Here is a transcript generated by of The Content Mix podcast interview with Denyse Lum on the world of marketing in higher education in 2020:

Carlota Pico 0:13
Hi, everyone, and welcome back to The Content Mix. I’m Carlota Pico, your host for today’s show, and I’m excited to introduce Denyse Lum, who is Marketing and Communications Manager at ESSEC Business School. Denyse actually oversees all communication elements for the EMEA and the Americas for two master programs, one in management, and the other in management and strategy of international business. Welcome, Denyse. And thank you so much for joining us today on The Content Mix.

Denyse Lum 0:45
Hi. Thank you for having me today. I’m happy to be here to share my experience.

Carlota Pico 0:52
Oh, I’m so happy to have you. Denyse, could you talk to me a little bit about your background experience. I understand that you’re originally from Singapore, and now you live in Paris?

Denyse Lum 1:03
Yes, I am. I’m from Singapore. And I started my career at ESSEC Business School, Singapore campus. And then I managed to find an opportunity here at our head campus here in France. So I moved here about three years ago.

Carlota Pico 1:24
Okay, excellent. And what did you study? What were you doing in Singapore before joining ESSEC Business School?

Denyse Lum 1:29
I was doing a degree in economics with a double major in business management at the National University of Singapore. And then, within that double major, I did some marketing related modules. And it was during those classes that I realized that maybe marketing is the field that I want to go into.

Carlota Pico 1:51
So then what makes you passionate about marketing? Why did you decide to go from international business into now marketing for an international business program.

Denyse Lum 2:04
Since young I’ve always enjoyed writing and reading a lot and writing is one of the most important skills that you need to have in marketing, especially in content marketing. And I’ve also been quite interested in the technology side of things, like HTML everything. So in a way marketing managers to combine my favorite interests, and I can work on it every day. So I enjoy my job.

Carlota Pico 2:36
Amazing. Denise, could you tell me a little bit about us like business school? How many students does it have? Where do your students come from?

Denyse Lum 2:45
ESSEC Business School is a global business with campuses in France, Singapore and Morocco. Every year we have about 6000 plus students on campus and we offer programs ranging from the bachelor level all the way to the PhD and also executive level courses.

Carlota Pico 3:08
Wow. Okay. Do you also offer online programs?

Denyse Lum 3:13
Yes, there are online programs available, but those are mainly delivered in our executive education and sometimes in partnership with external companies.

Carlota Pico 3:28
Okay, excellent. So I also want to talk a little bit about what your day to day looks like. Could you walk me through your daily activities when it comes to marketing and communication for business school?

Denyse Lum 3:40
Yes. Most of the time, at the start of the day, what I’ll do is go to our social media pages to check if there have been any recent comments, because it’s always important to respond to the queries from the prospects. And also, I will check if there have been any mentions of SEO programs on online platforms that we need to address. And then either day to day activities will include getting in touch with our student ambassadors. We work a lot with our student ambassadors. They are a team of students, which helps us to answer queries that we have from prospective students, and also accompanies our academic directors in webinars that we organize, to share the perspective as a student.

Carlota Pico 4:40
Okay, sounds very entertaining. Sounds like a lot of fun.

Denyse Lum 4:44
Yes, it’s very nice to be with the students because they are the customers themselves so speaking with them, you always learn a lot from them about the real experience and not only what we write in the brochure or on the website, but how we can improve on the program for the next round?

Carlota Pico 5:07
Yeah, no, definitely it must be incredible to have your customers also be your friends, and also be your colleagues because that must make your life and content marketing a lot easier in terms of creating personas.

Denyse Lum 5:21
And yes, that is one of my favorite aspects of the job. And in addition to this, there is also the usual marketing tasks like working on the website if there are updates on brochures, or organizing webinars before the deadline to speak about the program.

Carlota Pico 5:45
Okay, let’s talk a little bit about COVID-19. It’s no secret that schools around the world have had to adapt our strategy to COVID-19 literally overnight, because whereas before a lot of classes were in person now some classes I’ve had to go online, I used to be a professor myself, I used to teach cross cultural communications. And this year I was asked to also teach cross cultural communications, but in an online format, which is something that I had never done before. And so, talk to me a little bit about how you had to adapt your communication and marketing strategy to fit the current time that we’re living in COVID-19 times.

