With international students unavailable, and a mandate to only recruit from within their region, the WESTERN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY AT TARANAKI (WITT) nailed its 2022 recruitment.
Winning student’s hearts and minds
How does a Polytech find 18 percent year on year enrolment growth on a record year, with no more budget, no international students, and a mandate to only recruit from within their region? This was the challenge facing WITT – the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki as it prepared to recruit for the 2022 calendar year.
The WITT team answered the brief by taking a fresh look at the tertiary recruitment model. Most tertiary institutions assume there is a whole intake worth of prospective students just waiting for applications to open, needing little additional persuasion to enrol with them. Tier 1 universities might get away with that as most of their applicants are school leavers. But it’s different for Polytechs, where the majority of their students are over 30 years of age.
By mapping out the student journey, then using various research and data that was available, WITT quantified the potential audience, and identified the messages they needed to hear at each step in the journey in order to be attracted to furthering their career through vocational study.
Using WITT’s connection to the Taranaki region, the education provider used the institute’s overall strategy of connection with the people of Taranaki and its role as a contributor to the region’s prosperity.
The messaging took the form of a conversation based on explaining the new and innovative programmes and courses WITT was introducing; proving how study can help one change or progress one’s career; and nudging people who know they need more study, to do it now.
The EXPLAIN-PROVE-NUDGE approach provided the means to achieve the short-term recruitment goals, while also aligning WITT more closely with its overall business strategy.
The campaign line that lived across the entire campaign was “Kia Māia – Be a part of Taranaki’s future”, supported by including iconic imagery including the maunga (Mount Taranaki), Māori koru design and fern across the creative executions.
The EXPLAIN chapter involved updating the perceptions of locals on the new programmes and innovations WITT has introduced in response to the needs of the changing region. Courses featured included nursing and wellness, construction, Māori enterprise, and business.
Media, including newspaper (false wrap), long format radio, stuff homepage takeover, lifestyle magazine features, and large format outdoor, told the story.
The PROVE chapter followed later. This involved testimonials of real graduates, so also required channels that could deliver long copy, including newspaper ads, long format radio, and premium digital placements.
The NUDGE chapter took precedence as the Trimester 1 start date approached. This was a much more succinct message, utilising small format, high frequency placements including multiple outdoor formats, small format digital, search ads, short radio, and weekly newspaper ads. This layer also enabled WITT to use the granular targeting power of digital and social platforms to present ads at a course and programme level. These were updated regularly throughout the campaign, adding in new priority courses, and dialling up any that were tracking below target.
In a difficult and competitive market, the enrolments were above expectations, validating this innovative approach.
This article was originally published in the September/October 2022 issue of NZ Marketing. Click here to subscribe.