Communication winners and losers #7

Every month GKP identifies who has scored in the education PR stakes and who has had a communications management malfunction.

Education PR HMC

Communications #fail of the month

The news that some top universities were hiking their fees last month provoked an inevitable backlash. Students, it is widely accepted, are already burdened with record-breaking debt, should they really have to shoulder more?

What was surprising, however, is that leading the outraged reaction was none other than HMC, the lobby group for top independent schools. “The last set of fee rises are just not on,” fumed Chris Ramsey, chair of the group. “A further £750 at least will be added to [students’] debt… Common sense suggests that you shouldn’t make your paying customers feel as though you’ve got them over a barrel…” and so on.

These are all perfectly good points to make. But is the HMC the organization to make them? Its outrage exploded at the same time as Lloyds Bank reported that middle-class families were being priced out of private schools by soaring fees. The fees for a three-year university degree wouldn’t cover the annual fees at a top HMC school, while £750 wouldn’t cover music tuition let alone fencing lessons.

One could charitably claim that there is no such thing as bad publicity, the HMC spotted an opportunity and deployed its well-known marketing chutzpah. But I suspect for most people another word comes to mind…

University PR Salford

Communications #win of the month

Talking of chutzpah, take a bow the University of Salford. It decided to take to the dating app Tinder to flaunt its attractions to students a week before they got their A-level results. 

“Start a lasting relationship with us this September,” it cooed. “I don’t want to lecture you but I think we’d be good match…” You get the gist.

Of course, some may find universities resorting to such demotic methods unbecoming. But in a buyer’s market what is a girl, boy or university to do?

Gerard Kelly is the former editor of the Times Educational Supplement and Times Higher Education. He is the founding partner of Gerard Kelly & Partners (GKP), a communications consultancy. GKP offers education PR, marketing, consultancy and communications management to UK schools, universities and business.