Sarah-Jane Spooner14/10/2019

As one of Revolution Viewing’s Video Producers, I’ve overseen the production of countless course videos. Along with making me question what I chose to study for my own UG degree, it’s given me loads of experience of what works well (and what doesn’t) when it comes to presenting your course ‘on camera’. In addition to that, Revolution Viewing have conducted some pretty extensive student research to find out more about what our target market are looking for and what they respond to best. The combination of this experience and RV’s market research has led me to my 7 tips for making top course video content:

1. Talking heads are not dead! Interview-based videos provide reassurance and authenticity to new audiences every year.

From time to time we get asked if talking head course videos still have a place in HE marketing. Many of you will have seen lots of this style of video and might think that they aren’t as exciting as they could be. But our experience and primary research with prospective students proved that these videos still have impact and influence. This is particularly true during conversion, and can be supplemented with more creative, fast-paced content earlier in the cycle.

2. Reference future employability, prospects or how the course makes a difference.

Students are future focused when it comes to selecting their degree and are looking at the value of their degree after graduation. Yes, career prospects and earning potential remain important, but remember, this is the generation for change. More so than ever, students are looking at how they can use their degree to make a positive impact on the world. Think of all the jobs that exist now that didn’t 10 years ago! Did you know, for example, how many routes Food Science could lead you down?

3. Take time to consider and select your best interviewees – confident and articulate people who will be great at getting your points across.

Newsflash: people who seem confident in real life are not always people who will be confident in front of a camera. I’ve met many charismatic, witty people who struggle to remember their own name the second we roll the cameras. Repetition, wordiness, awkward body language and ‘ummm’ing can all distract from your key messages in contrast with a calm, confident and articulate interviewee. We’re a friendly bunch, and I’m an expert in coaching people and putting them at ease through my own unique brand of humour and encouragement, but our top tip is to meet your interviewees before the shoot. You don’t need a fancy camera set-up to test how someone will react under pressure – an iPhone usually does the trick. Want a second opinion? You’re welcome to send the casting clips over to your RV Associate Producer and we’ll take a look.

4. Prospective students will always want to see current students first and foremost.

It’s no secret that prospective students want to see videos that feature current students. Consider this a friendly reminder. Clearly, diversity is important. Your students are not a monolithic group so you’ll want to ensure all your viewers can relate to who they are watching.

Friendly and welcoming academics make an impact too. Students from widening participation backgrounds in particular like to see them and to be reassured about the teaching that they will receive when they make the transition from school to university.

To add value to this rather obvious tip, I’ll also say that there are more ways than one to include students – as well as including them in your talking head content, a student-led video or a vlog is likely to be very effective in engaging your target audience. What’s that? You’d like an example? You’ve twisted my arm, here’s a student showing us around Middlesex University.

5. Pique interest with creative graphics and appropriate pace.

Graphics can help to pull your viewers in and to highlight the key USPs that you really want them to take away with them. To give you an idea, this Sport and Exercise Science video uses text to highlight the really important take-home messages and draw the audience’s focus in at these times.

Young people are used to watching things at a fast pace these days – this is not something that is always appreciated by senior managers who may be approving your videos!

Your academics are intelligent, passionate people who will inevitably have A LOT TO SAY when you record them. We aim to tease out only the best bits and present them on a plate to your audience.

6. Make more than one edit for each course video to tailor content to your applicants’ needs and maximise conversion throughout the cycle.

Our research tells us that students have different requirements at each stage of the applicant cycle, so a ‘one size fits all’ approach will never be the most effective one. Prospective applicants in year 11/early year 12 are concerned about the transition from further education to HE. At this stage, they want to see short clips that are less than a minute long and summarise the course in very basic terms. Like this.

As they move through the recruitment cycle, prospective students start to think more deeply about their course choices. In early year 13, their priorities shift towards employability and transferable skills, so videos need to address these topics – and convince students that their significant investment of time and money is going to pay off long term. Post application, year 13s continue to consider their course details in depth and want to reassure themselves that they have made a good choice. They want to see videos like this.

7. Storytelling is important, but facts have their place!

This is a bit like point #1 about the talking heads – facts are not unfashionable! A short, sharp fact that speaks to your audiences is a fantastic conversion tool. We learnt through our research that students from privileged backgrounds want to see facts as evidence of quality. Interested in Psychology and considering a London University? Then consider King’s: it’s ranked second in the world for psychology and psychiatry. I know that because it’s written at the start of their virtual tour, along with five other factual headlines telling me why KCL should be my first choice. Meaningful, memorable marketing.

I hope those seven tips have been helpful! If you have any questions about making university course videos or would like to discuss these in more detail, then we want to hear from you.

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