An innovative social media campaign encouraging student engagement through ‘selfie’ online images certainly caught the eye of judges and participants at this year’s EUPRIO conference in Perugia.
For the #IAMIN campaign, launched to boost the recruitment of top-flight students to England’s Loughborough University, was the overall winner of the 2015 EUPRIO Award, writes Nic Mitchell.
Second place went to the University of Lodz, Poland, for their ‘SmartUni” network of mobile ambassadors and the third placed prize was won by Belgium-based VLIR-UOS for their ‘Wow Factor’ research communications entry.
Loughborough’s #IAMIN hashtag
The novel British entry involved running a last-minute social media campaign during the crucial ‘Clearing and Confirmation’ period to offset a dip in conditional firm UK and EU applications and international students expected to enrol at the university. Loughborough is highly ranked, but not a member of the UK elite ‘Russell Group’ and competition is fierce for the best students.
Emma Leech, who had only in post a few months as the new Director of Marketing and Advancement at Loughborough, realised action was needed before school students received their final A’level grades in August 2014.
With a modest budget of £10,000 (13,550 euros) her team put together the #IAMIN hashtag campaign to target top-grade A’level students. The aim was to create an online buzz about the university and drive more traffic to the website during this very busy ‘make-your-mind-up-time’ for would-be university students who might be tempted to go elsewhere.
Send in ‘selfies’
Emma said: “We asked people to send in selfies and used giant and mini “IAMIN” frames to encourage students to feel like they were already part of the Loughborough community.
“The campaign led to spin-out campaign for Freshers and beyond, with the message adapted to ‘WEAREHERE’.
“Staff and our existing students also got involved and we had a reach of nearly two million social users.
Crucially it worked!
“The Vice-Chancellor and President of the Students’ Union helped to man the Clearing Helpline, which helped to get media attention – and crucially the campaign worked!
Top grade UK and EU students accepted during the Clearing period, which runs for several weeks after school students find out if they have been accepted or not to their first choice university, were up by 169%. This equates to an additional income of over £2million in tuition fees.
International student numbers were also up during Clearing – by 126%, equating to additional income for the university of £1,350,675.
“And the return on investment for the initial £10,000 outlay was 339:1,” said Emma, who was attending her first EUPRIO conference.
See more about the #IAMIN campaign in this YouTube video
Emma’s first conference
Emma said she felt ‘slightly ashamed” that Perugia was her first EUPRIO conference despite working in university comms for 18 years.
“I had an amazing time and met some truly inspirational people. EUPRIO delegates are in a league of their own when it comes to friendliness and it was easy to meet new colleagues, start conversations and pick up ideas from the very beginning,”
She’ll be back next year, as the overall EUPRIO prizewinner is invited to give a presentation at the next conference, with travel and accommodation expenses paid for by EUPRIO. The 2016 conference will be in Antwerp in September 2016.
International mobile ambassadors for Lodz
It was designed to improve satisfaction for foreign students by providing what they need to know about the university and city through their mobile devices.
The aim is to create mobile ambassadors who can share their positive experiences with friends back home using Polish, English, Russian and Chinese social networks.
Liliano Lato, head of the international relations office, said they had reached 80% of international students through the app and had 2,111 downloads – with 40,000 shares on Facebook and other networks.
“The mechanism of ‘gamification’, with points and prizes, encourages active student participation and the geo location technology helps international students to settle into the university and city,” she said.
The project was co-financed by the European Union under the European Social Fund.
See this YouTube video here for more about the application.
The WOW factor in research
The third EUPRIO Award went to VLIR-UOS in Belgium, which supports partnerships between universities and university colleges in Flanders and Africa, Asia and Latin America, with the aim of finding innovative responses to global and local challenges.
They produced a booklet in Dutch and English on ‘How to find the WOW factor in complex research’.
Communications officer Hans Van de Water, said: “Nobody is interested in boring stories. To get research out there in the media, on stage or in the university magazine you must have a wow factor.
“The handbook for researchers involved in international projects gives them the tools to find their wow factor.
“In addition we organised a study day to motivate them to publicise their research and get in touch with their university communication department.”
Among the ‘Wow’ stories that turned up were:
Hans said: “I believe the world would be a better place if researchers were able to find the wow factor in their research and get their story out there. It is our task as communicators to help them do so.”
Chairman of the EUPRIO Award judges, Sys Christina Vestergaard, said: “We were very pleased by the number and impressed by high standard and creativity of entries this year.
“On behalf of the members of the jury, I would like to congratulate all the winners and thank all the entrants for sharing their projects with us.
“I love the whole idea of sharing best practice across the European borders. The competition was hard this year and I hope to see even more high quality entries next year.”