Fighting Fake News in Finland via Schools

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We have witnessed years now of conventional and now digital media being manipulated to confuse, misinform and mislead the public of all ages round science of climate change or global warming, politics and campaigns, immigrants and population growth, vaccinations, natural disasters, religion and minorities etc.

Like some states in Australia used to teach critical thinking to high school students in the 1970s, since been ’embedded’ and/or disappeared, Finland has taken the lead in developing skills at primary school age dealing with Russia especially, and global warming denialism.

From The Guardian:

‘How Finland starts its fight against fake news in primary schools

Country on frontline of information war teaches everyone from school pupils to politicians how to spot slippery information

You can start when children are very young, said Kari Kivinen. In fact, you should: “Fairytales work well. Take the wily fox who always cheats the other animals with his sly words. That’s not a bad metaphor for a certain kind of politician, is it?”

With democracies around the world threatened by the seemingly unstoppable onslaught of false information, Finland – recently rated Europe’s most resistant nation to fake news – takes the fight seriously enough to teach it in primary school.

In secondary schools, such as the state-run college in Helsinki where Kivinen is head teacher, multi-platform information literacy and strong critical thinking have become a core, cross-subject component of a national curriculum that was introduced in 2016.

In maths lessons, Kivinen’s pupils learn how easy it is to lie with statistics. In art, they see how an image’s meaning can be manipulated. In history, they analyse notable propaganda campaigns, while Finnish language teachers work with them on the many ways in which words can be used to confuse, mislead and deceive.

“The goal is active, responsible citizens and voters,” Kivinen said. “Thinking critically, factchecking, interpreting and evaluating all the information you receive, wherever it appears, is crucial. We’ve made it a core part of what we teach, across all subjects.”

The curriculum is part of a unique, broad strategy devised by the Finnish government after 2014, when the country was first targeted with fake news stories by its Russian neighbour, and the government realised it had moved into the post-fact age.

Successful enough for Finland to top, by some margin, an annual index measuring resistance to fake news in 35 European countries, the programme aims to ensure that everyone, from pupil to politician, can detect – and do their bit to fight – false information.

“This affects all of us,” said Jussi Toivanen, chief communications officer for the prime minister’s office. “It targets the whole of Finnish society. It aims to erode our values and norms, the trust in our institutions that hold society together.”

Finland, which declared independence from Russia in 1917, is on the frontline of an online information war that has accelerated markedly since Moscow annexed Crimea and backed rebels in eastern Ukraine five years ago, Toivanen said.

Most campaigns, amplified by sympathetic far-right, nation-first and “alternative” Finnish news sites and social media accounts, focus on attacking the EU, highlighting immigration issues and trying to influence debate over Finland’s full Nato membership.

Resistance is seen almost as a civil defence question, a key component in Finland’s comprehensive security policy. Toivanen said: “We are a small country, without many resources, and we rely on everyone contributing to the collective defence of society.”

The programme, piloted by a 30-member, high-level committee representing 20 different bodies from government ministries to welfare organisations and the police, intelligence and security services, has trained thousands of civil servants, journalists, teachers and librarians over the past three years.

“It’s a broad-based, coordinated effort to raise awareness,” said Saara Jantunen, a senior researcher from the defence ministry who has been seconded to the prime minister’s office. “Like virus protection on your computer: the government’s responsible for a certain amount, of course, but ultimately it’s up to the individual to install the software.”…

…..He wants his pupils to ask questions such as: who produced this information, and why? Where was it published? What does it really say? Who is it aimed at? What is it based on? Is there evidence for it, or is this just someone’s opinion? Is it verifiable elsewhere?

On the evidence of half a dozen pupils gathered in a classroom before lunchtime, it is an approach that is paying off. “You must always factcheck. The number one rule: no Wikipedia, and always three or four different and reliable sources,” said Mathilda, 18. “We learn that basically in every subject.”….

…..Part of that continuing education is also provided by NGOs. Besides operating an effective factchecking service, Faktabaari (Fact Bar), launched for the 2014 European elections and run by a volunteer staff of journalists and researchers, produces popular voter literacy kits for schools and the wider public.

