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“Pandemials” criticise universities’ poor Covid-19 communications

Student engagement platform Global Young Minds has said in a new report that institutions and brands need to find other channels and presentations to reach Gen Z students as prescribed media “simply doesn’t cut it”.

PandemialsUniversities need to update their communications to suit their audience. Photo: Unsplash

"70% of Gen Zers follow at least one influencer"

The paper found students reported that even when universities are active on social media, it doesn’t connect with their cohort.

“The only noticeable difference [in communications] I noticed during the pandemic is that the university was sending more emails than usual,” said one student.

“Emails are not a very personable communication in a time where online learning made students feel very disconnected”

“Emails are not a very personable communication in a time where online learning made students feel very disconnected from their peers and the university. The high amount of emails received also meant that we (my friends and I) stopped reading them as they felt repetitive and not meaningful enough to look at every time.

“The university communication didn’t feel transparent enough and seemed more concerned about making sure students were getting tested and respecting rules. It was very alienating and frustrating to be consistently singled out this past year (by the government, press and universities) because of being a student.”

The report said that this had been “particularly stark” for international students. One respondent told that they had had trouble getting their complaints recognised by staff.

“As an international student, I remember emailing my school in September 2020 to complain that we had been misled to believe that classes would be a mix of in-person and online learning, only to find out that all my classes were online for the year,” they said.

“After a week, someone from the school replied to my email and acknowledged my situation, only to forward my email to the Pro-Vice Chancellor, whom I never heard from.

“I feel that I was not the only international student in this situation and feel bad for any students who moved overseas for the first time, only to be told to stay off-campus most of the year.”

According to Anthony Lee, founder and CEO at Global Young Minds part of the issue is that “the HE sector as a whole lags behind the commercial sector in terms of investment in digital, which sadly remains unchanged”.

“The HE sector as a whole lags behind the commercial sector in terms of investment in digital”

“What has changed is student expectations and bias towards brands that can communicate in real time.

“We are facing a generation that creates and disseminates content unlike any that has gone before. Gen Z will wield that digital influence to make and break brands.”

Traditional models of marketing communications “do not connect” with students with valid complaints about processes during the pandemic.

The report predicts that Gen Z will “turn their backs” on traditional leading brands that are to slow to adapt.

“According to the Nielsen Consumer Trust Index, 92% of consumers trust organic, user-generated content (UCG) more than they trust advertising,” the report noted.

“Influencers have become a vital part of the marketing mix for Gen Z.

“Almost half (44%) of Gen Z has made a purchase decision based on a recommendation from a social influencer, compared with 26% of the general population, researcher Kantar found in a consumer study shared with Mobile Marketer. 70% of Gen Zers follow at least one influencer on platforms like YouTube or Instagram, the study found.”

Global Young Minds is a think tank set up by three founders, including Anthony Lee, formerly of Study Group and INTO University Partnerships.

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