Denyse Lum 6:31
When the pandemic started to worsen, some of the key impacts that we had on the marketing and recruitment were areas such as the closure of test centers, because the test requirement for admissions and if the students can take the test their files won’t be complete. And also because of the evolving situation that changes every day. We might see one thing today and it might not be valid tomorrow. This is also the same in the candidates minds because they are all worrying about whether they will still be able to do their program. And so they definitely needed a lot of information and reassurance from the school. So what we did was first to adapt our test requirements while maintaining our selectivity, so that the students don’t feel handicapped that just because test centers are closed, they can’t apply for the programs. And whenever we hear any key information, we always send emails or we also have a Facebook group for each intake of each program and our ambassadors helped to disseminate the key updates and information there. And in addition to this for example, our dean of pre experienced programs he also chipped in during the lockdown to record a video to tell the students about how the start of the school would be like in September so that they don’t feel like they are far away and alone and unsure about what is going to happen. And the last, most important thing we did was to organize a lot more webinars than we usually do. And since that situation was evolving, we organized one every one to two months to share updates and also, more importantly, to answer the questions that the incoming students had about how the school is going to start. How is this going to help us and we did cooperation with other departments in the school and not only the recruitment department. It was really a team effort because we all had joint objective of wanting to make sure that all the students feel welcome and reassured when they start the program.

Carlota Pico 9:07
Okay, so you work across different departments to send one message one corporate message to your future students and your current students, and then message primarily relied on reassuring them that the school had their back, that they were doing everything that was within their hands to guarantee a safe return to the campus as well as if the campus wasn’t working for whatever reason to also guarantee them that the classes were going to be resumed in a different format, but that they were still going to carry on.

Denyse Lum 9:45
Yes, or if they would then be able to come on campus, how can they participate in the classes? So we really just tried to reassure them in all aspects.

Carlota Pico 9:59
So you tapped into the emotions you tapped into their insecurities by reassuring them that everything was going to be okay. You also asked higher management to get involved so that higher management could also send a message across to the students saying, You know what? We’re all in this together, we understand that there’s a lot of uncertainties at the moment, but we’re going to communicate with you according to the information that you need right now to carry on with your school education.

Denyse Lum 10:30
Yes, it was actually more of the initiative of the higher management, because they knew and they saw the worry that the incoming students had, so I really appreciated the strong support that they gave us throughout this period because if not, we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what we did. In addition to that, we also kept our ears on the ground through the student ambassadors because the incoming students were contacting the student ambassadors directly. So we knew what were their main concerns. And through this kind of constant exchange, we also adapted our content in the webinars to make sure that all the information they need is shared in these sessions.

Carlota Pico 11:17
Okay, excellent. So basically, you were empathizing with your students.

Denyse Lum 11:22
I think this is what they needed during this very stressful and uncertain period.

Carlota Pico 11:30
Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s what we all needed right. We needed brands to empathize with us as people instead of as a sales opportunity. Okay, which actually leads me to my next question Denyse, what type of brands have you really admired lately and why?

Denyse Lum 11:50
I think I really admire those brands that have been able to take this challenge that is thrown to us by COVID and they reposition themselves and used it as an opportunity instead by adapting their business or how their product or service is delivered and emerging digital technology. So they didn’t let all the obstacles kill their company but they were agile and adapted to the situation. For example, I guess that those that I really appreciated were like all the arts groups or music groups, which started to share recordings of previous performances or concerts. Because since nobody can go to a physical concert now, the only way to connect is through online broadcasts or concerts. And even though this means that they are publishing the content for free for the moment they might be enlarging their audience base by doing this, so even though they’re not earning the ticket sales they would have, it helps them in another way. So I really appreciate and admire brands that managed to adapt during this time.

Carlota Pico 13:19
Okay, let’s take a look at customers experience from an expert opinion, Denyse, how does a business school figure out how to get from where they are to where they want to be digitally?

