It’s June, the official start of summer (note I said official), suncream and student recruitment events. Open Day season is upon us when hordes of prospective students, their partners, parents, children and even grandparents — yes, I have seen four generations of one family come to an Open Day, I kid you not — descend on your campus.
Clearly you’re right in the middle of working out whether you need any more signage, and where’s the best place to position your ambassadors. Because of course, as well as being human signage, your ambassadors are actually the main attraction — your visitors love chatting to them, feeling as if they’re getting inside knowledge and hearing an authentic voice. And we know that combined with physically being on campus, these encounters help the student picture themselves at your institution — the goal of an Open Day.
Sometimes though, caught in the eye of the event management maelstrom, we can overlook the full potential of our ambassadors. In between campus tours, accommodation tours and student life talks, are we making the most of an extremely powerful marketing asset?
Let’s explore the opportunities to enhance the student ambassador presence — before, during and after your open days.
In the run-up to your events
1. Use your ambassadors on other events and school visits to advertise your Open Days
This is a bit of a no brainer, so apologies if you already do this, but it’s worth covering all possibilities. Get your ambassadors to put it in their student life talks, send them out with lots of posters, postcards, flyers and get them to put all the dates in their presentations. Bring an ambassador along to those UCAS Exhibitions too and encourage them to speak about how useful they found the Open Days they attended. Their personal experience is key.
2. Use your online ambassadors to promote your Open Day
Now’s a great time to get in touch with your online ambassadors to warn them of a spike in messages following all of your upcoming events and the UCAS circuit. If they’re not already aware of your Open Days, I’d recommend sending them a cheat sheet of all your dates, what’s happening and the easiest ways to get there. Encourage them to mention the events to the prospective students.
3. Get your online ambassadors at the Open Day
Why not feature your online ambassadors at your event? The chance for prospective students to actually meet who they’ve been chatting to really strengthens the tie to your institution.
On the day
4. Connect your online ambassadors with your prospective students
As you’ll be featuring your online ambassadors at the event (see number 3 above!), use the Open Day as the kickstart to their connection. One of our partners, Queen Mary, University of London, had the great idea of creating business cards for their student staff. A prospective student gets chatting to a current student, the ambassador hands out their personalised business card, and hey presto! The visitor can carry on the conversation when they get home, continuing and deepening the link with the University, as well as leaving with that warm, fuzzy feeling.
5. Push your social media engagement rate through the roof
You’re probably already encouraging your ambassadors to engage with visitors on social media. After all, those selfies with campus tour groups are very instagrammable. So why not take it a step further? Encourage visitors to post their questions on a channel, with your students directly answering them — engagement rates are much higher with an authentic voice.
6. Reach out to your next generation of ambassadors
Speaking of authentic voices, keep the momentum going with an insider’s perspective of the Open Day. A blog of an ambassador’s eye-view of working the event, their highlights, some of those selfies, and you have another opportunity to connect and engage your visitors, as well as setting the scene for them wanting to be an ambassador.
7. Keep those conversations going
Remember those business cards your online ambassadors were handing out? If your prospective students haven’t got in touch yet, now’s the time for a little email reminder that the people living your university experience are ready to answer all their questions. And just as you prepared your ambassadors for the likely questions they’d receive before the Open Day, a rundown of what questions to expect about applying is perfect here.
A consolidated connection to your institution
Whether your ambassador scheme is large or small, there’s something every institution can do with their students, on what are the most important recruitment events in the calendar. The power of peer-to-peer is huge — remember, Open Days are there so a student can picture themselves on campus, and no one can paint that picture better than a current student.
Now, are you sure you’ve got enough signage?
(Hint: the answer is never).
To find out more about the power of peer-to-peer engagement, book on to the Unibuddy Expo, where you’ll be able to hear from other universities and ambassadors already using the Unibuddy platform, as well as the education marketing experts, SMRS.
Unibuddy offers smarter student recruitment for institutions through seamless integration on their websites to take student ambassadors online. Headquartered in the UK, it supports over 40 institutions around the world. Directly addressing the challenge of the Generation Z demand for rapid, personalised answers from their peers, the platform has led to a 34.8% increase in conversion for its users.