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Grads4Nottm scheme proves invaluable for cultural partner in Nottingham

With Grads4Nottm 2020 fast approaching, Matt Turpin, Communications Manager at cultural strategic partner Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature (NUCoL), outlines his thoughts on the scheme and looks forward to this year's virtual edition.

Justyna and Romeel at G4N 2019
Justyna Cuglewska (BA (Hons) Marketing) and Romeel Gondal (BA (Hons) Business Management and Marketing) at G4N 2019

Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature (NUCoL) is one of Nottingham Trent University’s (NTU) four Cultural Strategic Partners. By working closely with them, we are collectively able to create great industry and sector experiences for students through placements, internships, briefs and lectures.

Additionally, we work with them on a wide range of projects and our partnership reaches across the university from teaching and learning, to research and widening participation.

NUCoL has taken part in Grads4Nottm for the past 3 years. Grads4Nottm is an initiative designed to highlight great businesses in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire. The scheme is a NTU-exclusive two-week work experience project which focuses on graduate retention in the city and gives local employers the opportunity to showcase their business to students.

In this article, Matt Turpin, Communications Manager, NUCoL, talks about the business’ experience of the scheme and how he plans to adapt to this year’s virtual edition.

Big City Reads Banner
Big City Read Banner


Challenge: Create an innovative marketing campaign to support a major city-wide reading campaign for young adults.

“We tasked the students to come up with an innovative social media marketing plan for our ‘Big City Reads’ event, where we distributed hundreds of books selected to appeal to young adults across the city at a variety of venues. We required the students taking part to come up with ideas that could grab the attention of a hard to reach demographic; be relevant; be provocative and cross-platform. As well as providing material for the launch, we asked for teasers to run preceding this event.

Our two students were Justyna Cuglewska (BA (Hons) Marketing) and Romeel Gondal (BA (Hons) Business Management and Marketing), who between them constructed a bright, bold campaign of social media imagery drawing directly from project source material, eye-catching quotes, strident statements, colourful, using urban-centred imagery as backdrops. This reflected the work that they put in researching the project: they both read through all four books as part of their research.

The whole campaign was a success, and our launch had attracted so much attention we featured on BBC Radio Nottingham, in the Nottingham Post, on Notts TV and saw a large amount of social media attention, spiking our Reach and Engagement figures.

As with any project at NUCoL, flexibility and versatility was required: at one point the students taking part even broke off from designing to stuff leaflets into hundreds of books; took a tram with me to take photos of Bulwell (a setting of one of the books) and were a delight to have.”

Madalina and Bianca on Highfields Park
Bianca Mihai and Madalina Cotea (both BA (Hons) Fashion Communication and Promotion) in Highfields Park


Challenge: To build a social media strategy to increase activity on our social media channels. This online strategy should aim to sustain, build and broaden the range of audiences who experience Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature.

The key projects we would like you to focus on in June are the Feminist Book Fortnight, National Writing Day, and the Lowdham Book Festival. You will design a campaign to promote these three events through both social and traditional media.

“The nature of NUCoL is an organisation that is small and flexible, able to adapt and change when required. We originally posted this challenge as above, but as the date approached, a new project became a priority and as such we needed to redirect resources. Grads4Nottm provided the perfect opportunity to promote and administer this.

Thus, our two students Bianca Mihai and Madalina Cotea (both BA (Hons) Fashion Communication and Promotion) joined us blind, with little idea of what we would be requiring.

The project was The Lost Words For Notts an attempt to get the poetry/ nature / art book by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris to every school in Notts, via a crowdfunder. We needed to put together a campaign that captured the essence of our desire to see the project succeed and the manifesto that the book represents, while clearly conveying the detail.

"We have benefited tremendously from our involvements in Grads4Nottm, and have made many friends (and occasional volunteers!) along the way."

The students swiftly took in the requirements, and began research by visiting a nature reserve; reading about similar campaigns underway across the UK. They then asked both myself and Patrick Limb QC, the project founder who would later become vice-chair of the NUCOL board, how we envisaged success.

Once this was established, the students went about putting together a series of designs based on the book, as well as a strategy to encourage constant attention throughout the duration of the crowdfunder.

The images were wonderful, and widely distributed: they would later receive praise from both authors. The campaign subsequently launched well, and the students’ designs were used throughout ensuring that we smashed the target early, and were able to distribute the book much more widely than intended.

Helen and Aaron at the Warhorse press conference
Aaron Simmonds (BA English with Creative Writing and Helen Ngobeh (LLB Law) at Warhorse press conference


Challenge: We have recently had huge changes, moving from a bid for the City of Literature title, to receiving the title, appointing a Director and setting a strategic plan for the next three years. This has required a new website to match our fresh ethos and aspirations. We want to look at our current content archive, evaluate what we want to keep, what we want to refresh, what we want to delete. What do we need that we have not got? This will require developing skills in content management, on-line presentation, copy writing and understanding how a cultural project such as NCOL works.

“Our first experience of Grads4Nottm saw Aaron Simmonds (BA English with Creative Writing and Helen Ngobeh (LLB Law) join us at a very busy period. We wanted an overview of how we had presented ourselves over the few months since we officially became a City of Literature.

They immediately set to work creating an analytical report on our website and social media, detailing the successes and disappointments; the areas of strong engagement and how - if- we were reaching the audiences we aspired to reach.

Between this, they shadowed me on my daily work to see how that could be improved and translated into content more effectively: this included attending a meet-the-cast preview of War Horse; a talk I gave to Nottingham Writer’s Group; a tour of literary locations and many other engagements.

We incorporated many of their recommendations into our ongoing work, and Aaron continued to volunteer for us for some time after the placement, writing copy and helping out in the office, only leaving when he moved away: we still continue to communicate as he explores his own writing career.”

2020 - A Digital Challenge

We are exploring how best we can use technology to work efficiently

“Due to the part-time nature of my work for NUCOL, and the often unpredictable nature of when that work has to be done, we always strongly advise our students that they will have to be self-motivated and able to work remotely. In the preceding three engagements with Grads4Notts we have found this works well.

As an international organisation based around a global network, virtual communication through technology is something we are used to - we often partner with other cities to run projects. With a vast amount of people in the UK and the world forced into working remotely of late we are exploring how best we can use technology to work efficiently, and establish good practice in doing so.

In common with the previous challenges, we are ready to be flexible in regards to what is mutually beneficial: as such we cannot as yet say with a great degree of clarity what exactly we will require the students to be doing, but we can guarantee we will ensure it is educational, productive and fascinating for both the students and ourselves.”

A Tremendous Benefit

“Grads4Nottm works for us on several levels, the most obvious being we get a pair of bright, motivated students to provide us with great work at what is often a very busy time.

It also has many unexpected effects. Having to explain succinctly who we are, what we do and so on to the students forces us to interrogate our own work and processes, and their fresh thinking and quizzical nature has become a great boost to our ability to self-reflect. It serves as a great buffer against staleness in our practices to have such a jolt of inquiry.

We have benefitted tremendously from our involvements in Grads4Nottm, and have made many friends (and occasional volunteers!) along the way.”

Published on 27 April 2020
  • Category: Culture; Curated & Created; Current students