Happy smiling deans make for bad websites

August 19, 2010

Business schools are "wasting valuable selling space" by making amateurish marketing mistakes such as using pictures of their deans as a key selling point on their websites.

A catalogue of the web-marketing crimes committed by international business schools are recorded in the Generation Web 2010 report, published by consultancy Carrington Crisp.

The study draws together the views of 187 undergraduates, postgraduates and prospective students drawn from 31 nationalities who took part in focus groups between March and May this year, during which they were asked to rate business-school websites across the world.

Students rate the UK's Westminster Business School's site as number one, usurping last year's winner, Rotterdam School of Management. But they also identify a host of problems with the sites they considered, including making the image of the dean and marketing material too prominent.

The groups recommend that there should be "one-click" access from home pages to course information, data on the cost of living and graduates' career prospects.

The report also says that authentic content from staff, students and alumni is wanted, rather than "marketing speak" produced specifically to promote institutions.

"Many school home pages feature pictures of smiling students - it would be a surprise if they weren't smiling," the report says.

"If it's not students, then the main photo tends to be a shining, new glass building. While architecture can send a message about a school and if it's new, about its modernity, it doesn't say much about the student experience or outcomes from learning."

A "frequently asked questions" section, ideally interactive, is also a popular tool, and reviewers want to be able to find the websites via Google and social-networking sites.

"Think carefully about the other online tools that a school might use to communicate with different audiences," the report advises. "Don't get caught up in the hype around the latest web project, but do experiment."


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