Company: TopLine Communications, London, United Kingdom
Company Description: TopLine is a PR, social media and video production company launched in the heart of the 2008/2009 global recession. The company services clients in the B2B technology, finance and education sectors and can proudly boast that it has never let a client down.
Nomination Category: Communications & Marketing Awards Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Communications or PR Campaign of the Year - Issues Management
Nomination Title: Defending Student Visas
In up to 500 words, tell the judges about the nominated campaign: its genesis, development, planning, commission, and performance to date:
In March 2011, the UK government announced policy revisions to the UK's non-EU student visa system. The revisions would change the system dramatically, by requiring prospective students to increase their English proficiency, limiting their entitlement to work and adding a new layer of bureaucracy to the reapplication process. Had these proposals been implemented in their original form, it would have been virtually impossible for the sector educate international students in this country, therefore demolishing the UK's second largest export industry at a time of fragile economic recovery, while sounding the death knell for universities reliant on international student fees.
TopLine Communications (run by Heather Baker) was appointed by Study Group to coordinate a media response to the proposals.
TopLine began by bringing the industry’s information together into an international education factsheet, providing a reference point for journalists, while positioning TopLine as the go-to agency for information on the visa system.
The agency then worked with Study Group to build a list of stakeholders and invited them to respond together at a panel discussion held in London. The interests of the entire HE sector were represented (for the first time in history) on the panel of thought leaders:
• CEO, UK Council for International Student Affairs
• CEO, Universities UK
• President, National Union of Students
• Chief Executive, English UK
• Vice Chancellor, University of East Anglia
• Chairman, Study UK
The sector's objections gained significant attention from government, the public and the media, through:
• 77 pieces of coverage in three weeks, most in Tier 1 media
• 1,950 views of the video of the press conference
• As a result of the discussion, the minister took the sector’s views into consideration.
• A key immigration politician was seen with a print out of the coverage in his portfolio on his way to a UKBA meeting.
• Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s special advisor informed lobbyists to “…keep the pressure up by being vocal in the press”.
• The hashtag #defendstudentvisas (set up by panel contributor NUS) started trending on Twitter as prospective students across the globe started to realise the threat posed by the proposals.
• When the Home Affairs Select Committee reported their findings, the most controversial element of the proposed changes was dropped thanks to the campaign.
This campaign is a great example of a small, female-run PR start-up, changing the public agenda for the benefit of an entire sector.
The campaign was featured in PR Week, and branded an 'unqualified success'.
List the URLs (web addresses) of any online news stories, press releases, work samples, videos, photographs, or other supporting materials that you would like the judges to see. IMPORTANT: List each URL on a separate line, begin each URL with http://, and enclose each URL in square brackets. For example, [http://www.yourcompany.com/pressrelease.html]:
Provide a brief biography of the person or persons who lead the team that created and carried out the nominated communications campaign (up to 100 words):
Heather Baker is Founder and managing director of award-nominated PR, social media and video production consultancy, TopLine Communications. The company helps organisations in the education sector to communicate with government, the public, students, parents and teachers. A recent campaign on behalf of a group of higher education stakeholders was described as an ‘unqualified success’ in PRWeek.
Editor of two blogs, The B2B Guide to Social Media and the UK Business Blog. MA in Psychology and currently an Executive MBA student at the London Business School.