August 15, 2013 ↘︎

Higher ed lacks a strategic approach to digital marketing.

The digital challenge

The savvy, demanding and connected audiences targeted by higher education institutions have challenged the roles and responsibilities of marketing and communication teams and affected campaign delivery.

Hunting and gathering: the db approach

We’ve maintained an interest in the development of digital within the HE sector since our involvement at Murdoch University where we created an award winning digital team that helped to transform the university’s brand.

‘How much value are institutions achieving from the digital channel?’

Hunting for answers

In our hunt to understand the challenges faced by digital marketing and communication teams in the H.E sector, digital balance conducted an online survey in combination with a series of 1-2-1 interviews.

Gathering insights

We gathered information from Vice Chancellors through to Digital Marketing Managers from over 40 universities in the APAC region including UWA, Macquarie University and University of Melbourne.


Top 5 insights

  1. Digital teams are not able to focus on the true strategic value of digital‘35% have no digital strategy in place’ and 50% feel a ‘lack of understanding of the real value of digital marketing’ still exists at their institution with traditional media relied on for marketing.

‘Schools haven’t really grasped the value of digital yet.
They come to us with pre-determined solutions rather than problems.’

Digital Manager, Victoria

  1. The pace of growth in the digital channel has been underestimated
digital teams have been making do with resources with many individuals expected to fulfill 3 to 5 different roles. Teams had seen ‘no change’ in headcount over the last 3 years and had ‘no plans’ to increase in the next 2 years.
  2. Budgets and resources need to be re-drawn
To be effective, budgets should focus on the areas of digital that support the wider digital strategy. Over 70% of participants did not have a stand-alone digital marketing budget. For those that did most spend was allocated to marketing campaigns or search marketing.
  3. Senior leadership teams need to become stronger advocates of digital
41% felt their leadership teams had an ‘average or poor’ understanding of digital’s potential with 32% not having confidence that their institution would continue to invest in, and support the development of digital.
  4. Digital marketers need to be given a greater sphere of influence
32% of survey participants feel that ‘a lack of centralised governance and ownership’ is a barrier preventing further investment into digital and was affecting the institutions overall digital experience.

‘I’m often caught between what I know our target audience wants and what our senior executives think in terms of content consumption.’

Digital Manager, South Australia

Overall, the research reflects that institutions aren’t adopting the recommended best practice in the development of their digital experience; as evidenced by the number of digital marketing managers feeling that they were playing ‘catch up’ in their digital offering. Request a copy of the full report to find out more.

The content and advice contained in this post may be out of date. Last updated on August 15, 2013.
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