Featuring from The PIE Live Boston, we're exploring a transformative journey fusing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. As a speaker, at the event, Alejandra engaged with the audience by guiding them through the following question: How can institutions future-proof their strategies by harnessing AI and CRM to elevate both student and staff experiences?
Before delving into the applications of AI, educational institutions collectively hold a set of common objectives, serving as foundational pillars guiding their strategic initiatives. These objectives encompass fostering growth through increased student enrollments, promoting cross-selling and up-selling to enhance retention rates, optimizing marketing and recruitment processes, and laying the groundwork for informed decision-making by improving data quality.
Simultaneously, institutions aim to simplify staff members' workloads, gain real-time visibility into marketing and recruitment performance, streamline conversion times from prospect to student, enhance the overall student experience, centralize data for collaborative decision-making, and increase conversions and return on investment (ROI). These shared objectives underscore the holistic approach institutions take to cultivate a thriving and student-centric educational ecosystem. But, where does AI sit in this journey to elevate these endeavors?
To comprehend how AI can propel these objectives into tangible achievements, a brief exploration of AI types within the realm of international education marketing and student recruitment is essential.
1. Predictive AI: This involves automatically filling out the end of phrases and employing recommendation systems based on data and CRM.
2. Generative AI: This encompasses the automatic generation of website content, copy, images, and presentations for marketing and admissions tasks.
3. Autonomous AI: This entails utilizing conversational AI with trained and customized chatbots, personalized AI assistants/agents/concierges that assist users across platforms.
This journey from predictive to generative and, finally, autonomous AI augments productivity capabilities, encompassing note-taking, summary creation, trend/pattern identification, and the creation of models to resolve bottlenecks.
Envision personalized emails about career opportunities tailored to the program of interest. With AI, institutions can automatically generate and send such emails at the optimal time, providing students valuable insights into their future careers. AI-driven remarketing tactics go beyond traditional methods, recommending content based on interactions to create a personalized approach to re-engage and nurture prospective students. Addressing hesitations in the enrollment process through AI concierge suggestions facilitated by conversational assistants dynamically engage potential students convincing them to overcome challenges and make informed enrollment decisions.
For staff, the integration of AI and CRM translates to having access to a comprehensive source of truth. Aggregated data from internal sources (such as contact forms) and external data (like career outcomes' news) is centralized in the CRM, offering a holistic view for informed decision-making. Real-time data insights empower admissions teams to engage with prospects at the right time, avoiding dropouts and improving conversions. AI-enhanced analytics, dashboard visualization, and forecasting provide marketing teams with valuable insights, considering seasonality per recruitment source to support decision-making processes and optimize strategies.
The future-proofed AI + CRM journey in education is reshaping how institutions connect with students and manage internal processes. From personalized emails and autonomous AI assistants to real-time data insights and predictive analytics, the integration of AI and CRM is not just a technological advancement but a strategic move towards enhancing the entire student lifecycle.
As institutions align their objectives, embrace AI types, and unlock augmented productivity, they are poised to revolutionize student recruitment and engagement in the years to come. Curious about how we can make this happen for you? Reach out to us, and let's accelerate your CRM + AI journey, providing you with a data-driven, 360-degree student journey for increased process efficiency.
In the ever-evolving landscape of knowledge and expertise, the dynamic force of collaboration and shared experiences emerges as a priceless asset. Within the geNEOus team, the art of exchanging ideas, tools, and resources is a passion that drives us. Today, we extend our arms to our wider community, eager to illuminate a path strewn with the gems of our collective wisdom.
We are excited to share a collection of our team members' favorite resources. These span a wide spectrum, from books, blogs that have sparked transformative shifts in thinking, to online tools and apps that have streamlined our workflows and productivity.
Whether you're seeking to expand your horizons, enhance your skills, or simply find a new source of joy, we are confident that you will stumble upon an array of treasures resonating with your aspirations.
Hamzah recommends a great movie that we think our geNEOus community will enjoy. "The Pursuit of Happyness" is an inspiring film based on a true story about a man named Chris Gardner, played by Will Smith. Chris overcomes many challenges to create a better life for himself and his son. This movie reminds us all that hard work, not giving up, and facing tough times are important when we want to achieve our goals. We can make positive changes in education, just like Chris did, by finding strength in difficult situations.
Ashley brings in a series recommendation that reflects the spirit of our geNEOus team. "Sense 8" is a show that revolves around eight people living in different parts of the world, yet they share deep emotional and mental connections. Ashley sees parallels between the interconnectedness of the characters and the tight bonds within our geNEOus world. Despite physical distances, we remain remarkably connected, a testament to our shared purpose and unity. Ashley believes this series can remind us of our global ties, especially in a world where face-to-face interactions have become less common. Even as the world changes, our interconnectedness endures.
Alejandra invites us to explore the "Hidden Brain" podcast, an audio space that delves into the intricacies of human behavior and psychology. This choice reflects Alejandra's curiosity about different geographic locations and the connections that bind us all. Just as she seeks to stay linked through technology during her travels, "Hidden Brain" enables us to understand the invisible threads that shape our thoughts and actions, complementing the team's pursuit of holistic wisdom.
Sole advocates for a book that's been popular for a long time. "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us" is a book that talks about what makes us want to do things. It's an interesting book that helps us understand how we can do better in our personal and work lives. It's not too hard to read, and it has lots of real stories to learn from.
Sara tells us about a series she really likes, "Life in Colour with David Attenborough." This show is like a beautiful painting of the natural world. Sara thinks about how animals adapt to their environments and change, just like our geNEOus team does. The series shows us how amazing nature is and how we can learn from it. Sara hopes it will inspire us to handle changes in our lives with strength and grace.
Mark introduces the Headway App, a valuable tool for busy individuals seeking knowledge. With a monthly fee, the app provides 15-minute summaries of impactful books and key critical theories. Ideal for those with limited time, this app offers efficient access to a wealth of knowledge.
Purity shares a song that has a special message, especially during uncertain times like the aftermath of the pandemic. "Doris Day - Que Sera, Sera" is a song that reminds us that sometimes we can't control everything in life. Purity understands how hard it can be to feel like things are out of our hands, and this song helps her find peace when things feel overwhelming.
We're happy to share our favorite resources with you. We hope you find something you enjoy from our list. Let's keep learning and growing together!
As the summer sun starts to shine brighter, it's the perfect time to revamp our marketing playbook, especially for us in the education sector. Let's face it, the hot spot to catch potential students and their families right now is social media. But what if we added a twist to the old story and brought sustainability into the mix? Let's delve into how we can merge Paid Media and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into a turbocharged strategy.
Creating a well-structured paid media strategy during the summer can give your educational institution a competitive edge, specially for those students and parents who haven't still made a final decision for the upcoming intake. It is key that your institution has strong visibility during this period, and an effective paid media campaign can shed a spotlight on your institution, making it a top choice.
In an era where the social media landscape is constantly changing, it's critical for institutions to keep up with the times. Major platforms like Twitter (or should we say "X" now?), TikTok, Spotify, and Meta are shifting gears to remain competitive and relevant.
Remember when we knew Twitter as the platform with the cute blue bird logo? Well, thanks to Elon Musk, it's all about the mysterious black and white X now. Despite facing some hiccups, this rebranding could be part of a grand plan to morph Twitter into an "everything app". On the flip side, Meta's new platform, Threads, has exploded onto the scene, racking up more than 100 million users in less than a week! If successful, this could be a game-changer for education marketing!
Meanwhile, TikTok is jazzing up its offerings by adding text-only posts to its popular video content. It's also trying to rival Spotify and Apple Music with its new music streaming service. These expansions can provide educational institutions new ways to share their stories and engage with their audience, although with increasing subscription prices, institutions looking to advertise on Spotify might have to review their marketing budgets.
To attract potential students, it's crucial to have a presence on these popular platforms. But what's even better than just reaching out to potential students with the same old narrative on revamped platforms? How about serving future generations through a sustainability angle? Greenwashing and green-hushing aside, let's talk about how we can merge Paid Media and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into one powerhouse of a strategy.
From 2005 to 2014, the United Nations had this brilliant idea. They called it the "Decade of ESD", basically a worldwide push to make education more about creating sustainable societies. A report from UNESCO in 2017 showed that this idea caught on big time. ESD isn't just an extra credit project anymore; it's central to how we think about education.
Fast-forward to today. We're now in the thick of the Global Action Program (GAP) phase, where we're hustling to expand ESD actions to make sure all learners are ready to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty for sustainable development by 2030.
Real-life success stories, unique green programs, and video content showcasing your eco-initiatives can go a long way. Now, summer is prime time for students and their families to research future education options. So, it's the perfect opportunity to crank up the visibility for educational institutions, especially those taking the lead in ESD. A rock-solid paid media campaign can make your institution shine, attracting environmentally savvy students and their families.
Remember, Gen Alpha cares about climate change and sustainable development. They want to see that their educational institution is walking the talk on these issues. And this is where colleges and universities have some catching up to do with K12 schools. Students want to see their institutions making a real difference and committing to a sustainable future.
