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FE First Awards deadline – coming soon

August 16, 2016


FE First Awards for marketing excellence 2016 – entry deadline 26th September. Join  us at the Hilton Northampton on 28th November to celebrate the best in college marketing – and maybe to win your own FE First Award. More information and entry forms on our website

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How to enter:

  1. Go to our website FE First Awards page and download the Awards brochure for more information and the awards entry form
  2. Download the category entry forms for the categories you want to enter
  3. Complete them as directed and send them in with your entry fee and the awards entry form from the brochure
  4. For any help you need, phone the CMN office on 01772 257833
  5. Good luck!

There is lots more help in our brochure and on the website so please make sure you read through the advice and information available before entering to be sure you include everything that’s needed.

New website now live

July 20, 2016

webhomeOur new website is now live at – visit us today!

Annual Conference 2016

June 29, 2016

ADVANCE NOTICE – our 29th Annual Conference will be on 28-29 November at the Hilton Northampton.

Copy of IMG_4661Update your skills and network with colleagues at our friendly and inspiring event, open to marketing professionals from GFE, sixth form and specialist colleges, UTCs, academies and schools. Special rates available for CMN members throughout the booking period, plus an early bird rate only open to CMN member colleges booking before 24th October.

More programme information to follow – watch the website at (new site coming soon). Download the conference brochure and booking form here.

And if you’re interested in supporting the conference and awards, we’d love to hear from you – find out more here or contact the office on 01772 257833.

FE First Awards 2016 now open

June 2, 2016

awards web bannerThe College Marketing Network is inviting entries for the FE First Awards 2016 for marketing excellence.

The awards will be made at the College Marketing Network’s Gala Dinner as part of our 29th Annual Conference at the Hilton Northampton.

The categories for FE First Awards 2016 are:

  • PR campaign
  • Communications campaign
  • Events management
  • Website development, sponsored by FEmarketing
  • Innovation
  • Digital and social media campaign
  • School leaver recruitment campaign
  • Specialised recruitment campaign
  • Full-time prospectus
  • Marketing Team of the Year*
  • Lifetime Achievement Award*

 * These categories are only open to colleges in current membership of the College Marketing Network at the time of entry.

What Awards will be made?

Judges can award a Gold, Silver and Highly Commended award in each category. Judges reserve the right not to make all of these awards if they do not feel all the entries reach their expected quality.

Shortlisted colleges will be contacted before the 2016 Annual Conference and invited to the Gala Dinner and Awards ceremony at the Hilton Northampton. The organisers very much hope that those shortlisted for one of the Awards will be available to attend, so that all awards can be made at the ceremony.

How to apply

The deadline for entries is 1pm, Monday 26th September 2016. Please note: incomplete or late entries cannot be accepted.

The following items MUST be included with your entry:

  • 1 awards entry form (download from to cover all the categories you enter;
  • A purchase order number or entry fee for the total number of entries;
  • 3 copies of each category submission, including any prospectuses, brochures or campaign literature, in 3 separate folders;
  • A completed proforma executive summary at the front of each of the three copies of your entry.

Don’t forget there are separate proforma entry forms and guidance for each category. Your entry MUST be made on the correct proforma which is available for download at

Extra information about the categories, criteria and how to enter can be found at

Entry fees: £70 per category for the first two categories entered, or £60 per category if three or more are entered (CMN member colleges); £105 per category non-CMN member colleges (or join the College Marketing Network before 15th August 2016 and pay the reduced members’ rate.)

  • VAT is N/A to entry fees
  • Remittance details available on request; cheques must be made payable to ‘The College Marketing Network’

Please send entries to: The College Marketing Network, F16, Preston Technology Management Centre, Marsh Lane, PRESTON, PR1 8UQ

Tel:       01772 257833

Entries may also be submitted via email to


What does winning an award mean for you?

‘We were delighted to have received both Gold and Silver Awards for our summer campaigns this year. To be recognised in this way by other industry professionals against stiff competition from across the country means a great deal to all of the team. It has helped give us more credibility internally and significantly raised our profile.’

Birmingham Metropolitan College Marketing Team

“Winning marketing awards definitely gives the team a boost – and particularly winning a Gold Award has helped our credibility internally at the college. The team have enjoyed the praise they have received from colleagues and senior management!”

Charmian Turner – Team Leader, Marketing & Admissions, Shrewsbury College

“Winning the FE First Award is not only a great confidence boost for the team – and a thoroughly enjoyable night out – it also has great strategic importance.  The awards are an opportunity to compare ourselves against the best in the sector.  If the academics have Ofsted and Student Services have the Matrix standard, this is our moment to challenge our strategy, implementation and evaluation techniques against the very best the sector has to offer.  To win is a great achievement and means we can move forward, taking more risks, with belief and conviction.”

