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Perception survey – paper and online

Harlow College

In ONE WORD, How would you describe Harlow College?


Background

Harlow College is a medium-sized tertiary college located on a single site close to Harlow town centre, North West Essex. Historically, educational aspiration in Harlow tends to be low, with capable learners in Harlow aspiring to go to Hertfordshire/Cambridge. However, Harlow College had been undergoing a transformation over the previous five to six years and had recently achieved the prestigious status of No 1 college in England. Mackman were commissioned by Harlow College to develop a tactical marketing campaign to help change out-dated perceptions of Harlow College. The main focus of the campaign was to raise awareness of Harlow College’s award winning status of Number 1 College in England.

Approach 

The campaign would target potential students, students who would not have considered Harlow due to its perceived poor reputation, and existing students at the college. The campaign also needed to target the parents of potential/existing students to raise awareness of the option for suggesting Harlow College to their children. The initial stage of the campaign was to conduct a perception survey with both students and parents of Year 10 students (age 14/15). The results were used as the drive to inform the marketing campaign. Mackman Research designed a questionnaire for both student and parent responses, which contained equivalent questions for easy evaluation between the two populations.

The student survey was in the form of a five page paper questionnaire. A school which has a high proportion of students attending nearby Harlow College every year was enlisted for the perception survey. The student survey took place in the last week of the summer academic term. A £15 iTunes voucher was offered as an incentive for students to complete the survey. In a bid to capture parent views and perceptions of Harlow College a second survey with equivalent questions was designed for respective parents of students at the same school. Survey participation for parents was in the form of an online survey. A £50 Tesco gift voucher was offered as an incentive for parents of Year 9/10 students to complete the survey. The school emailed parents, via parentmail, inviting them to take part in the survey.

Results

The data showed that:

  • Higher achieving students are less likely to attend Harlow
  • Lower achieving students see Harlow as inevitable
  • Some parents are suspicious of the No1 results claim
  • The general perception of Harlow College seems to be hampered by a Harlow halo effect

The information gathered was then used to inform the content and tone of the marketing campaign that followed, as well as influencing the decision to use existing students to evolve the branding away from a ‘faceless’ college. The marketing campaign included a microsite and an integrated social media campaign, poster advertising, radio ads, pop-up stands for educational fairs, a t-shirt design competition, a broad sheet-style-style newspaper about Harlow life. The success of the campaign was measured by seeing student enrolment up by 19%, a 16% increase in open day attendance, 24% increase in website traffic and Facebook ‘likes’ up by 387%.