The Art & Science of Creating Good Videos

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Vietnamese get most of their information from online sources, including social media, primarily Facebook.  They also watch a lot of video, 2 hours, 43 minutes a day, to be precise, according to the results of the annual We Are Social and Hootsuite update.  As a result, YouTube ranks 4th among all websites in Viet Nam, according to SimilarWeb.  It is for this reason that videos should be an integral part of any digital marketing campaign. 

I see a lot of online videos intended to promote various educational institutions but not very many quality ones that young people, i.e., potential international students, would actually watch.  In all honesty, most fall into the bad and ugly categories.  Here are two examples.  It would be best to illustrate my points by showing you real videos but that’s not possible, for obvious reasons, the most important of which I would not want to embarrass the offending parties.

Low quality content:  A lot of videos I see are of the talking head variety.  Either students are sitting or standing in one location talking about their school and related experiences, or someone is interviewing them using a talk show format. 

In one video, the students being interviewed looked like prisoners, sitting with hands folder, and dutifully answering question after question.  In another, a student was obviously reading off of a script and looking into the camera with the occasional nervous smile.  Not convincing, invariably boring and, sometimes, painful, to watch. 

Vietnamese students will click on the link, watch for a second or two, and then quickly move elsewhere in search of more inspirational, educational, and/or meaningful content. 

Poor sound quality:  Content aside, many videos are not professional or even semi-professional.  Either staff or students are using substandard equipment and do not have experience making videos for the demographic in question.  It’s like with photography.  Everyone with a smartphone is a “photographer” but very few know how to take good photos worth looking at. 

nas dailyNas Daily is an example from Facebook that I often share with colleagues.  His daily one-minute videos are crisp, fast-paced, and a pleasure to watch and listen to with commentary, interviews, and background music.   He has over 5.8 million followers and over a billion views, which means he must be doing something right.  The point is his videos are worth watching. 

Peace, MAA

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Q: How to Choose an Education Agent? A: Use Your Best Judgement

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Image courtesy of ETN Focus Workshops

And Don’t Forget the Tried-and-True Carrot & Stick Approach

Colleagues sometimes ask me to recommend education agents in Viet Nam. While I’d like to be able to help them in this regard, I can’t.  The simple reason is that this is such a problematic (read shady) and unregulated sector.  There is no one (or one company) that I can honestly vouch for.

If they ask me about a particular company, all that I can say it that I haven’t heard or read anything bad about that company, if that is indeed the case.  Some are well-established and have been around for a long time.  If I know that a specific company has been engaged in unethical or even illegal activity, I can share that information. (I rely on documented evidence not hearsay or gossip.)

My advice to colleagues is simple and straightforward.  Apply rigorous screening criteria and use your own best judgement, including intuition, a valuable yet underestimated quality.  Do prospective agents treat students and parents as clients and not their partner institutions, which pay them a per-head commission?  Do they counsel or script students when it comes to the visa interview preparation?  What do colleagues have to say about company A, B, or C?

Don’t rely on any external “stamps of approval,” which are limited in value for a host of reasons, including the (in)ability to monitor the activities of “certified” agents.  (Examples of naughty yet “certified” agents provide ample grist for another post or even a full-length article.  That’s an article waiting to be written by some enterprising investigative journalist.)

Here are some relevant articles and posts I’ve written: 

Walking the walk – Ethical agency-based recruitment (12.12.14)

Buyer beware – Advice for international students (15.7.16)

Take responsibility for ensuring ethical recruitment (30.9.16)

The Tip of the Iceberg? “China’s New Oriental accused of US application fraud”  (21.12.16)

Hold your education agents to your high standards, stay in frequent touch, and keep the lines of communication open.  Trust, if you have a reason to, but always verify.  Use the tried-and-true carrot and stick approach.  Business is based on trust, which is inextricably linked to integrity, relationship and performance.  If they don’t meet your high expectations, there are other fish in the sea.

Finally, don’t put too many of your international student recruitment eggs in the education agent basket, especially in competitive markets like Viet Nam.  You will also need to invest time and money in non-commission-based recruitment tools and techniques.

Peace, MAA

 

Direct Applications on the Rise

education-agentsWhile Viet Nam is still primarily an agent-driven market, growing numbers of students are beginning to bypass education agents and apply directly to educational institutions, especially for certain types of institutions and programs with simpler application procedures.  In some cases, more than 50% of all apps are directly from students.

The reasons for this recent trend are increased access to information, both on- and offline, more confidence, and greater sophistication.  Given the quality and ethical problems that plague many education agents, the more Vietnamese students (and international students, in general) who apply directly, the better.  

There are some students who don’t require the services of an education agent, thereby saving money and sparing both student and parent the potential aggravation of working with dodgy agents.  They include academically talented students who have done their homework, so to speak, and know which institutions they want on their short list, as well as those who know exactly which school they want to attend because of their participation in a fair, info session, or based on a recommendation from someone they trust, e.g., a parent, teacher, or friend. 

This is an encouraging win-win trend, in my opinion, that should be promoted.  It gives students and parents more control over the entire process, eliminates the need to work with an agent, many of whom do not have students’ (and parents’) best interests at heart, and saves admitting institutions the cost of a commission.  What’s not to like?     

