As student marketers we are all aware of the dangers of applying our values to a campaign communication for which we are not the intended audience. It’s really tempting to decide that because it meets our tastes that it will resonate with a prospective masters candidate. Here are some suggestions to avoid falling into this trap, because the right content will help to improve engagement.

Say what you mean – mean what you say

University marketers have to balance a wide range of requirements when it comes to a piece of communication. While they may want to stick to an agreed set of goals established at the start of the recruitment cycle, the reality can be fluid. Plans may have to be revised if the volume and quality of applicants is not meeting the targets set.

Similarly, the media agency tasked with reaching and connecting with the audience in the brief will have to work with the details and the material that has been approved, so there is little room for compromise, nor is there always the time to go back and challenge expectations.

So what works best for an intending postgraduate audience?

  • Employability is a big draw

Masters degrees that include opportunities for work experience, placements or that highlight progression into employers work the best. Stories from alumni that feature the programme, and its module content work very well.

The viewer can see that the student’s outcome was informed by the choices they made and the opportunities that were presented as a result of study at that university.

Graduate outcomes statistics can be a challenge to attribute directly to individual masters degrees. The differences in percentage terms does not relate to the shared experience. However, sharing stories and giving examples in relevant content can pay real dividends.

  • Industry relevant qualifications

Marketers should include these references in their course messaging and their school or department profiles on Masters Compare and Postgraduate Studentships.

The message of support services is also key here, whether this is helping the student prepare for work or get jobs while they are studying is really valuable. Showing how the master graduate is employment-ready is an obvious benefit.

Surveyed employers are concerned about the lack of skills in key areas, which has been a feature of the UK workforce even before the pandemic.

  • Reassurance – carrying student debt will help me move up the ladder

There is a big focus from the Government on value for money in HE, and while it’s easier to see where this applies to an undergraduate audience, at masters level the conversation is just as pressing.

A UK student is likely to have experienced up to 15 years in continuous education once they have graduated. To then step into a masters while carrying the obligation of repaying a student loan is a tough question to answer.

Universities that demonstrate how the experience of a masters will bring benefits to the student in the future will go a long way to assuaging any doubts. Descriptions of the portfolio need to be vocationally focused, through the inclusion of professional accreditations or endorsements from the relevant industry sector.

  • Am I going to be able to study?  Balancing work and life commitments

The majority of UK masters students are in their mid-twenties, but this statistic does not tell the full story. There will be wide regional and local variations based on economic and social factors. Age-appropriate messaging is a clumsy instrument to use as far as how to represent a typical programme cohort, as it will vary so much from course to course.

Undoubtedly, a masters course will need to fit around other lifestyle and family commitments. Universities that listen and understand the needs of their audience and provide relevant support will resonate more strongly.

Those that offer scope for flexible learning, adjustments for returning to study and support for English if it is not your first language attract the most interest. University profiles and content on our sites can bring out these important features.

  • Research themes

For the prospective PhD candidate, a lot of time and effort is invested in seeking out the correct studentship and going through the process of locating a supervisor. Those university profiles on Postgraduate Studentships that bring out the unique features of a particular research centre are very popular.

In addition, research intensive universities that are organised within a Doctoral College can feature the work undertaken. They can emphasise the contribution that PhD candidates can make to the international reputation of a specialist area.

They will also showcase the support that can be offered to an early career researcher. This is important for those individuals that intend to make a full-time career from research and lecturing.

  • Reusing undergraduate content

This is a challenge that most universities have to tackle at one time or another, particularly those that are primarily focused on recruiting students.

A lot of resources is focused on the undergraduate experience, so the postgraduate portfolio has to take a smaller share of the pot. This can lead to creative issues when the PG audience does not have its own dedicated budget or resources.

We work with media agencies to bring the focus back to the student. We support their efforts to repurpose content in a way that remains true to the core values of the university brand while sharpening the message on the needs of the prospective masters candidate.

Stages of the user journey

Masters Compare and Postgraduate Studentships attract users at different stages in the applicant journey. Courses are listed from the universities that we work with, and these are served up on Masters Compare according to the subject, and then can be further filtered according to discipline, study mode, region and of course University.

The user that has progressed beyond the enquiry phase will then use Postgraduate Studentships to look for study funding opportunities according to level, eg Masters, PhD and also charities & trusts that offer scholarships.

If they seek reassurance about the university and how it will meet their needs then they can refer to the profiles that each university compiles, and these will vary in content according to study level, Masters or PhD.

Advert messaging

Across both sites, display banners, buttons and MPU’s are used to reinforce the brand messaging and CTA for open days, webinars, funding or scholarship opportunities. They are obviously short and direct, so not a lot of room for soothing words, however users don’t want to be fed the bare minimum.

Open day advertising has to relate to the intending masters audience. There is an obvious difference between undergraduate and postgraduate open days, so banners that simply say ‘open day – book now’ are going to get little traction. Examples that focus on the outcome, such as scholarships and career potential perform better.

We are content led sites, and designs support each other. Profiles show with call to action products and event listings. Open day listings are dedicated landing pages where the advertiser can detail the requirements for the event and the features that users can experience in person or via virtual presentations.

We also include a Save the Date message that is shown on university content pages – masters courses and study funding opportunities.

Next Steps

Let us show you how content counts to help improve engagement. By optimising a department profile, or university Hub we can explain how these work over the duration of a campaign schedule.

We can demonstrate how the call to action assets of open day adverts or new year masters degrees can add value to your clients overall impact.

Start your campaign today

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