In terms of paid media, this means promoting not just your institution's academic programs, but its green initiatives as well. Share stories of sustainability on your social media, show off your green campus initiatives, and let your students share their own eco-friendly experiences.
So how can you hit a home run with your institution's paid media strategy this summer? Keep these tips in mind:
1. Know Your Turf: Make sure you've got a solid presence on the platforms that are popular with your audience.
2. Speak Their Language: Understand what your audience wants from an institution and know how to promote yourself to them.
3. Play Your Aces: Share real-life success stories, highlight unique programs, and use video content to bring your institution to life.
We're here to help you spark your summer marketing game. Looking to increase your visibility around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or simply need help navigating this ever-changing social media landscape to make your institution stand out from the crowd? Reach out to us, and let's have a brainstorming chat to help you to achieve this goal. Telling compelling, authentic stories can connect with Gen Alpha, and incorporating this into your marketing and communications strategies can help build momentum for a greener future. We're here to help you along the way.
As we continue on a digital transformation path of international education, community building platforms are proving to be an unstoppable force, revolutionizing the way international students experience learning. The paradigm has shifted from the traditional classroom-centric approach to a more holistic strategy that nurtures an environment of inclusivity, connectedness, and consistent support. Trust and genuine connections are not merely buzzwords but pillars of these thriving communities.
These spaces are a treasure trove of resources not just for future learners, but also act as engagement hubs for current students and evangelization platforms for alumni.
INTO University Partnerships recently launched a Gen Z-focused community platform. Designed with an understanding of the unique challenges faced by the younger generations of students, this platform fosters trust by providing real-time, relevant support and guidance. Students can interact with peers, faculty, and alumni in a safe, online environment, enhancing the authenticity of their relationships.
The Student World App, another recent launch and a company from FPP, exemplifies how technology can be used to drive engagement, trust, and authenticity. It connects prospective students with educational institutions around the world, enabling direct, authentic dialogue. The platform's use of advanced algorithms ensures that each student receives personalized recommendations, creating an environment of trust and promoting genuine interactions.
Another notable player in this field is IDP, who recently acquired the Ambassador Platform, a tool designed to facilitate peer-to-peer conversations. Here, trust is built through shared experiences and firsthand insights. This platform allows prospective students to ask current students or alumni about their real-life experiences. It promotes genuine conversations that paint a realistic picture of life at a particular institution, thus aiding prospective students in making informed decisions.
The Social Hub, similarly, shifted its branding from The Student Hotel in order to leverage community building as a tool to forge genuine connections. Its ecosystem provides a unified space where international students can share their stories, experiences, and advice. It not only empowers students by giving them a voice, but also fosters an environment where they co-live with other stakeholders, giving them access to the corporate sphere in the same space.
The rise of these platforms points towards a paradigm shift in the international education sector's approach towards student engagement. These initiatives offer an array of benefits to future students, current students, and alumni alike. For future students, these platforms are a reliable wellspring of firsthand insights, fostering trust, and genuine connections that aid in their academic decision-making journey. They enable learners to immerse themselves in the campus culture, academic environment, and peer experiences even before setting foot on campus.
For current learners, these platforms are engagement goldmines. They offer opportunities to connect, share experiences, and find peer support. By fostering a sense of community, these initiatives boost learner satisfaction, alleviate isolation, and enrich the learning experience.
For alumni, these platforms pave the way for evangelization and recommendation. Alumni can share their journey, mentor current learners, and advocate for their alma mater, thereby shaping the institution's perception and playing a role in attracting future learners.
With Gen Z and Alpha generations seeking authentic, immediate peer information, the burgeoning growth of community building platforms for international students is a testament to strategic initiatives fostering trust and genuine connections. These platforms are powerful tools for recruitment, engagement, and evangelization, enhancing the entire learner experience from prospect to alumni.
Whether your institution has a proprietary app or leverages community-building services, the transformative power of these platforms is undeniable. At geNEOus, we are passionate about supporting your community-building efforts, affirming the universal human need to belong. Learners who resonate with a community are more likely to provide authentic feedback, advocate for the institution, and contribute to its evolution. We foster organic connections and enduring relationships right from the beginning enduring their entire learning journey, across both online and offline spaces.
Education marketing and recruitment isn't just a funnel; it's a cyclical process. We offer our clients and partners three vital touch-points in this cycle: Web3 Community Development, Student Satisfaction & Retention, and Evangelist Program. Through these, we aim to help you engage with the fast-paced digital world, enhance learner satisfaction and retention, and nurture a network of brand evangelists. We are your trusted allies in this journey, helping you ride the learning curve, respond to international student needs, and leave a lasting imprint on the education landscape.
So, whether you're considering any of these services or are simply looking for authentic new ways to connect with your students, we at geNEOus are there for you to support you in your community building efforts.
Last week was definitely one to remember! Yes, this was the week of the NAFSA: Association of International Educators 2023 Conference in Washington D.C.
Our Founder & CEO Alejandra Otero had the pleasure to be a panelist alongside Piet Van Hove, Nannette Ripmeester and Daniel Ponce-Taylor as they explored an emerging topic which is becoming a hot-button issue in intled: SDGs in Higher Education Marketing: Essential or Just Another Ingredient?
We are aware that not everyone in our sector was able to attend NAFSA, and we saw first-hand the level of interest our talk generated, so we have decided to dive into a more comprehensive recap for our friends and colleagues.
We started by exploring the potential of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a differentiator in higher education marketing. If you are new to the role of the SDGs in the field of Education For Sustainable Development (ESD), then why not read our 5-minute crash course. We also have a short podcast on why we in education really need to step up our efforts around sustainability.
We examined the expectations of younger generations regarding social responsibility and the importance of the SDGs, which connects very closely to the rise in focus on impact rankings for Higher Education. At NAFSA, however, we focused more specifically on the role of SDGs in higher education marketing, particularly in relation to employability and student recruitment.
Our objectives here were to establish the SDGs' relevance as a sustainability framework in higher education, evaluate their marketing prominence, assess the importance of SDG literacy for the future, and generate innovative ideas for incorporating them into marketing campaigns. It all started with asking the 3 following questions:
When it comes to showcasing their impact on #sustainability, the approaches do actually vary based on the institution type.
Business schools are undergoing a transition from a for-profit mindset to a for-purpose mindset. This shift in mentality emphasizes the importance of sustainability and #socialimpact. To showcase their commitment, business schools employ full marketing tactics; leveraging hashtags, events, dedicated landing pages, and videos. They actively engage in raising awareness and promoting their sustainability initiatives. Moreover, business schools place a higher focus on preparing students for the #jobsofthefuture, enhancing their #employability in the sectors which are more explicitly connected to sustainability.
Case Study 1: NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business (CSB) - "A Better World Through Better Business". CSB's core mission is to unlock the business value of sustainability and catalyze transformative change. Founded on the principle that sustainable business practices are not only ethically sound but also beneficial for enterprises, NYU Stern School of Business' CSB engages in education, research, and industry influence. By showcasing the financial advantages of integrating sustainability into business practices, CSB equips current and future corporate leaders with cutting-edge frameworks for proactive and innovative sustainability strategies, thereby gaining a competitive edge, and making a positive social impact.
Case Study 2: RSM Erasmus - Driving business through the SDGs - this concise 7-week online program offers a valuable opportunity to enhance awareness regarding the pivotal role of business in driving the transition towards sustainable development. It provides participants with foundations to assess the efficacy of current business strategies in making progress towards the SDGs. Additionally, this program serves as an excellent stepping stone towards other comprehensive full-time programs delivered by Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, catering to an already engaged audience eager to translate their initial learnings into impactful action.
Case Study 3: Under the banner of #INSEADforGood, INSEAD has been walking the talk through various initiatives: the SDGs Speaker Series, the Business & Society Summit, their Mission To Change Podcast and Quarterly Activity Updates they provide their audience with, among others. These endeavors highlight the financial opportunities linked to embracing the SDGs. This resonant message has influenced the discourse led by INSEAD's Hoffmann Global Institute for Business & Society, advocating for business education to align with the SDGs. Engaging students and alumni in hands-on projects on demonstrating how corporate ventures that generate positive impact can also be profitable has been one of their missions on this SDG road, going one step beyond the traditional CSR route.
Case Study 4: according to a recent report from AACSB, two other French institutions have also been engaging on a hands-on approach for their students in regard to SDGs. As a matter of fact, EM Strasbourg Business School in France, offers internships to students who propose ideas on how to further advance the SDGs, allowing them to implement their plans. Similarly, Emlyon business school targets one SDG each year through its events, courses, conferences, and partnerships, equipping students from day one with the tools to address associated challenges.
