The next installation in our series of 2015 VET Industry Drinks was held this Monday in Melbourne, in collaboration with Fairfax Media. This time, we decided to take a look at marketing and advertising in VET – how can RTOs ensure that their practice is compliant, effective, and best in class?
This is quite an interesting topic that has not been addressed much in the sector, it has to be said. We spend a lot of time with RTOs, advising them on how to stay agile, viable, and provide high quality education to their learners. In recent months, marketing compliance has become quite a pointed issue that training organisations often bring up. That’s why we teamed up with Fairfax this time – to bring experts together and put the conversation on the table.
Doors opened at 4.15pm and delegates started coming in, enjoying some quality time networking and catching up with their peers over scrumptious canapés and drinks. With over 120 attendees, the event stayed true to our format of a relaxed, open setting, allowing everyone to connect and share openly about their own experiences and challenges. We especially love the fact that this time the industry drinks was hosted at the Upper Ground Gallery of The Age building – a truly beautiful space surrounded with artworks.
The main part of the event started with an opening statement by Andrew Holden, The Age Editor-in-Chief, who extended a warm welcome to all attendees. Setting the tone for the evening with a few lighthearted jests, Andrew immediately put everyone at ease and addressed the quality of discussion that we could expect right away. Caroline Brock (Circulus) and Liza Kwaks (Fairfax) were our moderators for the night.
First speaker: Jan Mulcahy on the 2015 Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs)
Jan is the Regional Compliance Manager (Melbourne) for the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA). Her presentation set the context for the topic of discussion, as we took a closer look at the new Standards, especially Standard 4 and 5. Most RTOs should be quite familiar with the new requirements by now, she said.
ASQA Standard Four on informing the market outlines:
• the Nationally Recognised Training (NRT) logo conditions of use;
• more transparency in marketing by third parties; and
• more specific information about training to be included.
ASQA Standard Five on informing the learners specifies:
• more specific information to learners is required;
• clarification of fee information; and
• changes to service’s notification to learners.
So, in summary, Jan suggested that RTOs ensure that all their marketing and advertising material only provides factual and accurate information about their training, and that copies of all approved material should be retained. This advice was later echoed by Matthew, who recommended that training organisations should have a marketing register to retain evidence in case of an audit or in the investigation of a complaint.
Second speaker: Matthew Dale on the do’s and don’ts of keeping RTO marketing practice compliant
As the Managing Director of Audit Express, Matt has more than 10 years working in the VET sector, with a significant reservoir of knowledge when it comes to advising RTOs on staying within the boundaries of legislation. In 2014 he was a policy advisor to MP Nick Wakeling, and more recently has been heavily involved with the drafting of new policies and regulations.
His presentation focused on best practice for marketing in advertising, in light of the requirements RTOs must abide by – for example: the new ASQA Standards, AQTF Standards, VRQA Guidelines, state funding contracts, VET FEE-HELP, and CRICOS.
Key takeaways from Matt’s keynote:
1. RTOs should take some time to sit down and use a bird’s eye view to identify the requirements that apply to their specific circumstance.
2. Define an appropriate review and approval process for all marketing material.
3. Keep a marketing register (of practically everything, even your social media updates!).
4. Have a marketing user guide.
5. Be honest and upfront – don’t use tactics such as fake job ads.
6. Make sure all 3rd parties and staff understand the rules and requirements.
7. Put some spot checks in place.
A structured, well-documented approach is definitely recommended. Matt advises that clear, defined responsibilities will help keep people accountable. As blended learning and online delivery are gaining speed, digital compliance is also an area that RTOs need to be in control of.
Matt was great and we second all his suggestions – in fact, we have developed a few marketing checklist templates that you can use right away: click here to download them.
Third speaker: Travis May on how to improve the effectiveness of marketing strategies in VET
A digital marketing guru representing Fairfax Media, Travis delivered a short but insightful presentation on getting prospective students to fall in love with your RTO for the right reasons.
Are we too busy trying to get more students without really connecting with them or giving them a reason to select us? Or, in other words, are we missing the forest for the trees?
Some incentive-based tactics will no longer work, and if RTOs don’t start to shape their own story with a clear vision, the chances of attracting more students (and attracting the right ones at that) are slim. Travis took some key findings from a new market research piece on attitude towards further education, with the sample size of more than 600 people, to uncover insights that VET organisations could use in their marketing strategy.
A few key findings:
• People take on further study to satisfy personal, professional, and social needs. Most interestingly, 1 in 5 of 55+ year olds were “very interested in further study in the next few months” to keep abreast with current technology advances and not be left behind, and to give back to society.
• Audience wants more support in gaining information about the course options available and choosing the right courses.
• More than 50% believe that VET providers are more affordable, offer more practical courses, and are more likely to lead to a job.
What this means for RTOs:
• Their motivation is already high, but you need to focus on the right triggers (what their needs are) to influence the target students’ decision-making process.
• More support and coaching for prospective students is needed.
• Prospective students already have a favourable view of VET – you need to utilise this belief and connect them to the right course.
• RTOs need to bring true value to the experience, starting right from the course selection process.
• Telling your story might take different shapes on each platform.
Travis’ clear, direct yet personable presentation style made him a favourite speaker of many on the day!
Following the presentations, we spent a good half an hour taking questions from the audience for these three amazing speakers, and then it was networking time again. We were thrilled to see that the points introduced sparked a great amount of discussion among attendees, with many staying back late into the night to approach the speakers and to carry on conversations with others.
All in all, it was a fantastic night, with great food, drinks, conversations, and knowledge sharing at its best. Attendees received a gift bag at the end of the evening (and hopefully everyone walked away with a few tips and advice they could implement right away!).
We would like to extend a warm thank you to all for coming, and a special thanks goes out to the amazing team at Fairfax Media for co-hosting and sponsoring this event.
We look forward to our next industry drinks on the 7th of August and hope to see you all again soon!
Did you attend the event? Let us know what you think!
We have a small online survey (which only takes about 2-3 minutes to complete) and would love to hear your thoughts on what we did well and what could be improved. Your feedback is completely anonymous and we really appreciate it!
FURTHER RESOURCES – because knowledge sharing is the best way to push us all forward:
• We recommend that all RTOs keep a copy of the ASQA Users Guide to the new Standards.
• Internal marketing checklists could also be of help. Your RTO might want to use a one-page template to quickly assess whether their marketing and advertising practice is compliant or not. We have two checklist templates that we have created, which you can download here and here for free.
• Matt’s organisation, AuditExpress, is sponsoring the upcoming ACPET Victoria VET Forum on the 9th of June. We believe that Senator Simon Birmingham will address marketing and advertising practices at the forum, so check it out if you are interested.
• We expect to see Fairfax share their market research piece over the coming days. Stay tuned!
The May VET Industry Drinks was held at The Age building, 655 Collins Street, Docklands. We started at 4.15pm and closed at 7.00pm.
This event is hosted by Circulus Education and Fairfax Media.
** EXCLUSIVE OFFER: Fairfax Media is giving a 10% discount on their marketing solutions in June if you mention this event. See more details here.
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