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Birmingham City University: A Masterclass in Engagement

A digitally proficient campaign that provided innovation and demonstrated speed and agility in implementation and refinement.

The Start

As the first ever University in the UK to make offers through Clearing to prospective students via Facebook and Twitter, we needed to create a robust plan of activity within those social channels to raise awareness of the initiative and attract candidates to engage via them.

However, on results day, the unthinkable happened: BCU’s telephone lines were disabled by an area-wide network failure, making those social platforms not just ‘nice to have’ channels of engagement but the only channels of communication for a critical one-and-a-half hour period in the morning.

The Hunterlodge team moved fast, shifting budget from display to dial up investment in social, and revising creative assets, Search keywords and ad text to serve the social initiative. Our ability to react so speedily paid huge dividends: despite the technical hitch, BCU didn’t miss a beat on results day and continued to make offers throughout the entire period. So successful was this initiative that Birmingham City University chose to extend the social offers service for Clearing.

The Middle

However, recognising that more prospects were researching their options way ahead of the key Clearing period, and that, as a consequence, many institutions were engaging them much earlier, we were keen to establish a connection with prospects much earlier in the cycle, to build awareness of, and warmth for, their new supportive proposition: “We’ve Got Your Back”.

To prove this supportive proposition, we needed to ensure that BCU was consistently serving content that would prove useful at each stage of the decision-making process. Once we’d warmed prospects to the idea of university study, we then heeded their shift in focus to course and institution choice and dialled up destination- and course-specific messages.

The End

To drive footfall to BCU’s Open Days and Faculty Taster Sessions throughout the Summer we made the invitation more personal, by specifically targeting BCU’s 52 key feeder colleges with hyper-targeted mobile banners, referencing the name of each college in the ads. Our targeting technology allows us to serve specific messages to demographically-defined mobile users within 10 metres of a given postcode, so every impression was served to precisely the right audience.

 

 

To aid the content production we enlisted the help of student ambassadors to write and deploy articles based on their experience the previous year and a clear understand of what the audience would be looking for. This approach helped the organic reach of the campaign, lead to considerable development of user generated content (UGC and sparked significant conversations.

 

 

On Results Week itself, heeding that Midlands-based UG prospects were 43% more likely to “trust the ads [they] hear on the radio” we dialled up prospect engagement with emotive audio spots on Capital FM in the West and East Midlands. Between Monday and Wednesday our script spoke to the anxieties that prospects would be feeling immediately prior to getting their results (“It’s going to get emotional”) and invited prospects to engage with them for pre-results advice. On and immediately after Results Day the message was changed to be more direct – “Talk to us now – we’re here to help”.

The full, multi-channel campaign was underpinned with rigorous search and display remarketing activity, to ensure that all in-market prospects were navigated back to BCU’s owned platform. Individual faculties were also supported, with separate Social posts and course-specific activity served across a range of aggregator sites.

The Results

This focused investment served 2.5m hyper-targeted impressions which, because of the hyper-relevance of the message, generated 13,995 clicks to the Open Day landing page. Thus, BCU’s Open Days achieved best attendance ever, driven in part by the salience we’d created with our consistently empathetic content strategy.

Our strategy of long-term engagement of prospects, using content relevant to their evolving emotional and practical needs, coupled with our incisive approach to targeting and ongoing channel optimisation, paid huge dividends: BCU again over-recruited to its Clearing targets. With just a five-figure media budget, Hunterlodge’s campaign helped BCU exceed its recruitment targets for a third consecutive year.

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