Marketing communication plan is an important document, which allows any organization to implement its communication strategy. It also guides organization to successful portray its values to the target audience. It also assists the organization in positioning its brand in the market and creating an efficient brand identity. The marketing communication plan also highlights the constraints and benefits of the proposed strategy, which allows an organization to view holistic picture of the situation. It also breaks down goals in identifiable and measurable goals, which later can be used for monitoring and evaluation purposes. Every organization develops plan according to its needs. In case of business school, the marketing communication plan should effectively portray the practical benefits such as employability to the target audience (Willems, 2009).
Changes in the dynamics of the education sector, in the wake of fees changes, has necessitated the development of the new strategy. The expected fee change at undergraduate lab will undoubtedly decrease the demand of undergraduate education. Resultantly, the onus of this paradigm shift will be on all those universities and colleges such as Hull, which derive maximum revenue from undergraduate education. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that a new strategy is developed, which is aimed at mitigating the effects of change in fees. Such strategy should use effective channels of communications in order to convince prospective students to opt for undergraduate education instead of going straight to employment. This strategy should also take into account the communication plans applied by competition to attract students. Communication strategy should be able to provide Hull University with a competitive advantage over the rivals in the selection and communication channel and the content of the message. Only through this, HUBS can effectively counter the negative effects of increased tuition fees and still attract a large number of students to come for undergraduate education (Brown, 2011).
UK higher education sector is highly competitive with different institutions using crafty communication plans and strategies to attract students towards them. However, Hull University is one of the most recognized educational institutions in the country. Consequently, it attracts a large number of local and international students. Hull University aims to maintain this status in the wake of changes in the fee structure at the undergraduate level. The increase in fee is expected to affect the number of total applications. As a result, the number of students coming to colleges is also expected to go down (Rice, 2011). According to a recent survey, increase in fee will adversely affect the stream of a large number of universities. Similarly, some regions of the country will be more affected than other regions. For instance, south east of the country is more likely to get affected than north and the east. In addition to this, it is also forecasted that international students will also prefer to go other countries other than UK due to disparity in fees (Moore et al., 2011). This will blow to the earning of almost entire higher education sector as the international students are the principal source of revenue for the universities. When looked in the context of government's visa controls, the increase in fee will definitely decrease the total number of students coming from abroad.
The impact of this change should also be measured on fields, which usually receive generous funding from the government. For instance, creative and digital arts usually get assistance from government due to their expensiveness in comparison to humanities. Likewise, increase in fees is expected to affect weak segments of the society such as women and poor and will reduce their chances to get a quality education. However, it should also be noted that the effects of the proposed change will take some time to materialize. Radical shifts in the demand should not be expected in the subsequent year. Instead, gradual change should be expected from the proposed amendment and its effects will take some time before it will take definite shape (Hyland & Trahar, 2011).
Marketing communication plan should be made with the understanding of the requirements of key stakeholders. Principal stakeholders are:
- Faculty: This consists of all the teachers, professors related with the task of teaching and research. For them, serious students with quality credential should be attracted.
- University Administration: In case of low student turnover, they are most likely to get affected, as any jobs cuts to compensate for low revenue, will come from them.
- Top-management: Their input is imperative for the success or failure of the plan. Top-management is mainly responsible for giving vision for the entire organization. The marketing communication plan should incorporate that plan within itself.
- Current students: The purpose of the plan should not only attract new students but also create a favourable impression in the eyes of current students.
The primary objective of the plan is to position the brand of University of Hull in the minds of the prospect students. In order to achieve this, objective is breaking down into following stages:
- To increase the traffic to Hull University by 10%.
- Decrease the bounce rate by at least 5%.
- To increase Facebook and Twitter membership by 10%.
- To maintain or increase by 10% all applications coming from domestic prospective students in the coming academic year.
- To maintain or increase by 5% all applications coming from international prospective students in the coming academic year.
- To maintain the current ratio of diversity on campus.
- To improve the perception of Hull University in the country.
- To effectively position it in the country against other institutions.
- To make Hull University preferred institution for both local and international students.
The objective of the marketing communication plan would be both cognitive and conative in nature. The campaign will not only increase the knowledge but will also persuade target audience to behave in manner.
The purpose of the communication plan is to attract prospective students to Hull University in the wake of fee increase in the undergraduate level. As a result, Hull University's marketing communication plan is to target students, who are aiming to come at the undergraduate level. Such category of students has most likely completed their higher secondary level or high school. In addition to this, they should have certain personality traits, which make them able to benefit from a college education. They should be creative, free-spirited and at the same time team player. Furthermore, the prospective students should show ambition and enthusiasm to succeed in practical field. The purpose of the marketing plan would be to target and convince such group of students to make Hull as their preferred choice for study. The plan should be channel through that medium, which could present Hull in the best possible manner. It is difficult to target this group, as it spread geographically throughout the country. The most appropriate manner to target such group is through targeting high schools and higher secondary institutions. This would make marketing Hull University is easy and feasible.
In order to attract prospective students, Hull University would have to adopt a two-tier strategy, which is as follows:
- Direct marketing: It will be used to communicate the brand of Hull University in high schools and higher secondary schools. This will allow Hull University to build sustainable relationship with higher secondary institutions and schools, which could be hugely beneficial in the long-run. Moreover, the results of this strategy could be easily measurable, which will allow evaluation and subsequent improvement in the strategy. Hull University could achieve a number of benefits such as increased level of personalization, responsive communication and cost-effectiveness. This will enable HUBS to increase its interaction with the prospective students. This model of communication will also facilitate the process of feedback, which eventually can go a long way in developing relationship with the target audience.
