Monday, 1 April 2019

We've moved.....

Hello all

A quick note - this site is now inactive. If you'd like to keep up with what's happening in and around the University's Central Marketing team, click through to our new platform.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

A silk purse from a sow’s ear

In the last month or so, I’ve attended a couple of conferences. I was pleased, on both occasions, to deputise for other colleagues in MARC, and hope I didn't cause too much collateral damage, what with my reticence, cynicism, monkey boots and too many layers of clothing.

The conferences I attended:
  • The Future of Student Recruitment, by the IDP Connect folk (the new name for the WhatUni and CUG), in the wonderful garden area at the Barbican
  • UCAS’ Teachers and Advisors Fair, in the rather grand and gilded surroundings of The Principal Hotel in Manchester.
Go me, RIGHT?

Kingo in conference

Well sort of. Yes. And no. I was a shoe in for Marketing in the first instance and for Recruitment in the second. Both disciplines are, in honesty, beyond me. Yes, I’m one of the old hands in MAR, but I’d struggle to get sell a fully plumbed in water cooler in a desert. My expertise, such as it is, is in Market Research. Which despite and almost because of its bad press, requires scruples and a level- or at worst a pretence - of even-handedness.

I had to represent this. Our blurb for the UCAS conference. I mainly achieved it through staring into the middle distance.

The UCAS event had some interesting and (for me) relevant sessions. It was also really enlightening to hear about teachers and advisors’ perspectives. And guess what? They’re not happy about unconditional offers. Can’t blame them. If you aren’t ‘up on’ the thorny issue, where have you been? Here’s a Bob-piece on our response to the practice and how we’re dipping our toes in the filthy pond of despair.

The UCAS event was a two day affair. Sadly, our allowance for meals didn’t stretch to the £60 asking price for the UCAS dinner, so I slummed it for dinner round the student quarter around Oxford Road. Two conversations struck me. Nothing to do with HE, but the first (point 1 below) definitely from a party connected, presumably to either Manchester or Manchester Metropolitan University:
  1.  A table of people were wondering what kind of monster would eat crumpets without butter or spread. Can see their point. They were referring to a mutual colleague who indulged in such fantastic behaviour. A monster. “Off his head half the time,” one of the group observed;
  2. In a different establishment, in a room dedicated, rather perplexingly, to Jack Daniels, a group of three people discussed the likelihood of being sent to prison for a driving violation if the offender already has six points on their licence. Wasn’t a discussion I wanted to get into.

I’m going to try and bring some more meaningful feedback to the MAR team. Some of it will almost certainly appear in my intranet feedback page. Shout if you’re interested, in the meantime.

So anyway, I'm off to see The Sleaford Mods at the 100 Club in London this evening. I often post a clip of music at the music at the end of my pieces, but The Sleaford Mods are big on swearing, and not so big on tunes. Instead, here's a beautiful piece of British 60s jazz, by the Rendell Carr Quintet. Check out that Coltrane-esque soprano. These guys were on top of their game. I missed out on a recent repressing of their much sought for albums and feel sad about it. 

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Falling Ninja

as it just me, or did anyone else get back from Christmas with a head full of cheese and Baileys? Anyone else stare at programmes and apps and think "I know this; I can do this," before getting up and walking away from the keyboard as if it's some kind of alien being?

Looks like there was a power surge over Christmas.
The bloody keyboard's eaten the bloody box and monitor. Again.

Still, I'm back in and on it. Calmly scything through emails from fanciful agencies telling me how they can revolutionise the way I work. Models, promises, webinars. Like I need any more models, promises and webinars. I'm also noticing bits of tape and tinsel which have seen in as many new years as I have. They need to come down. I need to think of a few new year's resolutions.

New year's resolutions - a Liszt
Frans Liszt
The new year brings new resolutions, like bad colds bring on chesty coughs and 'snuffles'. In bloggeeee style, and in a desperate attempt to GET SOME HITS, here is a LIST of the ten things I'm going to achieve in the forthcoming calendar year.

