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Academics are HEIs’ greatest digital marketing resource

Universities should put professors, researchers and other academic staff at the forefront of digital marketing campaigns in order to boost reputation and brand awareness, according to a panel of media and marketing experts.

John Gill, Editor, Times Higher Education, Tania Rhodes-Taylor, director of Marketing and Communications, Queen Mary University of London, Universities UK's Alistair Jarvis and Stephen Khan, Editor, The Conversation at the UUK digital marketing conference.

"There’s a hunger for expert knowledge and I think that the sector has to present itself to help fill that gap"

Speaking at the Universities UK digital marketing and communications conference in London last week, Tania Rhodes-Taylor, director of Marketing and Communications, Queen Mary University of London, Stephen Khan, Editor, The Conversation and John Gill, Editor, Times Higher Education all suggested that academics should be encouraged to engage with students on the institutions’ various digital and social media platforms.

“It’s the people that make the university, it’s not just a bunch of buildings with a sign outside the front door,” commented Gill.  “Academics can be incredibly good ambassadors for universities. I think you’d be mad not to make the most of it.”

Furthermore, Khan said that academics can set a university apart by adding value to marketing campaigns.

“There is a gap, there’s a hunger for expert knowledge, and I think that the sector has to present itself to help fill that gap,” he told HE delegates. “The academics are the ‘gold’ in a sense and should be treasured.”

“The academics are the ‘gold’ in a sense and should be treasured”

Concerns were voiced by university representatives that handing over social media accounts like Twitter to academics could result in too many tones of voice or potentially controversial statements.

Rhodes-Taylor disagreed, saying: “If giving your Twitter account over to your academic colleagues is so dangerous that you wouldn’t do it, then I think you’ve got a bigger problem than just social media.”

“Many universities are just using social media as a way of pushing information and they’re not engaging back. It has to have an authentic voice to work,” she said.

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