It’s back to school today for some of the digital and social media marketing mavens of the future.
And, at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), the students are embarking on digital projects that will plunge them into the world of the blog; stretching their online skills while keeping one eye on the real-life jobs they’ll eventually be occupying.
For the first time, MMU undergraduates – operating as virtual agencies – will have to submit their digital marketing strategy for a live project as a blog post on a platform of their choice. But the assessment doesn’t stop there – it also requires the use of key words, tags and a linking strategy that will affect their blog’s eventual search rankings.
If universities are going to beat the perennial employer complaint about graduates not having transferable skills, this is certainly the way to go about it.
Brendan Keegan, senior lecturer in digital marketing at MMU, tells PR Media Blog: “The digital marketing industry is demanding and the students need to be up-to-date on it.” That’s why he and David Edmundson-Bird, MMU’S principal lecturer in digital communications are constantly looking for ways to keep the digital marketing and communications course fresh and relevant to the demands of the world beyond the lecture theatre.
The fact that both Keegan and Edmundson-Bird have been part of that world has got to be a good thing for today’s student body.
Keegan, a full-time MMU lecturer since January this year, taught to high school level in Ireland and Manchester before getting involved in web design, media sales and viral marketing campaigns. His first foray into online community building came with a project to help UK-wide town managers share knowledge, which included a LinkedIn group and a ghost-written blog to maintain the flow of interaction among the group.
He says: “We wanted to inspire engagement, discussion and create a digital footprint that would encourage new members to join. The ultimate aim was to gain a ‘return on involvement’ for members and it did this by increasing activity and crossing over into offline events.”
The digital lessons he learned outside academia have influenced Keegan’s aspiration to dispatch MMU’s digital marketing students with real skills for the real world: “The specific roles are now out there and our graduates need to be not only highly aware of a rapidly changing sector but also highly employable.”
So what next? Keegan: “Digital branding is more important than ever before and social media is consistently growing – I don’t think we’re going back; it’s evolutionary.”
*MMU and online marketing company, PushOn, have collaborated on a new piece of research, Digital Directions: How Business Decision Makers in the North West use the Internet. Download it free of charge.