The University of Reading – one of the select research-intensive universities that make up the 1994 Group of high-quality academic institutions – was facing a more competitive environment in the UK and internationally as a result of the economic downturn and the UK Government’s move to a fee-paying higher education system. A strong profile and active engagement with domestic and international students – as well as alumni, academics and other stakeholders – through social media was seen to be increasingly important, and an area where the University could be competing more effectively.
Our starting point for the design of the programme was pivotal. We worked on the basis that the University needed to improve its digital awareness, understanding, strategy and capability – especially in the area of social media – in order to achieve its strategic goals. Using our DISC (Diagnosis->Integration->Strategy->Capabilities) process, we conducted a rapid discovery phase, combining research into audience usage and attitudes and sector best practice with a series of individual meetings with a cross section of key administrative and academic staff. In parallel, using the Sociagility PRINT™ Competitive Analysis methodology, we compared the University’s social media profile and performance with four benchmark institutions to determine where the opportunities for real competitive advantage laid.
A 48-page report was submitted within six weeks showing exactly where the University was positioned versus the sector and making recommendations for improvement. The project was highly successful in meeting the planned objectives:
- A better understanding of how social media is impacting on marketing communications, the higher education sector and the University of Reading – our research demonstrated the growing importance of social media for connecting with students, with prospective staff, with potential research partners and for revenue-generation through Government and alumni.
- An assessment of where the University is now and recommendations for where it could be – five key areas where improvements could be made in the short and long term where identified, along with 14 actionable recommendations.