How to nail the 'omnichannel' challenge
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How to nail the 'omnichannel' challenge

As marketing communications broaden into content marketing, the power of a good brand story is more important than ever. But with so many channels over which to share the good news, getting your story straight can be complicated. Here, Student.com’s head of communications, Paula Keve, shares her strategy.

“Before the advent of the technology we have now, there were fewer channels through which to talk about your brand – marketing was much simpler, especially as the channels were more discrete. You would deal with each in isolation and people weren’t connected in the way they are now.

“Social media means you have to be ultra-careful about making sure all messaging is consistent, which means that with every campaign, you’re considering how you mould it to that particular segment of the market. It also means the lines between PR, communications and marketing are becoming increasingly blurred.

“Student.com helps students find their perfect home abroad. Because of what it is and does, we’re talking to connected young people who are international students and therefore 100 per cent ‘global’. It’s also a start-up, which means going back to basics to make sure our messaging is consistent.

“I put together a shared Google file outlining succinct, specific terms in which we talk about the business, so that anyone in the company needing access to key messages has them at their fingertips (our teams are based across 18 locations in five continents, so this is important). This is updated constantly as we evolve.

“In terms of external stories, announcing that we’d hit a key funding target in 2016 (£60m) was a big story for us, and needed much more careful handling (our investors include VY Capital, Li Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures, Spotify founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon, and Jim Breyer of Breyer Capital).

“The first task was to put together a list of stakeholders this might affect – for example, investors, landlords and internal communications teams. For each group, we then asked: what is their message? Who is their spokesperson? How does their story fit with the wider picture? Have we got the data we need to support each group?

“When we were confident we had all that in place, we could send the story out to the different channels, confident that our overarching brand message was consistent. For instance, Facebook is all about the consumer – so the right place for a piece on 20 Student Digs for under £100 a Week, for example – whereas Twitter is B2B; our objective here is to be part of the international student ecosystem, thought leadership, and so on.

“We’re also directly in touch with the media departments within universities that are involved in international recruitment. As increased mobility transforms the education sector, landlords are looking for new ways to access the international student market (five million students are currently studying abroad and The British Council estimates it will be 8m by 2025).

“It’s just as important to know your limits, however – it’s rare that we’re able to ‘slice and dice’ something that’s gone out on Twitter to see if it will fly on Facebook, or WeChat, which is massive in China. The audiences are too different, and we’d be foolish not to respect that.

“The difference between Student.com and a company such as Dow Jones, or Bloomsberg, where I’ve worked previously, is that the work is nowhere near as reactive because we’re not in the public eye as much – that’s when you know you’ve really hit the big time.

“At this stage, for us, the key is to prepare, prepare, prepare. That way, you can be confident that everyone in the company has bought into the brand and understands both what it stands for and who the spokesperson is for each stakeholder group within it – no matter what channel the news is going out on.”

Claire Lavelle Journalist and Content Creator
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