Peace, MAA

New Website: Recruit in Viet Nam

Below is an announcement about a new website created by Capstone Vietnam, a full-service educational consulting company of which I’m managing director.

Peace, MAA


Logo Recruit in vietnam final-01This website is intended to serve as a one-stop resource for student recruitment in Viet Nam for colleagues from all over the world.  It was inspired by a session that Dr. Mark Ashwill, Capstone managing director and co-founder, chaired at the NAFSA 2017 annual conference in Los Angeles entitled Keys to Successful Non-Commission-Based Recruitment in Vietnam

A sound institutional recruitment strategy should ideally include tools and techniques that do not involve the use of education agents and commission-based recruitment in cooperation with quality and ethical agents.  The Recruit in Viet Nam website focuses exclusively on the former. 

There are many different ways to recruit both digitally and traditionally.  You have to discover works best for your institution through a process of self-reflection and, sometimes, trial and error.  We are happy to help guide you through this challenging process – at no charge.  (In addition, you will need local feedback on draft content, including digital and offline materials, which is included in the cost of the service.)

The truth is not every institution that targets Viet Nam as a priority country will be successful but we can help ensure that you are using your time and resources as wisely as possible in order to give you the best chance to succeed. 

There are approximately 200,000 young Vietnamese studying in around 50 countries.  About 147,000 are in the top five (5) countries alone, including – in descending order – Japan, the USA, Australia, China, and the UK.  This means that Viet Nam will continue to be a dynamic and promising recruitment market for an increasingly diverse array of host countries. 

 

An Ode to International Student Recruiters

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One of the privileges and pleasures of my work is watching colleagues connect with young Vietnamese who are interested in overseas study, be it at a fair, coffee talk, info session, or individual meeting at a hotel. 

Traveling to Viet Nam and other sending countries is still one of the most effective ways to recruit students, especially if the recruiter is good, which most are.  Sitting at home because of budgetary constraints or other reasons and relying solely on armchair techniques is not going to get the job done, especially in competitive markets.

From parents’ and students’ perspective, it’s a way to put a face to an institution, someone they can like, respect, and trust.  Someone who will follow up, be responsive to inquiries via email, Facebook, and chat apps, and stay in touch. 

Good recruiters enjoy their work.  You can hear it in their conversations and see it in their smiles and body language.  So can students and parents.  Those who do not take pleasure in their work seem (are?) bored and disinterested.  It’s obvious their hearts aren’t in it.  Fortunately, these individuals are few and far between.

IMG_4492As someone who helps create opportunities for colleagues to meet with Vietnamese students and parents, I have the utmost respect for my colleagues who do this important work and know how hard they work.  While the life of an international recruiter may seem glamorous to the folks back home, including exotic pics posted on Facebook, and it does have its rewards, it is time away from loved ones and not enough time for proper rest and relaxation.  

In addition, Viet Nam’s evening is their morning “back home”, i.e., for those from North America, which means they have additional work to complete, including emails and online chats with colleagues.

US colleagues, especially in higher education, have the added burden of essentially trying to counteract the statements, proposals, and policies of their own government, now more than ever.  Rather than providing support or not doing anything at all, the US government, through President Trump and his supporters, is continuously setting up road blocks that they have to get around or hoops they have to jump through.  The end results are huge amounts of wasted energy and growing frustration.

IMG_4496The main and immediate job-related reward for recruiters is admitting a new Vietnamese or other international student who gets a visa and arrives on campus ready to begin her or his new academic and cross-cultural adventure.  A potential long-term reward is the personal, academic, and professional transformation that many young people undergo after a rewarding and substantive international experience.

Peace, MAA

Live from Viet Nam – An E20 Webinar!

e20 webinar

Last week, I had the opportunity to present on one of my favorite topics, Viet Nam, to a virtual audience of over 40 US colleagues, including those from higher and secondary education.   I’m grateful to Syed Jamal from Branta and Renait Stephens from Study in the USA, event co-sponsor, for inviting me and for scheduling the session earlier than usual, i.e., at 10 p.m. Viet Nam time.  (The usual time is 10 a.m. Pacific, which is 1 a.m. my time!) This meant that I still had my wits about me and was relatively coherent after a long day of travel and work. 

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In my approximately 20-minute presentation, I provided a wide-ranging overview of current/recent issues and trends in Viet Nam in order to place interest in overseas study and student recruitment in a broader societal and even historical contact. 

In addition to a country update that included up-to-date statistics about young Vietnamese studying overseas in general and in the US in particular, I talked about some keys to success in a very competitive market, emphasizing how important it is for institution to find what works for them often through a process of trial and error.  I concluded with a brief discussion of the importance of digital marketing in a country with a high Internet and social media penetration rate, especially for one at its stage of development, and the often problematic issue of student visas.  Regarding the latter, it’s important to focus on what is within our control, e.g., embrace visa counseling and reject scripting.

I also shared a link with all participants to a password-protected page I created on this very blog entitled Selected Online Resources About Viet Nam & Student Recruitment.

Peace, MAA