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Making the most of your agency in turbulent times

There’s no getting away from how turbulent things continue to be in higher education and how relentless it feels to work in a university right now. Like most sectors globally, people are exhausted and under immense pressure. We can hear in the conversations we have with our clients, and we can see in your faces before you even speak, the strains that you are under.

At Education Cubed we get this and we really want to help – not just in terms of getting results for your campaigns and projects but in helping you to solve problems that keep you awake at night.

Of course, this is not completely altruistic – if we don’t understand your challenges and work with you to overcome these, we might not be your chosen supplier in the future. But one of the reasons that Education Cubed chooses to serve universities is because we believe fully in your mission and the outstanding contribution that HE makes to society at large. We love being a part of that. And our team genuinely gives a damn about our clients and the sector – it’s one of our values.

So whether you are a client of ours or not, if you work in HE, here are some top tips for making the most of your agency right now, taken from our experience of working in university marketing as well as alongside you as a supplier:

  • Don’t forget that you are experts at understanding what your own institution needs. You have the power to provide detailed briefs which will get excellent results. So take your time to consider what outcomes you want, rather than what you think we should do – let us take that weight off your shoulders. And do ask for our help in refining your brief if you’re struggling. Try not to rush this stage, no matter what pressure you are under.
  • Procurement processes can sometimes be tricky to navigate but we want your projects to be a success as much as you do, and we want you to get good value for money. We are aligned with you completely in that endeavour. As your partners, we understand that your procurement processes are there to protect you, not to make life difficult – any decent agency will get that and will provide whatever information you need, especially if the agency has a proven track record and knows the sector. We’ll also help you to bring on board your procurement team (and other departments) if you need that support – work with us at the start to identify any potential obstacles.
  • We want to work as quickly as you need us to but sometimes it’s just not possible. We’ve got our own staff to protect and we want to make sure that we can give you our very best on every project. If we can’t deliver to your timescales, we will be very regretful but any good agency will be upfront about that from the beginning so that you are not disappointed or so that you can find an alternative supplier. Don’t be apologetic when asking for as much as you can from your agency – confident and experienced agencies will be honest in their responses and will always try and present you with solutions; that’s why we’re here.
  • Just because a million people (slight exaggeration) can now join the same virtual meeting to question suppliers on our products and services doesn’t mean that the meeting will be more effective. Don’t get bulldozed by staff and departments who would have not blinked an eyelid at what you are doing before our meetings became virtual – remember your expertise and your purpose and play the politics of your institution as you would do if you were physically on campus.
  • Do not try and replicate immediately everything you did on campus in the exact same way you want to do it online – the pandemic has provided us with an opportunity to potentially do things differently or better. Start with what you want to achieve rather than what you want to repeat – that’s a great challenge for an agency to have.

The world is already different. Our sector will be different. And everything will be different again when our population recovers from its dip in 18 year olds – this is a huge opportunity on the HE horizon that we need to be ready for. Thankfully, UK Higher Education is amongst one of the most resilient and life-changing sectors of all and personally, I’m very hopeful for the future. Try and surround yourself with positive suppliers who have the resilience, customer care and passion to energise you and your teams.

There’s no doubt though, it’s been incredibly tough and still is. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. And blummin’ heck, I can’t wait to see you all in person again!

Vicky Hayhurst, Strategy Director
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