Like many new universities, Bucks New University has to make its voice heard in a crowded landscape. Fortunately it has plenty to shout about. While it might be new, it has a long and successful track record in vital industries. Our challenge was to make their job-focused courses more appealing to school leavers faced with a multitude of choices.
As well as writing over 70 undergraduate course descriptions, we looked at their prospectus, postgrad courses – and ran a copywriting workshop.
Courses that lead to careers
The website refresh focused on breaking the course descriptions into the pages areas prospective students like to see: course overview, why Bucks?, modules, course requirements and employability. Our job was to make sure each of these was distinct and added value to the course.
Any 16-17 year-old on the verge of deciding which course to choose is more likely to pick a course that speaks to them in terms they understand. While academics may be happy with ‘a cognitive underpinning to decision making’, that’s no the way to connect with a school leaver.
In particular we wanted to improve the visibility of their great employability news.
Keeping everyone involved
The key to writing good course descriptions lies in involving the course leaders. Working closely with the marketing team at Bucks we took a systematic approach to emailing and calling course leaders to get them engaged and on board with our writing style. Academics are naturally wary of a simpler, fresher tone of voice, but for school leavers it’s vital to keep things at a level they can relate to.
We put some readability measures in place to give everyone confidence that a simpler style was in everyone’s interests. And with the opportunity to interview course leaders we could make sure the copy dealt in specifics rather than terms, which were too abstract.
A recipe for a successful prospectus
The next logical step was to take a look at the prospectus. Bucks already had a fresh looking design to play with. All it needed was a fresh set of words. As well as the more obvious sections such as campus life and local attractions, we also helped with the more weighty sections such as the welcome from the Vice Chancellor.
Taking it up a level
We also refreshed 25 post grad courses – interviewing the course leaders where possible. These descriptions are always an interesting challenge for writers. We have to combine the intelligence of the offer with the need for speed of even the cleverest postgrad. That doesn’t mean simplifying for the sheer hell of it. In this case it meant talking to the course leaders and pressing them for the real benefits of their course. Again we try to get rid of as much abstract language as possible and replace with concrete specific things that student have either done or will do on the course.
Then they took our words inhouse
The Bucks marketing team asked us to come and give a copywriting workshop. Over the course of a day we were able to give them insights into the persuasive aspects of copywriting. The group included people from all aspects of the university’s comms: marketing, digital, admissions and more. And we got round to discussing their tone of voice, which we hope will be the next project with the university.
I found it very useful. It definitely boosted my confidence to write professional pieces as well as fiction – a win win.
Tais McPherson, Senior Admissions Officer
This post was written by Richard Spencer