You’ve done the work. Sat the exams. The nervous wait is over. You wake up and today you get the results. Have you made the grade?
Finding out you’ve got in is surely the most exciting moment in an applicant’s journey to university.
And yet for this moment in 2016, at Oxford Brookes University we only managed to muster up a delayed welcome email directing our new students to an information-packed website. The communications we sent to them were disjointed, dry, and functional.
That sense of excitement – the joy of getting in – was nowhere to be seen.
But Oxford Brookes University is known for its friendly, helpful community. We treat our students as individuals when they arrive on campus. Could we not convey this in our welcome comms to new students?
We scratched our heads. How could we make our summer enrolment comms better in 2017? And then came up with an ambitious idea: how about creating a personal video message to welcome each new student?
The #helloBrookes campaign was born.
In a nutshell
We sent a congratulations email to our new students who’d just passed their A-levels. And we also send a welcome booklet to those starting in September. In both we invited our students to share their excitement via social media using a unique ID and the hashtag #helloBrookes. In return we’d send them a personalised welcome video.
On results day, we transformed a meeting room into our ‘welcome studio’. We wanted to capture the energy and excitement of the day so each video was recorded live once the request had come in. We had a brilliant team monitoring our social feeds, matching students to video volunteers, and processing the videos. Oh yes, and we threw lots of confetti!
Convincing staff to come and be ‘on standby’ in a makeshift recording studio during the busiest day of the year – or when most academics wanted to be on holiday – was no mean feat. But the first person who answered my call was our Chancellor, Dame Katherine Grainger.
And, soon enough, our studio was packed full of welcoming faces: student ambassadors, lecturers and support staff, the SU President, our Vice-Chancellor, the university chaplain, and even a pair of robots from our Computer Science department.
Getting buy-in was the first challenge but the hardest bit was taming the data. The Head of Admissions and I spent an enormous amount of time planning how we could deliver it using our paleozoic student record system and a new CRM system. We needed to ensure the communications we sent were timely, relevant, personal and 100% accurate.
It was that careful attention to detail that meant we could achieve our aim: to deliver personalised communication on a mass scale.
And the results?
Before the campaign launched, I had five levels of success that I hoped for the campaign.
Given where we’d come from and our IT systems, Level 1 was simply to not break the UCAS embargo or end up on BBC news as the university who congratulated all it’s rejects.
I think the Head of Admissions and I were more nervous waiting for results day than most of our applicants. But 8.00am on A-level results day came around, our congratulations emails were delivered successful and within minutes we had our first video request…
The response was phenomenal. In total, more than 10% of those invited got in touch to request a video. Within four days, we’d had over 50,000 video views and 4.5million impressions on Twitter and Instagram. As well as new students, our current students and staff also saw what was going on and tweeted their approval of #helloBrookes.
Yes, we created that much sought-after ‘buzz on social media’. But that buzz was merely a reflection of our students’ excitement and the party atmosphere in the studio as we celebrated with them. The emotion was 100% genuine. I think that is what made the campaign so special.
Level 5 of my campaign aspirations was that we’d win an award. So I was absolutely chuffed to pieces to hear we’d won the Edurank award for Best Social Media Campaign. Yes, it was hard work. But it was worth it for the results we achieved. And the fun we had together 🙂
Want to know more?
I’ll be speaking on the Personalisation Panel at the ContentEd conference on 14-15 June 2018.