Earlier this year, we ran a highly successful student recruitment campaign for UTC Leeds. The state-of-the-art college opened in September 2016 for 14-19 year olds, and is a new type of ‘University Technical College’ where the curriculum is shaped by local employer partners.

Being a brand new type of college, the challenge was to attract the desired number of students. So, after a competitive pitch process, they appointed us to run a brand awareness campaign aimed at driving student recruitment.

Brand positioning

More than anything else, we needed to communicate how exciting and aspirational an education at UTC Leeds is. The previous and planned investment in the school make it an exciting place to study, and the site’s architecture itself is awe-inspiring. With the college’s strong links to employers, students get to work on not-your-normal school projects, whilst boosting their opportunities post-graduation. Add in to that mix drones, green-powered cars and 3D liquid printers, and you’re on to a winner.

With all these benefits in place, UTC Leeds strives to attract the high-flyers. Our creative had to target students (or the parents of those students) already thinking about their careers; those with a passion for problem-solving, creative thinking and, most of all, engineering.

The channels (and their results)

As we needed to target both students and parents within a relatively short time period, with a relatively unknown brand, we chose to aggressively cover multiple channels.

Let’s start with digital. Our campaign encompassed organic and paid social media activity, website content, email activity, online advertising and Google search advertising, with many of these feeding into one another.

Organic social media content was curated to educate and inspire students and parents alike on the opportunities that an education from UTC Leeds and, as a result, a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) offers. To supplement this and extend UTC Leeds’ reach, a series of paid Facebook campaigns ran for 8 weeks, targeted by geographical location and interest. The posts featured 20-30 second animations that would auto-play to catch the eye when scrolling down a news feed, with pull out captions communicating the key messages without the need for the user to turn on their sound. The ads achieved 175,415 impressions and generated 1,872 click-throughs to the UTC Leeds website.

As part of the organic content creation process, we went on site to speak to teachers and students to create two features for the UTC Leeds website – ‘student stories’ and ‘teacher interviews’. The student stories highlighted extraordinary individuals, such as qualified pilot Connor, to give potential students some context about the kind of student who attends UTC Leeds. The teacher interviews were designed to provide insight into the experience and expertise of the staff and their relationships with students. The features received just under 2,000 page views.

We also had a two-minute ‘hero’ video produced to sit on the UTC Leeds homepage, to be pinned to the top of the college’s social profiles and to be displayed in its reception. The video primarily featured the college’s best-placed advocates – the students – and received over 500 organic views on Facebook.

A four-phase email campaign targeted students who had already registered an interest in the college, promoting open days, the student stories, the teacher interviews and explaining the application process. With 274 subscribers, the emails achieved an average open rate of 53.4%, far above the 22% industry average for Education.

Multiple digital ads were created for the Yorkshire Evening Post website and the Johnson Press network, so any parents visiting these homepages were exposed to the UTC Leeds brand. The ads achieved a reach of 641,800 people.

Finally, for digital at least, a Google search campaign targeted users searching for colleges or technical education in the West Yorkshire area. The campaign achieved 109,419 impressions, 3,881 clicks and a click-through rate of 3.54%, again above the industry average for education of 2.2%.

Then there was broadcast marketing. A six-week campaign designed to raise brand awareness ran on Radio Aire, Radio Aire 2 and Capital FM, catching parents and students on their way to and from school. The adverts were aired 396 times, reaching 179,669 adults on average 9.41 times each.

Next was outdoor advertising. A series of bus rear adverts covered 24 buses on a variety of Leeds city routes. Running for four weeks, the ads achieved a reach of 293,510 people, with each person seeing one on average 3.72 times.

A two-phase direct marketing campaign targeted 10,000 households with children in the Leeds region. The campaign featured a perforated leaflet designed to target both students and parent and separately, with an official letter to parents following this up.

Finally, a PR campaign supporting a visit to the UTC Leeds site from HRH The Duke of York achieved coverage on BBC Radio Leeds, stray FM, Made in Leeds, Yorkshire Evening Post, South Leeds Life and Radio Aire.

Phew. All of this resulted in us achieving 128% of the target objective of student applications. Result.

So, what generated such great results?

1. We kept our eye on ROI
The client had a tight budget and tight timelines to achieve what they needed, so all the activity we completed was chosen very carefully in terms of cost, reach, and impact.

2. We monitored performance
Regular client updates and analysis into what was working and more importantly what wasn’t enabled us to respond and evolve our approach on a live basis.

3. We had clear roles and responsibilities
In agency and client relationships, it always takes two to tango. The client was well aware of what we could control, and what support we needed from them in order to convert interest from students into applications.

If you’re looking for an agency that delivers results, get in touch at hello@pacecomms.co.uk.

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