Sarah-Jane Spooner21/05/2021

In my five years at Revolution Viewing, I’ve interviewed students who have made me laugh, made me think and reflect. But none have made me cry. Until this week.

It all starts with chicken sandwiches

In hindsight, the student’s compassion had registered with me before we even hit ‘record’. We were running behind schedule as the previous interviewee required some coaching and I’d let the filming run into our lunch break.

I returned to the lecture theatre arms laden with chicken sandwiches and water for the crew and asked if she minded if we started filming in five minutes. “Of course!” she said. “You must eat! You guys have been going all day!”

She perched herself on the stool in front of the backdrop and introduced herself to camera. A third year student midwife, she had spent the past year on placement during the pandemic. It was an experience she described as amazing, but also acknowledged that at 21 years old she had seen “a lot”.

She was, as apt cliches go, born to be a midwife.

She breezed through her answers, each one more passionate than the last. She spoke fast but eloquently and with an assured conviction. She paused after each response, checking with me that I had what I needed. “I just want people to know how amazing it is,” she said.

Fifteen minutes into the interview, I asked, in what felt like quite a redundant question given her enthusiasm, if she felt like she had made the right choice of course.

She laughed. “Yes. Definitely. I don’t regret it at all because it’s made me the person I am today.”

She stumbled over her words “There’s just so much to say – all these words overlapping in my head…” she paused and took a breath. “I just feel like it’s made me a better person.”

Tilting her head to catch my eye as I sat behind the tripod, “I’m getting emotional!” she said with a laugh, fanning her face with her hands.

More than marketing

Her passion was clear. But just as obvious to me was the impact that university had had on her. And that was what struck me. That this person, who I had considered “born to do it” may not have done it without choosing that course, at that university.

Being on campus this week was a reminder that HE marketing is so much greater than the sum of its parts. In the past 14 months, you – our university marketing and student recruitment friends – have migrated every single part of your job online and you’ve done so with the student at the heart of everything.

Hopefully, for many of you, we’ve helped make that process a little easier. The response you’ve given us about our new Virtual Experience Platform – the culmination of 14 years experience building virtual tours and virtual open days – has been that you see it being a key facilitator of your hybrid online / on-campus marketing strategy. That’s clearly exciting for us.

We’re passionate about getting our Virtual Experience Platform right for prospective students. It’s why we undertook primary research to understand exactly what they wanted from a virtual open day – you can read about some of what they had to say here – and it’s why we will continue to test and refine the Platform over the coming years as we all adapt to the changing landscapes of student recruitment post-Covid.

Working together whilst working apart

But just as important as talking to prospective students, is listening to you, our clients.

Personally, in a year where we’ve all been apart, I’ve never felt more closely connected to our clients. The working together whilst working apart culture you’ve developed has been clear and we’ve seen teams being incredibly joined up in their approach – more so than ever before.

Remember, we don’t need you to have all of the answers – it’s our job to work collaboratively with you (we’d never profess to know your prospective students better than you do) and it’s our job to ask the right questions, be inquisitive, listen, and be innovative in our response.

Innovation is something we’re really proud of at RV. It’s why our video and web teams have joined forces to enable you to send personalised videos to every applicant, or enable them to build one tailored to their individual needs. And it’s why we developed the Vlog Generator, to support you in broadening your pool of student vloggers so that you can get more of your authentic student voice out to prospective students.

Because all of this (as this week has reminded me) has real outcomes.

Remembering the prospective student amongst the prospective students is important to everything we do. The 18 year old who joins your campus in September will – we all hope – feel that their university equipped them with the opportunity and support to be brave and fail safe.

So it’s our job as marketers to show students what’s what, but also what’s possible when you lean in and commit.