Each with their own unique history, offering, results and reputation, universities are brands in their own right. The sooner their PR people and marketers start realising that, the better for them.
To more closely compete with the big-names in higher education, there is, without doubt, an increasing need for universities to identify who they are, what they stand for, what they represent and how do they want to be perceived?
Whatever conclusion they reach will form the basis of their brand, and with that comes both benefits and challenges.
We take a look at the five key issues facing education communicators:
1) Building A Reputation
Louise Simpson, director of the World 100 Reputation Network of Top-Ranked Universities, recently commented: “We shouldn’t be surprised that the most highly regarded universities don’t change over time, as reputation is reflective in higher education”. And she is quite right. Brand reputation cannot be bought - it must be built. A strong, deserved reputation can be an incredibly powerful thing - just look at Oxbridge.
A widespread high opinion of your university will be rewarded. You’ll attract the most experienced lecturers and most talented students who will, in turn, generate glowing results, helping your establishment continually churn out the best alumni – your brand advocates.
But this doesn’t happen overnight; it may even take years.
2) Standing Out From The Crowd
No two universities and no two courses are the same. It is your job to make that known.
The way in which you position and promote yourself is imperative to your success in terms of registrations and results. Regarding yourself as an individual brand will help you identify your unique selling points, allowing you to create the desired image, message and offering that sets you apart from other educational institutions.
3) Telling Your Story
Cambridge had the world’s most intelligent man, Harvard had one of America’s greatest presidents; they have their stories and they’ve been told. But even universities with the greatest histories cannot always rely on their past; like any brand, they need to create new stories – and they need someone to tell them.
More and more brands are now using PR platforms and online newsrooms to ensure their content falls on the most relevant and influential ears, and universities are getting on board too.
4) Branding And Rebranding
A name is easy to change. A person’s perception is not.
In the education sector, universities are facing a constant battle against people’s opinions of them, and re-branding is undeniably difficult.
While Leeds Beckett (formerly Leeds Metropolitan) – may have changed their name, time and time again, they still struggle to compete against their red-brick rivals, University of Leeds, because of their previous “poly” label.
But, having adopted a fitting slogan “Opening doors, opening minds”, Leeds Beckett now positions itself as a practical university, offering valuable work experiences, thus helping them attract a more “hands on” demographic – quite the contrary to their city rivals.
5) Evolving Your Reaching & Teaching
With the evolution of social media and online marketing comes the need for universities to market themselves in a more digitally-savvy manner.
Universities now need to look beyond the traditional means of advertising; they need to locate where online their desired demographic is and target their social media and Google ad campaigns accordingly.
And it’s not just the advertising that needs to change with the times. Lecturers and students alike are increasingly leaning on the Internet to help with their teaching and studies. With this in mind, universities will need to test the latest trends and technologies to help them continue to compete with the key players in their industry.
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