Hana Svatoňová: Marketing should be understood as a professional discipline built on data

Hana Svatoňová has held the role of Vice-Dean for external relations, communication and marketing at the faculty since spring of this year. She graduated in mathematics and geography at the Faculty of Science, majoring in cartography, geoinformatics and remote sensing. She already has some experience in this management role, having held the role off Vice-Rector for external relations of the entire university between 2016 and 2020, and before that as Vice-Dean for development and external relations at the Faculty of Education.

12 Oct 2022 Tereza Fojtová Kevin Francis Roche

Photo: Irina Matusevich

How did you get from geography to marketing? Do these fields have anything in common?

Geography taught me to search for, name and analyse various phenomena, and to synthesise and interpret the data obtained. In marketing, we work with data a lot; it is a professional discipline, based on data obtained through opinion surveys, monitoring consumer behaviour (in our case applicants, students and graduates) and other analytical tools. Based on the data obtained (which must be interpreted correctly), marketing strategies are then adopted, which are subsequently re-verified and retrospectively evaluated. From this point of view, both disciplines have a lot in common.

So, what should the marketing strategy of our faculty look like? What are the priorities in this area?

First, it is necessary to focus on obtaining high-quality applicants for studies and to present the faculty not only as an institution preparing graduates for careers as top scientists, but also as a faculty that is capable of training experts for applied fields and educating high-quality teachers of natural sciences and mathematics. As such, our application campaign will have three main target audiences, i.e. those interested in a scientific career, those who will use their expertise in specialised companies and those who wish to be science teachers.

Will a marketing campaign be enough to get quality applicants?

A marketing campaign alone is certainly not enough. We must realise that getting a higher number of quality applicants is a task for the entire faculty. It starts with the quality of teaching, followed by quality research, and, of course, adequate facilities and equipment are also important. Each teacher contributes to the number of high-quality applicants applying to us through their daily teaching and their approach to the students, as do non-teaching staff, who contribute to building the internal culture of our faculty. All surveys to date show that the recommendation of an older classmate, friend or teacher, or the applicant's own experience gained during his or her studies, often has the greatest influence on applicant’s decision regarding their choice of study field, school or where they will eventually enrol in the event of acceptance at high school. We all participate in the perception of our faculty by the public, and thus create its brand. And this is perceived by applicants who want to study at a quality school.

What then is the role of the vice Dean, or the role of the marketing department?

My task is to acquaint the director of the institute and people who are directly connected with the preparation of the campaign with data and research results and ongoing evaluations of the campaign. Together with the marketing department, we then strive to ensure that positive recommendations and good experiences our students have had reach the wider public as much as possible, that they are shared and, using all available channels, reach the widest and most relevant audience. We are working to ensure that students not only apply to us, but also enrol in their chosen studies.

Have you already had some success in this regard during your first semester holding the role of vice Dean?

Yes; immediately after February 1, we assessed the campaign, adjusted its targeting and direction, and started to make greater use of social networking. It was intensive work, but the adjustments resulted in improvements, which have now been incorporated into the new phase of the campaign. We now support the students and accompany them through the various stages of the admission process, from the admissions tests to the most important stage, i.e. actual enrolment at the faculty. That’s why this year, for example, we sent those students who were admitted a congratulatory letter from the Dean, a letter from the director of the institute, or a personally addressed motivational postcard. After all, emotions are part of the decision-making process. Behind all this is a thorough analysis of data and experience. In addition to providing clear information, we are trying to include more topics in our communications that applicants can identify with, and thus help them build a better relationship with the faculty and their chosen study field. These should preferably be based on the experiences of current students, including topics such as involvement in research during their first year, experience with studying abroad, etc.

You are responsible for much more than just taking care of applicants. What does your agenda include?

External relations, communication and marketing generally aims to build a good name and image for the faculty, both internally and externally. In addition to taking care of the applicant campaign, I am also in charge of faculty actions and events, the popularisation of science and research, external and internal communication via the worldwide web and social networks, cooperation with partners and graduates, maintenance of a uniform visual style and its further development, and the preparation of promotional items. The job requires teamwork, and that’s why I really appreciate the expertise, creativity, commitment and reliability of my colleagues from the external relations and marketing department. We often find ourselves working on weekends or late into the evening, if external relations and communication requires it.

Can we look forward to new promotional items?

The first set of new promotional items is ready. These are mainly t-shirts, in which colleagues and students can represent us at events such as the Science Festival, Open day, Scientists Night or the Open-Door Days. In this spirit, we would like to move on to the slogan “MUNI S CItem for life”, which clearly expresses the meaning and mission of our work. We want to build the faculty’s prestige as an institution that educates scientists, experts in applied fields and natural science teachers.

Why is the education of future teachers in the field of natural sciences so important?

Supporting the education of teachers, and especially science teachers, is a big topic. If we do not have high-quality science teachers at the primary and secondary school level, we will not have enough high school students interested in education in technical or natural science subjects, or any strategically important fields, all of which rely on mathematics, physics, chemistry, geography and biology.

In addition, an understanding of natural laws, rules and processes is extremely important, even for those who do not deal directly with natural sciences in their profession, if only because it helps to create a better relationship with nature and a respect for life.

What personally attracted you to study geography?

Since I was small, I liked to observe the landscape and I read encyclopaedic books about nature, the landscape, animals, plants and their behaviour. And it all comes together in geography. It’s not just about stating that something exists. I always enjoyed asking why it exists, whether it is developing and whether it is going somewhere and where. And this is what geography can do. I also had an excellent geography teacher at high school. We have a relationship with the natural sciences in our family as my grandfather was a physicist and my father a physical chemist; so I feel at home at the Faculty of Science.

The position of Vice-Dean is time-consuming, will you still have time for teaching and your own research?

I will because I value it very much; I enjoy teaching and I enjoy research. While I was involved in the management of the university I had to put it aside, but I didn’t lose contact. Afterwards, my colleagues welcomed me back into the community. In addition, I work in the field of geoinformatics and satellite data interpretation, which is developing amazingly fast. We have begun cooperating with the ESA educational project and I represent the university in the ‘Brno Space Cluster’. I have also been working with geographers and cartographers at the University of Defence for some time. Finally, I am supervising PhD students who are dealing with the issue of satellite image interpretation and user process strategy.

You mentioned your role as Vice-Rector. How do the roles of Vice-Chancellor and Vice-Dean differ?

Actually, both roles are quite close, probably due to the size and diversity of our faculty. We have many institutes and study fields. Just as in the university management role, my role as Vice-Dean requires that I consider the different needs and perspectives of all the individual components. I’m glad for all the experiences this has given me. For example, I have been involved in several projects related to the external relations of the university, including the application campaign, preparation of several academic ceremonies and the introduction of a unified visual system. I was also in charge of the University’s centenary celebrations. That’s why the current topics of the faculty are very close to me.

Thank you for the interview.
Tereza Fojtová

Translated by Kevin Roche.

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