We can see some important on campus marketing trends already arising from the start of the 2022-3 season, explains Jayne Cullen, Early Careers Consultant at 106 Communications.
In this time of volatility, Gen Zers are adapting as quickly as a Ryan Air meme, so it’s time to check in and make sure our comms strategies are up-to-date.
At 106 Communications, we specialise in student marketing, and we want to share with you what’s hot and what’s not when reaching the Gen Z audience. Let’s be clear, this isn’t about shiny new campaign or obsessive trend watching, this is about current Gen Z attitudes towards employers and the world of work, and the implications of this on how we communicate with them.
1. Early applications lower than pre-pandemic but engagement is high
Remembering that current finalists and recent graduates have lived most of their student lives during the pandemic it’s unsurprising that they might be prioritising their student academic and social lives over job hunting.
Speaking with our clients and careers services the consensus seems to be that applications are coming in later again this year and many employers including KPMG and Accenture have delayed opening their applications until later in the season.
Despite applications being lower than pre-pandemic at this point in the season, many employers including EY, LBG and Unlocked are seeing campus engagement as being better than expected.
There was a concern coming into this season that students would be too cautious to engage in careers activities with few opportunities to have developed their networking skills in the pandemic. But Khadija Lewis of Unlocked has, “had some great conversations with some great students on campus so far” with students who are either the polished article or those who just want to learn more about careers (both equally valuable).
For those employers who focussed their campaigns earlier in the season it may be worth considering spring term activity to support those coming to the jobs market later.
2. Virtual events still work but for different reasons
What would we have done without virtual events during Covid? But now student learning in person is back on track and the opportunity to meet students face to face has returned, what are employers’ views on virtual?
Well pretty consistent – the ability to reach a more diverse audience, the ability to record them and make them available to a wider audience and the ability to get more of the business there and involved are all still valid benefits.
But it seems that the role of the virtual event is shifting in focus for some brands with the expectation that sign up rates will remain relatively high but that conversions to attendance are lower this year. However, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t valuable. In fact the opposite as anecdotally, employers are seeing more committed and motivated students attending virtual events than previously.
So, seeing virtual events as vehicles to convert students is more the name of the game than for brand raising purposes.
3. Brand evangelists
Cutting through the noise is hard. Proving that you’re a trusted voice when you’re self-promoting is hard. Influencers are the easy answer.
An influencer is everything from your fashion blogger with two million followers to your brand ambassadors on campus. Whatever form they take, an influencer is a trusted voice who speaks the same language as your audience. They are integrated into your audience’s existing social media practice, making it much easier to cut through their feed and organically present information.
Bright Network found that 82% of students talk about their career with friends/family/peers. It’s unsurprising, but not enough people take advantage of this network.
Your marketing communications will benefit from identifying the trusted voices for your audience (an industry influencer online, a student micro-influencer, relevant social media pages they might follow) and from finding a way to collaborate and raise your employer brand profile.
Leveraging people you already have in your network is another great way to build brand advocacy. For example, you could integrate a social media farewell with an embedded CTA for your intern offboarding and ask current early talent to spread the word through their networks as much as possible.
Champions such as Laura Yeates, Clifford Chance and Margaret Leach from Linklaters were applauded, during a recent 106 Comms Black heritage student focus group, for their support and allyship of student diverse audiences both on social media and in person.
4. A climate of scepticism
We have been running student focus groups across Europe for clients and have noticed a surprising trend: when it comes to environmental sustainability, students believe it is important but their cynicism towards organisations’ sustainability efforts negates it as an employment motivator.
Students almost unanimously said that they would prefer to work for a company offering employee benefits and events (think drinks, social extras etc) over a company with a strong environmental agenda.
The reason being that they don’t believe the organisations making these promises. Students see these environmental aspirations as too abstract with little to no ability to hold an organisation to account.
One group said that if they had those benefits they’d have a good work community, and that community could then launch their own environmental initiative. For those Voxburner readers you won’t be surprised by this trend, as their recent report ‘Gen Z or Generation Green’ supported our anecdotal findings.
Employer communications need to reference social issues but also need to be authentic to their brand and find ways to bring ‘walking the walk’ to life to get these disillusioned folks on board.
5. Students need support
The Cost of Living Crisis is hitting Gen Z hard; the NUS ‘Student Cost of Living Report’ found a third of UK students have £50 or less to live on per month after paying rent and bills. Employers need to recognise this challenge and the impact it is having on their student target audience.
Conversations about salary are very much coming to the fore on student forums, in person at fairs and in interviews BUT, they also want to know about the opportunity for career growth. In uncertain economic times employers need to be transparent about progression, show the stability and room for growth your organisation has to offer.
Communications that celebrate your learning and development opportunities, publish clearly defined career paths and that demonstrate how you will continue to support them beyond the initial graduate role will land well in reassuring audiences around financial concerns.
Read more advice and insight on student marketing