In early 2003, the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Northern TerritoryUniversity was about to embark on a period of significant change. It was preparing to create the new CharlesDarwinUniversity through its amalgamation with Alice Springs-based CentralianCollege and undertake a substantial building of its academic programs.
To fund academic expansion, a rise in commencing enrolments was required for Semester Two (the period of study from July to the end of the year). Semester Two is traditionally a period of very low commencements, so we needed to develop a communication strategy that would prompt people to consider starting their studies mid year.
An integrated communication plan was developed and implemented using primarily in-house resources with the key message Dont Let Another Year Go By. The comprehensive strategy included a product catalogue, multimedia advertising, information days, establishment of a call centre, a web presence and internal communication.
The campaign assisted the University to achieve 105 per cent of its target for higher education enrolments for the year and a significant increase in targeted enquiries for course and program information, meeting the key objective of the overall marketing effort and the goals of the communication strategy.
<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Northern TerritoryUniversity was seeking to achieve a substantial increase in enrolments in Semester Two 2003 to fund the development of new academic programs in 2004. A marketing communication program was put in place to help achieve this.
Mid year commencing enrolments are generally low, with research showing that a large percentage of the population is unaware that the University has an intake at this time of the year.
The first challenge therefore was to raise awareness of the midyear intake and impart a sense of urgency among potential students so they would enrol now rather than wait for 2004.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
To achieve the level of enrolments desired, the university perceived it would have to reach new markets, rather than rely on former students taking on new studies. Although the former student population is a ripe market for picking, our analysis was that this market alone would not produce the number of enrolments required to meet cash flow targets.
The second challenge was to reach into a new market which had little or no awareness of their study options.
As a dual sector institution, covering both Technical and Further Education (TAFE) and Higher Education, the University offers a very broad range of study options from short courses through to postdoctoral studies. The sheer range of courses available is not well understood by the target market, particularly the new market already discussed.
So we had to show our audience that we offered an extensive product listing in a way that people who had never studied with us could easily understand.
In the development of this campaign, we drew on quantitative and qualitative research conducted in mid 2002 among students, businesses and residents in the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Northern Territory. This research helped to define:
Knowledge of our product among target audiences
General perceptions of the university
Main sources of information on the university
Key influencers in decision-making about enrolling in a university course.
We also drew on previous enrolment data to determine the demographics of students who enrol midyear as opposed to those who enrol at the start of the year. This showed in midyear, more mature age students are likely to enrol, as opposed to school leavers at the start of the year.
The target publics for mid-year enrolment is significantly different to that for first semester, when the university is trying to reach school leavers.
The target audiences for this campaign were:
Mature age professionals in the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Northern Territory looking to upskill to better their existing career or move into a new one.
Parents of students in the Northern Territory who had left school the previous year but had not begun study or gained employment in the interim period.
General construction workers in the Northern Territory looking to gain skills to work on forecast gas manufacturing projects in the Timor Sea and Darwin.
Campaign Development<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Campaign Message: The university was keen to lift income in the second half of the year to fund planned expansions of academic programs for the following year. The campaign message needed to impart a sense of urgency among the target audiences that they should enrol for midyear rather than wait for 2004.
The message Dont Let Another Year Go By was designed to play on a public feeling of its already June ... where has this year gone?. This message was particularly relevant to the older target audiences of mature-age professionals and parents of teenagers, who are more likely to believe that time is passing them by.
- Integration of campaign elements: The <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Northern TerritoryUniversity is a university in transition. In 2004, it will become the CharlesDarwinUniversity. This state of transition has caused considerable difficulties with branding campaigns.
To overcome this, a strong and singular image was developed for the campaign featuring a headshot of a man. The man was chosen for his age (around 30), Territorian look (relaxed, casual and friendly, not too up-market) and appeal to a road range of audiences (from welders through to postgraduate candidates).
- Letterbox catalogue: The university has a vast product listing but research had shown the target audience had a poor understanding of the range of course offerings. For this reason a catalogue was developed. The method of delivery chosen was a letterbox drop throughout the Northern Territory, with each town receiving a catalogue only of the courses available at their local campus as well as those available for external study. The letterbox drop allowed targeted delivery of catalogues into selected towns and almost complete coverage of the Northern Territory, compared to newspaper insertion. (see Appendix A1)
- Web: Research had shown that while the target audiences received their initial information about the university from other sources, a high percentage used the internet to gain more detailed information. A comprehensive website provided detailed course, enrolment and price information. Prospective students could request information or enrol online. (see Appendix A2)
Media: The media was used to promulgate key campaign messages. Media releases were targeted to individual media by type (press, radio and television), style (formal or informal, news or talk show) and geographic location.