- Internet Marketing: As the target audience also consists of international students, it will be necessary for Hull University to reach out to them. This can easily be done through internet marketing. However, it is of utmost importance that internet marketing is done in a targeted manner in order to increase its effectiveness. Internet marketing can play a considerable role in attracting international prospective students to come to University's website or Facebook and Twitter page. Another dimension of internet marketing will be the advertising of University's website at different education and related websites, which will divert traffic to University's website. Moreover, the availability of blogs, which will cater to the needs of students and academicians, will also increase the web presence of HUBS.
The directing marketing will be done on high point in the recruitment calendar whereas the internet marketing will be conducted throughout the year. The message communicated through the marketing plan is to position Hull University as the institution, which delivers distinctive learning experience. This positioning would be done through communicating courses, which are offered by the university as well as different features of university's life. This will allow Hull University to attract the target audience and persuade them to join the university. For international students, who will most likely to get information from university's website, the message will consists of anecdotes of different students corroborating that Hull is a place of distinctive learning and diversity. It offers experience, which will go a long way in assisting them in their practical lives. Such message will be more than adequate in attracting prospective students to attend HUBS. It will even mitigate the negative effects of proposed fees change as the target audience will perceive greater benefits from the undergraduate education in comparison to the increased cost related to the education.
The message in both cases will also communicate salient features of Hull University's strategic plan. It will communicate to the prospective students that Hull is a destination for excellent research facilities. This includes collaboration with local and international institutions in research endeavours. Likewise, it offers education, which makes students employable in their respective fields. In addition to this, Hull University has a large alumni network, which will help students in placement. These features will be communicated in different ways to attract to prospective students to opt for Hull University.
Direct marketing will be communicated through a number of channels. It will take the shape of personal marketing in the form of visits by the college administration to different high schools and higher secondary institutions. Similarly, Hull University will also conduct open houses in different cities of the country in order to interact with prospective students. In addition to this, medium such direct mail and telemarketing will also be used to reach out to target institutions and students. On the other hand, as mentioned before, internet will be the medium of choice for the second type of marketing. This will increase the global reach of the university but at low cost.
This is the time students, start to research about different higher education institutions. During this period, Hull University can send brochures and pamphlets as part of their direct marketing to different high schools. These brochures on notice boards of schools can provide detailed information about the institutions and their values. Likewise, during this time, Facebook and Twitter can post valuable information regarding the requirements of the admission, scholarship, etc. In addition to this, University can subscribe the prospective students with e-newsletter in order to provide valuable information on a periodic basis.
During this time, HUBS needs to its increase its direct marketing effort through conducting open days and visiting higher secondary schools. This will allow HUBS to increase its interaction with the prospective students. Such interaction clear students' queries and provide them with the necessary information for admission process. This period will be the opportunity for the HUBS to inculcate in the students the brand values of HUBS and benefits of education there.
During this period, the UCAS is open for applications. Students start to gain more information about the prospective choices. Internet marketing can create a difference during this period. By diverting traffic to HUBS website, university administration can considerably increase the number of applications in the coming year.
HUBS should increase its direct marketing effort during this period. By showing the distinctive features of the HUBS, university can attract a large number of applicants during this phase. HUBS should try to show to the target audience that HUBS is the best place for their future career. This can be done through providing opportunities to the prospective students to meet with currents students and university's alumni. Furthermore, HUBS administration should also be proactive in providing assistance to the prospective students during this phase in order to increase the conversion ratio.
This is the time, when students finalize their UCAS applications. HUBS could follow-up with the students regarding their preferences for record purposes.
The primary focus of the campaign will be on non-paid communication. However, some operational costs will be incurred during the implementation campaign. The marketing communication plan aims to keep the costs below the head of £5000.
It is imperative that marketing communication plan is constantly evaluated to bring in it the required improvements. Fortunately, there are a number of metrics available, which can be used by Hull University to gauge and measure the effectiveness of its marketing communication plan. For instance, presence in the media in terms number of articles related to it can be used as a criterion for the success or failure of the plan. In addition to this, increase in number of members on Facebook and Twitter is another criterion. The average daily traffic on Hull University websites can also be used to measure the effectiveness of the campaign. And lastly, the conversion ratio in terms of percentage, who applied for undergraduate program after visiting the website or attending the university's open day. These metrics should be applied on a periodic basis in order to evaluate the performance of the indicators on a regular basis. Only through this, HUBS can make sure that it is on the right track and it is effectively communicating the intended message to the target audience. In other words, following will be the main metrics to assess and evaluate the performance of the campaign:
- Total number of visits to Facebook page.
- Total number of visits to Twitter page.
- Total number of visits to HUBS website.
- Total number of applications for undergraduate program.
There are also some weaknesses, which need to be taken into account. First of all, it is imperative for direct marketing to work effectively that the accurate criterion of the target audience is developed. Otherwise, the whole campaign will be a waste of resources and time. Direct marketing may also fail to develop effective relationship with brand values. On the other hand, internet marketing may also face some problems. For instance, the accuracy of internet marketing is usually considered extremely low. And similarly, it is difficult to ascertain whether that the message of the brand is communicated effectively to the target audience.
HUBS has the opportunity to effectively communicate its message to the target audience. The communication of the message has become more prominent due to the expected change in the fee structure. This change is forecasted to adversely affect the demand of incoming students. As a result, it has become necessary for institutions such as Hull to increase its communication effort in order to cope with impending predicament. Resultantly, HUBS's marketing communication plan should incorporate the interests of all stakeholders in order to become effective as well as efficient. The plan also presents short-term, medium-term and long-term goals, which will allows the evaluation of the strategy quite easy. Through this marketing communication plan, HUBS aims to counter the adverse effects of the proposed fees change and at the same time attract new students.
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