‘and you have to have a fly’s eye to see it…’

The expanding range of student blogs is giving the world a multifaceted and sometimes surprising view of Edge Hill University. It is particularly interesting to get a sense of what arriving at Edge Hill feels like. Some of the bloggers on the Hi applicant website are describing their experiences of returning to the University and passing on their wisdom to the freshers. Subjects like houses, housemates, summer jobs, making the most of Freshers’ Week and dressing up in silly costumes (before Freshers’ Week has even started?) are explored along with insights into nearby places, sport, arts and culture.

Another blog I’ve been enjoying is The Adventures of Abby and Catie: Two Friends, One Year Abroad, One Adventure of A Lifetime, which has so far described the planning, anticipation, journey to and arrival at the start of a year at Edge Hill for two US students. It’s really interesting to get a sense of what the University and its surroundings feel like to people for whom England itself is a ‘novelty’ – the sense of estrangement caused by all the minor differences (‘from the brands and foods sold in the stores, to the WAY things are sold (meat at a real, live butcher’s shop to eggs not being refridgerated) is just…fascinating. Even the keyboards are set up slightly differently…’) within the broad US/UK similarities. Things we all get used to and which don’t seem special can take on an allure when seen by fresh eyes:

Ormskirk is amazing. We arrived on a market day, so the entire town, it seemed, was out to greet us. There are stalls with everything you could possibly imagine, from fruit to dog beds.

(‘From fruit to dogbeds’ will now become the official term for ‘a surprisingly large range of disparate objects’ in our household, replacing ‘suits of armour and wool’.)

I suppose markets should be exciting*. Any crossroads with a few stalls selling things is a node in a vast network of interactions, a sort of provisional axis mundi for those who are there. What could be more exciting than that? The marketing metaphor applied to HE hypothesises universities as places that meet needs (like markets, but not by any means only markets) but this meeting-of-needs can’t just be a mechanical transaction. The process needs to include excitement and emotion, at least at certain points. Some of these just happen, and some need managing. (For instance, I’m writing this on ‘Welcome Sunday’, looking out of my office window at students arriving with parents – there is a palpable excitement in the air, like a nervous carnival, coming-of-age with lots of queuing – and a mass of processes and meticulous planning behind it all.)

Anyway. The point I set out to make is that those of us who work in HE marketing can learn a lot from the the rich and diverse range of viewpoints out there in the blogosphere. Alongside the statistics and focus-group results, blogs give us access to real-life viewpoints that deserve attention. But one needs a way to give that attention to a profusion of blogs happening simultaneously (hence the Captain Beefheart quote that titles this post) – if a fly’s eye proves impractical, a direct-to-cortex RSS feed would be handy…

*Coincidentally, when I finish this I’m heading off to Liverpool for the annual Hope Street Market, which this year includes a ‘Market of Optimism‘ – that could be a nice metaphor to live in for a while.

As I was saying in my other blog…

I’ve noticed that this blog has a link from the new Edge Hill staff portal, which is flattering. I can’t help thinking that many other blogs deserve attention – CLTR Nexus, Cakes, the cryptically-named Web Services… but if people are coming my way, welcome!

This is my personal/work blog, which I see as a bit like conference presentations I give in an individual capacity, i.e. it’s my own ideas rather than a serious overview of the work of the department. As this is my own linguistic turf it’s unashamedly idiosyncratic – if I want to write about plastic boxes, or trail off every sentence with ellipses, I will… and for anything really random, there’s my non-marketing personal blog.

People sometimes ask, ‘Why call it Mister Roy?’ Well… it’s my name… but apart from that, one of my fellow Directors initiated it as a nickname a few years ago, probably based on the human accomplice of Basil Brush from the 1970s… The same Director remains oddly amused that I once attended a meeting in her office wearing half of a pantomime horse costume.)

Original Mister Roy

As a more serious marketing discussion may be useful sometimes, we’ve launched an internal Corporate Marketing blog. We’re also using blogging to communicate with, rather than about, our markets: Spark is us talking to them; the various Hi blogs are them talking to each other. A news blog is under consideration, but we need to be sure that we’re not just re-presenting press releases as blog posts: if we can find the right voice with which to talk about news and events in this medium, then yet another blog may appear.

All we need now is a sort of meta-blog to keep track of them all…

Wearing my special blogging costume