In contrast, universities are tending to focus less on marketing and more on the implementation of sustainability practices across their operations, leading to a complete revamp of their operational models. They prioritize a transversal approach, integrating sustainability into various facets of their institution. As a result, universities receive higher ratings and recognition in sustainability rankings, demonstrating their holistic dedication to the cause. Moreover, they make significant contributions to the field through a substantial volume of academic research papers dedicated to sustainability. Furthermore, universities are evolving into living labs and #innovation centers that serve as hubs connecting local governments, research institutes, and businesses, thereby playing a transformative role in enhancing community-wide efforts.
Case Study 5: Impact rankings. In contrast to conventional rankings that assess factors like research quantity, teaching quality, and staff-to-student ratio, impact rankings evaluate an institution's contribution to a sustainable future for the planet, society, and economy. Two prominent rankings, the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings (Times Higher Education) and the QS Sustainability Ranking (QS Quacquarelli Symonds), showcase a fascinating list of universities either through an SDGs lens or environmental and social impact respectively. These rankings frequently diverge from traditional academic rankings in terms of the institutions included and their geographical locations. As a result, previously unfamiliar universities have the opportunity to gain prominence, disrupting the traditional hierarchy, and reshaping the criteria that prospective students consider when choosing a university.
Case Study 6: SDGs Research Dashboards provide schools with valuable insights into the actions taken by institutions worldwide to address each of the goals. These dashboards enable schools to identify collaboration opportunities, benchmark their efforts, and stay informed about global initiatives. As an illustration, Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia has created a tool that provides visibility into the actions taken by schools worldwide, although it is currently predominantly utilized by American universities to showcase their SDGs research. Similarly, Aurora Universities in Europe has created a tool to visualize the research focus of their member universities in relation to the SDGs.
Case Study 7: The University of Surrey has consolidated its institutional operations and activities related to the SDGs in a comprehensive Sustainable Development Goals Report. Unlike mainstream, the University of Surrey has gone beyond focusing on emissions targets and biodiversity on campus. They have embraced sustainability in areas such as gender equality, equity of opportunity, innovation, and the circular economy. In essence, they have addressed the issues that matter to young people in their pursuit of a better world, in a visually appealing and very comprehensive report which is engaging for all stakeholders.
Case Study 8: The Aga Khan Foundation Learning Hub empowers development practitioners and communities by providing accessible online content on key topics. With 50+ years of experience, they collaborate to enhance quality of life and promote self-reliance in underserved communities. Mapping their offerings to specific SDGs ensures comprehensive coverage and expands their impact. By using SDGs as a universal framework, they bridge silos between NGOs and other institutions, fostering new networks and connecting learning to global issues through specific challenges.
To maximize the benefits and expertise in sustainability, both #universities and business schools can collaborate through public-private partnerships. Such collaborations would allow them to leverage each other's efforts and knowledge. By embracing these partnerships, institutions can collectively work towards a more sustainable future, combining academia, business, and the strengths of both sectors.
The role of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and sustainability in general is crucial in education marketing, student recruitment, enrollment management, and student retention, especially for individuals and market segments that prioritize social responsibility and seek to make a positive impact through their education and career choices.
One significant aspect is the influence of social media engagement, particularly among Gen Z, who are known for their social consciousness. Online #influencers such as Jhanneu, Shelbizleee and TheAmandaGorman actively participate in discussions on sustainability and promote social and environmental causes, resonating with socially-conscious individuals.
Youth-led movements also play a significant role in advocating for climate action and social justice. Initiatives like FridaysForFuture spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, have encouraged school students to skip classes on Fridays to demand action from political leaders to combat climate change. Additionally, the Malala Fund, founded by the young Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, advocates for girls' education, while One Young World brings together a global community of young leaders to work on social impact initiatives.
All of these disparate personas and activities have but one framework in common to contextualize their objectives and sense of purpose: the SDGs.
Surveys and studies have revealed that sustainability and social responsibility have an influential role in decision-making when choosing higher ed institutions.
Students now consider how their studies can contribute to a positive impact on global issues, beyond simply deciding on what and where to study. At the 2022 Times Higher Education Global Sustainable Development Congress in Glasgow University, Tony Chan, President of KAUST (Saudi Arabia), said that “more and more students are coming to us asking not what they might study, or what career they might pursue, but rather how they might help to solve the issues they care about”.
A worldwide online survey by the National Union of Students UK in 2018 found that "91% of respondents believed their place of study should actively incorporate and promote sustainable development." However, only "17% rate their uni as "very good" in relation to the action it takes to limit the negative impact it has on the environment and society". In other words, there is still work to be done, as "25% of the surveyed students had never heard of the SDGs".
Digging deeper, a study by the Pew Research Center in 2021 stated that "young adults were far more concerned about climate harming them personally at some point in their lifetime than other adults were in most countries surveyed".
These findings primarily originate from developed economies, underscoring the growing significance of enhancing sustainability efforts and setting a positive example for leading economies. It is crucial for the "Global North" to address the imbalances they create, as their actions not only impact themselves but also disproportionately burden the "Global South". In addition to improving sustainability practices, support must be extended to the developing nations to mitigate the future consequences of global issues, especially considering their limited resources to move beyond meeting the current needs of their citizens.
According to The World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs Report for 2023, the labor market is anticipated to undergo a significant transformation, with a projected "loss of 83 million jobs and the creation of 69 million new jobs over the next five years" (Figure 3.1). Notably, Sustainability Specialists are expected to experience substantial growth in the workforce, ranking second in terms of occupational growth after #AI and machine learning Specialists, which are forecasted to be the leading occupation in generating new jobs (Figure 3.3). This highlights the urgent necessity for Higher Education institutions to integrate comprehensive sustainability practices and adequately prepare GenZ and GenAlpha for future employability success. However, it should be noted here that all jobs will be impacted by the need for sustainable thinking and decision-making.
As a result, institutions now have a new competitive advantage by being selected by students based on criteria beyond the traditional factors of education quality, affordability, location, or subject of studies. This presents an opportunity for #governments to galvanize their actions on sustainability as a nation. Joint public-private #partnerships can recognize the importance of sustainability and work together to integrate the SDGs into curricula and global citizenship activities, educating students and society about global challenges and engaging them in sustainable development efforts.
An excellent example of this is the GALLANT project in Glasgow, in which the University of Glasgow has developed a “living lab” to research and test solutions to support the local government and council to improve the sustainability of its community. Students are actively involved in helping to solve tangible problems like air quality, barriers to active travel, and resistance to circular economy initiatives.
It is important to note that awareness and engagement levels may vary across regions, socioeconomic backgrounds, educational contexts, and global exposure, but this is indeed why the SDG goals and indicators are regionally adaptive.
As the countdown to 2030 continues its rapid pace, it is crucial that we come together to empower both ourselves and our institutions in order to make a significant contribution to a sustainable future. We've therefore brainstormed on 10 actions that we recommend institutions to implement as they walk the talk:
1. Align institutional values and strategy with the SDGs: Ensure that the core #values and overall #strategy of the institution are in line with the SDGs, demonstrating a commitment to adopt sustainability as a macro lens for all decision-making processes. Embed sustainability as an integral part, to the point of infusion, becoming inherent and essential rather than an add-on.
2. Understand socially and environmentally conscious students: Focus on engaging with socially and environmentally conscious #students to better grasp their expectations and encourage them to advocate for sustainable initiatives, inspiring others to join their cause, and actively supporting the learning and development this requires.
3. Embed sustainability practices institution-wide: Go beyond mere rhetoric by incorporating sustainability practices throughout the entire institution. By actively implementing these practices, the institution can avoid being perceived as engaging in #greenwashing. This is an essential element of culture building as the institution grows towards becoming an agent of transformative change.
4. Showcase sustainability efforts: Promote sustainability initiatives on various platforms such as social media, events, websites, and conversations with current and prospective students. This visibility helps raise #awareness and encourages #engagement in sustainable practices. Storytelling is key here, and marketing professionals will find that there is broad scope for creativity and also for student-lead communication.
5. Integrate the SDGs into the curriculum: Incorporate the SDGs into the #curriculum and educational programs, providing students with practical skills and knowledge related to sustainable development. This prepares them for future careers aligned with sustainable practices.
6. Encourage sustainability training for staff: Offer sustainability and SDGs-related training to #staff members across all areas of expertise to empower them with knowledge and tools incorporating sustainability into their roles, thus fostering a better world. This also facilitates institution-wide culture building.
7. Raise awareness on a changing employability landscape: Inform potential students about the evolving job market and the importance of being prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. Position the institution as a bridge to a sustainable future by aligning its programs with the changing #employment landscape. The focus should be more on skills and not necessarily knowledge related to specific professions as the future is highly uncertain.
8. Foster partnerships for social impact: Accelerate social impact and leave a lasting legacy by committing to specific SDGs and fostering #collaboration between the public and private sectors. Embrace SDG 17 (Partnerships) to enhance community cohesion and drive sustainable change.
9. Inspire through purpose-driven actions: Inspire altruistic audiences by taking long-term actions that have a meaningful impact on society. Incorporate SDG targets into initiatives attracting entities for funding, developing case studies, organizing intra/entrepreneurial challenges, and implementing project based learning.