Denyse Lum 13:32
I think constant benchmarking with other business schools is always important. This can be done for example, through interaction with people working in the same kind of department industry conferences like the GMAC Conference or the Salesforce Education Conference, because you will have the opportunity to see what other schools are doing and how you could improve what you are doing. And also, close working relationships with providers is also very important. For example, as I said, we work with Salesforce. And Salesforce is always pioneering all the innovations in technology. And because they know that ESSEC is always very open to trying new things, in order to improve our customer experience, whenever they have a new idea, they will try to approach us to see if we’d be interested in working with them in order to try and pilot this new innovation or technology. So it’s a lot of different sectors.

Carlota Pico 14:52
Yeah, I agree. Salesforce is fantastic. I actually just received an update from them. People that use Salesforce are able to extract data from Crunchbase and pull it into their CRM was I found to be particularly valuable, a very valuable service.

Denyse Lum 15:10
Yes, I think the good thing about Salesforce is to integrate it with so many other platforms very well. So it makes the user experience better.

Carlota Pico 15:22
Definitely, definitely. Okay. So what tools do you use to collect customer feedback? You mentioned a Salesforce but do you also use other tools?

Denyse Lum 15:32
Yes, we also send surveys to students at the end of their program, online surveys in order to understand how the experience at the school has been like. And in addition to this, the direct interactions with the current students are another way to obtain firsthand feedback because what you get from a real conversation is usually quite different from what you get on an online form. So I think it’s very important to cover all bases and try as much as possible to understand how the customer experience can be improved on. The online monitoring is also very important, because people may be talking about the brand and the program. And from there, it’s also a form of feedback for us to improve.

Carlota Pico 16:33
So then, Denyse, once you collect that feedback, what do you do with it next?

Denyse Lum 16:39
We usually evaluate the importance of all the feedback that we receive and prioritize which areas need to be dealt with immediately, and also to see which teams are involved in improving this experience and if it’s not our team in charge, we share the information with the other team. This usually happens at the level of my director, not me. After that, if it’s related to the recruitment and marketing, what we do is that we try to come up with possible solutions and evaluate the feasibility of each solution to see which one would be the most effective to implement in solving the problem.

Carlota Pico 17:30
Okay, excellent. Very interesting. Now, do you reach all of your customers in the same way? What are your distribution channels?

Denyse Lum 17:40
We use mainly email in social media channels such as Facebook, and LinkedIn. And also, for example, in China, because most of the people are on WeChat or Weibo we also do have corporate accounts on these platforms and it is very important in order to reach who we want to reach.

Carlota Pico 18:10
And do you speak to your personas in their local languages? Do you like adapt the content to their market nuances and to their language, of course?

Denyse Lum 18:19
Yes, for example, for our channels in China mean do share the content in Chinese. And we also pick the content that we think would be of interest to a student in China.

Carlota Pico 18:39
Okay, very interesting. Why do you do that? What why is it important for you to localize your content?

Denyse Lum 18:46
Yes, it’s, it’s very important because, for example, in China, even though the students do speak English, Chinese is the language that they are most comfortable in. So we hope to be able to, at least for our first contact with them, to speak in the language that they can identify with. And then in the later stages we move or transform into English. Because, for example, if someone downloads a brochure from our Chinese website, it will start to receive English emails from us. So the first touch point, it’s always better to be in the language they are most comfortable with.

Carlota Pico 19:37
Okay, Denyse, I do want to talk about CX examples. What customer experience examples have you seen done that have really attracted the attention of prospects, current students, alumni, etc?

Denyse Lum 19:54
I think the the example that we mentioned before, is a good example, because by localizing our content, we’ve seen that it engages the prospective students in China quite a lot. And I think they also realized that ESSEC is willing to produce Chinese content in order to connect with them. And yes, for the youngest students, their parents may not speak English. So having content in Chinese is even more important to reassure the parents about what exactly their children are going for. Since usually, what we have is in English.

Carlota Pico 20:48
And that’s also a great cultural example as well, from what I understand parents are very heavily involved in their child’s education in China to not only appealing to the students or future student, but you’re also appealing to their parents. Excellent. Okay, Denyse, I want to take a walk down memory lane, could you walk me through some of your proudest marketing or communication moments since you started your career, either ESSEC or elsewhere?