HECOS - a sensible response
  1. Make sense of politics. The sensible thing - a complete removal of the political set - won't happen. I've had about a year avoiding news. I've made contact with Luton's Deputy Mayor, who's a lovely chap. I'm going to re-engage. Probably;
  2. Work out why it is, exactly, that applicants, enquirers and students aren't engaging as much with our surveys as they used to. Because they're not;
  3. Brush up and prepare for HECOS. It's upon us, unless Brexit's done for it. I know, full well, that there are implementation guides and common aggregations hierarchies to get my head around. Which I will do, at some point. Honest;
  4. Remind myself there are over 2,200 HECOS codes. And for 600 of these "the JACS3 term could map equally well to a range of HECoS terms".
  5. Think about this point. 600 codes. Revisit point 3. Decide the best course of action with HECoS is to keep my head BURIED IN THE SAND;
  6. Keep a better grasp and grip on what's happening in the sector. People sniff at my loyalty to the Times Higher, but I sometimes surprise myself with how brutally informed I can sound after a few days' submersion in either the THE or WonkHE;
  7. Try not become even more appalled at the marketisation of the sector and all the BS it's brought upon us;
  8. Get out more often. Staff development budgets have crawled under a rock, but it's good to occasionally get out of the silos which limited resources and constant initiatives tend to keep us buried in. Talking to colleagues and sharing problems isn't always acceptable. It depends on the problem and who you're talking to. But it can help..
  9. Continue to sneer at mindfulness and Millenials. Not Millenials themselves, you understand, but the whole compartmentalisation, labelling and lazy dismissal of younger folk.
  10. Listen to more jazz.
Wow! Making lists really helps. Remember me at the beginning of the blog, all self-pitying and confused? Just look at me now, ready and fired up. FOR ACTION.

Pivoting the heck out of some Excel

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Everyday's a school day

Happy New Year everyone!

As I've been tasked with the first blog post of the year, I'd like to start how I always start, with a little inspiration for us all. 

I know a lot of people set resolutions around this time, so let me add another to your list...try and learn something new.

Learning at work

  • Everyone can teach you something. Yes we're all constantly learning things as we work, but have you ever consciously made the effort to talk to someone who has a different skill set to you and learn something from them? I cannot recommend it enough. If your work roles cross over in any way or you need their help with a task, ask to sit beside them while they do it, instead of just getting them to do it without you. You'll learn a little of their job, they might learn a little of yours, and KAPOW! You're a smidgen smarter than you were at the start of the day. 
  • Knowledge has no hierarchy. I must confess, I really struggle with people who aren't willing to learn new things just because it might be coming from a person that they deem to be 'below' them. Maybe in age, in position, in experience, but does it actually matter? Knowledge is knowledge, no matter who it's coming from. We all have our areas of expertise, and if someone's willing to share theirs with you, take it! Likewise, if you're doing the teaching, remember to be patient and unassuming. Skills shared within a team will only make you more able as a whole, so there's no point in trying to catch people out! 
  • Be more curious. I'm fully aware that this isn't always possible (due to time constraints and workload etc) but I'd encourage you to try and do more than just 'learn'. For example, I recently had some training in Google Analytics (thanks Pete!) so that I can go in and have a look at the media inventory we have running across digital platforms. Now I could have just logged in, got the data I needed and called it a day. Instead, I committed an hour to looking through as much of the site as I could manage, filtering data in and out, looking for nuances and shortcuts, experimenting with data that didn't even really concern me- just so I could know as much about it as possible. Now I can make observations of my own, plus I can keep up with others when they're talking about it, which is always a plus! Essentially what I'm saying is...don't just take what you need from something new and move on. Try and study and experiment with it if you can, you'll only benefit from doing so. 
Learning at home
  • It's only a waste of time if you let it be. I appreciate we're all busy and spending time learning something new might seem like time wasted, so why not learn something that could help you at work? If there are any programs/activities it would benefit you to have a grasp on for your job, why not have a go at home? No one watching, no one to point out mistakes, it's kind of the perfect scenario. 
  • Develop your interests. Be selfish and learn something that's only worthwhile for you! It's your time after all. I know that natural talent can come into play in these sorts of things, but I truly believe that you can achieve almost anything through learning. Want to be a photographer? Okay so you might not have an eye for framing like a professional might have, but get yourself a good camera, learn all of it's settings by heart, watch some YouTube tutorials about lighting and leading lines, and I know you'll have some pretty good photos to show for it all at the end. Or want to be a singer? If you can hold a tune (that's the natural talent part!), you can teach your voice to be more supple and reach higher/lower notes. Plus you could always try to learn some harmonies (again, YouTube is great if you can't read music), because quite frankly, I've never heard of someone NOT being impressed by a harmony. And boom! Now you've gotten even better at something you already love! Winning. 
  • Brain training. Even if you don't have anything you're interested in or want to develop, you can still learn. Why not try to memorize all the countries in Europe? Or the American states? They're bound to come up in a pub quiz at some point! Learning in any capacity, I think, is good for you. You're constantly exercising your brain and it's capabilities, plus learning can train the mind to be more receptive and creative. That's all good stuff, right? 

