University marketing teams play an essential role in portraying their institution and the higher education (HE) sector to the outside world. By its nature, this work targets diverse audiences. But how diverse are the university marketing teams that put the communications and campaigns together? How well equipped are HE marketers to reflect, understand and connect with these diverse audience groups?
In June this year, in partnership with SUMS Consilting, we set out to explore diversity in university marketing teams with senior marcomms professionals in the sector, using a quantitative questionnaire along with a series of in-depth interviews with HE marketing directors. We asked a wide range of questions to gauge HE marcomms professionals’ personal experiences of equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) and explored their experiences of delivering EDI marketing activity through their roles in their university and their perspectives on the relative success of EDI marketing across the sector. We also gathered their views on the techniques, policies and methodologies that can be put in place to enable more inclusive practices in the future.
It won’t surprise anyone to know that awareness of the importance of EDI and its role in higher education was exceptionally high. But there was also a strong sense that universities are not doing enough to address this issue. There’s an acknowledgement that the sector is on a journey, and that there is still some way to go. Leaders and senior practitioners also recognise the important role that marketing and communications professionals have to play in driving change in this space.
Respondents clearly saw a wide range of benefits from embracing EDI in marketing practices, including improved student recruitment, and being more reflective of society and the wider communities they are seeking to reach. Some were even more ambitious about the prospect of HE marketing moving the dial on social justice and driving greater consciousness of diversity in the world beyond universities. It is perhaps telling that our respondents were not able to point to any campaigns that they thought did a great job of embracing EDI. However, a number of universities were mentioned as demonstrating good practice.