Organization: Royal Roads University
Industry: Post-secondary education
Contact: Catherine Riggins, Director, Branding, Marketing and Recruitment firstname.lastname@example.org
A BOLD MOVE
Royal Roads University boldly abandoned its traditional print-media recruitment campaign recently and bet the near future on GoPro cameras, Google Glass and social media.
The Future View campaign, which ran during the Fall 2014 term, led prospective students on virtual tours of the school’s campus in Victoria, B.C. The campaign also dabbled in some time travel — showing student prospects their possible “future selves” after graduating from Royal Roads. And it attracted some media buzz in marketing and scholarly circles resulting in articles in Marketing Magazine and on Academica.com.
Although I connected with Catherine Riggins, the university’s director of branding, marketing and recruitment, we weren’t able to get together for an interview before the deadline for this blog post. But in a Royal Roads University website posting last fall, Riggins wrote: “Our alumni speak of their experience here at Royal Roads as transformative and life-changing. Now that we have technology and social media at our fingertips, it makes perfect sense for us to give prospects a true taste of life at Royal Roads, customized to their needs.”
Royal Roads offers programs leading to undergraduate and graduate degrees, graduate diplomas and certificates.
In an article on Marketing Magazine’s website Riggins told the author, Brenda Bouw, that the social media campaign was designed to better convey the university’s strengths.
“We’ve struggled with communicating how different we are as a university. We do a lot of experiential education,” Riggins told the magazine. “It’s hard to convey what we do in a print ad.”
Future View was a multi-faceted campaign:
- Virtual tours of the campus were broadcast online, in real time, through the use of Google Glass. Viewers tweeted questions and instructions throughout the webcasts.
- The university created LinkedIn profiles for some prospective students. The profiles portrayed the prospective students after their future graduation from Royal Roads. The profiles were designed as a vehicle for prompting online conversations and relationships with those prospects. (The ‘future self’ profiles included disclaimers that they were not real profiles and stated that they would be removed within one week.)
- The university designed Facebook events for prospective students to glimpse into their possible futures – including their successful career moves into corner offices.
- The university bought Google Ads that addressed prospective students by name.
The real-time components of the campaign concluded last fall. But the enduring legacy of Future View includes the on-campus videos, recorded using GoPro cameras, posted to the campaign’s microsite. The site offers 16 videos featuring question-and-answer sessions with professors, tours of a science lab and an Indigenous centre, listening in on students as they work on a group project, and several front-row views of hour-long classes.
And to convey the university’s picturesque 260-hectare campus, videos lead viewers on a nature hike in the rain and on a 20-minute historic tour of its architectural gem Hatley Castle.
For a survey the 16 videos, watch the minute-long trailer below:
To get the full experience, view this hour-long Business and Society lecture.
At this point, it’s difficult to gauge the success of the campaign. A creative director at Cossette, the advertising agency that designed the campaign, declined a request for an interview. He referred me to Riggins who, in a recent article on Royal Roads University’s website, said it was too soon to say whether the campaign enticed students. (Perhaps because Canadian universities are still in the process of sending acceptance offers and getting responses from prospective students.) But, Riggins added that the campaign generated buzz on multiple social media sites and is confident that digital marketing will play an increasing role in future student recruitment campaigns.
I didn’t watch the campus virtual tours in real time last fall. So I’m left only with some impressions after visiting the Future View microsite. You can hear some of my minor concerns, regarding the online videos, in the following audio commentary.
There’s no doubt, ditching the traditional print-media campaign in favour of an exclusively social media strategy was a gutsy move on the part of Riggins and marketers at Royal Roads University. It signals creative thinking and willingness to take some risks. It’s the type of action that should inspire prospective students.
Hopefully, Future View will pay off in the not-too-distant future.
Mirko Petricevic can be reached at email@example.com
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