In this issue
|Niamh Doolan explains the strategy behind the rise of Griffith College|
Before joining the staff at Griffith College ten years ago, I had the benefit of being a student here. In the time I have worked for the college, Griffith has grown from a student population of 500 to over 8,000. In the education sector, we say with some pride that we are an undoubted success.
As the numbers attending the college have grown, so has the main campus on the South Circular Road. In recent years we have invested over €50 million on infrastructure and developments, including a new bar and restaurant, new halls of residence and a state of the art conference centre due to open soon.
As a past student of Griffith, I would see myself as being student focused and this reflects the college ethos. When marketing the college, we always look to put the student first and it is not just a case of getting bums on seats.
We provide a wide range of courses and see ourselves as an alternative to mainstream education and a college that looks after its students. From a marketing perspective, it is selling this message and these qualities that are paramount and this runs through all streams of our marketing.
Marketing a third level institution comes in many forms. Our obvious target market comprises second level students, their parents, guidance counsellors and those wishing to complete a part-time academic or professional course.
We utilise press, outdoor, radio, internet and TV advertising at crucial times of the year. We also decided to hire PR agency Pembroke Communications to enhance our relationship with the relevant media.
The key times of the year for a third level institution are obviously when people are making their mind up about which college to attend and this is usually CAO time in January and in August when people get their results.
We need to stand out and make ourselves different from all the other noise at this time and this is a real challenge, as the likes of UCD and DCU have far bigger marketing budgets than we would have.
Our strategy is to position Griffith as a young vibrant college with high standards and a caring attitude towards our staff and students. We are not a faceless college, but one that provides something different and an education that one would not get elsewhere.
The college has gone from being a last resort in the eyes of some to a first option in the eyes of many. It is due to word of mouth and the development of niche BA courses in photography, fashion design and interior architecture as well as established courses such as journalism, design and law.
Promoting Griffith is a broader canvass than just advertising and PR and as a result we need to influence the influencers. We go directly to guidance counsellors and host a training day for guidance teachers and attend expos.
In relation to sponsorship, it is an area where we must tread carefully. Our sponsorship of the Setanta Sports coverage of the schools rugby makes sense as it hits our target market of second level students across Leinster. We will look at similar targeted sponsorships as they arise.
As we have expanded, the emphasis is on getting the branding right. With campuses in Cork, Dublin and Limerick, plus our presence in Karachi and Moscow, we are now Griffith College as opposed to Griffith College Dublin.
An institution with 8,000 students needs to maintain that personal touch. It is a much different challenge now than ten years ago but we must not lose sight of what made us a success. Catering for the new demand and promoting new courses means we have to make sure the new message is communicated.
Our policy has been to diversify, to grow and expand. As the number of students sitting the Leaving Cert fell, it was felt that private colleges would suffer. In fact, the reverse has happened and we have experienced massive growth, with a 27 per cent increase in full-time applications. In many respects, clear and concise marketing has helped achieve this.
Almost 12 per cent of our students come from overseas, so marketing the college is broader than just Irish media. It requires a strong overseas network with an international office and agents working on our behalf. Griffith is a multicultural place to study, with students from Europe, India and China.
In future, we will have to update our marketing strategy for an expanding college and a competitive and changing marketplace. The internet has become a more popular avenue for us. Keeping the message simple and being proud of your product is more than half the battle.