Finessing the digital marketing campaign

“International universities are pushing boundaries in a bid to keep students, the public and educators interested”

Digital engagement has become the number one priority in international education. A dynamic, and rapidly expanding sector, #intled has moved from a humble advert in a newspaper to daily hashtags and ed tech galore.

International universities and organisations no longer feel the need to toe the line of conventional marketing; they are pushing the boundaries of the new, in a bid to keep students, the public and educators interested.

The PIE News reported on several digital marketing successes over the last decade, including Sqore’s virtual advisor tool for “digital natives”, the importance of parents in social marketing and why academics are HEIs most untapped digital resource. Success lies in a holistic approach to digital marketing, one which sees individuals keeping one step ahead of the game whilst also having a concise and flexible strategy.

Two successful organisations who have raised the stakes with their digital campaigns are Education New Zealand and The University of Sheffield, both of whom won the 2018 and 2017 ‘Marketing Campaign of the Year’ category at our prestigious PIEoneer Awards.

The Kiwi Campaign

Education New Zealand’s ‘1 Million Cents Scholarship’ was centred around a $10,000 scholarship, wittily branded as ‘1 Million Cents’. Simultaneously designed to celebrate Education NZ reaching hitting the 1 million followers mark on their social media platforms, the campaign was a PR exercise designed to raise awareness of the opportunities in New Zealand and the country’s “positive learning environment”.

Focusing on Facebook, a campaign teaser announced the organisation’s 1 million followers’ milestone, followed by the scholarship announcement, a student feature, a lifestyle feature and call to the competition. Varying the tone and messaging of the campaign ensured that 1.5 million Facebook users in 40 countries were reached.

Bagging an impressive 1195 applications across target markets, the campaign also mobilised underexplored markets such as Indonesia and saw users sharing aspects of the campaign with friends and family. Not only did Education New Zealand surpass their target of 10% engagement, the campaign saw a 29% increase in traffic to their Scholarships page and a 13% increase in international student first-time student visas in 2017.

 “#intled has moved from a humble advert in a newspaper to daily hashtags and ed tech galore”

Spending a frugal $15,000, Education New Zealand has realised the benefits of this campaign from 2017 onwards, enticing students interested in Bachelors programs, all the way to PhDs in niche subjects such as Animal Nutrition. Contrary to popular belief, it seems Facebook has most certainly not had its day.

Steel City Win

2017’s PIEoneer winner, The University of Sheffield, also triumphed with their #weareinternational campaign. Triggered by the 2013 Immigration Reform Bill which placed further restrictions on international students wishing to study in the UK, #weareinternational was launched to promote the message that international students are still welcome to study on British soil.

The Corporate Communications team at Sheffield connected with national media, the business community and leading politicians to support the movement collectively. At its heart were a series of We Are International videos that feature home and international students discussing their experiences, drawing on how internationalisation enhances all of our lives.

Activating political debate, #weareinternational has continued to contribute to the ongoing conversation around international students being removed from the UK’s net migration figures. The campaign has also helped to offset some of the uncertainty triggered by the 2016 Brexit referendum.

What the campaign did exceptionally well is unite international organisations – there was support from Universities UK, the NUS, UK Embassies and Consulates in Algeria, Ghana and Venezuela, as well as the UK Chambers of Commerce. Existing students, prospective students, staff, policymakers and the HE Sector at large have got involved with the campaign and are a function of #weareinternational.

The campaign has also led to the support of a US-based sister campaign #YouAreWelcomeHere, promoting similar sentiments to #weareinternational. The power of the hashtag once again transcends Twitter.

2019, the year of the digital, prospects and new technology: what do you have in store for us as we move into the second trimester of the year?

If you have run a marketing campaign that you would like to shout about please consider nominating yourselves for ‘Marketing Campaign of the Year’ at this year’s PIEoneer Awards. Please see here for more information. Special thanks to NCUK for sponsoring this category this year.

 The deadline for entries is Friday 26th April so please get your nominations in soon. Please take a look at our highlights video to check out last year’s PIEoneers event.

About the author: Mariyah Mandhu is Business Development Executive at The PIE News