These and other powerful university campaigns from the past year were recognised today with the sector’s highest awards in these fields. The 2018 Universities Australia Marketing, Communications and Development awards were presented at the UAMCD conference in Melbourne.
Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said the awards highlighted the passion, skills and expertise of the sector’s frontline storytellers in each field.
“What is clear from each of the winning campaigns is the genuine passion, sage expertise and deft storytelling skills among those at the top of these crafts in our sector,” she said.
The sector also honoured one of its most senior practitioners in these specialist fields – with the UAMCD Lifetime Achievement award being conferred on Callista Thillou of Flinders University.
Ms Thillou has dedicated much of her career to highlighting the transformative power of university education and research — including at two national peak bodies for universities and at Flinders. “Australia’s universities conduct world-class research and teaching, day in and day out. And it’s no different with the people who work in university communications, marketing, advancement and alumni relations,” Ms Jackson said.
“They find the stories inside our universities that inspire and share them with the public in ways that are deeply moving,” she said. “This crucial work raises funds for life-changing university research, better informs public debate with facts, and plants the seeds of ambition for a university education in our nation’s disadvantaged communities.”
“This year’s awards pay tribute to the best of the best. I congratulate all the winners for their outstanding work and thank them for their crucial role in telling the story of what our universities do to transform the lives of individuals – as well as our economies and societies.”
Ms Jackson also paid tribute to Callista Thillou.
“Each year, Universities Australia honours a person in one of these fields whose skill and dedication to our sector has been exceptional over a sustained period,” she said.
“Callista’s high-quality contributions to the sector over many years have earned her the very high regard of many senior people in Australian higher education.”
“We thank Callista for her outstanding commitment to Australia’s university sector over such a span of time – and take great pleasure in awarding her this great honour.” The full citations for each award are:
BEST PROACTIVE COMMUNICATIONS
THE UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND – NASA-INSPIRED CROPS SPEED BREEDING
“It’s a hard ask to make wheat-breeding sound interesting – let alone newsworthy. But that’s exactly what the in-house communications team at the University of Queensland did with this communications piece. Their framing of this research breakthrough as a ‘NASA-inspired idea’, strong visuals, comprehensive planning and media packaging of materials including video grabs and timing its release for the sleepy news period from January 1 ensured this story clicked up the metrics. It generated a very large amount of positive global coverage in major outlets and a cumulative reach of 7.4 million people overall.”
BEST REAL-TIME RESPONSE COMMUNICATIONS
THE AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY – ANU FLOODS RESPONSE COMMUNICATION
“When a sudden torrential downpour hit on 25 February, Sullivan’s Creek broke its banks and flooded ANU’s campus. Flash-flooding inundated some of the university’s most-loved buildings, including the Chifley Library and the Tjabal Indigenous Centre. The university’s crisis management team met on the Sunday afternoon and decided to close the whole campus — requiring them to reach 22,000 students and 4,500 staff overnight. ANU’s Strategic Communications and Public Affairs team swung into action. Swiftly, they confirmed their emergency response plan, notified all major local media outlets who started running rolling coverage with updates and the key message that campus was being closed, activated a call plan to notify a vast number of stakeholders and got the word out swiftly via email, social media, SMS and push notifications from their app to 10,000 subscribers. It was a calm, methodical and well-executed response in a tight timeframe.”
BEST FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN OR INITIATIVE – STARTUP
UNIVERSITY OF THE SUNSHINE COAST – USC 1996 SOCIETY
“The development team at the University of Sunshine Coast drew on the founding story of the university in 1996 – and the vision of those who opened the doors of the institution with just 500 students after building on a green-fields site. Establishing an endowment at such a young institutional age was a bold step. Their vehicle is a giving club of founders – the 1996 Society. With good planning and objectives, tight messaging, and clear metrics they set out to attain, they delivered a solid foundation for future growth. It was good work by the small staff team and a great base on which to build.”
BEST FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN OR INITIATIVE – ESTABLISHED
THE UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA – NEW CENTURY CAMPAIGN
“With this major campaign, the university set out to change the face of philanthropy in Western Australia — and they certainly did. The success of the University of Western Australia (UWA) campaign — its first major initiative on this scale — was a step-change in the way philanthropy is viewed in WA. This was thanks in significant part to its widely-publicised $130 million donation from Andrew and Nicola Forrest. They’ve exceeded their $400 million target – and reached that milestone seven months before the end of the campaign. An outstanding achievement by the team whose task will now be to embed this culture for the long-term.”
BEST MARKETING CAMPAIGN – SMALLER BUDGET
QUEENSLAND UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY: UNIVERSITY FOR THE REAL WORLD – MID-YEAR ENTRY CAMPAIGN 2018
“Sitting beneath its successful long-term master brand campaign promoting itself as ‘a university for the real world’, QUT dedicated a modest marketing budget to promote its mid-year intake to both undergraduate and postgraduate prospective students. Urging potential applicants to ‘make a mid-year resolution’, the campaign targeted university ‘late-starters’ who had missed the earlier intake and gap-year students – and achieved strong visibility with a buy focussed on digital, public transport and outdoor. It achieved strong growth in postgrad applications and a 28 per cent applications bump overall.”
BEST MARKETING CAMPAIGN – LARGER BUDGET
AUSTRALIAN CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY: ‘ENGAGE WITH EMPATHY. NOT EGO.’ OPEN DAY CAMPAIGN 2017
“On both message and metrics, this campaign knew what it wanted to achieve – and delivered. Strategically, it set out to reposition the university – and did. It nailed both the research insights and the brief of projecting ACU’s mission with a message that could appeal to everyone. It’s tagline of ‘empathy not ego’ was designed to appeal to a broad audience. With clever executions that highlighted its degree offerings in the caring professions and an outstanding choice of students for its ‘hero’ videos of their volunteer work in Indigenous, refugee and homeless communities, this campaign broadened the university’s perceptions and appeal. Postgrad applications were up 28 per cent and undergrad by 11 per cent following the campaign period. Empathy is a great place to start to build a brand.”
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
CALLISTA THILLOU, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMUNICATIONS AND ENGAGEMENT, FLINDERS UNIVERSITY
“Callista Thillou is passionate about how universities improve the lives of people and communities. She has dedicated much of her professional career to raising public awareness of the transformative power of university education and research. For almost two decades, she has led highly effective communication teams and campaigns that resonate with the public and demonstrate why universities matter. Callista has overseen external engagement, marketing, communications, alumni and development at two national peak bodies and a university. She has led communications, policy and engagement operations at Universities UK and the former Australian Vice Chancellor’s Committee – now Universities Australia – where she was in a demanding executive role as Director of Communications and Government Relations for four years. Callista is now Executive Director of Communication and Engagement at Flinders University. Her teams there have won several major prizes for their work. In addition to her senior executive roles, Callista has contributed further as a board member and now as Deputy Chair of Engagement Australia. Passionately committed to equal opportunity, she has championed female advancement via the SAGE Athena Swan initiative and is an active member of Flinders University’s ally network. Callista’s many contributions to the sector have earned her the very high regard of many senior people in Australian higher education. This includes those who have nominated her for the rare honour of the UAMCD Lifetime Achievement Award. We thank you, Callista, for your outstanding commitment to Australia’s university sector over such a sustained period.”