“Essentially, we aim to give people their own tools,” said its founder, Mikko Salo, a member of the EU’s independent high-level expert group on fake news. “It’s about trying to vaccinate against problems, rather than telling people what’s right and wrong. That can easily lead to polarisation.”

In the run-up to Finland’s parliamentary elections last April, the government went so far as to produce an advertising campaign alerting voters to the possibility of fake news, with the slogan “Finland has the best elections in the world. Think about why”.

Similarly, Mediametka has been developing and working with media literacy tools since the more innocent days of the early 1950s, when its founders were motivated mainly by fear of the irreparable damage that comic books might do to the minds of Finnish children.

These days, the NGO, part-funded by the culture ministry, organises ed-tech hackathons with inventive Finnish startups in a bid to develop “meaningful materials” for schools and youth groups, said its executive director, Meri Seistola.

“We work with pictures, videos, text, digital content; get our students to produce their own; ask them to identify all the various kinds of misleading news,” said Seistola: from propaganda to clickbait, satire to conspiracy theory, pseudoscience to partisan reporting; from stories describing events that simply never happened to unintentional errors of fact.

Finland has something of a head start on information literacy, ranking consistently at or near the top of international indices for press freedom, transparency, education and social justice. Its school pupils have the EU’s highest PISA score for reading.

“The level of trust in national institutions, in the media, in society as a whole, does tend to be higher in the Nordic countries than in many others,” said Faktabaari’s Salo. “But that means we really need even greater vigilance now, to prepare ourselves for the next phase. Because we have more to lose.”’

 

For more articles and blogs about younger generations, critical thinking, climate change and curriculum click through.

 

Tourism Australia Marketing Campaigns

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Australian tourism campaigns have often been in the news, sometimes for good reasons attracting attention, other times questions about the campaigns including the most recent ‘Philausophy‘.

Tourism Australia's latest campaign 'Philausophy' attracts criticism.

Tourism Australia Marketing Campaigns (Image copyright Pexels)

The ‘Philausophy’ campaign is self-indulgent wank, and a crime against Australia

Tourism Australia’s latest ‘Philausophy’ campaign has “desecrated” Australia and is appalling, self-indulgent wank, according to creative director and senior copywriter Mark Farrelly.

November 1, 2019 10:52

by MARK FARRELLY

What happens when you give a government department $38m dollars of our money? You get a pile of self-indulgent wank that’s an embarrassment to our nation.

You would think after the unmitigated disaster that was ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’, Tourism Australia would have learnt a lesson. But clearly, it did not.

The campaign after that was completely forgettable. Can you remember it? Bet you can’t. It passed like a ship in the night. The only thing memorable about it was the fact its weak, pathetic slogan was grammatically wrong.

There’s nothing like Australia? No people. Australia is a place. A location. It is somewhere, not something.

There’s nowhere like Australia would have made sense. I’m not saying that’s great. But it’s okay.

Rule one of tourism advertising: you are advertising a destination.

So it’s not surprising that when you have a team of people so unable to use even basic English, they are going to come up with something even more appalling than before…

…The campaign after that was completely forgettable. Can you remember it? Bet you can’t. It passed like a ship in the night. The only thing memorable about it was the fact its weak, pathetic slogan was grammatically wrong.

There’s nothing like Australia? No people. Australia is a place. A location. It is somewhere, not something.

There’s nowhere like Australia would have made sense. I’m not saying that’s great. But it’s okay.

Rule one of tourism advertising: you are advertising a destination.

So it’s not surprising that when you have a team of people so unable to use even basic English, they are going to come up with something even more appalling than before.’

 

What had happened before?

 

Tourism Australia looks beyond ‘controversial campaign

‘”Where the bloody hell are you?” has gone the way of the “shrimp on the barbie” – into the dustbin of advertising history.

It is two years since the Government unveiled the confrontational slogan to sledge people into coming to Australia, and now it is being dropped.

The $180 million campaign generated much publicity around the world but did not generate any major increase in visitor numbers.

Tourism Australia is also set to review its contracts with advertising agencies as it opens one of the country’s largest advertising accounts to tender.’

 

What is the issue or challenge round tourism marketing?

