26 July 2021
The Chat Newsletter: 3 tips for engaging hybrid open events; Application chat is up; Oregon's virtual commencement

This is the web version of Unibuddy’s fortnightly newsletter, The Chat. Subscribe to learn how universities are building community marketing and recruitment strategies, and receive conversational insights from 10 million+ messages sent via Unibuddy Chat.

How to use your students to power engaging hybrid open events

In the never-ending stream of Teams calls, it’s hard to find space to think about the next generation of open events.

Over the last year, the average virtual open event got 7,000 unique visitors a month and 87% of students said they wanted open event content to be available 24/7.

But how can you humanise these interactions? The winners of university open events over the next few months will be those institutions that make student community part of the show.

Here are a few ideas to kick-start your thinking.

Run interactive virtual campus tours alongside the in-person experience

What if rather than your ambassadors leading a large group around campus, you offered a limited number of bespoke streamed tours to students anywhere in the world?

For inspiration, look no further than Amazon Explore.

The personal tour platform enables hosts to guide a small group of digital guests through the streets of a new city or place.

You can buy things on the tour and have them show up at your door.

Imagine the power of a prospective student purchasing a university-branded hoodie and a few days later receiving a package with a personal note from their ambassador guide…

Run student-only panels

One of the best ways to showcase your student community is to give it a platform.

While a program leader with a slide deck is informative and ensures key information is covered, it’s more challenging to communicate the student experience.

Some universities adopt a Q&A style session, led by an academic, and supported with a few stand-out students. Creating an environment focused on conversion encourages participation from you audience too, so if engagement is sometimes an issue for you, this is the ideal way to get more prospects to stick around.

Taking questions from your digital audience during in-person campus events

Using room conferencing tools, it is possible to broadcast your in-person university open events via platforms like Teams Live, Zoom and Unibuddy Events.

Why wouldn’t you?

Firstly, it removes the (sometimes embarrassing) number caps on lecture theatres, so a limitless number of people can join sessions.

Secondly, the added “digital savviness” of the room will speak volumes for your institution.

While your competitors may have struggled to get the projector to sync with the room’s PC, you’ll be taking questions from parents overseas and giving more students the chance to share in the day.

​​​​If you need one guiding principle for your first event, make it this: Give your campus open event the glorious return it deserves, but exceed expectations with the above tech talking points.

Doing so will set you apart from your more risk-averse competitors doing a lo-fi rerun of 2019.

How Iowa’s “Hear from Hawkeyes” refreshes corporate messaging

University of Iowa Hear from Hawkeyes

: University of Iowa
Chanel: YouTube
Differentiator: Short vertical video, focusing on primary (student) and secondary (university USP) themes

Key learnings

Verticle videos work on desktop: On average, Gen Z spends 3 hours a day on social platforms, so formatting content into a familiar “story” style will resonate with your audience.

Short form and homepages are a love story: Your homepage is a shop window; short form enables your audience to see what you’re about at a glance. Get your message across quickly and give your audience a taste of what’s in store.

Primary and secondary theming: Corporate messaging is a red flag for peer-to-peer, but when delivered as part of student’s messaging, it feels ten times more palatable.

Fast strategy

Can you remember the last student profile you read? Didn’t think so.

If you don’t have access to a powerful story or a distinctive format, it’s hard to make a mark using this typical part of the community marketing mix.

The University of Iowa knew this, so they tried something new. The “Hear from Hawkeys” series uses vertical video to share a 15-second profile supported by a university theme.

And it works.

You’ll learn more about the University watching three snapshots than you will trawling through a “top 10 reasons to study at X” (yawn) or searching for its About page.

First impressions count and “Hear from Hawkeyes” is one you are sure to remember.

Student conversational insights 🤓

Each issue, we share student trends based on ten thousand messages across the Unibuddy Chat.

​​​​​📈 Graduate students are 62% more likely to ask about careers: Students want to know what their extra investment and graduate studies will bring, especially when they go all-in on specialisation.

Our take: Train your ambassadors and support teams with a few student career stories they can share in conversations. It’s more authentic.

🕺 40% of undergraduate students are more likely to discuss social life: Undergraduates are asking Buddies about socials and connecting with other people.

Our take: Young people are bored. They have been shut up for a year and are looking for a way to let off steam. Ensure orientation has a mix of in-person and remote events.

🛏️ As usual, accommodation is a hit topic, but not across the entire journey: Post application, students are 104% (!!!) more likely to ask about accommodation.

Our take: Focus your communications. Are there other topics loosing out to accommodation mailers in your pre-app student journey?

How University of Oregon raised the bar for livestream commencement

Institution: University of Oregon
Chanel: YouTube
Differentiator: Not just a livestream, but formatted like a TV special

Key learnings

Hit with high production; bring home with human: Starting with the boom of the (aptly named) Oregon Duck skit, engages the viewer, while speeches from the University’s community ground the video with relatable moments.

Mix it up to keep engagement: The video uses a mix of content formats, we have 1) the Oregon Duck for comic relief 2) Oregon’s community sharing well-crafted, emotionally driven speeches and 3) skit-like moments, including live music performances.

Give your community a platform: Everyone in this video has strong ties with the Oregon community and shares how it has transformed them in some way. So give your community a platform and then get out of their way.

Fast strategy

The pandemic severely disrupted commencements in 2020, so universities are turning to new ways to celebrate.

Creating a sense of togetherness and belonging are at the top of their agenda, but the challenge is generating that same feeling in a digital setting.

University of Oregon went full tilt with its digital commencement this year, showing that colleges are becoming increasingly sophisticated at creating studio-quality content.

For Oregon, what made its digital commencement successful was its ability to use “grounding moments” as a way of celebrating its community.

The stream starts frantically with a The Oregon Duck running, paddling, and cycling across campus. The next scene is of our host (a student) telling us what to expect and why to stick around.

The duck sets us up; the student holds our hand. The video alternates between these two states. Authenticity and connection from Oregon’s humans. Humour from its duck.

The result is an entertaining stream, prepared with moments for deeper student connection and belonging.

The bar for content production is rising and your university will a) need to keep pace or b) push for something bolder in order to make campaigns stick.

Oregon’s 25K views on YouTube don’t lie.

Even with the return of in-person ceremonies this year, it’s likely the University’s Virtual Commencement is here to stay.

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