On 20 March 2020, colleges and universities across the UK were closed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Leicester College was no exception and since then, with the city of Leicester moving into new tiers and different lockdown restrictions, the College has faced a number of challenges, primarily with the changing delivery of courses but also with the way in which it communicates with existing and potential new students.
The College’s Marketing department has achieved great success in recent years through a combination of traditional and digital marketing activities to promote the College’s range of courses to new students.
However, a new education landscape that has been forced by the onset of Covid restrictions and the increasingly competitive further education sector. This has meant that the Marketing team has had to differentiate its digital marketing strategies and utilise more innovative digital marketing techniques to attract prospective students.
Transforming to a digital campaign
Whereas the College would usually employ traditional events such as open days, school visits and also distributing printed course materials, during lockdown, the Marketing team has focused on a number of key virtual activities to inform interested new students.
These have included a strategic programme of events and activities including:
• Key recruitment/retention online events
• Tour videos
• Live streaming cross-College functions
• E-communications with students
• Careers advice online
• Summer communications
• ‘Discover LC’ campaign
• Pre-recorded presentations and resource packs for local schools
• Virtual marketplace
• October Open Day
Examples of marketing success
These activities and events achieved several significant successes in promoting the College offering to new audiences.
The October 2020 Virtual Open Event recorded 319 pre-event registrations with an additional 8,152 views of the videos on Facebook and YouTube after the event. The November Virtual Open Event saw an increase of registrations to 452, with an additional 2,300 views on the day of the event and 3,816 on Facebook and YouTube afterwards.
The Marketing department also prepared and distributed a number of ‘keeping warm’ emails from February to August 2020, each personalised to particular subject areas. There were 2,568 recipients of these emails and overall open rates reached an admirable 76 per cent.
A comprehensive Digital Resources Pack was produced and sent to schools, colleges, stakeholders and partners. Feedback on the pack was excellent including Simmi Patel from Soar Valley College who commented that the ‘content was great’ and that it was ‘shown during tutor time where they featured a different college each session. Leicester College was one of the first featured colleges as it was sent with plenty of time in advance’. There was ‘lots of info, good presentation and virtual tours’ and ‘students were pleased with the information’.
Gerarde Manley from the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP) added that they ‘forwarded on to schools in their network’. Gerarde commented that it ‘looked fantastic, just what they needed’. They ‘particularly liked the support offer’, with its ‘short and sharp information’.
Figures boosted by marketing activity
Marketing activity during the pandemic has helped to drive traffic towards the website where there was a significant increase in enquiries received online – up from 948 in 2019 to 3,870 in 2020. Requests for applications also increased from 17,529 to 21,135, whilst 2,800 completed an application in 2019, 3,837 did so in 2020.
Highlights of positive feedback on online events:
“It looks amazing.”
Jessica Catherine – November Open Event
“Thank you so much to the panelists. You represent us so well. It is people like you that make Leicester unique and special. Peace and blessings.”
Pauline Matturi – Black History Month live stream
“Massive thank you.”
Wiktor Cyboron – Careers live stream
“This is definitely going to lead to a high paying job.”
fefi – YouTube childcare stream
“Really interesting to learn a bit more about LaunchPad, particularly hearing from a student’s perspective, thank you.”
Estelle Kynaston – LaunchPad live stream
“Good job, chase your dreams!”
DIXX – Careers Live stream
Marketing team builds strong platform
Hannah Georg, Marketing Communications Manager at Leicester College says: “Lockdown has necessitated a re-evaluation of how we, as a college, reach out to potential new students. Although we were already focusing an increasing amount of resources on digital marketing, the physical separation caused by the Covid restrictions has meant that we had to quickly and efficiently establish a new strategy to successfully communicate with students in a virtual way, using new channels.
“Given that they were also working in a decentralised way, our team has really come together and worked so hard to develop and implement a pattern of activity that has enabled us to extend our messaging through new and innovative channels.”
“Admissions for full-time 16-18 year olds in September 2020 were on target which we see as a success, given the climate in which we were operating and the fact that GCSE grades were exceptionally high last year. Many students would have had the option of a more academic route but still chose to come to us.”