Friends in high places: Getting to know department heads

During our series of offer holder communications last year, we saw some of our best engagement with an email containing a written message from the Head of Department. This year, we decided to take it one step further and record video messages.

Hello from your friendly neighbourhood academic

We decided to go for a ‘native’ style for these communications. We wanted the videos to feel like they could be a personal message that the Heads had recorded themselves: 30 seconds to a minute of kind words to spur on students who were probably in the midst of a stressful exam season.

Anyone who’s ever tried to find 30 minutes with a Head of Department will know that these senior academics are very busy people. It was tricky to find even just half an hour with all of them but, with some careful planning and quite a lot of dashing across campus, we managed to do it. It took a couple of months of weekly filming days to get them all in.

The finished product

We ended up with just under 30 short and sweet videos that included a quick hello, a flavour of what to expect in the first term and well wishes for exams. For some departments it made more sense to film someone other than the Head, for example when their role involves more contact with undergraduate students.

Some departments felt that a video just wasn’t right for them – and we said that was fine because we’d already thought of a Plan B. Students holding offers to study Biology, Social Policy, Social Work and Sociology received links to profiles of academic staff. During the interviews for these profiles, we learned some pretty cool things about our academics and our departments, and we’ve ended up with some pretty neat content that we’re now using in other places.

The academic profiles gave us the chance to get to know some of our colleagues, and to showcase their amazing stories.

After we’d edited all of the videos and uploaded them to YouTube, we put them into lovely emails sent out to all offer holders for each subject.

It was all worth it in the end

Looking at the analytics for all of the emails sent, we saw that, compared to last year’s Welcome from the Head message, we’d managed to more than double our click-through rate.
The good news doesn’t stop there. YouTube told us that most students were watching all the way through and students viewing the academic profiles stuck around on the pages for nearly five minutes (this could mean a few things but we’ve decided to take it to mean that they read every single word with awe and admiration). 

We’re so pleased with how it turned out that we’re hoping the recreate the success with more special messages from academics in next year’s communications. Fingers crossed it’ll be just a tiny bit easier this time around! 

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