10. Include sustainability metrics in student recruitment/enrollment: Make a commitment to measure the impact of sustainability and the SDGs in student recruitment and enrollment. Move beyond traditional Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as the number of students recruited, revenue generated, and academic achievements, to integrate sustainability impact measurement metrics in budgeting and goal-setting processes.
In the realm of higher education marketing, sustainability integration should go beyond engaging younger generations and be prioritized as an essential collective ingredient. Interpretations of sustainability vary among individuals. From a marketing perspective, we should unite all aspects, break down silos, and build our communication around the comprehensive framework of the SDGs, which goes beyond popular themes like climate or environment, encompassing all our activities. Embracing this shared #vision empowers us to proactively strive towards the creation of a more promising future. It's important to acknowledge that this endeavor is not a sprint, but rather a marathon, with layers of development happening each academic year as we build upon the previous successes. Let us unite in our preparation and training, as we strive together for the grandest race towards a sustainable world of international education!
So, do you still doubt if SDGs in Higher Education Marketing are Essential? Get in touch, and we'll be glad to share our thoughts and exchange ideas with you. We at geNEOus are here to help you explore the practical steps towards integrating the SDGs into your international marketing and student recruitment practices.
Way back in 2005 the United Nations mobilized the forces of education with a powerful call to action. The “Decade of ESD” (Education for Sustainable Development) triggered lots of activity on a global scale, to ensure that education could play a more conscious role in developing the mindsets, skills, attitudes, and behaviors of a sustainable society beyond 2030.
The result, according to a 2017 UNESCO report, was that “Education for sustainable development is no longer an “add-on” in the curriculum alongside environmental, consumer or climate education;... offering an opportunity to fundamentally rethink education…. which assumes that education for sustainable development and the idea of sustainability are not only important for teaching and learning processes but also for the development of educational institutions, whether they are day-care centres, schools, universities or vocational institutions.”
We are now well beyond that decade of ESD, and now find ourselves in the less-inspiringly titled “GAP”. The GAP (Global Action Program) phase of “generating and scaling up ESD actions in all levels and areas of education, training and learning” means that by 2030 all learners are ready to actively support sustainable development. However, the progress towards this between schools, universities and vocational institutions shows a whole lot of variance. Not for the first time, nor for the last, it is the K12 sector leading the way.
Let us take Scotland for an example. At the present moment, vocational colleges are at varying stages of embedding sustainability in learning, but the “leading” institutions (according to the FE Sector Roadmap) are still few enough to really stand out as notable.
Universities, with their bigger budgets and resources to draw on, are further along, but even many leading institutions have yet to fully integrate sustainability across their curricula. Thus, a real gap between the committed strategy of its leadership teams with the general teaching staff and students, who are not yet sharing a common experience or exposure to sustainability in the learning environment.
In K12, however, Learning for Sustainability (LfS) was enshrined in the K12 education system back in 2012 with the added dimensions of global citizenship and outdoor education (or nature-based learning).
Since then, the K12 work towards sustainable development objectives has been committed and relentless, with mass training of teachers, resources being shared at a dizzying pace, and more webinars than you could ever watch in a lifetime!
This is reflected across the global north. Germany has fully embedded sustainability from the moment a learner begins formal schooling. The South Pacific Island of Vanuatu has embedded the teaching of sustainability through theater in their education system, and even created pathways for the young learners, in turn, to then teach their communities.
India started in 2002 to teach “localized” sustainability issues across their K12 schools, where there was an emphasis on taking action and developing empowerment and agency. Again and again, it is K12 moving forward way before Higher and Further Education began to even really develop any meaningful progress.
So, great. K12 schools are doing well with this, and HE/FE are starting to catch up, so what is the problem?
Picture this. You have come up through an English K12 system, where sustainability has been in the fabric of everything you learn. From community action projects to visibility of SDG-connected actions all around campus, and you may have even done the new GCSE course in Climate Change.
You finish high school with an awareness of the huge challenges the world faces, but also with personal experience of actually exploring these issues, and breaking them down by taking action in your community.
Arriving in college on day 1 and, beyond the recycling bins, and a mention of new solar panels on the website, there is just no sense of continuity. That feeling of being part of a shared journey towards a better world for you and your children is just…absent.
Globally, students want to see evidence of their institution really doing something about sustainability. Logically, if we consider that Gen Alpha take climate change and sustainable development very seriously, and have already likely experienced a learning environment where those values are shared by the institution, this must feel like a shocking disconnect.
Time has run out. No, not the time we need to secure a liveable future for humans on this planet; there is still a little hope there. Time has run out for institutions who thought they had a little wiggle room. Lots of great progress is happening throughout our colleges and universities, but their commitment to Education for Sustainable Development is not visible enough at ground level, not embedded enough to ensure equal exposure for all students, and generally just not coherent with the high standard set by K12.
If we really want to attract and retain not just students but younger staff members too, then the time to really join up the dots between strategy and reality is now. Young people need to believe that we are in this with them, doing the work and making a difference.
To talk with us about how to build visibility around the SDGs and institutional activity, just reach out to connect. The one thing that is just the same about Gen Alpha is that the power of good storytelling and authentic communication doesn’t hit any different, and integrating this into marketing, student recruitment and communications can really help to build momentum for those deeper changes that yet remain to be tackled. For all of this, we are here for you.
NAFSA isn’t the organization that sends you up into space (you’re thinking of someone else), but down here on the blue planet, it is one of the biggest stars in the international education conference circuit.
Touching down in Washington DC on May 30th 2023, thousands of international education professionals will attend this conference and expo to connect, share, learn, grow, inspire and help to build a more inclusive future for this diverse and exciting sector we call home.
The event is one small step for veteran NAFSA pilot Alejandra Otero, geNEOus' Founder & CEO but, well, let’s say a bigger step for geNEOus' Managing Director, Sole Palamenghi, who is attending for the first time.
But the biggest leap is perhaps reserved for geNEOus itself; attending for the first time with our renewed brand.
Alejandra’s “small step” is misleading, because in fact, there is a first for her at NAFSA 2023 as well. For the first time, Alejandra will be a speaker at the event, and this is a talk you won’t want to miss.
NAFSA is all about “bold ideas and global perspectives”, and so, the perfect space to talk about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in HigherEd marketing, especially through an employability and student recruitment lens.
Joined by EAIE President Piet Van Hove, Daniel Ponce-Taylor of International Outreach Initiative and Expertise in Labour Mobility Director Nanette Ripmeester, the panel will be asking whether SDGs can become a differentiator in Higher Ed marketing, whether new generations have higher expectations of social responsibility, and what's the importance of the SDGs.
POV- You are Gen Alpha (they say POV btw). You are coming up through a K12 school system in which sustainability is embedded. There are environmental action groups, the LGBTQ+ group meets once a week, and global citizenship is framed throughout your education. Words like equity and diversity are commonplace, and you are encouraged to care for the world and its people around you.
You are immersed in a news cycle of “AI will disrupt every job” and “we can’t predict the future”. The climate talk is one of doomism, and phrases like “tipping point” and “faster than previously expected” are ringing in your ears.
You want to be involved in the things you care about, and you want to see your values reflected in the next place you study. Clicking on the university website, however, there is an absence of these themes. There is a sustainability policy, some talk of values, but it is mainly about employability and graduate success, based only on the world as it currently is. This is a huge disconnect.
In a survey by Students Organising for Sustainability, 92% of the 7000 respondents felt that “sustainable development is something which all universities and colleges should actively incorporate and promote.”
A huge 90% of respondents also said they would be willing to “accept a salary sacrifice to work in a company with a good environmental and social record”.
So now we see the connection. Embedding the lens of sustainability in HigherEd learning is no longer a nice-to-have, but part of the sector assuming its role as a transformative change agent. How else will the net generation build the mindset, agency, competencies, and skills to build a better world in a rapidly closing window of time?
Education for Sustainable Development is coming into the sector at varying speeds, but what we fail to see is that message being communicated externally. There is a typical focus on “green”; that narrow part of sustainability that only deals with the environmental dimension and not the social or economic.
Building adaptable skill sets and complex problem-solving abilities, understanding the key drivers of sustainability in our future sectors, and how to react to the potential disruptors ahead; this is what students need to hear. Employability is fluid in a changing environment, but core transferable skills are perennial.
Threading their education with the underlying theme of climate justice and social equity, cross-cultural skills and a normative understanding of different approaches and values across global societies; this is what students need to feel.
The world is smaller, and more fragile than ever. A marketing approach that does not put a sustainable future for all as front and center, is not in tune with a generation that will have to deal with the mess we have left them. Failing to center sustainability in our messaging is missing the tone of an entire generation.
And the best of it? The SDGs are a human story. Storytelling-that most potent of narratives, which lights up more brain sectors than almost anything else- is key to SDG communication. How our institutions remove barriers to access, support diverse learners, contribute to the communities around them, and open up the issues we must explore and confront; these are stories that must be heard by a generation that has the entire world on its shoulders.
