Student Recruitment – Time to review our publicity?
What is your PRODUCT?
There are a lot of societies students can join at university.
For some students, bell ringing can sometimes carry a lot of stereotypes. We need to help prospective members see past this. The Central Council website includes a list of a lot of myth-busting stereotypes here: cccbr.org.uk/services/pr/advice/myths.
So, what makes your society stand out, make it better than all the rest & will encourage students to join in?
My answer is based on experiences with the University of London Society of Change Ringers – ULSCR… but I imagine that other societies aren’t far off this description!
A university ringing society is so much more than the name suggests. Like most other ringing societies, it’s a place where you discover a ready-made network of friends & drinking buddies. We go on tours (day trips & weekends), participate in inter-university competitions around the country (SUA/NUA), attend nearby practice nights for more ringing opportunities, ring handbells (method & tune) and have social events such as pancake parties, Christmas practices/parties, game nights, ceilidhs, theatre trips and formal dinners. Most university ringing societies provide excellent training of new recruits and create opportunities for the experienced ringers among us to progress our ringing.
What is your PLAN?
…or targets? Obviously our target is to bag a load of university students.
Identify your advertising areas: student unions, student newspapers, onsite/offsite pubs, university library, local churches/cathedrals, university chapels, friends, ringing grapevine (never underestimate!), Freshers’ Fairs, social media (university & ringing groups), BellBoard etc. Also, are there any areas on your campus that are suitable for a mini-ring?
Compile/create your publicity material &/or Taster Sessions: but don’t reinvent the Wheel! Is there any way you can re-use or update existing publicity material in some way so you don’t make extra work for yourselves – maybe with new photos?
Spread the Responsibility: don’t have just one person in charge. Publicity is a big job which can be quite time consuming and overwhelming – find the right person for each job. If you have a design student available then ask them to do the leaflet. If you have a great people person then suggest they would like to lead the Freshers’ Fair stall etc…
Be Realistic: you’re not going to convince students overnight that university ringing is THE place to be on a practice night! However, it would be wise to consider what happens after a publicity event. Like for example, considering how many trainers you currently have & backup activities. How would you manage a situation where you had 10 students suddenly turn up after your freshers’ fair wanting training?? Could you have a “holding area” where those that can’t teach bell-handling can give them a go with handbells whilst they are waiting perhaps?
You don’t want to become a victim of your own success…
Publicity – Ease of Access: your members/supporters need easy access to your publicity to help spread the word. You could encourage your webmasters to create a “Publicity Page” on your university ringing website and upload the material. Some ideas for this are on University Ringing & ULSCR websites:
Publicity Examples: the following techniques have been used successfully:
- Poster distribution with tear off contact slips attached around university buildings, local cafes / book shops / shops (in & around the student area of town)
- The Ringing Grapevine (word-of-mouth) very powerful!
- Supporting your home Young Ringers band – encourage them to continue at university!
- Advertising at the local cathedral/church or with your University Chaplains
- Looking through Bell Board footnotes for anyone celebrating getting into university!
- Keeping the university ringing website up-to-date (vital!) update your society entry
- Advertising in the Ringing World, on Campanophile, Bell Board, Facebook & Twitter.
- Universities Ringing World Issue (London – ULSCR)
- University social media accounts
- Mentioning “ringing” when out with friends and other student friends
- Advertising at Freshers Fairs (flyers, collecting emails, promoting university ringing website etc…) including a model bell and handbells.
- Taster sessions for people to come along and have a go / general open days with the local association – very successful (Liverpool has evening ‘Twilight Tours’ each month)!
Don’t just sit back once you’re done! Ensure you are continuously on the lookout for the next “hook” or event you can latch onto to help promote your university society. These could be national events that the university is probably joining in with anyway such as Red Nose Day, Children In Need or Comic Relief.
You could ring a sponsored QP or Peal with everyone wearing fancy dress, red noses or Pudsey Bear ears. If your tower is a little distance off campus then hiring a mini-ring or using handbells could help make you more visible and students could pay to have-a-go.
Although the focus should be more on getting people into the tower, over recent years, the ULSCR has managed to raise over £1500 to help the Southwark Cathedral bell restoration project! We achieved this by ringing Christmas carols on handbells around London over a few years.
Central Council Actions
Whether there is a university society or not, two points are clearly emphasised:
- student ringers need the basic information about ringing at their destination university to be readily available
- personal recommendation to students that they should go to ring in their new city is invaluable
What can we do to support students to get involved in ringing? MRFS (the Canterbury branch secretary), Jenny Holden of Aberdeen and Jacqui Brown of London all suggest that more publicity material could be produced centrally, to be used locally.
- We can all encourage students to ring when they go to university, providing contacts so they know who to talk to when they get there.
- The Central Council’s Public Relations Committee can…
- prepare a ‘university friendly’ recruitment poster and other material as appropriate, to be used ‘as is’ or tailored for local needs;
- where there are universities but no society, the committee should encourage the local ringers to provide a contact;
- update and maintain the contact list currently held on the Central Council website, and should see whether the contact list can be published in the Ringing World at an appropriate time of year;
- encourage the Ringing World and university societies to repeat the widely praised University of London edition (see right) with a different society.