 

The Best Job in the World” & Beyond in a Brave New Marketing World

“Not since Willy Wonka and the golden tickets hidden in chocolate bars, has something come along like this.” Editor, The Sunday Times, United Kingdom

Investing heavily in content but not communication channels to reach prospective tourists, however, Queensland’s ‘Best Job in the World’ did gain attention globally through having travellers create the content.

The challenge was to convey to the rest of the world, in an already saturated global travel market, that surrounding this vibrant living organism was tangible product and a new tourism story for Australia…

….By the end of 2008 the groundwork was laid, the tourism regions and operators along the 2300 kilometre of the Great Barrier Reef had come on board under the “Islands of the Great Barrier Reef” banner, we had agreement from our international travel partners to start including Islands of the Great Barrier Reef product into their packages and marketing collateral had been produced.  Now all we needed was an idea or a “hook” to sell the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef to the world.

Stage two was the big idea itself.  Brisbane-based creative agency SapientNitro was given a brief to devise a campaign to promote the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.  While several ideas were floated we realised that “The Best Job in the World” was The One; a dream job offering one candidate something priceless, the role of Caretaker of the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef with six months to explore the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef while based in a luxury house on Hamilton Island for a pay cheque of AUD150,000.

While the caretaker’s duties, cleaning the pool, feeding the fish and collecting the mail, were tongue-in-cheek, for the campaign to work, it needed to be a real job…..

….Then on a cold January morning they opened up the newspaper or turned on the television and were hit by a ray of Queensland sunshine; an advertisement for “the best job in the world” with the initial criteria of “anyone can apply”.  The application process simply asked people from around the world to submit a one minute video of themselves telling Tourism Queensland why they deserved the best job in the world….

….On 6 May 2009, Ben Southall, a 34-year-old British charity events organiser, was announced as the successful candidate for “the best job in the world”.  In the first 24 hours of his announcement as the successful candidate, Ben undertook more than 100 media interviews and featured in news stories around the globe.

Two months later on 1 July 2009, Ben started his role as the Caretaker for the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.  During his stint he visited almost 100 Queensland destinations, fielded more than 450 media interviews and posted more than 60 blogs of 75,000 words, 2,000 photographs, 47 video diaries and more than 1,000 tweets….

….The estimated publicity value of the campaign topped AUD430 million and penetrated almost every country on earth.  Not bad for an investment of around AUD4 million over the three-year life of the campaign.’

 

Ongoing issue of direct communication with prospective tourists

 

Campaign fantastic but let down by one oversight by QLD Tourism, no direct channel via their global web presence to contact or make an enquiry in one’s own language, locally.  However, this is where Tourism Australia has been quietly creating a global web presence and physically through local travel and related representatives trained as ‘Aussie Specialists’ with resources made available online via ‘Aussie Specialists Club’.

As important, mostly ignored, are the significant digital marketing resource created by Aussie Specialists developing their own web presence targeting geographic, cultural and linguistic regions.

Result?

Most related web searches would find the relevant Tourism Australia website then finding travel planning and an Aussie Specialist travel agent would only be three clicks away; digital marketing 101.

For more blogs and articles about digital marketing and marketing strategy click through.

 

 

 

 

 

Globalisation of Islamophobia and Antisemitism by White Nationalists

In recent years both Islamophobia and antisemitism have come to the fore in US, UK, Australian and European politics, media and social narratives, emanating from white nationalism, conspiracy theories and Nazi ideology.

Following are excerpts from an article by Nafeez Ahmed explaining the co-dependence and shared ideology of Islamophobia and antisemitism in the US white nationalist movement, now in the mainstream and coursing through social narratives including the ‘great replacement’ theory.

From the Foreign Policy in Focus:

Behind Islamophobia Is a Global Movement of Antisemites

By Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

The global rise of white nationalist violence proves that the threat of fascism is not just
about one community — it threatens all communities: white people, black people,
Muslims, Jews, and beyond.

The spate of mass shootings at the end of July comes head on the heels of an escalating epidemic of U.S. gun violence. Since the beginning of the year, there have been at least 257 mass shootings, which have killed 9,080 people. This is nearly triple the number of people that died on 9/1 1 , the terrorist attack which justified U.S.-led wars that have killed at least a million people.