So if that resonates with you, then do come to our session on Thursday, June 1, 2023 at 9:30AM and let’s explore how your institution can start to bring this messaging and tune in to a generation that needs and deserves our leadership on this.
Are you in education marketing or student recruitment? Despite the handy “M&R” phrase, we meet so many colleagues who talk of each component as two entirely separate planets.
Given how competitive things are in education, we think it's vital for education institutions to understand the link between marketing and recruitment and to make sure they are working and communicating hand in hand.
If we go back to basics and define the terms, marketing in education refers to the strategies and tactics that educational institutions use to promote themselves to prospective students, parents, and other stakeholders. Recruitment, on the other hand, refers to the process of attracting and enrolling new students to the institution.
Even stripping them back to their elemental forms, they completely overlap. While to some, marketing and recruitment may seem like two different things, they are both part of the same process: catching new students' attention and enrolling them.
Marketing and recruitment have more in common than we might think. Both require a deep understanding of the target audience and the ability to connect with them on a personal level. In both cases, it's all about building relationships and creating a sense of community. Both also require a keen eye for detail, whether it's analyzing data or reviewing applications.
So, are their differences really so significant in reality?
It's all about strategy and logic, just like the Roman god of war. Marketers use data and analytics to determine the best approach for attracting students to their institution. They focus on creating a strong brand image, using vibrant colors, and relatable messages to make students feel at home.
Marketing is the foundation of recruitment. Marketing gets them interested in the first place by giving them all the info they need to make them truly aware of where and what to study, or why they should consider such a program and or institution.
Let’s put it like this: without marketing, potential students would not know that an institution exists. A strong marketing campaign builds an institution's reputation, which in turn attracts potential students.
When a school has a strong brand and reputation, it is easier to attract new students. Marketing campaigns that communicate an institution's values, mission, and strengths, help to create a strong brand identity that resonates with students. Strong recruitment performance is great, but we should acknowledge that it is built on the developmental work of consistent marketing and brand building over many years.
Let's take the example of the 2020/1 challenges, as institutions that invested in digital marketing before the pandemic were able to pivot quickly and effectively to a digital recruitment model. If institutions weren’t so invested in digital marketing pre-pandemic, they certainly moved to change that. As they could see, it allowed them to target their marketing efforts more effectively, and reach students who are a good fit for their programs. Naturally, this improved recruitment outcomes as they were already talking to the right prospective students. Those more targeted conversations were able to yield more specific insights that in turn strengthened marketing efforts again.
Marketing is evolving all the time, and as we discussed in our most recent article, empathy marketing and community building are becoming critical levers to help students feel engaged and supported by an institution, as they become students. This not only supports recruitment, but also retention rates.
It's all about emotions and feelings, just like the goddess of love herself. Recruiters use a variety of tactics to appeal to students' emotions and persuade them to choose their institution. They rely on their communication skills to provide students with the information they need to turn interested students into enrolled students.
Don’t worry, recruitment folks. It sounds like marketing is getting all the shine, but this is not that. Recruitment, then, is a continuation of the marketing process. Once an institution has attracted potential students, the recruitment process begins. This is where admissions teams engage with prospective students, providing them with information and answering their questions about the institution.
Recruiters need to be really in tune with the messaging from marketing, so that they can understand the type of expectations potential students are arriving with, and what the key draws for them might be. With good communication, this process will be seamless.
In the USA, universities have enrollment management teams, while in Europe, they have admissions management teams. The difference in nomenclature may seem minor, but it speaks to a more significant difference in approach.
Enrollment management teams are responsible for every aspect of the student's journey, from the first inquiry to graduation. They analyze data to create targeted campaigns and recruitment strategies, working closely with government agencies, such as the Department of State (DOS), to ensure that international students are granted visas efficiently and effectively.
On the other side of the Atlantic, admissions management teams are responsible for selecting the right candidates for the university. They work closely with university departments to ensure that applications are reviewed thoroughly and that the most qualified students are selected. Admissions management teams do not have the same level of interaction with government agencies as enrollment management teams in the USA.
So, what can we learn from these differences and similarities? Perhaps the most important lesson is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to marketing and recruitment. Every market is unique, with its own challenges and opportunities. It's essential to understand these differences and adapt accordingly.
International student marketing and recruitment may be from different planets, but these are intertwined and interconnected, each playing a vital role in attracting international students to institutions worldwide.
In truth, the relationship between marketing and recruitment is not one-way and is actually symbiotic. Recruitment also informs marketing. As admissions teams interact with prospective students, they get valuable insights into the types of students who are interested in their institution. This information can be used to fine-tune marketing strategies and campaigns to better resonate with prospective students.
Both marketing and recruitment are aimed at attracting international students to a particular institution or program. Marketing aims to create brand awareness and attract students' attention through various channels such as social media, email campaigns, and advertisements. Recruitment, on the other hand, involves interacting with potential students and guiding them through the application process.
Marketing is all about being creative and standing out in a crowded marketplace. Marketers are like the peacocks of the education industry, flaunting their colorful feathers to attract potential students. Recruitment, on the other hand, is more like a dating game. Recruiters are the smooth-talking wingmen, helping students navigate through the complicated and confusing process of applying to a foreign institution.
Whether you are a from Venus or from Mars, there is a common goal: to demystify the myth of separation between marketing and recruitment because it is just that – a myth. Marketing without Recruitment/Enrollment/Admissions teams are like the moon without the sun, and Recruitment/Enrollment/Admissions without Marketing teams are like the sun without the moon. They both flash their light in different moments of the day and are equally important in the galaxy of international marketing and student recruitment.
We are M&R. That sounds like it could be a good slogan actually (don’t steal it), but we say this because we specialize in bringing M&R teams together, streamlining processes and communication flows, and building a common sense of purpose and approach. To talk to us about how we can give your M&R some TLC, just drop us a line on our contact form here.
We returned recently to the UNICA report, entitled New strategies of marketing and recruitment of international students, for a second look. There are often things we miss, or gloss over, on the first readings of these reports, and we are glad that we revisited this one.
There is a piece by Aswin Lutchanah, Social Media Manager at the University of Luxembourg, which caught our eye, because we loved the simplicity of it. The topic was Empathy Marketing; something we have seen a lot more attention being paid to as new generations arrive at our institutions, accentuated by the drivers of the post-pandemic educational landscape.
Empathy is complex, but fundamentally it is the glue to social cohesion and often overlooked as a unique force in the way we communicate with and engage new students.
Empathy marketing is a technique that can help universities better connect with these generations of students. It is about understanding the needs and desires of your audience, and using that understanding to create messaging that resonates with them on a deeper level. It involves putting yourself in their shoes, understanding their pain points, and using this understanding building a relationship of trust and understanding. Focus groups, social listening exercises and open channels of communication can help you understand this better.
Empathy marketing differs from traditional sales-based marketing in a number of ways. Traditional marketing focuses on promoting the benefits of a product or service, with the goal of persuading the student to enrol. Empathy marketing, on the other hand, is focused on building a relationship with the student, based on trust and understanding. The goal is not just to enrol a student, but to create a positive experience for the student that will keep them engaged throughout their academic journey.
So why is empathy marketing so important for reaching the new generation of students? For one, these generations are known for valuing authenticity and transparency. They want to know that the universities they are considering are not just focused on their bottom line, but are truly invested in the student's success. Empathy marketing allows universities to demonstrate this commitment by showing that they understand and care about the unique challenges and opportunities that students face. That is particularly important in the post-pandemic world, where students' lives were turned upside down and anxiety rates went through the roof.
The UNICA report outlines Aswin's empathy-based approach on social media. He has created a presence that people note when he is not posting, and that means there is a personal connection there.
His goal is not only to just communicate information but to build relationships with students past, present and future, but also to provide a space where they can do so with each other. The social media account publishes, in their words, "Informative stories about news and events taking place on campus; “listening” stories to get feedback, promotional stories to promote study programmes, sharing stories composed by user-generated content, and motivational stories about exams or to fight loneliness”.
They emphasise the very important point that social media is supposed to be social. It is not a place where institutions speak and students listen, but rather a space to build community and connection.
Research has shown that empathy marketing can have a significant impact on student enrolment and retention. According to a study by marketing agency FutureBrand, 81% of students surveyed said they would be more likely to attend a university that was perceived as empathetic, and 73% said they would be more likely to stay at a university if they felt the institution cared about their success.
So, how can universities incorporate empathy marketing into their marketing strategies? Here are a few practical starting points:
geNEOus has long been pushing a circular way of thinking about student recruitment. The community that connects past, present and prospective students is one of the most important assets an institution can have, and it must begin in online spaces.
The siloed way of thinking about recruitment as a "funnel" does students a disservice. Education M&R teams should maintain that connection and communication with them all the way through and beyond. How else will we really understand what they need, and what drives them?
By 2025, Millennials will make up nearly 75% of the global workforce. Gen Z-ers born in the mid-1990s are already graduating from higher education and reshaping the world of business. (The cool) universities are now turning their attention to the next generation: Generation Alpha. With the rise of a more tech-focused world, as well as changing social and cultural values, who is now knocking at our doors and what do they want?
