Roundtable: How to run a successful student recruitment campaign

With the student firmly placed as the buyer and universities fiercely competing to attract new students, in the second in our series Cathy Parnham talks to Katja Lamping

Katja Lamping is Director of student recruitment at UCL Communications & Marketing

Q. How has student recruitment marketing changed over the last five or so years?

Student recruitment has moved from the traditional in-market visits to a much more integrated approach. We use virtual fairs, online seminars, alumni and in market visits to engage with our prospective students directly, and we attend and participate in conferences for key stakeholders to keep in touch with those who help students making their decision. All this is supported through our website, search and social media.

Q. What are the key ingredients a successful student recruitment marketing campaign should have?

Engagement and communication. Engagement with members of academic staff, admissions and faculty is crucial to ensure that a campaign runs smoothly. Internal communication is just as important as effective interactions with our target audience.  There’s nothing worse than an exciting campaign and those within the organisation are unaware. We have many touchpoints for students to engage with us, and therefore our most successful campaigns are those where staff have been brought in from the outset.

Q. What has been the most effective channel for targeting this September’s intake for UK-based students – and which for international?

Both internationally and domestically, face-to-face is still the most effective channel for us. We have built relationships consistently over the years, and we work well with our target schools. Even if we cannot visit in person, a Skype call or an online taster session with a school that we have a relationship with can go a long way.

Q. How important are digital tools to your recruitment strategy and what have you found to be the best-performing digital channel(s)?

Very important! We use digital to create awareness and interest, and to help our students find us and, most importantly, to stay in touch with us.

Our #made@UCL site, for instance, brings together all the brilliant work of our academics onto one platform. It is not only a showcase of UCL’s work, but more importantly offers inspirations and ideas to students who write personal statements or work on their extended essays. Search and social work well for us, specifically for postgraduate recruitment.

Q. When do you typically start your student recruitment marketing campaign and how?

We tend to work in 18-month cycles, starting in February/March each year. We are very lucky to be frequently featured in the media and this helps with our reach. The relationship with our target schools is key. We try to find interesting, fun and engaging ways to keep teachers and advisers engaged.

Q. Are there any key learnings you can share from your 2019 cohort recruitment drive? And how will these shape your current recruitment drive?

Stay agile and be happy to adapt and amend – Brexit and changes to the postgraduate work visa have (and have had) an impact on our recruitment tactics.

Q. Tell us about any new recruitment marketing tools you have for the 2020 intake?

We are looking forward to being engaging in a much more cohesive and integrated manner with teachers and advisers. Relationships are key, and we work closely with faculty to offer initiatives and engagement that is of real interest to both students and advisers alike.


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