Over the last decade, nearly three quarters of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil have been
linked to domestic right-wing extremists, with just a quarter linked to Islamists. And in
201 8, every terrorist murder in the U.S. was linked to the extreme right.

The ideology of extreme white nationalism is now a bigger U.S. national security threat,
and a bigger cause of death, than Islamist terrorism or immigration. Yet millions of white
Americans have been brainwashed into believing the exact opposite….

 

The shared ideology of global white nationalism

In one of these tweets, Hopkins openly endorsed the rise of extreme nationalist
politicians around the world, including Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, and leader of the Polish Law and Justice party (PiS) Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

All four politicians have promoted divisive, xenophobic policies….

 

The making of the ‘great replacement’ mythology

It is now widely recognized that at the core of this shared far-right ideology is the so called “great replacement” theory, which posits that a genocide of white people is being achieved through their replacement by migrants, mostly from Muslim countries (or, in the United States, from Latin America).

The overlapping xenophobic agendas of these politicians illustrates how latent Antisemitism remains a driving force in this global movement, which nevertheless masquerades under the guise of anti-migrant and anti-Muslim sentiment as a mechanism to achieve mainstream reach…

…In short, the focus on a “Muslim invasion” through a combination of mass immigration and birth rates allowed far-right groups inspired by neo-Nazi ideas to rehabilitate themselves and conceal their traditional anti-Semitic roots.

It is no surprise then to see that many of the groups that have played the biggest role in
spreading the core tenets of the “great replacement” mythology through the specter of a
global Islamist conspiracy are simultaneously allied with longstanding white nationalist
movements…

 

Widening the net

After 9/1 1 , the U.S. government launched a major multi-agency investigation into
terrorism financing across multiple agencies known as Operation Green Quest, focused
on uncovering Muslim charities operating as “front organizations” for terrorists.
The problem was that U.S. government agencies like the Treasury Department, FBI and
many others had a nebulous and weak understanding of the Muslim world, often leading investigators to see connections and ties which were not there and to read conspiratorial meaning into every association or relationship that might potentially link individuals or organizations to extremism — however tenuous….

 

Far-right penetration of the FBI

Indeed, part of the problem is that for years the FBI has suffered from institutional
Islamophobia.

FBI training manuals obtained by Spencer Ackerman for Wired revealed that after 9/1 1
the agency was teaching its counter terrorism agents that “main stream” [sic] American
Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers; that the Prophet Mohammed was a “cult
leader”; and that the Islamic practice of giving charity is no more than a “funding
mechanism for combat.” And “combat” can include numerous techniques including
“immigration” and “law suits”. Thus, a Muslim who immigrates to the U.S. or sues the FBI
for harassment is seen as just another agent of the jihad….Rather the “Muslim invasion” narrative is central to the goal of legitimizing a broad, xenophobic agenda rooted in anti-Semitic movements historically aligned with neo Nazism.

The alliance between Islamophobes and anti-Semites

That is why so many of the same groups promoting Islamophobic myths play a lead role
in amplifying white nationalist concepts…..

….I described this alarming phenomenon as a form of “reconstructed-Nazism,” “indicating that the core ideology [of the global far-right] embraces core Nazi principles, but embeds them in a range of cosmetic narrative adjustments which allow those principles to function subliminally in a new post war, anti-Nazi, and post-9/1 1 global cosmopolitan context.”…

Conclusion

…The upshot of this is clear: Jews and Muslims cannot afford to be at loggerheads in the fight against fascism. Both communities are in the firing line of a global far-right agenda advanced by groups and political parties forged in the historic bowels of Nazism.

Whatever their political differences and disagreements, both communities need to forge
bonds of solidarity in the struggle against racism. If they are to survive, our communities
have no choice but to resist being distracted by efforts to divide us and turn us against
each other, which is a deliberate far-right strategy to debilitate both Jewish and Muslim communities. Instead, we need to identify new lines of strategic cooperation to resist and disrupt a global far-right movement which threatens not only our communities, but the very foundations of our democracies.

This means that no matter what our political leanings might be, the struggles against
Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are fundamentally about the same thing: protecting
diverse, inclusive, and free societies.’

For more articles and blogs about the political issues regarding immigration, population growth, white nationalism etc. click through.