Generation Alpha, born between the early 2010s and now, will enter higher education within the next decade. As a digitally-native generation, they are growing up with the next phase of AI and metaverse technologies. They are constantly connected to their peers and the wider world through screens. They are highly visual, used to receiving information in ‘snackable’ short-form text and video, and are aware of how to manage their digital lives, much better than their Millennial counterparts.
With those things in mind, what can universities do to appeal to this hyper-connected, digital-first cohort? In a new report from the Network of Universities from the Capitals of Europe (UNICA), experts set out new strategies for recruiting the next generation of students. From dipping a toe in the Metaverse, to thinking less like a university and more like a student, the report reveals that successfully marketing to Generation Alpha is as much about attitude as it is about physical adaptations.
The power of social media marketing isn’t waning, says Aswin Lutchanah from the University of Luxembourg. As Social Media Manager, Aswin wants to show the university as a modern, interdisciplinary institution that offers a personal approach. How does he do this? By speaking to students in a way that they understand.
Generation Alpha just don’t have time to read long pieces of text or watch long videos. Some might say they no longer have the tolerance for it, though the jury is still out on theories of depleted attention span. What is clear, is that we have to work harder to get and keep their attention. Short and snappy social media stories, coupled with opportunities to share personal experiences and connect with other students, has helped the university’s following grow rapidly. As well as sharing news stories from around campus and promoting courses of study, Aswin’s strategy also puts students’ voice front and center.
User-generated content about everything from exam tips to coping with loneliness helps create a sense of belonging and authenticity, embracing all aspects of the student experience. Creating real connections through digital channels is what universities should be focusing on when marketing to the next generation of students. As Aswin says in this report, the word ‘social’ in social media is key.
Some of us may have just reluctantly mastered Zoom, but Generation Alpha are already living parts of their lives fully online. Whether through the use of voice-recognition technology and virtual assistants, or through online gaming, the next generation of students will expect their education to reflect these other aspects of their life. Universities have to get ready to meet their students where they are, and that means upskilling, embracing new technology and having good conversations about what it all means. To be relevant, we have to stay connected to the flow of change.
According to Alejandra Otero, Founder & CEO of geNEOus, the Metaverse is all about community. The internet has evolved from a place to read content, into a place to engage with content and now communities. Platforms like Discord, which is based around users’ interests, are already being used by some universities for presentations. Why not use them to help students connect through shared subjects and interests? Alejandra encourages more institutions to experiment with using the spaces. Being a late adopter is not ideal, but it’s better than not adopting at all!
Crucially, Alejandra says that universities should adapt their content to these new community spaces. Simply being in the Metaverse is not enough to attract new students if you are still asking them to download brochures and read long emails. She emphasizes that the metaverse is about play, experimentation, and networking. Learning about the university itself is important, but it becomes the secondary focus in the metaverse.
With rising costs and increasing competition in the higher education market, universities need to ensure that their marketing campaigns work even harder than before. Lisa Flannery, Marketing Manager at University College Dublin (UCD), shared their strategy to increase student numbers by 25% by 2030. This long-term goal needs a long-term marketing plan that both appeals to the next generation of students and also retains its relevance over a 2 to 3-year period.
Just like Aswin Lutchanah’s social media strategy, UCD’s marketing plan relies heavily on the authenticity that Generation Alpha craves. You know those super fake students we see in university brochures that make you think “there’s no way these people are real”? That is a huge no no.
Real students were cast in their video campaigns, which used creative storytelling to show how their learning journey impacted on their lives in the world beyond education. The themes of the campaign also chime with Generation Alpha’s values, focusing on ‘global sustainability, transformation through digital technology, building a healthy world and empowering humanity.’
As well as the content itself, UCD also made sure to adapt the format of their marketing campaign to appeal to Generation Alpha. Long-form video was cut down to easily-digestible 10 and even 6-second videos to use as ads on YouTube and TikTok. Information on the university’s web pages was presented visually, with benefits and student testimonials featuring prominently, without tinkering with the way students actually phrased things.
The campaign also emphasized UCD’s brand as an Irish institution, using emotive music and Irish language, with plans for Gaelic language recordings to be created in the future. Community, and belonging, are critically important to new generations in such a fluid and tumultuous world.
The UNICA report shows that while Generation Alpha are still interested in the practical aspects of the university experience, higher education institutions will need to adapt the way they market themselves to this upcoming, hyper-connected generation. Yes, information on course content, student finance and accommodation is still critical, but new students are looking to be inspired and reassured that they are joining an authentic, future-focused organization. That means you kind of have to be one, and there’s no shortcut around that. Generation Alpha trust their peers more than anyone else, so if your messaging doesn’t match the experience, then prepare for that to go viral.
Whether you are looking to make your first foray into the Metaverse, or want to connect with new students through a future-proofed social media and marketing strategy, we can help your institution with bringing Generation Alpha on board. Want to know more? Get in touch, or send us a TikTok of you dancing in the kitchen, and let’s chat about how you can get ready for the next generation.
Millennials are just so 1995, but they are the ones who have driven the major recent changes to workplace culture, spearheading the so-called “Great Resignation” and demands for a different way of doing things post-pandemic.
Before we have even really adapted to this and internalized what it all means, along come Gen Z, who are determined to outshine the Z’s by bringing their personal values into their work. Gone is the “work persona” with the Z’s, who want to be themselves wherever they are. Already there is a brewing clash with top-down formal, hierarchical and high power-distance organizations.
With both these generations fully embedded in the workplace and Gen Alpha not too far behind, education institutions need to take action now to attract and retain them as workers and, of course, as potential students.
When Global analytics firm Gallup surveyed Millennials and Gen Z on what they look for most in a prospective employer, the top answer in both groups was not, as Gen X might think, more avocado lattes in the staff restaurant, and a 3-day working week.
That’s not far off, however, because what they do want is an organization that prioritizes its workers’ wellbeing. While the pandemic highlighted the importance of physical and mental health at work, wellbeing has in fact been a top-three priority for all generations (including Gen X and Baby Boomers) long before 2020. This is not a “personal” issue anymore, because the boundaries between work and personal life are rapidly blurring.
While many schools and universities already offered health-focused benefits such as employee wellbeing schemes or free gym memberships, the definition of what it means to be ‘well at work’ has expanded. Young employees are more likely to be in entry level positions and may be experiencing financial stresses or isolation not felt by their older, promoted colleagues. These are serious issues that a gym pass can’t quite fix.
The Millennial and Gen Z trend towards sobriety could encourage workplaces to rethink networking events, where alcohol has often traditionally been the way to grease the wheels of conversation. We never thought we’d see a world where the wine did not flow at education marketing conferences, but it is already changing.
Also, remember that whole WFH thing in the pandemic? Gen Z liked it, and they’re not giving it up. The greater flexibility offered by hybrid working or fully-remote offices is important to younger generations, who crave autonomy and the ability to customize their working week. With education M&R teams working more and more through project management tools and Teams meetings, this is most certainly possible.
Wellbeing is no longer just about having a bowl of free fruit in the staff room or offering a later start time on Mondays. For Millennials and Gen Z, businesses need to consider all aspects of workplace wellbeing and not just offer token solutions to wider issues.
Millennials and Gen Z want to work with and for organizations led with integrity and transparency, and Alphas are not going to buck that trend at all. This means going beyond buzzy job advertisements and company slogans and actually creating a workplace where their employees can make a difference - whether for themselves or for others.
Why do we work in education? We love working with people, but we also know that education is the vehicle to a better world, if we get it right. We all know it, from the campus operations team, estates staff, students, administrators, and even the college cat knows he is part of something meaningful.
Younger generations need that to be made more visible. What is your impact, your purpose and your cause? What are you doing to help prepare students for a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous world? Where is the genuine action on sustainability? How are you broadening access to learning, and how are you sowing the seeds for transformative change? You see, Gen Z and Alpha have been handed a pretty broken world, and they need to know they’re not expected to fix it on their own. Oh, and they can smell greenwashing and hollow promises a mile away.
Showing the next generation that you can back up your words with action is crucial for employee retention and student recruitment; so any institution that can prove it stands by its values will look increasingly attractive.
We know that values-led organizations are most attractive to the younger generation. This doesn’t stop with the products and services on offer or the way they are marketed. Millennials and Gen Z wanted to know that the values of respect, equity, and inclusion are also part of the DNA of the workforce itself.
According to Michael Timmes, HR consultant with Insperity, organizations that actually demonstrate their commitment to creating a diverse and equitable culture are much more attractive to both prospective employees and students.
Younger workers want to feel respected and valued for the unique contributions they can bring to an organization, and students want to know how what they are learning will help them make a difference. This means having opportunities for coaching and training, as well as a manager or teacher who is meaningfully engaged and invested in their development and progression, as well as being willing to listen to their perspective, their ideas, and their concerns.