So there you are. A little inspiration for your 2019! And if you ever decide to learn something new and need a little help or support, let me know, I'm always looking for something else to dive into! 

Until next time.

Over and out. 

Friday, 14 December 2018

All I want for Christmas is segmentation

Hello Uni chums. Everyone ok?

Looking forward to the break? Looking forward to consigning the Christmas jumper to the back of the cupboard and returning to more sensible work clothes.

AK relaxin' in civvies

As some of you may know, MARC's Market Research team is 'deep in' segmentation at the moment. Or what, at least, we're calling segmentation. Others will call it 'profiling with a bit of fancy analysis on the side'.

For some, segmentation is a process which takes years and involve a 20 minute attitudinal survey which a large proportion (and certainly the majority of the Uni's students) need to answer. It's the right way; the bells and whistles way. The way we could consider, and other unis could consider, if only people didn't have so many other things to do, and students not quite so many damned surveys to fill in.

Someone may recently have written a recent post all about how it's so hard to engage students in the recent past. It's not easy.

So, before we can run off into the sunset with the Rolls Royce 20 min, 600 response attitudinal survey which will generate a stack of data others can consider and use as the starting point of "proper segmentation", we'll take whatever we can from wherever we can. Good old geo-demographic data. Like instant noodles; quick, dirty and nourishing.

What's going on then?

Essentially, we're working to be more smart in the way we target visits - both from Recruitment and faculties - and communications to potential students. Targetting. You don't, after all, go into a caff and expect the owner to throw several plates of food at you at once, without thinking or asking what you as the customer might want to eat. Do you?

If you want more info on segmentation, let me know. The process we're looking at is "cheap and cheerful" and - relatively speaking - "speedy". Though of course, these things are all relative.

Segmentation is my number one priority. Definitely. Still, in the last two weeks, it's been unseated by urgent requests for data looking at PG fees and the market potential in the Middle East. The applicant survey's also been brought up and I'm now knee deep in that, while trying to fight a rearguard action against looking at the market potential from the former Soviet Republics and the End of Cycle report, which in typical UCAS fashion, is EXTENSIVELY reported.

Yeh, I know right? If someone made a film of my professional life, I'd be played by Lee Majors, no problem.

Lee - if you're reading this, you've got my number. Seriously; let's chat.

In other news, we had our Christmas dinner yesterday. It was great. You should have come. It was in Harpenden. We lowered the tone. Here are some of things which happened.

Party mode
Loading the Powerpoint UoB 'review of the year

Candy Man

I think the beer's off
David Fryer

Twin Peaks/weird pudding (to left of phone)

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Tips for video production if you have no idea what you’re doing

Anyone who knows me professionally knows that writing is my passion and one of the few things I’m good at. But sometimes I wonder if anyone is actually reading the press releases, blog posts or features that I put together.

One of my objectives for the coming year is to include more rich content in everything I do. So over the past few months, I’ve been filming and putting together short videos for the staff newsletter, press releases and social media using Adobe Premiere Pro.

Before I go any further, I need to point out that I am a complete novice when it comes to video production. Everything I’ve learnt has been down to trial and error. So I thought I would share a few tips for anyone who wants to produce videos but doesn’t know where to start.

