Building a Movement – MadeAtUni

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By Beth Button, Campaign Manager, UUK

The MadeAtUni campaign aims to shift public perceptions towards universities.

The campaign launched in December 2018 with the release of the ‘UK’s Best Breakthrough’s: 100+ ways universities are improving everyday life’. It was developed in response to research which found that, while broadly positive towards universities, the public have little understanding of the benefits beyond teaching; and following a difficult period of political and press attention for the sector.

Achieving the long-term outcome of improving public perception will be difficult, but I’ve used insights from the research to design and develop the campaign in a way to best deliver outputs which have laid the foundations for achieving that meaningful perception shift.

1 We created a mechanism for participation that enabled almost every UK university to participate, regardless of size, mission or focus. By asking each institution to nominate an activity or initiative (across any area) we collected over 100 case studies. We translated these into a campaign that tells a compelling collective story of the many ways universities improve our every day lives. Being included in this national list gave institutions a vehicle for generating pride among their communities, and a powerful hook to maximise their local and regional publicity – resulting in over 250 pieces of regional and local coverage during launch.

2 We developed a recognisable brand, with a strong identity, that is powerful but adaptable. As institutions now use the MadeAtUni brand and hashtag on social media posts about research and other activities beyond those featured in the Best Breakthroughs list, the campaign’s social channels have become a vehicle for promoting the sector’s achievements more generally.

To ensure the longevity of the campaign, the MadeAtUni umbrella concept was designed to be adapted, and can be activated with different themes, such as the ‘Nations Lifesavers’ for health which goes live on Thursday 16 May. It can also be modified by institutions to reflect their own priorities, as seen with the #MadeAtUCL campaign, where UCL have launched their own campaign to share stories of the 100+ ways UCL research has improved lives.

3 We built a long-lasting digital platform to be the go-to place for the public and stakeholders to access information and stories about the benefits of universities. The website allows users to search for content based on their interests and helps institutions to direct their communities to their individual pages. The content is also tagged according to the campaign’s main themes, to encourage exploration of the site and to display at a glance the collective impact of the sector.

Over 65,000 people visited the campaign website following launch, with the Universities Minister – Chris Skidmore MP – referencing it as a ‘go-to resource for examples of university impact.’

4 We found advocates to carry our messages and sought trusted voices to help us reach our target audience. We asked organisations whose work relies on universities – including well-loved and recognisable charities – to publicly acknowledge the role of universities in their work, which helps to bridge the gap between what the public think universities do, and how central they are to many of the issues the public cares about. Such public acknowledgement not only validates our work, but also increases reach and amplification of our messages, with many such stakeholders having significant social presence. When we launched the campaign, we reached over 20 million individual users on social media. Largely helped by the endorsement of celebrity advocates such as Becky Adlington, but also due to the support of charities and businesses with large platforms.

As we prepare to launch the next phase of the campaign on 16 May, focusing on the contribution of universities to the nation’s health and wellbeing, we’ll be revisiting many of these campaign tactics, and more, to keep reaching the public and stakeholders with stories of the life-changing work of our universities.

We will keep reflecting on the research to inform the campaign as it develops, and will repeat the public polling to evidence our impact against the long-term objective, of improving public perception.

Get involved when the campaign goes live on 16 May:

  • How have you personally or your organisation benefited from the work of universities?! Write or film a statement of support or testimonial as an individual or organisation about the contribution universities make to your industry, work or personal life. Post these on your website and social media channels, using #MadeAtUni and the campaign materials in the toolkit to get involved when the campaign launches!

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