Education institutions have made huge adjustments over the last decade as a new generation moves through higher education and into the workplace. It’s an exciting time, but we know it’s not without its challenges. If you’re curious about what future changes are on the horizon and how your M&R team can engage with Gen Z, Gen Alpha and beyond, then we’d love to hear from you. Collaborating, asking questions and sharing our experiences is the best way to learn and grow, so get in touch and let’s talk.
What comes to mind when you think of the word ‘entrepreneurship’? Scrappy start-ups turned Silicon Valley unicorns? Wealthy one-offs like Mark Zuckerberg or Richard Branson? Or even a Gen Z tech whiz making millions from their bedroom? Whatever you think of, it probably relates to growing a business and making money. But what if we told you that the skills of an entrepreneur are just what higher education institutions need to be focused on, right across the learning environments? This is not because we believe everyone deep down wants to run off and start their own business, but because those skills are just what they need to cope with the ever-changing nature of our modern working world.
Using a narrow definition of an entrepreneur, you can see why there is a tension between entrepreneurship and education. Entrepreneurship is about business, money and creating commercial value, which is somewhat at odds with the wider sense of what “value” is in impact-driven education institutions. Perhaps, however, we need to re-examine our definition.
In a report published way back in 2008, the European Commission highlighted that higher education institutions should be doing more to encourage entrepreneurship across all areas of learning. This report defined entrepreneurship simply as ‘an individual’s ability to turn ideas into action’, a mindset that so many educators have been shouting about ever since (and well before!) 2008. By learning here, we are talking equally about the chemistry student who needs to learn how to pitch their research project to a potential funder, as much as we are talking about the marketing professional who could use design thinking techniques to figure out how to improve the student engagement journey.
Thinking about entrepreneurship as a way of working and learning, rather than simply a way to build wealth, means applying entrepreneurial skills to other aspects of our lives. Younger generations are the most traditionally entrepreneurial yet, with 62% of Gen Z having already started or intending to start their own business. They are primed to transfer these skills and ambitions to other areas of their lives, and higher education institutions are perfectly positioned to help them with this. In terms of staff retention, new employees who realize they are being supported to develop such valuable life skills, will be more likely to stick around, don’t you agree?
So we have perhaps put the cart before the horse a bit in not examining what these skills actually are in the first section, but if you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll have rolled with that less than linear approach because that’s how life can be sometimes. So let’s get to it.
According to the OECD, the ‘practice of entrepreneurship holds a great deal of promise for navigating the chaos, complexity, and disruptions’ of life in 2023 - and beyond. So what are some of the key skills that universities should be looking to instill in their staff and students through an entrepreneurial approach?
Millennials and Gen Z are set on having greater flexibility and autonomy when it comes to their working lives. With flexibility comes freedom, but also greater instability and other challenges. Leaning into uncertainty, having the space to experiment and even make mistakes is paramount if we want our community to embrace a more entrepreneurial approach to their learning and professional development. Universities should support us to deal with challenge positively, to see it not as a judgement on our wider capabilities but as an opportunity to learn from both failures and success.
Great communication skills are another key aspect of entrepreneurship, and both staff and students should have the chance to flex their storytelling muscles in lots of different ways. From leading small working groups, to presenting online and in person, to sharing their experiences with others both online and offline, there are many opportunities for our community to develop their communication skills. Entrepreneurship is often about getting into the mindset of the person who is listening and creating empathy-based narratives that connect. In a world of education marketing increasingly competing for attention in more creative ways, the humble story remains one of our most enduringly powerful assets.
While entrepreneurship is principally about action and forward motion, having the ability to stop and take stock is also crucial. The skill of self-reflection is another one that higher education institutions can help develop in their staff and students. This could be through self-assessment or peer-to-peer learning sessions, or even encouraging our community to take up a personal journaling practice. However, reflection happens, being able to check in and recognize both your achievements and areas for development is invaluable for learning. Reflective practice is more common in education these days, but does this seem too “out there” for professionals? We don’t think so, and we think that it builds a culture of authentic communication where people have had the chance to step back and think about things before they communicate meaningfully, and get clear about what they want and what they need.
We’ve now thought about just some of the many skills of entrepreneurship that higher education should be fostering in its new staff and students, and of course the existing community too! But what about the ways in which these skills are nurtured? If we’re thinking about new definitions for entrepreneurship, then we should also be thinking about new ways of supporting that learning and development.
This does not suit the lecture, and does not fit into the onboarding material for your new hire in the admissions team. According to the OECD, ‘entrepreneurship cannot be taught - it can only be facilitated.’ In other words, we need to work alongside people, helping them to reflect and develop, making space for them to be wrong and to experience setbacks, and to continuously improve. This approach is at the core of intrapreneurship, where small agile teams can be created within existing departments, focused on innovation, and stepping back to question the way things work and flow. They are typically outside normal chains of communication and hierarchy, and have more fluid role descriptions. That does not happen overnight, but with the right support, it can be built, and it can yield incredible results. Just ask Google, Vimeo and Sony.
Whether staff or student, one critical aspect to developing entrepreneurial skills is to give them greater control over the type of work they do. Self-direction means they are more likely to pursue their own lines of inquiry and do deep thinking on their terms. This also respects neurodiversity as an asset to a team or to a learning environment, and makes space for everyone to be the best versions of themselves.
In a recent framework for student success, published by Advance HE, the role and value of ‘the educator’ when it comes to fostering entrepreneurship in higher education is outlined in three parts: to motivate learners, build collaborative working relationships and, interestingly, make time for their own reflection and iteration. In short, those embracing the entrepreneurial approach must adopt the same attitude themselves.
As we’ve said, these ideas about entrepreneurship and education aren’t new, even if some sectors have taken a while to adopt them. If you’re already implementing some of these ideas, why not tell us all about it? And if you’re ready to take that step into new ways of working with your team, we’d love to help.
Prevention is the best medicine. We've all heard this at some point in our lives, and it’s not just about green-juicing your way to glowing health. From our physical health to our professional lives, taking proactive steps to prevent problems from arising is always preferable to waiting until they become too big to handle. This is especially true when it comes to teams and institutions that work under pressure, which is pretty much all of our sector!
When it comes to healthcare, we all seem to accept the importance of preventative measures. Whether it's getting regular check-ups, eating a healthy diet, or exercising regularly, taking care of ourselves in small ways can prevent serious health issues from arising later on. But too often, we wait until we're experiencing symptoms before seeking medical attention. As Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, puts it: "We've got a sick-care system, not a health-care system." We focus on treating symptoms instead of preventing problems in the first place.
The same is true in the world of business. It's easy to fall into the trap of reactive problem-solving, waiting until something goes wrong before taking action. Coaches see it all the time. As author Michael Bungay Stanier points out, "It's harder to solve a problem when you're in a reactive state." When we're stressed, overwhelmed, and scrambling to put out fires, we're not in the best position to come up with effective solutions to the root problem. By taking a proactive approach, we can avoid many of these problems in the first place.
At a team meeting some weeks ago, Puri, our Paid Media Specialist, mentioned that she saw geNEOus as a doctor, in the way that we work with clients. When we explored this with her, Puri reasoned that it was because we provide them with the tools and insights they need to identify potential issues before they become serious problems, but only after conducting a thorough “check up” of an organization’s marketing and branding strategy, identifying areas for improvement, and making actionable recommendations for how to address those areas. Oh, and of course further check ups to support and guide. That does actually sound quite like us.
According to a report by McKinsey & Company, organizations that take a proactive approach to problem-solving are more likely to outperform their peers. The report found that "proactive companies...often spend more on problem prevention than reactive ones do, but they invest in a more focused, more data-driven way, often through targeted analytics."
In other words, it's not about spending more money or working harder. It's about working smarter and being more strategic. We often talk about “agile” teams as if they are groups which respond and adapt to changes in their environment, but sometimes that also means acting before your environment changes, or before an issue becomes a full-blown crisis. By investing in preventative measures, teams can avoid many of the problems that would otherwise slow them down or hold them back.
We get it. It's not always easy to see where potential problems may lie, when you are buried in such a routine and familiar environment. That's where an external source of support can really add value. By bringing in an outside perspective and specialized expertise, they can help teams to see things they may not have been aware of before. geNEOus, not to be confused with the dictionary suffix -genous, is the new, old kid on the medical block, whose expertise you never knew you needed, till now.
We came across a client review online of a well-known business coach called David Parrish. It said “I wouldn’t necessarily rush to call him if I had chest pains or a strange rash. But when my business needs a little plaster or even some minor surgery, he is someone I would trust to find a way of making it healthy again. As well as offering practical and common sense advice, he opens the door just enough for me to push it through to solve problems and to sometimes self medicate”. We loved this because, as Puri saw, this summed up exactly how we work too.
One of the key benefits of taking a preventative and proactive approach is that it allows teams to work more smoothly and efficiently. When everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals, it's easier to avoid misunderstandings and miscommunications. In fast-paced environments like a university admissions office, that is critical.
