How to run an effective student well-being campaign

From reaching out to the local community to making it interactive, Christina Chant offers seven tips for effectively promoting your university’s well-being services

Christina Chant's avatar
Edinburgh Napier University
14 Feb 2023
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Outreach campaigns can help signpost students to university wellbeing services

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With increased mental health problems stemming from the pandemic now being compounded by the cost-of-living crisis, we are all invested in finding ways to help our students access well-being services and tackle feelings of loneliness and isolation. Having those services and resources available is one thing, but how can universities ensure students truly know where to turn if they need help?

If you want to engage students and raise awareness about your well-being services, consider running a campaign as opposed to simply relying on campus advertising or one-off social media posts. A campaign is an organised strategic effort to achieve a specific goal, in this case to promote your well-being services. In addition, while advertising tends to focus on one-way communication, a campaign can be more interactive. In this sense you can take a two-pronged approach: helping mitigate isolation among your students through interactive campaign experiences while signposting them to the campus resources that will support their longer-term mental health.

Here are a few ideas to help you create and run an effective student well-being campaign with long-lasting results:

Use a relevant hook

Time your campaign to tie in with a related event such as World Mental Health Day. This annual event, which takes place on 10 October, presents a great opportunity to launch a timely campaign at the beginning of the academic year – thus catching the attention of new and returning students without risking important well-being information getting lost in the excitement of welcome week or freshers’ events.

Make it hybrid

Using a combination of online and on-campus events makes for an inclusive campaign that has a greater chance of reaching more of your students. For each in-person event, think about how you can best capture the spirit of the occasion and share any important resources with an online audience as well.

Use your communication channels strategically

The communication channels available to you fall broadly into one of four categories: owned; shared; earned; and paid. For a campaign of this kind, you’ll primarily want to focus on your owned and shared media channels. Start by promoting your well-being campaign on your owned media. This may include your website, your intranet and your blogs or newsletters. From there you can move out to shared media, such as your social media channels. Plan a series of Facebook posts, Instagram Live events, reels and stories or TikToks to launch the campaign, advertise any competitions, share student experience videos, live-stream events and post photos.

Involve your ambassadors

People trust recommendations coming through a third party or from their peers more than they trust direct advertising. This is where your student association or student ambassador team can really shine, whether it’s through sharing their own experiences through spotlight videos on issues pertaining to disability or inclusion or providing step-by-step explanations for their peers about how your student support service works and how to access it. Combine these student-led aspects with activities run by your counselling and well-being staff for maximum impact.

Make it interactive

Interactive elements are not only fun and engaging but have the secondary benefit of being an authentic way to engage with students and mitigate feelings of isolation. Interactive campaign elements can take various forms. During our recent “Well-being Week” campaign, we put “Share the Kindness” pop-up booths on campus, encouraging students and staff to take two chocolate bars (from a selection of milk chocolate, vegan and free-from) – one for themselves and one to pass onto someone else. We also promoted a treasure hunt on social media, where students were encouraged to explore campus and find a hidden “golden ticket”. The prize was a voucher to spend at a selection of local bars and restaurants, enabling students to indulge in some enjoyable self care.

Lean on your partnerships

To encourage student engagement in any campaign competitions you run, find out if any of your institution’s partners are willing to donate a product or experience as a prize. Through one of our partnerships, we were able to give away a pair of tickets for an international rugby match. All the students who responded to a call for top wellness tips for their fellow students were entered into a draw for the tickets.

Reach out to the local community

During our Well-being Week, we ran a pop-up event on campus where our counselling and mental well-being team welcomed visitors from some of the major services in and around the local area that offer mental health support. Students were able to have an informal chat to find out a bit more about what was on offer locally as well as learn about the in-house support available directly from our staff.

By integrating some of these ideas, hopefully your wellness campaign achieves the goals you set out at the beginning – but the benefits don’t have to end there. Think about whether you can build towards creating a takeaway product that will continue to be a resource to students long after the campaign wraps up. We will be using the many top tips submitted during our campaign competition to produce a well-being pocketbook, created by students for students. This portable guide will continue to be a mental health resource for our community that we can adapt and build on for years to come.

Christina Chant is corporate communications officer at Edinburgh Napier University, UK.

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