Denyse Lum 21:18
I think one of the first examples will be our online open house. Because I work in the organizing team for our first virtual open house which we need address the French market. We had never done something like this before. But we wanted to make use of all the technology that we have in our knowledge on campus in order to try and do an online open house. And I was focused on working with the technical team in order to implement the ideas that we had and in the end of the event, it turned out very successful with good participation and engagement rates. A lot of the teams were happy that we managed to pull it off. So it was one of the achievements that I really appreciated.

Carlota Pico 22:22
That’s so exciting. What’s an online open house look like?

Denyse Lum 22:27
For us, we block in entire day. And we book speakers timings for the whole day. So we go live on youtube, on our YouTube channel, where the speakers talk about the program or maybe about housing options or how to finance your program here. And in between each section, instead of advertisements we use the videos that we already have one our channel as the advertisement in between every session and all the registration is done online, and promotions are done through email and social media. So it allows those people who, for example, are not too close to Paris, to still be able to learn about our program.

Carlota Pico 23:23
Yeah, no, it’s fantastic. And does it also give them the opportunity to ask questions to their future professors or to different employees at ESSEC?

Denyse Lum 23:36
Yes, because on the YouTube Live, there is a chat section. So they are able to ask their questions. And at the end of each session, there is a q&a and their questions are answered live. So it’s a very exciting event, its like hosting a TV show.

Carlota Pico 23:59
Yeah, it’s very interactive as well, no?

Denyse Lum 24:02

Carlota Pico 24:03
Very exciting. Very exciting, Denise. Thank you so much for zooming into that example. Now we are going to be moving into our set of rapid fire questions which are basically your recommendations for audience. To get the section started off, I’d like to ask you about your source of inspiration. So an influencer or professional role model that you really admire?

Denyse Lum 24:25
I think one of my sources of inspiration is Neil Patel. He’s an entrepreneur in digital marketing. I feel like the advice and tips that he shares about digital marketing are always very interesting and useful. And he also shares thought-provoking posts that push you to reflect on how you can improve what you are doing and not just continue doing what you’ve always done.

Carlota Pico 24:56
Amazing. I’m a big fan of him as well. Okay. What About a book a community, a group of publication that you’d like to recommend to our audience?

Denyse Lum 25:09
For me, one of my favorite marketing related publications is Marketoonist by Tom Fishburne where he draws all the cartoons related to marketing related topics. And he brings across sometimes the ironies in the marketing field very well. And it also serves as a timely reminder for us to reflect on why we do certain things, are we just doing it for the sake of doing it and you realize that most of the marketing professionals are facing the same questions or challenges as you do. It’s nice.

Carlota Pico 25:58
Okay, very nice. recommendation. And last but not least Denyse, what’s your favorite app at the moment and why?

Denyse Lum 26:08
My favorite app would be Instagram, because it’s a very useful platform that allows us to share both very raw and polished moments. In terms of marketing in higher education, students do like to see polished videos and everything, but they also want to know how the real life at school is, and Instagram through his stories and the lives, you really get to see unedited moments of what life at school is. So I feel that it brings a good balance to letting people know about the experience at the school and a lot of the prospective students are on this platform, so it’s an important platform to be on.

Carlota Pico 27:04
Yeah, definitely. I agree. Personally, I love Instagram. But for business school, I can imagine how important it must be as well because it allows future students to see what they’re going to get themselves involved in. And it’s also one more way to sell the school through the eyes of the students that already attend the school. So what better way of creating content than around your current students.

Denyse Lum 27:27
They are the best ambassadors for us.

Carlota Pico 27:33
Yeah, definitely. I can imagine. Okay, Denyse. Well, thank you so much for joining us on The Content Mix. It was awesome to meet you. And I hope that one day our travels bring us to the same city so we can have a nice little cup of coffee together.

Denyse Lum 27:49
Thank you, Carlota. It was nice to be on the show. Thank you for having me.

Carlota Pico 27:55
Well, the pleasure has been ours, Denyse. Thank you and to everybody listening in today, thank you for joining us on The Content Mix. For more perspectives on the contet marketing industry in Europe, check out The Content Mix. We’ll be releasing interviews just like this one every day. So keep on tuning in. Have a fantastic day and see you next time. Bye.

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