the big screen
The original concept was a strong one with various keywords appear on the screen alongside (some) newly filmed footage. We ensured that we included the relevant keywords by involving all heads of department into the decision making process and also ensured that the final advert showcased a good range of courses (especially those which historically need a bigger push to recruit to).

Once this was all in place Lauren, Graeme and myself sat down to discuss how we thought the graphics could look and the logistics of arranging a days filming which included some areas of our Luton campus not previously captured on film! Lauren did an amazing job of scheduling the day to include our new School of Art and Design and to round up a variety of current students to star - all with the promise of a £15 Amazon voucher for their efforts!

The day of the filming arrived and actually went relatively smoothly with us sticking to schedule and only needing to relocate for one shot. Staff in Media and the Science labs were particularly helpful and we were all wrapped by 6pm as planned.

Filming outside of campus centre in Luton.
This time, the weather was on our side!
The next stage was then to choose the music and purchase the rights (thanks Spectrecom for going with our choice) which was aided by our remarketing data showing the type of music people who visit our website are interested in. We also had a lot of to-ing and fro-ing to get the graphics as we wanted them but Spectrecom were as accommodating as ever of our requests - I quite enjoyed the role of 'pushy' client for a change!

We're really happy with the final product and although it packs a little less of an emotional punch than last time, it shows us to be a really vibrant and upbeat place to study. So if you live near one of our campuses look out for it on a screen near you in the coming weeks. We're also putting the finishing touches to our online campaign so nowhere will be safe to escape that catchy soundtrack!

In other news I've just come back from a week at the IDM in Teddington where I completed the final stage of my Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Marketing. I'm pleased to report that I passed my final assignment and now need to get revising for the real challenge of three 3 hour exams at the beginning of June.

I've also booked my ticket for the 'oscars of the blogging world' the National UK Blog Awards 2014 at the Grange Hotel, St. Pauls. I'm really excited about this one and there's due to be some high profile companies to network with over a glass of champagne as well as the promise of 'sumptuous bowl food' (whatever that is?!) A win would make all the time I spend writing these posts worthwhile!

Finally, I've been putting the finishing touches to a presentation which Sarah from the Marketing team and I are set to give at an Inside Government event on 29th April. The focus will be 'Enhancing Postgraduate Student Recruitment Through Developing A Digital Presence' and I'm really looking forward to sharing some of the lessons we've learned and some of the latest innovations to keep out website at the forefront of our Marketing strategy. There's my next two blog posts written right there!
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