Having worked on a range of on-campus graduate experiences over the last 15 years, from life-size fibreglass horses (for Lloyds TSB) and interactive touchscreens (BAML) to helicopter simulators (Thales) and oxygen bars (Accenture) AIA Worldwide/TMP Worldwide have developed a great breadth of knowledge into what works on campus and what doesn’t. Below are the top five reflections, gained from our exhaustive experience, that we believe make a successful campaign. Some are simple, others more complex, but sometimes the simple things make the biggest impact:
- Outline your objectives
- Know your audience
- Great idea
1. Outline your objectives
It seems too obvious, but clarity and clear objectives are essential to any successful campaign. The objective and the subsequent brief are vital to your success and essential in determining the strategy you employ. For example, if brand recognition is the chief objective, a high-impact brand awareness approach (most likely involving food of some description) fits the bill. However, if the objectives run deeper than that, for instance if you are looking to raise awareness with a particular gender or ethnic group, your approach changes. Similarly, if you are focused on increasing the quality of applications, a more tailored and bespoke approach may be taken that prioritises spending quality time with students. Rather than playing a game or handing out cups of coffee, something that helps students develop their skills and engenders a feeling of learning or development, while also getting a chance to build a rapport with members of the firm, is likely to be a more effective route.
2. Know your audience
Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, once said: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Over the last 15 years we have learnt many things. Sometimes we’ve got things wrong, and we’re not afraid to admit that. In fact, we think those experiences have contributed enormously to making us a stronger agency. It means we know where the pitfalls are and how to avoid them.
For example, four years ago we worked with our client, Thales, to encourage more engineers to consider the company as an employer. Our on-campus idea employed the use of a photo booth and required students to upload pictures. The booth looked fantastic, but the actual uptake was poor. The reason was simple. Without stereotyping, we had designed something that was right for Thales and their brand, but not for the audience we were talking to. The engineers (especially in software and systems) tend to be introverted and shy. The idea of sitting in a photo booth just didn’t appeal to them.
As a result, we changed our approach and worked with graduate engineers to develop Arduino workshops that were tailored to systems and software engineers. They got the chance to learn about technology and put it into practice. Gimmicks were not the answer. We have run successful campus campaigns for Linklaters and Simmons & Simmons in the law sector and understand the importance of balancing the dual demands of appealing to law and non-law students, creating a buzz and building brand profile, but retaining an air of authority and sophistication.
If we know the audience, we can tailor the on-campus approach to the way they behave and what they will enjoy, whether it is a snackable activity (i.e. less than five minutes) or a more in-depth session/workshop/presentation. It’s also about staying on top of trends and understanding what is engaging the student community right now.
3. Great idea
With so many recruiters battling for attention on campus, it’s tough to stand out. It’s tough to be original, and it’s tough to balance a great idea with both budget and resource. Being on campus takes up a lot of recruiters’ time; there is nothing more disheartening than being on campus for the day and no-one paying you attention or taking part. That’s where the great idea comes in. As suggested above we have done the whacky ideas like igloos and horses, but we’ve also had great ideas that embraced social media and through other simple means.
The great ideas don’t always have to be expensive or big, and leveraging social media is a great way to keep costs down and minimise actual team time on campus if the resourcing team are time poor. The recent social media campaign for Linklaters helped address both these issues and led to a reach of over 6.3 million, something a presence at 10-15 universities would not have allowed. Linking your on-campus activity to your social media strategy has become vital and a great way to increase social engagement. An on-campus experience and your social media channels should be considered as one and not run in isolation from one another.
Check out these cool examples of on-campus engagement:
Mondelēz International – Snackfest from AIA Worldwide on YouTube.
Thales – Arduino from AIA Worldwide on YouTube.
4. The people
It sounds an obvious thing to say, but actually one of the key reasons given by students or newly joined graduates – when we’ve spoken to them – that convinced them to apply to a company/firm is a great initial meeting or conversation.
The people who represent you on campus are just as powerful – if not more so – than the images or marketing collateral you use. We have to ensure that the messages of your EVP are conveyed by the people who represent you on campus. A few years ago, we heard a story from one student who, when walking round a careers fair, stopped at large US law firm stand and asked the two students representing them ‘so what it’s like at x?‘ Their answer left the student stunned: they said: ‘To be honest, it’s terrible. If I was you, I wouldn’t apply’. Now, this is an extreme incident, and I’m sure your representatives would not say something like this, but that interaction stayed with that student. He likely told his peers and maybe even shared his experience on social media.
Getting the right people on campus isn’t always easy. Often, your most charismatic speakers are in high demand and not able to travel all over the country to speak to students. If you use campus ambassadors, are they trained enough? Are they a true reflection of your brand and your culture? Managing, training and coaching your representatives is all too often overlooked, despite it being such an integral part of a successful on-campus campaign.
A successful on-campus campaign takes planning. It requires attention to detail and should be thought of in phases.
A) The event planning: the logistics; the locations; the due diligence to make sure you’re in the right part of campus; the health & safety checks and university checks – everything has to be completed and agreed. Once the planning is done the focus then shifts to phase two.
B) Pre-launch: how will you promote your activity? Will you use your social media channels, paid social amplification, ambassadors to hand out flyers or engage with the university to make sure it is promoted in advance?
C) The event itself: it needs careful planning, in terms of attendees, a back-up plan if something breaks, someone who can make snap decisions if needed.
D) Post event activity: often the most overlooked phase of them all. Having met some great students during the event/day what do you intend to do next? How will you keep in touch? It has to be deeper than hoping they follow you on social media: you need a communications plan that builds on the relationship you have just started; you need to show the candidate you care about them and their interests. Do you invite the stars to a dinner or exclusive event, for instance? A successful on-campus graduate campaign needs to be expertly planned and, of course delivered.