Michael Bennett, Head of Marketing & Communications, South Essex College

“Winning three Silvers and Gold for Team of the Year at the FE First Awards 2015 was the icing on the cake for the marketing team. We’d had a few challenging years as a college and the team had worked tirelessly to improve the college’s reputation and challenge perceptions. We knew we’d achieved our objectives and often received praise from our Senior Managers, but to be recognised nationally and by fellow marketers just gave the team an added boost.

“The College Marketing Network is a fantastic resource and the FE First Awards are brilliant. It’s definitely worth entering the awards – this was the first time we’d entered for the last few years and we scooped four awards!”

Emma Evans, Marketing, Comms & PR Manager, City of Wolverhampton College

10 steps to optimise your college’s promotional videos for search

June 2, 2016


clearhead imageGreat video content is useless if your target audience can’t find it. The following ten tips from the experts at content creation agency Clearhead will help give your college’s promotional videos the best possible chance to stand out online.

  1. Choose the right hosting option

If your video content is an advert for your college – which you want as many people as possible to see – then host it on YouTube. This will help it reach the widest possible audience. This type of outbound video content is often more effective when it doesn’t immediately appear to be an advert; the more engaging, the more shareable it is likely to be.

Inbound marketing videos are usually more about guiding prospective students through their decision-making process and are less likely to be shared. They should be designed with prospective students’ FAQs in mind. Inbound videos could benefit from being hosted on your own website, otherwise the search engines will attribute your video content to YouTube rather than your college’s domain.

  1. Make your metadata matter

Optimising your metadata and any written content surrounding your video is pivotal when creating a landing page. Use the keywords that relate to your college and your video content, but – as always with Search Engine Optimisation – create your content for the prospective student rather than the search bots and keep the keyword density reasonable. Remember that metadata titles and tags truncate at given character numbers in search engines and on platforms like YouTube or Vimeo, but longer descriptions are still searchable by search engine bots.

  1. Apply copywriting skills to your video’s title

Most video content can’t be understood by search engines, so including information in the titles and tags boxes helps search bots make sense of it. Your title not only needs to reflect the nature of your video content, but also needs to appeal to your target audience. Make it catchy whenever possible, and avoid marketing-speak like “our new promo video”. The title and descriptions will help viewers make a snap decision about whether they want to view your video or not, so they need to explain the content concisely and accurately as well as including your keywords.

  1. Research what terms to target

If you want to increase the likelihood of your video being featured as a rich media snippet on search engines, then check the current search results pages to see which terms (if any) are returning them. Your best bet will be terms that include keywords like “guide”, “review” or “explanation” (and variations thereof). Terms with a high number of PPC results will be less likely to feature rich media snippets. Incorporate your research into your keyword strategy for use in supporting metadata and text content.

  1. Take the time to transcribe your video

Not only will transcribing your video help make your content more accessible to users who are deaf or have hearing impairments, it will help your video optimisation as well. Add the transcription to the HTML on the page your video is hosted or embedded on, or upload a caption file on YouTube or Vimeo. Because search engines can’t crawl videos with certain types of encoding, a caption file will help make sure your content can be found as easily as possible.

  1. Pick a powerful thumbnail

The thumbnail you choose can dramatically increase your video’s appeal. It needs to reflect the nature of your college’s brand but also effectively convey what viewers can expect to see in the video. Any text used on a thumbnail needs to be sufficiently clear and readable even if the image is scaled down (e.g. when viewed on a smartphone), and bear in mind that busier images are harder to interpret at a glance. If you’re using YouTube or Vimeo then you can use frames from your video as the thumbnail (or ‘cover’) of your video, or you can upload your own image.

  1. Diversify your landing pages

Though it’s a good idea to have only one video per landing page, the more versatile the rest of your content the better. Videos are a great way of showcasing your college, but people consume information in different ways. Use text and images to help reinforce your message – making sure you optimise everything – and your page will be more appealing to both your prospective students and the search engine algorithms. Make your calls to action prominent.

  1. Consider an embedding embargo

Letting other websites embed your video content can help you spread your message, making it more likely to reach a wider and more diverse audience, who might then click through to your site. However, if you are hoping to increase your chances of getting rich snippets featured in search engine results pages (see 4.), then it might be best not to allow embedding. Your chances of being featured are higher if your domain is the only one carrying that piece of content.

9. Map out your video content

Providing information about videos hosted on your website to Google will help make them more searchable. You can do this by using the Google Video extension for the sitemap protocol. Although a lot of the information you can provide is optional, completing more will yield better results. You can find out about video sitemaps here:

  1. Set up your schema markup

Schema markup is additional code that you can include in the HTML of your college website, explaining what your data means rather than simply what it says. If you are hoping to get some organic rich snippets included in your search engine results (see 4.), then you need to implement schema markup to make sure the content can be returned on the search engine results pages in the way you want it to be. You can find out more about schema markup at; it’s a project jointly created by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Yandex – so applies equally across all search providers.