Brand Trust – Social Media – Digital Marketing – Personal Customer Data

How can trust in brands be developed and maintained in an age of digital marketing, speed, mistrust and social media?

This article first appeared in The Australian on 15th February 2019, then via KPMG NewsRoom.

There are issues in trust round politics and marketing.

Brand Trust in Digital Times (Image copyright Pexels)

Brand power in the age of declining trust

Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer report in 2017 carried a headline “Trust is in crisis around the world”. A KPMG report last year found that “trust has declined in almost every major economy and many developing ones”. In a CNN interview recently, Salesforce’s founder and CEO Marc Benioff argued that “companies that are struggling today are struggling because of a crisis with trust”.

There seems no end to the brands, organisations and leaders that have lost the public’s trust. There has been a royal commission into our banks, multiple questions over Facebook’s use of personal data, cheating cricketers, fake news, church leaders charged, and political parties bickering among themselves.

It is hard to believe that some brands and organisations have turned a blind eye to building trust with customers over the past decade. Trust is the basis of all relationships, gained slowly like drops of rain but lost in buckets. It is fundamental to business, symbolised in a handshake and eye-to-eye contact. ……These brands meet the “trust” checklist in the KPMG report – standing for something more than profit; demonstrably acting in the customers’ best interest; doing what you say you will; keeping customers informed; and being competent and likeable.

There is no doubt that brand trust is more complex in a digital world, where social media and data personalisation have enabled brands to act as if they are talking to you in person. Combine that with the exponential growth of individuals’ data that can be captured; digital marketplaces; smartphones; voice technology such as Google Home and Alexa; and the algorithms and deep learning of artificial intelligence, and there are far more opportunities to get brand trust wrong. This is especially so when trust is measured at lightning speed and some decisions around brands are being made by machines acting like humans.

Data became the hottest brand trust issue last year. The biggest data breach involved the Marriott International hotel chain and had an impact on up to 383 million people on the Starwood booking database. This included more than five million unencrypted passport numbers. Facebook had multiple issues, the most discussed being Cambridge Analytica’s access to Facebook users’ data. This data was used to persuade voters to change their opinions in the last US presidential election.

Consumers started to question the trust they had in these brands: one US survey showed 71 percent of people were worried about how brands collected and used their personal data. …… Marketers also had their doubts after YouTube posted ads that appeared alongside offensive videos, leading to a number of companies and their media agencies withdrawing advertising from YouTube for a period.

In the past five years, some of Australia’s biggest companies have rushed to establish or buy into data businesses that can offer insights into the purchasing behaviour of their customers and also use that information to improve their marketing communications……

Some companies have commercialised this data by selling it to outside organisations that match it with their customer profiles, adding to the knowledge they have on their customers. Some have questioned the ethics of this, even if it is anonymous; others ask who actually owns the data – the individual or the companies?

Trust around data relies on the fundamentals: common sense says that being a friendly and helpful neighbour is better for a long-term relationship than being annoying or remote. The personal customer data a business holds needs to be treated in the same way. In a business environment where consumers have more choice than ever, as well as more transparency and lower barriers to switching brands, boards, CEOs and marketers cannot ignore the need to invest in brand trust.

 

For more blogs and articles about digital marketing, social media marketing and consumer behaviour click through.

 

Importance of International Student Satisfaction in Marketing Communications

IEAA International Education Association of Australia has released a report by Ravichandran Ammigan PhD and Debra Langton looking at four dimensions of the student experience arrival, learning, living and support services; an extract of the report follows below.

In summary, the very useful report finds important to focus upon satisfied students who then spread positive word of mouth to prospective students; this is supported by previous research.

However, the use of the traditional expression ‘marketing materials’ does not seem to match the language of international students who are ‘digital natives’ and would most likely use social media under the umbrella of digital marketing.  Further, related to marketing, and contrary to the report, Australia does have issues in developing diversity outside of PRC and India, for which effective digital marketing system (not a one off strategy) should be a solution.

Nonetheless, it does focus upon the need to have students as central in marketing and one could suggest that in addition to maintaining quality for satisfied students, also involving students in creating customer generated media that can be used in digital marketing.

