Malleable Musings

April 14, 2009

From the stocks

Filed under: International Student Recruitment, Ning, photography — Brendan @ 1:18 pm

I’ve mentioned before how my role seems to span a range of different areas.  I’ve also talked about how stock photography is often used by distance learning institutions as it’s easy.  This is the story of how we tried to get away from this and the side effects that this has had.

When considering the advertising approach that we wanted to take for the next few years our agency came up with a concept entitled “This is my London”. It took a very human approach – the idea being that current students would provide a short paragraph about their studies alongside artwork that showed them at their studies in a very non-London environment.

We liked the idea, especially because it was about people, and took it forward but substituted alumni for current students on the basis that this would be more aspirational.


Stupidly in this meeting I said something about UGC and got people (myself included) excited with the potential of producing something that alumni would share in both offline and online worlds.  Inevitably this lead to various discussions about using Flickr and other social media tools to collect photographs and quotes from alumni and maybe running the process as a competition, with the hope that we get the competition and the results shared.  Interestingly this sort of approach has just been tried with YouTube by DePaul.  I’ll be watching with interest to see how they do and how they encourage their entries.

We decided to get a couple of examples mocked up using a few alumni we were in contact with in Hong Kong.  We placed the quote and photo from this ad within a Ning community (with a very limited features set) along with instructions about what we wanted alumni to do.  To date we’ve invited about 7,000 selected alumni (in batches defined by specific criteria) to join – and have had 377 photos uploaded from 278 members.

Whilst most of the photos uploaded aren’t really appropriate for the advertising campaign we’ve had about a dozen that can.  One of these is shown on the right (one of our law alumni who is now a lawyer pictured outside the high court in Malaysia).  We’re getting permission to use the photos and quotes not just within our advertising campaign but also on our website, in our printed materials and elsewhere to help bring the student experience to life.

What’s more it has provided an insight in to alumni’s lives that isn’t available via our alumni databases.

My personal learnings from this have been:
1.    people use tools in ways that you don’t expect
2.    communities (no matter how rudimentary) will spring up and need managing
3.    you can’t assume anything, no matter how well you think you have explained something there are always plenty of barriers to prevent someone completing the task as you intended