So yes, Puri, we guess we are a bit like doctors, because whether it's in healthcare, business or the world of education, prevention is the best medicine. And just to add, for the sake of doubt, that it is just an analogy. We won’t turn up to your organization with a stethoscope, unless you specifically request it. The point is well made, however, that if you need someone to come in and give a checkup, offer some help and support, spot issues coming down the line and help you to identify and address the root cause, then there’s no time like the present to get in touch.
Opening ourselves up to the learning experiences in every interaction, project, relationship, decision, and outcome would be a true superpower, but it is actually quite a tricky thing to do.
However, even if we are not actively thinking “what can I learn from this?”, that does not mean that we are not being influenced and shaped by our experience of others. In fact, we sat down this week to reflect on just who has shaped us as an organization, and as individuals. As we pass our 6th birthday, and into this geNEOus world, we look back, forward and around us for how others influence us.
Emerging from very early years as a commercial partnership, geNEOus (formerly NEO Academy) was a one-woman show, with Alejandra working out just who geNEOus (formerly NEO Academy) should be. As any founder will tell you, the imprint of emotional investment from those early years leaves an indelible mark on the future. Would it be an exaggeration to say we leave a part of ourselves in the things we create?
We learn first from the market. Oh, so this idea is totally impractical? Ah, so these things that are important to me are not yet very important to others? Pivot time. Growth time.
But when others enter the core, that is a different thing altogether. This company that is “yours” grows to become “ours”, and suddenly there is a “we”. From day one, our team members have been empowered to grow their creative freedom and speak their mind, and as they begin to point out all the things about the organization that we might have missed, things start to change. Fresh perspectives mean fresh opportunities, if we are really willing to listen.
Team voice has been so crucial to our growth. We are a family now. We laugh and cry together, but we have got it wrong sometimes. We learned to really focus on bringing people on board in the most considered way possible, so that we could really feel out the fit between us, and ensure that they felt that personal connection from the start.
Nothing worse than a quick onboarding and then throwing tasks at someone. Relationships are what makes everything work for us, and when someone feels both safe and seen, they will tell you what they really think.
Our clients have always, and continue to teach us so much. This applies as much to the times we said yes! As it does to the times when we had to say no.
The thing about growing a team into a values-based culture is that you have to walk the walk. When we had to say no to a client because of a values mismatch (even when we really needed the revenue to support our growth), we had to just trust our gut. That may even happen during a long-term collaboration with a client, where our point of contact changes and so does the relationship.
Though we might still believe in the institution itself, if we are being micromanaged, subjected to unreasonable demands, or not being trusted to do what we do, then sometimes we have to draw a line.
We have been in ground-up projects that are great until they land on the desk of management, only to get torpedoed and sunk. They weren’t involved in the thinking behind the approach, and so it is harder to really see value in it sometimes.
These experiences have taught us who we really are. If you don’t have boundaries and values as an organization, then it will impact you badly as individuals, and that is the honest truth of it.
But the clients we do work with…wow. We came into this with our own experience of the sector, but our clients test it, inform it and stretch it. The partners and clients we work with cover K12, language schools, international development organizations, universities, national education agencies, portals, agents, and sector professionals.
That gives us a 360-degree holistic learning process that helps us continuously evolve. Oh, and you would not believe the amount of techniques and approaches that are actually transferable among all of these areas; we are not as different as we might think.
One thing that has really shaped us a whole lot is working with so many founders and decision makers in our collaborations.
Involving the decision makers from the start makes sure that they bring that strategic birds eye view and their vision is integrated, so there is buy in from the start. It also gives us the opportunity to say to the decision makers that things may not be exactly as they had understood and to introduce other ideas and approaches early on, so that it is not simply rejected later. Those relationships really shape our thinking and our strategic thinking skills equally.
We know who will shape us in the future because they are already responsible for our geNEOus transition. For years, we have been advocating institutional change to support Generation Alpha as they knock on our doors in just a couple of years,
In fact, with K12 partners we are already preparing for Generation Beta, and ensuring we are ready to engage, support and understand them.
We are products of our experiences, and there is no doubt about it. We are not saying we got everything right first time, but we are proud of the fact that we stuck to our values, listened to our team, and always did what we felt was right. You, our community, have helped us to learn, unlearn, relearn, and grow. We hope that in some small way, we can do the same for you.
We have dropped enough hints, so here is the news: NEO Academy is over.
No, not like that. Well, kind of, but not really. We need to explain. Can we tell you a story? Nobody gets hurt, we promise.
Six years ago, this was our thing. Education was changing a lot, and students, we felt, were not benefitting from old-fashioned approaches where they choose degree pathways set in stone, with little chance to really deviate as their interests developed and their experiences grew.
We wanted education to have much more of the agility we find in professional development: a range of learning experiences, personalized and bite-sized, "nano" learning interventions which students could do as and when they felt was the right time.
The key ingredients of NEO - Nano Education Online were all in there, but the recipe just didn't work out. The costs of developing the platform to create and host this content were just astronomical; especially given that the learning pathways had to be customizable.
We cared deeply (and still do!) about the future of education and making sure it was fit for the next generation and the realities of the world around us. We wanted to make a difference, and we wanted to use our skill set to make it work. So we changed the recipe.
Finding NEO took six years, and we would not give up a single day of that time. We evolved into an education marketing consultancy (NEO Academy), but we took a challenging route.
Saying "no" to clients or partners who did not align with our values was perhaps the most challenging aspect, but we did it, and we did it some more.
We learned what we love doing, how we love to work and, above all, who we want to be around. Our team is small, but we are a family, and NEO evolved beyond the imprints of its founder, to embrace the collective persona of our incredible and committed team. We all feel part of this.
We have worked with so many amazing institutions, and felt part of their team, and part of their story, as we helped them to optimize their marketing, streamline processes and let their brand shine through more clearly. From language schools to universities, high schools to training providers, we have built a deep understanding of our sector.
Throughout this, we found our voice, and realized we could be part of a positive future for education; not necessarily by providing that education ourselves, but by supporting institutions and organizations we believe in, with excellent marketing and communication strategies. The recipe was refined, and pared down to three key ingredients.
Who do we do it all for? Beyond our team, and our clients and partners, what is the larger vision? An education organization is not limited by the scope of accountability that binds, for example, politicians. In making great change, the politician imagines what can I do in the next four years, before I have to stand for reelection? The timeless institutions can imagine the next century and beyond, and their place at the heart of change. That is where we want to be.
Generation Alpha is almost here. The last of the generation that inherits an earth in decline and decay is being born now. After them, and in our lifetimes as professionals, the Betas will be knocking on our doors in 15 to 20 years.
What will we tell them? That we just carried on with the same systems and approaches to living in this world that created this volatile and uncertain state? Or will we tell them that we learned, listened, and tried our best to change the way they learn so that they might yet adapt and thrive in a regenerated world. We must evolve, and we must change; for them.
NEO Academy is no longer our brand, but it is always at our core. Our values, our story, our journey, and our own lifelong learning pathways which have helped us each to become experts in our field. The Buddhists talk about a mind stream when a person is reincarnated, which is an element that continues on to a new body, much like a flame being passed from one candle to another.
The idea is that the mind stream is a continuous flow of consciousness that is not tied to any one form, but rather is an ongoing process that evolves and develops over time. The new life is seen as a continuation of this process, with the potential for growth, learning, and transformation.
When you light a new candle with an old, the new flame is not the same as the old, but it does contain this at its core. We will always, in so many ways, be NEO.
When your core is stable and secure, you can build. We know who we serve, and we know who we are and what we can do for others. So now it is time to broaden out the view of whom the "other" is.
We will always work with education institutions, but learning is not always formal. Everywhere we see organizations who are working through the medium of education to change behaviors, mindsets and skill-sets; transforming lives.
As education embeds sustainable development in its ethos and approach, the institutions themselves become a transformative force for change in society. This means the days of the ivory tower are over.
Working in partnership with foundations, national agencies, NGO's, charities, social enterprises, private sector training organizations and so much more, the education that makes a difference in this world will be one delivered in partnership and through community.
In this, we will continue to support and empower our clients and partners by helping them reach new people, engage them in their story, and bring them inside. Our expertise as an education marketing consultancy is at the service of the change makers in our broad community.
This wider vision of US is part of the new NEO.
One of the traps of working from project to project is that we can get caught up in deadlines, metrics and short-term planning. The luxury afforded to us all, in the years of the pandemic, was a chance to stop and zoom out a little.
We want to work with future generations firmly in mind; not just in helping institutions prepare for them, but in doing everything we can to make things better for them ourselves. We are not a dot com kind of team, and "academy" just doesn't cover it.
And coming back to the present, we want to support others who could use our help but may not have the means to pay for it. As we grow, we want to make sure that growth benefits others beyond our immediate community, and we have identified ways of doing that which are firmly in line with our mission, vision, and values.
So what is the outcome of all this? Well, we have dropped enough hints and now it is time to reveal all. We invite you to come visit our LinkedIn page this Thursday 23rd March 2023 to find out what NEO will now become.