Advertising: This was used to drive audiences to other campaign elements. Television and press advertising the week before the letterbox drop asked the audience to Look in your letterbox next week. Radio and press were used in the days leading up to information days and to remind people of enrolment days. Radio and press were also used for follow up targeted course advertising. (see Appendix A3)
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Ongoing tracking with targeted follow through: Enquiries were tracked from the first day of the campaign through to its completion. In addition to collecting marketing information for later analysis, this information enabled us to track interest in particular areas of study as an indicator of forecast enrolments.
From this tracking, we were able to intervene well before close of enrolments to determine which courses and programs required additional and more targeted promotion. Previously, this information had not been available to management until well after enrolments closed too late to take any remedial action.
Direct Client Communication
- Call Centre: A call centre was established to take prospective student enquiries. The centre was also used to collect marketing data to allow campaign tracking and evaluation.
- Uni Info Shop: The universitys Uni Info Shop was widely used as a point of contact for prospective students. Previous research had shown the Info Shop had wide recognition in the community, and this continued to be the case. The Info Shop is able to provide detailed course information as well as enrol students into programs.
- Client follow through: All enquiries received were followed through with direct contact with the prospective student. Although not all enquiries were converted to enrolments for mid year, many have indicated an intention to study at a later date. These clients will continue to be monitored.
- Information Days: Local shopping centres were used for public information days, which gave potential students the opportunity to meet with lecturers and the universitys careers advisor. Information days were held soon after the distribution of catalogues so people accessed this information while it was still fresh in their minds.
- Enrolment Days: Enrolment days were held during the same week at all university campuses and regional centres. A three week time lag was given between catalogue distribution
- Management communication: Senior managers and Deans were asked to approve the overall structure of the campaign early in its development and to communicate requirements to their staff. This ensured commitment to the overall approach, as well as lecturer attendance at information and enrolment days.
- Intranet communication: A web-based intranet site was established for staff to learn the latest about the campaign and what was required of them.
- Email communication: Regular emails were sent to all participating staff to keep them up to date with the campaign. Evaluation tracking was regularly sent to staff so they could see the progress of the campaign. This information was valuable for heads of schools to ascertain how their courses were tracking. It was also of interest to call centre and Info Shop staff who were collecting the statistics on behalf of marketing. We explained to these staff the value of the data and how we were using it to shape the campaign. This increased their commitment to collecting the data.
Enrolment Targets<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
While the actual number of enrolments was not an objective of the communication strategy for reasons already discussed, it is an indicator of the overall success of the campaign.
For midyear intake, the university increased EFTSU (Equivalent Full Time Student Unit) by in excess of 100 in the higher education sector. This brought its overall performance for the year to 105 per cent of target. Figures for TAFE enrolments were not available at the time of writing this report.
<?xml:namespace prefix = v ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:vml" /><?xml:namespace prefix = w ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:word" />Enrolments into individual areas of study closely reflected the level of enquiries, providing a good indication that our tracking provided a reasonable forecast of future enrolments.
Communication with new markets
One of the objectives of the campaign was to reach into new markets to attract interest from potential students who had never studied at the university before.
Campaign evaluation showed that 83 per cent of all enquiries had come from people in this target group. (Appendix A4)
It was important from an enquiry management perspective that as many enquiries as possible be targeted at particular areas of study or courses. This assisted in directing enquiries to the correct area as well as save time in double enquiry. This occurs when a prospective student does not know what they want to study, are sent a full list of courses and then call back to request more specific information on a particular course or program of study. Targeted enquiries lead to faster processing of applications and enrolments, higher client satisfaction and a reduction in staff time spent dealing with the enquiry. This semester, a significant increase in targeted enquiries occurred.
The total number of enquiries in previous years had not been tracked. Therefore comparisons of actual numbers cannot be made.
Initial source of information<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
<?xml:namespace prefix = v ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:vml" /><?xml:namespace prefix = w ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:word" />Initial enquiries to the call centre, Info Shop, shopping centre displays and website were tracked to see where the enquirer had found out about midyear enrolments. The purpose of this was to discover which media had been most successful in reaching the target audience. (Appendix A5)
The letterbox drop accounted for half of all enquiries, showing this to be the most effective of all media used. In line with previous research, word of mouth rated very highly as a source of information.
Secondary Source of Information
Attendees at the enrolment days were also tracked to determine how they had found out about the events. 30 per cent of this group had found out about enrolment days through some personal contact with the university (call centre or Info Shop). Not surprisingly given the time lag between distribution and the enrolment days, the number of people who mentioned the letterbox drop was significantly down while the number who mentioned advertising increased.
Overall, our evaluation showed the letterbox drop to be very effective in improving product information and driving targeted enquiries, while advertising was more useful in directing people to organised events such as information and enrolment days.