Time to refresh: Telford College

Concluding our series on how digital tools can refresh your institution’s brand, some wise words from Telford College’s Marketing Manager, Tom Bower

In your opinion, how does online marketing play a role in a brand refresh?
Online marketing is an essential part of a brand refresh. The last three colleges that I’ve worked for have all gone through a brand refresh, which is normally an 18-month process before consistency is seen across the brand. In terms of online marketing, it needs to be a central factor as it’s an essential part of young people’s lives and is how they communicate and interact with the world around them.
At Telford College, we ensure that the brand messaging we put forward always focuses on digital marketing.

What digital tools are out there to make branding easier?
During the market research that we carried out before the brand refresh at Telford College, we used Survey Monkey which allowed us to hit a high number of stakeholders easily, such as students, parents and governors. In addition, as we engaged with our audience via email, we found that it was easier to encourage a response from them, compared to just stopping them on the street and gathering their opinions that way.
We also analysed our competitors using Edurank, a national tool that analyses web hits and social media engagement.
It pulls through all the branding of different websites, so rather than having to view each competitor’s website individually, it saved us time and allowed us to put together a strong case for our own brand. It’s a really good resource to see what people are doing in the marketplace and use the findings to decide on a plan of action for our own brand.

What are the most important elements of a school/college/university brand in the digital age?
The most important element is consistency – you’ve got to stand out, and whenever I work on a rebrand I’m keen to focus on a single idea. At Telford, we deal with 16–18-year-olds, full-time students, part-time students, apprenticeships, and adult learners, and it could have been easy to think we’d just create one brand for all. However, we decided to have one over-arching umbrella brand, and then give each of the different markets their own sub-brand instead as we felt it was important for them to have their own individual identity.
In addition, when we rebranded our tag line, ‘Define your future’, we could have had one for each market, but this tagline actually applies to all markets, and so the single idea cuts across everyone that we work with.

Do you think the use of digital tools is more important in a school, college or university setting, or is it the same across the board?
It should be the same across the board but in practice it doesn’t always happen. The industry is getting better, but spend across FE is certainly lagging behind HE at the moment, although we are slowly starting to see people come round to the use of digital tools. There’s different ways around the challenges that FE providers find themselves in, such as not being able to reach students through schools or parents, and a key one is trying to reach students directly through their phones – they always have them with them so it makes complete sense.
When it comes to using digital tools, I would say that it’s important to use your gut instincts. At Telford College we did a lot of testing and retesting before we re-launched our brand – continuous tweaking and improvement is vital. You should also consider several concepts and use data in order to drive your decision forward.

Have you seen any particular developments in the use of digital tools in institutions over the last 12 months?
Things like Mail Chimp (email marketing software) are being used a lot more in comparison to letters, and automation tools like CRM systems are being used to nudge people through to the enrolment process as well.
The power of text messaging should not be overlooked either. People tend to see it as quite analogue still, but text messages are 97% likely to be read as they come straight through to your phone, whereas the industry average open rate for email is just 16%. It can be quite easy for new tools to look flashy and draw people in, but it’s important to look at them analytically to work out whether it will work for your institution, rather than just looking at all the bells and whistles.

Do you have any examples of education providers that are using digital tools to refresh their brand particularly well?
Some digital tools that we are looking to implement at Telford College include things like WhatsApp and FaceTime to change how we engage and communicate with our audience moving forward. Automation software also provides a tailored approach which is key – you’re more likely to get people to enrol down the line by giving them information that is specific to them, and we feel this is the next step in terms of pushing the traditional letter-and-envelope method of communication. 

For more on Telford College, visit tcat.ac.uk