How to use video to make your university stand out

24th June 2021

2016 was a year seared into the minds of university marketing teams across the country. It was the year that the government lifted restrictions on the number of students that universities were allowed to recruit in any given year. Now, this did offer an opportunity (technically) for unlimited growth, but it also put an immense amount of pressure on universities, and their marketing departments, who are now fighting to win the attention of students, with stakes that are higher than ever. 

There’s a powerful tool that universities can leverage in response to this pressure: video. Whether you’re trying to attract students, staff or stakeholders, video is a powerful tool for immersing prospective audiences in all that your university has to offer. Here, we’ve outlined our key three steps for making your university stand out with video.

Planning

Video is undoubtedly at its strongest when it’s doing one specific job. So, with this in mind, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your campaign objectives from the start. To begin with, ask yourself “who are we talking to?”. At this stage, drawing up clear personas is key to keeping your messaging on track.

With our work for Middlesex University, we were clear about targeting Gen Z users who, typically, use fewer social channels, but spend longer on them, turning to the same channels for entertainment as well as interacting with friends (We are Social). 

So, for this project our team created 10-second social videos for YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. Short, snappy and to the point, these videos meet the demands of different student “personas” – the fancy marketing term for the different types of people you are communicating with.

Middlesex University ‘Made for More’ campaign

The success of this campaign was down to our understanding of the Gen Z swipe culture, where content needs to be bold and clear – built around the strong “Made for More” strapline as well as the call for action “apply now” – to grab the attention of younger users as they move through the throes of fast-paced, content-overloaded media platforms.

Production

Video production studio

As the competition between universities to attract the top students and teaching talent continues to heat up, the standard of video rises with it. But again, to get the most out of your marketing budget (which we understand is already probably squeezed within an inch of its life), it’s important to be specific and work out exactly which area of the marketing funnel you’re targeting.

If your focus is top-funnel marketing – here we’re talking investors and stakeholders – you’d be wise to opt for more highly polished content. 

For example, in our work for the English Language division of Cambridge University Press, we poured our focus into creating the highest standard of video production, aiming at top-funnel marketing. By using rich colour grading and casting skilled actors; layering audio intricately throughout the narrative; and using a bespoke track and sound design, we built the atmosphere and emotional depth of the film.

Cambridge University Press ‘Better Learning – Building Brighter Futures Together’

For mid-funnel marketing – prospective staff and students – content doesn’t need to be so shiny; it can be far more organic and off-the-cuff (think “day in the life of a student at X university” style videos).

Activation

Finally, once you’ve put all of that hard work into a campaign, you want to make sure it actually gets seen. And not only that, but seen by the right people. Here’s where video seeding comes in.

Whether you’re speaking to Gen-Z students or stakeholders, making sure everything from search times to keywords are optimised will improve user experience and, as a result, better drive your audience through that all-important marketing funnel.

For this, it’s well worth calling on the expertise of an experienced video marketing agency, who can create a bespoke distribution strategy to get the most out of your content through paid, owned and earned media. To find the approach that’s right for your budget, it’s worth carrying out budget testing – this means giving paid a go even if it seems initially counterintuitive where budget is concerned. Content that has paid behind will be immediately boosted, it’s just the way social media algorithms work.

And these days, the ultimate stamp of approval for video content is reaching that famed “viral” status. After all, the more of your audience that you manage to reach, the better your ROI.

Takeaways

Deciding on a university is no easy decision. Students are giving up at least 3, 4 and sometimes even 7 years of their lives to their chosen institution. So, marketing teams need to do their very best to immerse candidates in the experience on offer.

It’s tempting to take a one size fits all approach to content and be done with it. But to be frank, this is just a waste of your time and budget. Good video marketing must have clear aims from the outset and stick to these aims throughout the course of a campaign.

Are you looking for an exceptional video to promote your university? We can give your marketing message an edge. Get in touch today to discuss your ideas.

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