Swansea University. School of Management.
Project: External stakeholder research to inform a marketing and engagement strategy
Brief: To understand the journey and perspectives of external stakeholders in order to reach individuals and organisations that they can offer value to. To design pathways that communicate value to them and that will engage a wider market.
Time Frame: 16 weeks
My Role: Research consultant
Working for: Louisa Huxtable-Thomas, Director of Enterprise and Innovation, School of Management
Methodology: User centred research and design.
It was useful at the very beginning of the project to get, 1; Clarity on the value proposition of the School of Management and 2; To understand their vision and intentions for development of courses, products and services.
Following this I was able to plan, conduct and document informal insight interviews with a cross section of internal University stakeholders (external to the SoM) that were also involved with business engagement. Further face to face insight interviews were then progressed with SME business owners, commercial businesses and those in the Healthcare sector (specific to a core value offering within the SoM). This was to help us understand what services and products align to their needs, their perspectives on SoM and how they engage with other professional services.
This led directly to the creation of a suite of persona profiles which were representative of all external customer segments and their needs. I used these later to align service and value to potential and realised customer needs to help shape the marketing approach.
As a way of experiencing the service from a business perspective I did an anonymous user experience of the phone and website services through the business channels. This was documented for the support and reasoning for recommended changes and improvements.
I also did a piece of desktop research to discover how Swansea University as a whole engages with external stakeholders and how other Universities do it. Looking inside, outside and from as many perspectives as is reasonable can bring depth to ideas for engagement.
Engaging the School of Management staff in my research was key in how this piece of research would be received and used in the future. I found their input valuable as I facilitated an online workshop (using Mentimeter for live feedback) to demonstrate the personas and present the insights.
Armed with insights from the discovery research, I felt confident to deliver a report outlining 6 key recommendations, that are linked to department KPI’s, supported by user insights, inclusive of “How To” as well as some practical “next steps” and a list of questions to raise help them test and challenge any marketing activity. I also provided a create a case study template for School of Management staff to use for capturing projects and communicating the value to external stakeholders via digital channels.
The report was well received, and it has served as a useful asset for Louisa to include in the overall strategy for the department as well as to put marketing mechanisms into place, as resources and budget allow.
What I learned:
- Working with a project of this nature, the brief changes slightly as our findings lead us to explore other areas of relevance and value to the project. Louisa and I were both adaptable to change and suggestions as the research progressed. Because of this, I believe the project delivered much more value than we could have anticipated at the beginning.
- I learned that you have to have ears to hear what is really being said when doing insight interviews, rather than is actually said. It helps to give people space and time to talk in any order they want (rather than the order of your questions). It’s often at the end, as you are about to close the interview or leave the interview that the most interesting insights come to the surface ‘oh did I tell you about what happened when…”.
- As I investigated the landscape of the University I realised how large an organisation it is, with different facets engaging with businesses. I was impressed with the extent of how departments are pushing for more engagement, they want to do it well, some of them are. There are some very committed individuals that go the extra mile to help someone navigate the University and find the right person with the right project and funding.
“We had a clear vision as a School that we wanted to add value to our wider community, but we lacked focus or a clear set of priorities. Michelle’s expertise and research helped us to understand what our community expected of us, how other Universities dealt with the same challenges and gave us the tools to communicate our offer. Michelle identified 4 pillars and 6 objectives, from which we created our enterprise and innovation playbook. This gave us strong foundations to build upon”.
Louisa Huxtable-Thomas, Director of Enterprise and Innovation, School of Management
For privacy reasons I have kept the details concise and the images are unable to be enlarged to preserve the integrity of the project.