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For communications staff in students’ unions
With over ten years’ experience in the student movement, I decided to theme my Master’s degree project on modern students’ unions. There is not enough information to support communications staff in students’ unions but, hopefully, with this research and toolkit you will be able to make a case for more resources and plan your brand strategically.
For senior managers in students’ unions
If you are a senior manager in a students’ union this project provides evidence for investing in communications, and in particular branding. Take your organisation to the next level by gaining an understanding of what it means to prioritise communications.
Branding in students’ unions in modern universities has the potential to shape the student experience by improving awareness and engagement. However, the experience of working in two different students’ unions in modern universities and the communications department at the National Union of Students has shown me that branding isn’t always prioritised or strategic in the way it is developed.
Currently, there is a lack of support for staff in students’ unions across the sector on how to improve brands, marketing and communications. This project aims to change that by answering the following question:
How can the indicators of satisfaction be used to create brand strategy in the context of students’ unions in modern universities?
Using existing theory, a literature review was undertaken to define the term ‘satisfaction’ and establish its indicators, and to define the term brand and establish the building blocks for creating a new brand. The literature review also defined the term ‘modern universities’ and the context of students’ unions within them. Existing public data on student demographics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) was used to establish a profile of the average member of a students’ union in a modern university. The bulk of primary research consisted of interviews with over half of the brand managers in students’ unions in modern universities, which established the current situation of brands in this context. Following the interviews, the current levels of satisfaction were established based on data from the National Student Survey, and a case study was created to provide an example of actions undertaken by a students’ union to increase levels of satisfaction.
As a result of the research it is clear that indicators of satisfaction can influence how a brand is created, and could prove to have a positive impact on branding in students’ unions in modern universities through a combination of brand assets, positioning, brand campaigns, perceived value, perceived quality and brand loyalty. Nuances that are present in the context of students’ unions in modern universities, such as differentiation from the parent university, lack of resource and complex services have been integrated into a toolkit consisting of a business case template and a brand strategy template. This toolkit will enable brand managers in students’ unions in modern universities to build a business case for increased funding and resource, while using the brand strategy template to create a brand that is influenced by the indicators of satisfaction.
This unique piece of research is the first step to understanding and improving branding in students’ unions across the UK. It has shown that there is potential in this area to expand support and provide knowledge that would be valuable to not only increasing awareness and satisfaction among students, but also improving the reputation of the sector as a whole.
- Toolkit: building a business case and a brand strategy