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5 key takeaways from the​ Universities Australia conference last week

While attending conferences takes a lot of time, they can be a useful way to inspire us to try new approaches to solve established issues.

To that end I've shared my 5 key takeaways in an effort to inspire you to take a fresh approach to your activity.

#1 - Universities deliver emotionally transformative experiences and we should all use emotional stories to engage our audiences

The very first session, "content marketing in an era of saturation" presented by Lauren Quaintance from Storyation, reminded us all that in the cluttered media world we all live in, gaining the attention of our target market is getting harder and harder.

Listing facts isn't going to cut through the tsunami of content, we should all strive to create content that is emotionally relevant and memorable, sharing distinctive stories and not just facts to engage and influence our target markets.

#2 - Answer the questions people want to know about with a proof point

Building on Lauren's presentation, Leigh Sales the 7.30 host on the ABC, confirmed the importance of using emotionally engaging stories to cut-through in a cluttered world, adding that they should be anchored in relevant proof points..

How much recruitment content on an international student webpage is a list of facts, telling the student about the university? If we took Leigh's advice we would start by understanding what our target audience (alumni or prospective students) attitudes and needs are before sharing authentic stories that engage them in what they care about (and not what we care about) with relevant proof points.

Websites and emails would probably look very different if we stopped telling audiences and started engaging them in the questions they want answered.

#3 - Start with a clear objective

Sophia Lloyd-Jones from UNSW reminded us all that while new technology, social media and events options can all look and sound very exciting, it's critically important to resist the shiny new options until you have clearly defined your objective.

How many times has a project started without a clear articulation of the objective? Think back to the last activity you were involved in, were you clear on the commercial objective (to cover the cost and time invested), who the target market was and what the activity was trying to influence that target market to do? Did anyone evaluate the activity afterwards to see if it was successful and develop key learnings to improve the performance of the next activity next time?

#4 - Students and parents from different countries have different attitudes and behaviour to choosing a university

Sweta Mehra from ANZ bank brand shared her own personal journey and reminded us that there are significant differences in the attitudes, behaviours and media channels used by students (and their parents) from different countries when it comes to choosing a university.

Generic messages fail to engage because they lack relevance for individual cultural groups who are driven by unique attitudes and behaviours and require messages and channels to be tailored to meet their needs in a relevant and authentic way.

#5 - Young people trust "people like me" on social media more than experts

Howard Pary-Husbands from Pollinate entertained with a journey into the minds of "young people" today. It's quite what we all expected, with technology being taken granted and increasing concern about the environment.

But there was a key lesson about how best to engage and influence the younger generation who have grown increasingly sceptical of traditional experts and positions of authority. The clergy, governments and large companies are not to be trusted, with an increasing reliance instead on "people like me" from social media who share their values and avoid "telling" them things in the way traditional authority figures do.

To engage and influence young people, we should therefore focus on talking to young people through people like them. Young people, student ambassadors and alumni are the most authentic and effective way to engage the younger generation.

There was plenty more to learn and be inspired by at the conference, so apologies if I've missed one of your favourites. That's the lovely thing about a conference, we all take something different away from it.

I feel it would be remiss of me not to finish with a personal observation about Misha Schubert's commitment to inclusion at the conference. We enjoyed several opportunities to reflect on how important it is to do more to support the aboriginal community within higher education. I came home inspired to watch The Final Quarter, Adam Goodes documentary with my family and have an open discussion about casual racism in our society. It's a great documentary, with a very clear message (and suitable for all ages).

As always if you would like to discuss any of the key issues above, please reach outand contact me.

Click here for previous weeks blogs.

John Chatterton

+61432 906 790



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