Aston University’s Aston Originals was conceived as a solution to making our University’s research and knowledge outputs accessible and relevant to non-experts.
Aston University was founded back in 1895 and became a university in 1966. It’s located in Birmingham at the heart of a vibrant city and is led by Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive Professor Aleks Subic.
For the past three years The Guardian University Guide has ranked Aston University in the UK’s top 25, based on measures including entry standards, student satisfaction, research quality and graduate prospects. The Aston Business School MBA programme was ranked in the top 100 in the world in the Economist MBA 2021 ranking.
These are great achievements for a relatively small university, and with an increase in good stories to tell about Aston University and changing methods of consuming media, the press and communications team wanted to explore new channels.
As recently as 2020 our team was just two people, which meant a lot of long days keeping on top of the University’s needs. However, when the team started to expand in 2020 it freed up some extra time to start exploring methods of bringing Aston University’s expertise to new audiences and exploiting the digital channels on offer.
We decided to create a YouTube channel to discuss topics that concern the general public in an accessible and easy to watch manner. Our vision was to bring the University academics’ work to life, independent of traditional media.
So, we set about creating the brand-new digital channel to host engaging digital content. It provided a platform to showcase the diverse research from our academic community and to develop an engaged audience from our target demographics.
With a small budget we built a studio from scratch to record and stream videos and blogs. Our small team is made up of mostly former broadcast journalists who used their existing skills, and learnt new ones, to create the content.
We set ourselves an overall objective to support student recruitment increasing brand awareness of Aston University among prospective students and their influencers to drive up conversions.
We set ourselves SMART targets to grow an organic audience for a new channel, including 300 YouTube subscribers, 300 Aston Originals Twitter followers and 12,000 views/listens across videos and podcasts within 18 months. We exceeded all of these. The range of issues we’ve covered is phenomenal – from weight-loss injections to the war in Ukraine
Aston Originals has given us the opportunity to show colleagues what we are capable of achieving and how we can help them achieve their communications goals.
Following winning the award and internal publicity about it, we’ve received an increase in enquiries from academics who want to get involved. We’re going to host two new podcasts hosted by our academics, one exploring healthy workplaces and another which gives advice to prospective students and new academics, which will help support student and staff recruitment.
We’ve also been given a small amount of University funding to enable us to make some much-needed upgrades to our on campus studio.
Winning the Digital PR – Best use of YouTube award has given our team the opportunity to highlight the effectiveness of our Aston Originals channel to colleagues across the University. Our team has received recognition from our Vice-Chancellor for our work, and there has been an increase in demand from academics want to work with us on future videos.