Thursday, 3 June 2010

Publicity channels

Part of my role in Student Development involves overseeing publicity. When I started in the role 18 months ago we were using only traditional forms of media to communicate with students; flyers, posters, emails and our website (all broadcast media that allow little or no two-way communication and simply pushes information to recipients). Since last summer I’ve been developing our networks on Facebook and Twitter (social media that does allow two-way communication and recipients select to ‘pull’ information towards themselves) to supplement the traditional methods. So we now have a range of publicity options available to us that I thought it would be helpful to outline – and if you have any suggestions or comments I’d be really pleased to hear them.


Our website is our primary means of communication. I’m concious that we need to reorganise our front page (the subject of a future post) because we’re running out of space to put stuff, but that aside, here are elements I use within the site for publicity purposes.

News items (within Plone) are vital as they keep the website dynamic and also populate RSS feeds which I use to push out to Facebook and Twitter (see how here).

Event items also add a dynamic element to our site and populate RSS feeds in the same was as the news items do.

Top level portlets at the Student Development level of the website to highlight services that we want to give a particular push to at any given time. At the moment we’re doing this with our Graduate Success Programme (but we only have room to display one item like this at a time – which is one of the reasons we need to redesign the front page).

Team level portlets at the relevant team level – in the case of the Graduate Success Programme that’s in Career Development.

Mini sites to create an uncluttered site focussing on a particular event. In order to de-clutter an area I block the portlets above in the folder structure and start the navigation at the relevant level. If the event is to be a regular one Ialso request a specific URL, for example (again)

Social media

As already described I’ve been using social media to try and engage with students for some time now. More recently my focus has switched from Twitter to Facebook and in particular how to encourage interaction not just ‘Likes’. To this end I’ve been trying the following:

  • extra Facebook and Twitter updates (as per Helpdesk Hollie’s advice) in addition to our automated RSS outputs
  • a specific Facebook push – like we tried recently with Revision and exam skills (which seemed to work)

Digital signage

There are various plasma screens around campus which make up the University’s digital signage one of which is in the Student Development Zone. The screens generally operate on a 10 second cycle; scrolling through the notices set to display. The images and text displayed on these screens, therefore, have to convey information quickly and simply.

More important than our own screen (the traffic that it gets is limited given our location) are the other screens around campus – in particular in the Help Zone on the Ground floor of the Library, the Graduate School Reading Room, the Library Cafe and (especially) the screens in the Students’ Union.


Because not everyone looks at our website or joins our social media networks we also send out a monthly newsletter to all students. This comprises of just a few highlights plus a link to further highlights of the month’s news from our news feeds. Click here for the June edition.


And for completeness I thought I should mention print. Although for publicity purposes we’re beginning to move away from print because it’s usually high cost for a relatively low impact.

Any suggestions? Have I missed anything?


  1. Whilst I don't disagree with this I think it is important to continue to budget for some printed publicity. In an appropriate "credit card size" or "bookmark" format I think this can be very effective, and can also direct students to our website.

  2. Thanks Hazel. I think you have a very good point there. The fold outs and bookmarks have worked very well lately.

  3. Good to know how you do things, as I've been asked to write a promotion plan for our workshops so it would be good to use complementary methods for advertising stuff.

  4. Will you be blogging your plan? Will be keen to see it if so... By workshops are they the ones you run that we promote already? Would be good to get more joined up. Thanks for persevering with comment ;) Now using Intense Debate which seems to work a treat

  5. I have an idea Stuart. I will say what it is and then go on to explain the reasoning behind. Basically the idea would be 'Speed Dating, but for Careers/Skills'. Electronic and print based publicity are great, but I think it is always great to get out there in person. This is done via the roadshow to great effect, but I was thinking of other things to make us more approachable, a little bit cooler and break down any barriers to interaction.
    This 'dating' could be an open event with a representative from each team and just having a chat for 2-3 mins. Yes it is short, and yes, can't be effective in addressing the issue raised. However, this could be a good way to interact with others that are harder to reach, promote our existance and provide some inspiration, motivation and cofidence within that time. Plus, it's a different appraoch and could be good fun. A wacky idea you might think, but it could be amazing. Awards have been won for less.

  6. How v creative! It could work. Shall we book a time to discuss it a bit more? Coffee sometime?

  7. Yes, lets do that. Sounds good. I will get something in the diary.

  8. Hi - Like the speed dating idea too!
    It takes the pressure off a student to think they need a really "meaty" issue to come and engage with us.
    I am wondering if you could extend it to employers – a speed dating idea with an employer!

  9. I was wondering about that after the Employer forum. I think we may have hit on a theme!