Optimising your college’s promotional video content using these ten steps will only help if you’ve followed the number one rule of video creation: don’t be boring! Don’t make videos that nobody wants to watch; always tailor them to your audience for the best chance of success. Click here to read our ten practical video production tips to make sure your video content packs a punch.

And while we’ve got you thinking about how best to use video… why not have a chat with the experts over the phone or face-to-face? Clearhead will show you what other colleges are doing and discuss how you can use video to meet your student recruitment targets.

Simply email or speak to Sarah or Gav on 01582 410892 to ask a question or book in some time to talk about your college.


PLEASE NOTE: The College Marketing Network does not endorse companies or products. Whenever considering potential suppliers, you should always ensure they will meet your needs.

Networking meeting, Bournville College – coming soon

April 19, 2016

Our next networking meeting will be at Bournville College on 11 May – book now to secure your place!

£30 pp (CMN member colleges – £80 pp non-member colleges.) Book with PO or cheque by contacting, or pay by credit card via the Eventbrite link here:  (includes small Eventbrite admin charge)


10.15am Arrival, registration and coffee for a 10.30am start.

10.30 Introductions and welcome

Alma Aganovic, Assistant Principal, Bournville College – Area reviews update

Gary Pluck, Marketing Manager, Birmingham Metropolitan College
More for Less – Digital & Social Media Marketing

A presentation that looks at the context, rationale and successful outcomes of Birmingham Metropolitan College’s FE First Gold Award winning Digital & Social Media Campaign. The presentation will describe how the marketing team segmented and targeted their audience using the full mix of digital channels looking at what worked – and what didn’t – and how tracking and goal setting were utilised to define conversion rates and best ROI.’

Charmian Turner, Marketing Manager, Shrewsbury College
Increasing HE recruitment – winner of the Specialised Recruitment FE First Gold 2015

As a main income stream Shrewsbury College needed to increase HE enrolment and were up against competition (and a much larger budget!) of a local university centre.

The “Why not you too?” campaign focused on getting messages across to local people about the benefits of studying HE courses at a local college, using real student examples with different lifestyles.

Round-table discussion time for your topics

12.30 Networking buffet lunch

Tom Bower, Senior Marketing Executive, Stafford College
Delivering an award winning school leaver campaign on £15k

Stafford College were on a three year decline in applications. Following the appointment of a new team in October, the department set out to rejuvenate a tired brand to appeal to students. The marketing team were only allocated a £15K budget, down from £60K the previous year, for the school leaver campaign. Using internal resources from the college’s creative curriculum teams and a new marketing strategy the team were able to deliver an increase in applications and conversions. The college ended the year with a 14% increase in applications with the campaign going on to win the FE First Gold Award at the CMN’s Annual Conference.

Venue: Bournville College Conference Centre, 1 Longbridge Lane, Longbridge, Birmingham, B31 2AJ

(Sat nav reference B31 2TW)

Thanks to Bournville College for their hospitality.

Networking meeting coming soon – City of Oxford College: UPDATED

March 18, 2016

City of Oxford College
(part of the Activate Learning Group)

Thursday 13th April


10.15am           Arrival, registration and coffee for a 10.30am start.

10.30 Introductions and welcome

Emma Evans, Marketing Manager, City of Wolverhampton College

Changing perceptions through marketing.
From last resort to first choice, how City of Wolverhampton College changed perceptions by developing the brand, creating effective campaigns and improving school engagement to deliver increased applications.

NEW – Duncan Adams, Group Chief Marketing Officer, Warwickshire College Group

Developing a brand for the future

How do you develop a brand that can not only connect your community to their college but allow you the flexibility to grow, change and develop as an organisation. Warwickshire College Group undertook a wholescale rebranding exercise in 2014 to introduce a new, fresh, contemporary look that gave them the flexibility to grow as a group. Duncan will share the pain and positives of this challenging project and how they got the whole college group on board.

12.00 Round-table discussion time for your topics

12.30 Lunch

Alex Watson, Head of Further Education, Net Natives 

Summer Enrolment and Conversion in Further Education
With more competition from schools, academies, and colleges, there is a real importance on being first choice. Use digital marketing to convert your applications into guaranteed enrolments, by keeping these applications warm and making them part of the college community.

The day will end by 2.30pm. Timings are given for guidance and may be subject to change.

Venue: City of Oxford College, Oxpens Road, Oxford, OX1 1SA

Thanks to City of Oxford College/Activate Learning for their hospitality.


£30 pp CMN member colleges. £80 pp non CMN member colleges. Contact or book via Eventbrite here.


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