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It’s all well and good us saying how universities should be marketing themselves but our lecturers would be shouting if they knew we were making statements without references.  As a footnote to our musings, we’re going to be highlighting universities, colleges and schools that, in our opinion, are embracing good marketing strategies and ventures.

We commented in a recent post that education establishments should be grabbing the attention of prospective students by showcasing what they do differently.  They need to show off what makes them distinctive beyond the textbooks…  Enter UCL Academy, the first school in England to have a university as a sole sponsor and a 10am start.

Their marketing strategy made the news earlier this year as they chose their unique selling point to be an extra hour in bed.  Following US research that suggested later school days lead to better exam results, they decided to start their academic day no earlier than 10am.  Quickly being nicknamed as a ‘teen dream school’, the academy markets the late start alongside research that says teenage pupils perform better after a lie in.  Using it as a marketing and press tool may have raised a few eyebrows but this has only further increased their publicity.

It’s not just the lure of more time under the duvet that UCL Academy has used to entice students, they’ve got some other good marketing tricks up their sleeves.  On their website they have a blog that, although updated quite sporadically, is good fun.  There isn’t a dreary copied press release or long list of school performances in sight.  They give light-hearted updates on the school’s progress and highlight some of their community projects.  Each blog post has some ‘interesting extra bits’ at the end, our favourite has to be… “Is it dull to be excited about the new road traffic lights on Harley Road that are being put in? Oh alright, it probably is but they do have a countdown clock on them!”  Pupils are invited to contribute their own blog posts and they are planning to start a series of ‘a day in life of a UCL Academy student’ updates.

You can also find UCL Academy on an array of social media channels.  They have a YouTube account that they kept updated during the building process and now has a mix of introduction and showcase videos (even if the music is a little cheesy!)  There’s one example of some work that the pupils have created so it will be interesting to see if they continue to upload similar stuff.  It’s a great way to show students, parents and other schools what UCL Academy can produce.

Their Twitter feed is updated regularly and looks great.  It appears to be primarily aimed at parents, with behind-the-scenes photos of the pupils and staff and useful links to resources, but there is also a focus on students.  They are using the account to showcase some of the highlights of the school day and to spread the news about their latest work with UCL and other collaborations.  What we really love is that teachers and professors get a mention in tweets too, taking you straight to their work profiles.

The only thing that lets them down is their Facebook page.  It looks great and, when it was being updated, it had an interesting combination of news, updates and images that were initiating conversation.  However it hasn’t been touched since October last year and it’s a shame.  It is likely that a lot more of their pupils and parents will be using Facebook, rather than or as well as Twitter, so there is a lot of opportunity for engagement.  Hopefully that’s next on their marketing to-do list.

It may have been the call of the 10am start that has brought the most attention to UCL Academy’s marketing department but there’s a lot more to it than that.  They are a good example of how universities, colleges and schools can get marketing right.