A strategic decision to prioritise digital communication at Nelson Mandela University is reaping substantive results, including an international digital communication award.
The latest gains derived from the University’s new “digital first” approach, is the third place it took in an International Digital Communication Awards contest, among corporate heavyweights like Unilever, Nestlé, Audi, Procter and Gamble, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Vodafone.
The “digital first” entry in the COVID-19 Internal Communication section focused on the University’s communication efforts in supporting institutional efforts to enable students to complete the academic year, while pushing educational and awareness messaging towards health and safety.
“We are thrilled with this accolade as it affirms our decision to take the University into a new digital era that has also enabled us to reach new audiences around the globe,” said Deputy Vice-Chancellor, People and Operations, Lebogang Hashatse, of the University’s entry into the European-run competition.
“But more importantly, the digital first approach has enabled us to create awareness around changing behaviour to save lives through our #MaskUpMandela and #ItIsInYourHands campaigns.”
A digital first approach does not neglect those who may not have connectivity, but simply adapts the original printed content and materials for sharing on its social media platforms, including websites, to expand its reach.
Nelson Mandela University was one of the few African organisation’s recognised in the contest hosted by Quadriga University in Germany, with entries received from companies, agencies, associations, NGOs, political institutions and other parties from across the world, with the focus on digital, as well as viral campaigns, data-driven communication, recruitment, employer branding, chat bots and podcasts.
Senior Director, Communication and Marketing, Chantal Janneker said the concerted switch to “digital first” had come just as the pandemic and subsequent lockdown shut the bulk of on-campus activity at the University of 29 000 students and 4 000 staff across seven campuses in March 2020.
She said communicating coronavirus awareness, safety, prevention, the need for changed behaviour, for completing the academic year and in supporting the greater community in the region as an institution in the service of society, has been an ongoing project.
As too have been the efforts to assist staff and students to work and study remotely, fast-track online automated systems and in recruiting students for 2021.
The new “digital first” student recruitment strategy which replaced the traditional face-to-face approach has, for example, been successful with a 34% increase year-on-year of provisional acceptances by students to study at the University next year. At the same time, and for the first time, it had also run a national student recruitment radio campaign to ensure that the University’s call to action also reached students in less developed areas.
“Our integrated approach with digital at the heart is working, but the past seven months have not been easy.
“The team has worked hard, building relations and consistently finding creative new ways of ensuring that the message of saving lives and saving the academic year lands with different audiences. We’re more agile and able to turn things around far more quickly,” said Janneker.
She said the University’s dedicated coronavirus website, launched on 10 March, had been central to the Communication and Marketing team’s efforts with 175,600 views received to date from both internal and external stakeholders.
The poster page, as part of the leading #MaskUpMandela campaign, consistently ranked first or second on Google for coronavirus information poster searches, with posters being used by schools and displayed in shop windows throughout the province.
Other highlights of the entry included the COVID-19 Return to Campus pocket guides in three languages, the electronic guide of all new protocols and processes, stories about frontline staff, COVID-19 staff survivor videos, digital arts packages and an educational cartoon series, eRona Times.
For insights into the entry, see: