An unconventional audience: targeting the student community

Disgruntled students received more than £650,000 in refunds and compensation from universities over the last year, with the Office of the Independent Adjudicator stating it received 1,635 complaints in 2017 – an 8% increase on 2016. More recently, news reports confirm that law firm, Asserson, is representing 1000 students in a group legal action seeking millions of pounds for teaching time lost during lecturer strikes.

There are a number of factors fuelling the rise of successful claims lodged by students. No doubt the Woolf Reforms, which aimed to reduce the cost and delay of bringing forward class action disputes, and the subsequent Civil Procedure Rules (1999), which built on this, have equipped the consumer with far more leverage. But the demographic itself – the astute, non-conformist, millennial generation who recognise their legal rights and seek to monetise them, perhaps bears more weight, when added to the irresistible charm of law firms offering “no win no fee” litigation services.

For class action lawyers seeking to engage the student demographic, PR activity should look beyond the traditional broadsheets to be most effective:

• The likelihood of cash-strapped students forking out for a subscription of The Times or its ilk are slim. Instead, PR efforts should focus on targeting student newspapers, such as The Tab, the left-leaning press, including The Guardian online, and other web outlets popular among the younger audience – not least – Buzzfeed, VICE and perhaps some engaging shareable (usually humorous) video content on YouTube.

• The biggest users of social media are those aged from 16 to 35. On top of that 5pm essay deadline, students are overwhelmingly blitzed with information, so reaching this tech-savvy generation requires translating your message online through creative and increasingly novel means. Visuals are processed by the brain 60,000 times faster than text, so infographics are one good way to ensure your narrative is not just seen, but is registered.

• The rise of influencer marketing, propelled by the growing use of social media, means peer-to-peer recommendations are trumping the efficacy of traditional advertising methods. Individuals are 92% more likely to trust endorsements and recommendations made by their peers than those made by traditional advertising or news sources. So you may want to consider bolstering your firm’s reputation among those to whom you’re already known, before launching a full-blown PR campaign targeting a fresh, new audience.

• Fees, law firm reputation, and legal rankings will play their part in influencing a prospective litigant. But CSR matters too – among this environmentally and socially-conscious generation. A study by Horizon Media’s Finger on the Pulse found that “81 percent of millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship” – and there’s no reason to think this wouldn’t translate to their expectations of their advisors. If your firm is at the forefront of cutting-edge pro-bono work or is committed to drastically reducing its carbon footprint, don’t shy away from revealing it to your prospective clients – shout it from the rooftops, but only if it’s culturally embedded and not just being paid lip-service – we millennials can’t resist a bit of virtue signalling through the choices we make!

30 April 2018

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