Let’s keep it clean


12 Nov 2018

Let’s keep it clean

I’ve spent two days this week at conferences. Firstly Wonkfest, then the UUK’s marketing and communications conference which brought together a mix of case studies and agency perspectives on issues such as branding, social media influence and crisis communications.

For me, taking time out to learn from others working in the sector is a valuable time to reflect on both the theory and practice of marketing. Robert Perry’s visualisations of online influence from his work at Pickle Jar Communications (see the link below) shows that a social media account from an individual has a much greater impact than an organisational account. So if both your university and your VC tweet the same piece of research news, the tweet from your VC is likely to get higher engagement and more influence. We expect people to have character and opinions; but we are more cynical of an organisation having a personality.  

This made me reflect on the University of Essex’s tweets over Clearing this year. It was big news in the higher education marketing world and the University subsequently apologised. It looked like Essex were trying to show their sense of humour and personality. There’s nothing wrong with that. Reading did it beautifully earlier this year (see the link below). But unlike Reading, the Essex tweets didn’t align with the institution’s brand values (in this case, of excellence, integrity, inclusivity and innovation) and so misfired. If universities are to show personality online, then the conclusion we’ve reached is that its words and actions must fit and enforce those values.

One final reflection; another reason the incident caused so much consternation in the sector is because it was the most blatant sign yet of the level of competition that now exists between universities. That’s unlikely to change soon; so let’s just keep it a clean fight please.