Universities contain a choir of voices. Whilst each voice holds a power of its own, it is infinitely more powerful when a team of voices come together to create something bigger than themselves. If enough people sing, the tone will be continuous even though each singer may stop to take a breath every now and then. University leaders and their marketing teams serve as a conductor to bring cohesion to the voices within the institution and the listening audience clarity on the narrative and impact of the organisation.
The foundation of a successful choir is teamwork. Through a university lens, this entails breaking down silos between individual teams and drawing on the expertise people in different departments across the campus have in their audience and subject matter. Aligning individual expertise with the competencies of the marketing team offers the potential for a partnership that is infinitely more effective than other solutions. Research into managing marketing implementation found that the habitual mode of executing strategy eventually shapes its formulation. It is therefore highly important that collaboration is supported across disciplines. For this reason much of our work to impact university reputation at The Brand Education spans teams across the university including senior leadership, marketing, academics, external relations, HR and organisational development. We have a cross functional working model at our heart to ensure institution wide impact and success.
One of the key audiences to implement successful reputation growth is academics, however their voice is not always the loudest in the choir. The Brand Education has trained over 2,500 academics to equip them with the skills, confidence and techniques to find their voice and raise the visibility of their research on social media. The importance of this training cannot be overestimated, as academics serve as the public face of the university, holding influential relationships with a range of communities from prospective and current students to industry and research peers. UCAS research even reveals that meeting academics is the fourth most popular reason for attending a university open day. With such powerful influence across so many of a university’s core stakeholders it is essential that researchers feel supported in using their voice to improve engagement and reputation at a global level. They need to feel like an extension of the marketing team and to be given a strong foundation for success.
The benefits of amplifying your researchers’ voices are multitudinous. University research is driving real change in the real world and this is something that all audiences can identify with, whether they are policy makers, industry, educators, practitioners, the media, or the public. It may also be a point of differentiation against your peers. Too often research lies undiscovered, citations stall and the impact is felt both personally by the researcher and by the university as a whole. With citations a strong component of reputation, individual researchers become entwined in the prestige economy and an important ally for those universities who want to prove that they are the best, to attract more students, more open day attendees, more researchers and more donations.
Helping your academic team grow their research reputation relies on a competition for attention. A fundamental requirement for successful reputation building is capturing the attention of those who are capable of judging the credibility and value of your outputs. Much attention has now moved onto the internet, and as a consequence self-branding and online identity management is fast becoming a major component of scholarly undertaking (Jordan, 2017). Harnessing the web to engage openly with colleagues and interested parties is conducive to researchers’ becoming and remaining visible and prestigious (Esposito 2013). Furthermore, an open approach is associated with increases in reputation-enhancing outcomes, such as citations, funding and media attention (McKiernan et al, 2016). Social media platforms therefore present a fantastic opportunity for greater visibility, increased citations and networking as well as quantifiable information on research performance for university leaders.
Whilst social media provides an effective platform for the amplification of research, Osman & Cunningham 2020 found that proactive engagement needs to be supported at an institutional level, so that a full range of academics (not just senior and established scholars) can contribute to public debates on issues that matter. This is where senior leaders can support, by providing training to help academics become an extension of their university marketing team. Universities from across the UK and the wider world have stepped up to this challenge and approached The Brand Education to help them understand their current reputation performance, devise reputation strategies and run social media workshops to increase advocacy with academics. The effectiveness of this approach is clear, as shown by the impact we have made in partnership with Nottingham Trent University:
- 67% uplift in mentions of NTU research (+1,467 mentions)
- 65% uplift In reach of research led posts (+1.96 million reach)
- 128% uplift in authors of research focussed content (+978 unique authors)
The full NTU case study is available to read here. The impact of our work with Durham University is also available to read here.
Using a blend of workshops designed for different levels of ability and hand picked speakers (based on their expertise in raising awareness of research and building reputation on social media) we have worked collaboratively with our partners to increase advocacy with academics, improve engagement and leverage strong academic networks to reach wider the research community, students and wider stakeholders at a global level. As well as instilling confidence and techniques within the university community, our social media workshops have far reaching benefits:
- Having more voices active on social media gives you a larger share of voice against peers
- Greater academic (and university wide) presence on social media increases research visibility to a wider audience of stakeholders, helping generate more brand equity, funding, collaboration and partnership opportunities
- Training supports team development, motivation and retention
- Learning together helps colleagues feel supported and broadens perspectives
- The techniques gained through the workshops can translate to other forums, leading to clearer journal articles and more compelling grant writing as academics become better at telling stories about their research
Whist the benefits of investing in training for teams across the university are clear, we’ll give the final word to our partners who have championed their internal teams to embrace marketing and develop their social footprint to great success:
“The Brand Education is epitomised by expertise, versatility, and an innate understanding of how social media intersects with today’s HE landscape to influence reputation. The Brand Education’s approach to developing, implementing and running the social media sessions was intelligently nuanced, accommodating all levels of ability and experience. Using a range of in-house and guest speakers, they delivered two empowering sessions (one for beginners, and one for advanced-level users) that really encouraged engagement. The workshops broke down barriers, inspiring our researchers to understand that their stories and achievements needed to be shared and also to see the benefits of raising their profile.” Nicola Vassallo, Associate Director of Brand and Marketing, Nottingham Trent University
“We much appreciated working with The Brand Education to develop and deliver a joint workshop on empowering greater use of social media by our academic colleagues. This workshop informed both those less familiar with using social media and more experienced users in how to use social media channels to share learning and promote their research. This resulted in increased profile and has helped us to build momentum in enhancing our global reputation.” Lucian J. Hudson, Director of Advancement & Communications, Durham University
Get in touch to discuss how we can offer training for your team and help turn the volume up on your university.