I’d also like to give a shout-out to Michael Hann, who has joined the Communications Team as maternity cover. We have worked as a team – Michael has gathered excellent footage which I have then turned into videos. Without his help, this whole process would have been a lot harder, so thank you Michael!

You don’t need expensive equipment
This is the kit we use - you can buy it here
We don’t use a fancy camera – just an iPad. The tech available on smart devices like iPads and iPhones nowadays means you don’t need to spend a fortune on cameras. We recently purchased some equipment, like a tripod which is designed to hold smart devices and a mic, which all cost about £25 from Amazon. You don’t need to spend a fortune.

You don’t need to produce an Oscar-winner
People don’t except Spielberg standard videos, unless they have paid a company to make it of course! Don’t worry too much if your first videos are a bit rough around the edges – at least you’re trying! Also, you’ll find that the more videos you make, the better they will become. You’ll get the knack for what works (and what doesn’t) and the process will get quicker and slicker.

Less is not more!

When gathering footage for your video, get as many different bits of footage from as many angles as you can. That way when it comes to editing you’ll have lots of footage to choose from. Remember you can’t add what you don’t have, but you can always cut what is already there.

When in doubt, YouTube it!
YouTube is full of short tutorials on how to do anything and everything in Premiere Pro. So take advantage of this free resource if you are not sure how to achieve something with your video, like adding a fade or adjusting the volume of the audio.

Below are some examples of what I’ve produced over the last few months. Like I said, I am no expert, but I am proud of what I’ve made and I’m looking forward to making more!

Friday, 30 November 2018

Death by survey

STOP PRESS. UCAS are stepping up consultancy and looking to improve insight. And drum up business, no doubt. In a nod to the dangers of survey fatigue, UCAS have, however declared in the process of improving insight and making money, no applicant would be surveyed more than seven times.

Seven times.

Then there's Youthsight's Higher Expectations survey. And The Student Room's Options. Then there's the National Clearing Survey. There will be international barometers, open day surveys for every institution applied to - Beds included - then the Accepters (hoorah!) or Decliners (sniff...) surveys. And Buzzfeeds, paid surveys, forms which feel like surveys, forms which are designed not to feel like surveys etc.

All this before people choose whether or not they're going to enrol, when they'll be duly served by Welcome and New Student surveys.

Little wonder that surveys across many institutions are becoming less and less effective, as participation rates shrink and survey fatigued subjects either limp or sprint through forms, with their brains and emotions engaged purely on the carrotty incentive attached as a reward for completion. Surveying student views is incredibly important. The problem we face is that by the time we have students, the human beings have been asked so many questions that they're punch drunk.

For my own part, as a member of University staff, there's Beds Stars. A way for individuals to highlight other individuals who have provided exceptional collegiate support. I'm not surveyed anything like as much as students are, but I feel weary about Beds Stars. A begrudging degree of guilt and responsibility will push me towards filling in a few nominations, particularly because the Uni is full of excellent, friendly and helpful people. Many of us are, after all, stars, regardless of whether or not we're nominated. Surely. We deserve credit, but the Stars thing's a little arbitrary. Too important to lay on people who may not be especially informed about the starry qualities of people they're not nominating.

What if I deserve a nomination, but I work in a more isolated area, or the people I work with are less likely to fill in or even to have heard of the scheme?

Filling in some survey or other

Beds Stars feels a tiny bit like the Brexit referendum - individuals won't and can't know the bigger picture and may be confused or duped by propaganda. Beds Stars feels even more like market research, to be fair, in as much as it's a kind of answer for a kind of unanswerable problem. Fine as far as it goes, but not the be all and end all.

All that said, I hope to be nominated this year.

There's no place on Beds Stars to nominate teams. Which is a shame. Shouldn't we be thinking more of effective, silo-busting, friendly and co-operative teams? Or is this just a pipe dream of some busted guy who remembers when we talked rather than emailed, served tea from thee olde Clipper ships in china cups and weren't all beholden to fake celebration on social media?

Anyway, my partner's off this weekend, so I'll mainly be watching jazz in a Luton club, rock and roll in a Luton pub and steam trains and football in Bury, Greater Manchester.