Engagement in Marketing


Service users and carers who are involved in teaching and learning in HEI’s, can make a significant contribution to marketing activity. A primary benefit is that they offer an authentic voice and help build relationships with communities. Potential students of health, social care and other professional courses will find out about the courses by hearing people’s experiences of being involved. This may encourage other people to apply to study in the institution because it is demonstrating that it values the engagement of service users and carers.

There are a number of ways service users and carers can be involved in marketing. This could include:

  • Outreach and widening participation activity e.g. attending community events or visiting health and social care services to share their experiences
  • Open days or information events e.g. acting as ambassadors, presenting case studies, taking part in discussions and activities
  • A university’s prospectus e.g. contributing photos, giving feedback on readability
  • DVDs e.g. case studies, stories of participation in education of professionals
  • Website e.g. providing content (such as stories of their experiences as a service user or carer involved in education), testing the website for accessibility¬†
  • Social media presence e.g. taking part in online discussions, making videos for sharing online. For example:

A student at Staffordshire University set up a social networking site http://creatingcommunities.ning.com/ for people involved in community arts or community practice to share ideas, stories and resources about community development in the UK and beyond. Members of the local community are being supported by University staff to join the ning and to share their stories of involvement in HE.

Research has found that recruitment and retention of people who do not usually participate is complex and there is “no magical formula” (Hayes 2006:53). Hayes presents a list of factors which can contribute to success in widening participation, which includes good communication between potential students, education institutions and employers; community activities; and collaboration and partnership projects.
Research carried out by Vincent et al (2010), to find out from people in Stoke on Trent what they know about Staffordshire University and what they would like to do there if they could, identified that members of the public were unaware of the opportunities to be involved in HEIs, and of the support available.

"I want to share my story of social services."

Some participants mentioned their desire to contribute to teaching and research.

The evidence from Vincent’s (2010 et al) findings supports the view of Hayes, that stepping into an educational institution for the first time is the biggest challenge for many people. In recognition of this the University needs to extend a hand out into our local communities, to start from their position and build relationships.¬† This is the only way that we are going to know how we need to change to become a place where people feel able to study. The most important tool in a marketing toolkit is talking directly to people.

Case study: Get Talking

Get Talking is a short accredited course in participatory community research, run by the Creative Communities Unit at Staffordshire University.

Between 2008 and 2010, the Creative Communities Unit supported two cohorts of local people to train as community researchers and to interview people living, working and studying in the inner-city neighbourhood of Shelton where the Stoke campus of Staffordshire University is based. Community members learned about participatory consultation by doing it, and got the Get Talking qualification. The researchers included people with learning disabilities and members of local Muslim communities.

Researchers presented their findings to staff from the university and members from partner organisations. A video was made of one presentation, and supplemented with interviews with team members talking about how the course has contributed to their practice. This video will be used on the University’s website, and at conferences and events. Community researchers contributed to the dissemination report for the second consultation.

"I think these kind of courses are important and should continue not just in one area but all over the city ... I would like to see the activity continue. Keep people talking. It is like a method of living, it keeps you going. That's my own personal opinion. It can make the difference." Hamida Hussain


Hayes, A. (2006). Teaching Adults. London: Continuum.

Vincent. P, Hetherington. J, Wolfe. L, Francis. AM, (2010) Have A Go - Widening Participation research, Stoke on Trent: Staffordshire University