Twitter victory for University of Reading with ‘jog on’ post

Positive public outreach is critical for universities to remain on the good side of public opinion, but the University of Reading has found that a little bit of sass can go a long way

July 5, 2018
Crowd of people clapping and cheering
Source: Getty

The University of Reading has captured the attention and hearts of the Twittersphere with its defence of a refugee scholarship and public display of an unapologetically pugnacious attitude.

At a time when universities have found themselves in the middle of a culture war, managing public opinion about their purpose and international activity has become more crucial than ever. Adopting a no-nonsense tone on a public platform might seem a risky strategy, but the tweet, posted on 2 July, has received the type of engagement that most university communications teams only dream of. It has so far garnered 24,000 retweets, 72,000 likes and more than 1,000 comments.

It’s boosted pride among the university’s alumni, and it’s even caught the interest of prospective students.

Beyond the praise for the post’s tenacity and tone, more importantly the tweet has spurred people to support the refugee scholarship scheme or to contribute in some way.

And it’s raised awareness of programmes that other universities in the UK have developed to aid refugees in their studies.

The post received criticism, of course – this was Twitter after all – but the university managed to respond to disapproving messages in a timely and appropriate way. Or, more often, fans of the tweet did it for them.

Victoria Pearson, head of corporate communications at the university, said that the institution tailors its messages to suit the platforms they’ll be communicated on.

“It is no secret that a less formal tone often works better on social media, and the more conversational style the corporate communications team adopts on channels like Twitter is a deliberate method of broadening our reach,” she told Times Higher Education. “In the case of this tweet, the language reflected that we are proud and unapologetic about our refugee scholarship scheme, which adds to similar schemes offered by universities around the country.”

The tweet’s engagement, she said, has also helped to remind people who might not otherwise interact with the university what Reading is doing to serve the community while still acting globally. “We are really encouraged by the number of people who have expressed their support for this scheme, as well as our other scholarships and bursaries supporting students from a range of backgrounds,” she said. For one follower, it was evidence of the university’s mission to do social good, suggesting that more institutions should consider telling the haters to “jog on”.

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