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Amplifying Youth Voice with a Travel Campaign

Silhouette of a figure looking out to the sky with a suitcase on wheels in their hand and an aeroplane in the sky.
Picture courtesy of Unsplash

Earlier this year Thread & Fable were appointed by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to deliver a digital student brand ambassador programme as part of their Travel Aware campaign.

One of the strands to the campaign is youth, providing key preventative messages to help reduce consular cases from UK nationals travelling overseas. This covers things such as serious accidents, often occurring when separated from friends on a night out and not having the right kind of travel insurance.

So far, I’ve brought together expertise to deliver the campaign in Rob Armstrong (MCIPR) from Neon Caffeine Ltd as well as a range of experts and tools (The Student Room, Guild, Thinkific, Luan Wise, Josh Akapo to name but a few). A few months into the year-long project, this blog shares some insights into recruiting a team of students with a breadth of experiences, targeting the right creators to work with and how to create a positive ambassador experience.

Make the process clear and easy

With over 100 applications from students across more than 20 institutions in just two weeks, our simple communications plan had proved effective. What’s more, with over 30 short video meetings, we were spoilt for choice with engaged, interesting students who were passionate about travel and keen to get creating content, all bringing different perspectives and experiences to the campaign.

How did we get to that?

  • Identified routes to students who were already creating content or sharing opinions in paid roles, such as university ambassadors or those working with student agencies.

  • Created a job description built around what value there is for Ambassadors; it's a paid role, flexible hours, training and skill development available and support provided.

  • Developed a quick and easy form to apply (under 3 minutes on average).

  • Approached marketing and communications teams at institutions to share the role across their networks, as well as put calls out on Thread & Fable and Neon Caffeine channels to tap into teams we didn’t know.

  • Shared the role with agencies with student/youth audiences to share among their networks (shout out to Simon Lucey Hype Collective by Bulla Co and Ndubuisi Uchea Word on the Curb among others!).

Recruited based on lived experiences

In order to influence behaviour change among a target audience, we needed to reflect a breadth of experiences and interests in travel as part of our recruitment.

We had an open text question within the application form and asked questions within the 10-15 minute informal video calls we had with prospective ambassadors to get an insight into students’ interests, backgrounds and experiences in relation to travel. We could then match these to key themes within the campaign that we wanted to reflect. This included;

  • Passion for travel

  • Building travel into their studies; study abroad, gap years, overseas placements

  • New to travel

  • Travelling solo

  • Budget travel and how that impacts decisions around safety

  • Sustainable travel

  • Travelling as a woman

  • Adventure travel

  • Party holidays

  • Travelling with friends

  • Those from underrepresented communities who want to share their experiences of travelling

With a team of over a dozen young people, we are already seeing a breadth of great blogs, instagram content and input into our forum on The Student Room as well as a podcast from one of our ambassadors here. Check out their Instagram content here.

Balancing a breadth of perspectives and interests helped us appoint a balanced team but we knew we’d still have potential gaps in interests, some of which we would need to look for within our Creator strategy.

Approach to Creators

Our student ambassadors would be creating blogs for pitching to suitable travel and student blogs, reels, posts and stories for Instagram and would share content both on their channels or a shared ambassador channel in order to reach our audience.

As part of our approach we also wanted to combine ambassador content with some creator content, helping to expand our reach on Instagram through existing engaged audience bases, complimenting the growing ambassador content.

We needed to be targeted with the creators in order to fill any travel experience gaps we felt were important, as well as the audience reach we felt we could build. These fell under;

  • Living with a disability and travelling

  • Travel creators sharing informed travel content

  • Last minute holidays and plans

  • Travelling with friends

  • Party holidays

So, we began to approach creators and their agents, discussing the type of content we needed and what we were trying to achieve. We were successful in securing every creator we were hoping for within budget. Key to this were things like;

  • Approaching creators we believed had a content format and style that could work with the campaign. We knew how our messages could potentially sit and talked to that when we met with them. In short - we researched and pitched how the campaign would fit their content.

  • We offered creative freedom for them to come up with an idea of how they would talk about the key campaign themes, which we could then pitch to the client.

  • Being really open about what we were trying to do and the kind of budget we would be working with.

So far we’ve had;

  • BlindTobes with over 60k followers on Instagram, Toby shares his experiences of living as a student, keen footballer and blind man. An excellent storyteller and regular solo traveller, he created this Reel which has so far had over 35k views and over 500 engagements.

  • Connor Rice and his partner Yvonne have amassed a huge following on TikTok and a growing fanbase on Instagram. We have a series of Reels lined up with Connor and so far have had the headphone challenge travel edition on travel insurance and how to stick with your mates (with Yvonne on hand acting...!). Combined these have been played around 17k times and around 700 engagements.

  • Charlie Mumbray, over 18k followers on Instagram and lots of fun content of travel and fitness. We have a couple of Reels agreed, including this get ready with me Reel, highlighting why travel insurance and sticking with your mates when travelling is essential (especially after food poisoning and losing your bag!). Over 3k views in its first few days and hundreds of engagements so far.

We also are working with some other exciting creators including Live the Dash and Life of Jazz, both excellent travel creators with fun and informed travel content, as well as Rory Bradshaw, who brings a mindful, reflective range of content alongside his work as a yoga teacher. We'll share links to these once they publish in the comments.

The Student Room

We also recognised that reaching a youth audience who were engaged with topics around student life, including travel, having a Travel Aware forum on The Student Room would be a great way to engage our ambassadors with a student audience looking for more information and advice.

With around 70,000 visitors a month talking about travel, the platform allows us to join the conversation as well as have a forum where we can ask questions, share updates and polls and align content to what students are talking about.

What next?

- Follow @thetravelambassadors on Instagram

- Share the account with youth audiences you communicate with

- Signpost youth audiences to content from the ambassadors as well as the Travel Aware campaign (@travelaware on instagram)

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