International student experience in Australia

In today’s increasingly competitive market to recruit and retain international students, it is critical that higher education institutions stay current on student perceptions, preferences and experiences with various aspects of the university environment. Ensuring students have the right level of support and resources can contribute to their academic, social and cultural success. It can also directly influence their overall institutional satisfaction and whether they would recommend their institution to prospective applicants.

This paper investigates the experience of international university students in Australia with respect to arrival, learning, living and support services. It is based on previous research by Ammigan and Jones (2018) and uses data from the International Student Barometer (ISB), to examine the relationship between student satisfaction and institutional recommendation for over 21,000 international students at 34 Australian institutions.

This paper provides guidance for university administrators and support staff on how to adjust and improve resources and services for international students, which can be an important component for enhancing institutional recruitment and retention strategies.

International students in Australia

As with other leading destination countries around the world, the higher education student population in Australia is culturally diverse, which presents opportunities for both international and domestic students to interact with peers from different cultural, social and linguistic backgrounds (Arkoudis et al., 2013).

According to the Australian Government’s Department of Education and Training (2017), more than 600,000 international students chose Australia in 2017. This is a record high and represents a 13 per cent increase since 2016. International students now make up more than a quarter of all students at certain universities.

In 2017, the international student sector generated over AUD30 billion, making it the country’s third-largest export (ICEF Monitor, 2017). It is predicted that Australia will overtake the UK to become the world’s second highest destination for international students in 2019 (Marginson, 2018).

International student satisfaction Improving student satisfaction is a major goal for universities – a satisfied student population can be a source of competitive advantage with outcomes such as student retention, recruitment and alumni relations (Arambewela & Hall, 2009). Student satisfaction, which generally results from an evaluation of a student’s educational experience, occurs when actual performance meets or exceeds expectations (Elliott & Healy, 2001). In recent years, there has been a growing interest from international educators to gather and utilise international student satisfaction data as a way to influence campus change and strengthen support services for this community (Yu, Isensee, & Kappler, 2016).
This is not surprising as the international student experience can be a critical recruitment and retention strategy for providing a high-quality education and remaining competitive in the global student market and world rankings (Shah & Richardson, 2016).

The Australian Government’s National Strategy for International Education 2025 recognises the importance of student experience. Goal 2 outlines a number of actions that expressly address the delivery of supports that:

  • meet or exceed student needs
  • build capacity for employment; and
  • encourage a strong international student voice to inform continuous improvement.

A study on the attitudes, goals and decision-making processes of over 67,000 prospective
international students from 193 different countries found that course offerings was the main driver of student decisions on institution and location, with the expectation that the course of study would lead to career prospects (QS Enrolment Solutions, 2018).  Reviews and marketing materials showcasing the quality of teaching and experience of academic staff was the second most influential factor in choosing their institution.

The same study found that prospective students were most concerned about the cost of living and being able to afford their tuition fees. Having a relative or friend in a destination country and receiving information about local culture and customs can help reduce concerns and worries about going to study abroad and impact students’ choice of a particular location. Campus safety and a welcoming environment were also important factors in international students’ institutional and destination choice…..

Satisfied students are strong advocates

For international students, choosing an institution is based on a number of ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors, which may influence them to leave their home countries to study abroad (Banjong & Olson, 2016). Such factors include knowledge and awareness of the host country, quality of education, institutional reputation, tuition and living costs, scholarship opportunities, safety and security, university environment, quality of life, visa requirements and post-graduation employment options
(Mazzarol & Soutar, 2002).
Mavondo et al. (2004) suggest that institutional recommendation is closely related to satisfaction, where satisfied students are more likely to recommend their institution to potential or future students.  It is therefore important, especially from a marketing and recruitment perspective, for institutions to understand the factors that impact upon international student satisfaction which in turn drive propensity to recommend.

Reference:

Ammigan, R. & Langton, D (2018). The International student experience in Australia: Implications for administrators and student support staff. International Education Association of Australia (IEAA). Retrieved from www.ieaa.org.au

See original report via https://www.ieaa.org.au/research/student-experience IEAA Student Experience for full list of references.

For further articles and blogs on international education marketing, international students, information seeking journey, WOM word of mouth, student satisfaction and digital marketing click through.