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FREE School Marketing Articles

Measuring Year 12 School Satisfaction

School Satisfaction Surveys For Year 12 Students | Online & Paper Surveys

Final year students should be your best advertisement. They are your finished product – fully processed and lovingly polished. They are the most credible billboards you have, so it is valuable to know how satisfied they are with their education at your school and the word-of-mouth messages they will be broadcasting in the wider community.

This case study shows how one school went about measuring Year 12 satisfaction and how it used the information.

Sometime in term three, a boys’ school I know takes time to precisely measure the satisfaction levels of its final year students before they sit for their big examinations. 

The data shows the school what it is doing well and it pinpoints areas for improvement. The school compares the results with previous years (longitudinal study) and examines its satisfaction scores against the national average (benchmark analysis). 

“From a marketing point of view, the data is priceless,” said Nadia, the school’s marketing manager. “It reveals the perceptions held by our most influential customers and it indicates what they will be saying to others when they leave.” 

Here is how the school goes about collecting the data and how they put the findings to work. 

Data collection 

For the past three years the school has used the Centre for Marketing Schools Year 12 Survey. The unique design of the questionnaire draws directly on information contained within the school’s promotional material - the prospectus, website, annual report, media promotion, directories, advertising and the information given to prospective families during school tours. The promotional messages delivered by the school are compared with the perceptions held by students who have been through the system.

The questionnaire examines how Year 12 students see the school in terms of relationships, discipline, leadership, scholarship, communication, sport, and where applicable, boarding. It questions how they see themselves at the end of their school days in terms of self-image, confidence, fitness, and preparedness to face the next stage of their lives. How strong is their sense of connectedness to the school? What word-of-mouth messages will they broadcast when they leave school? What recommendations will they make to others?

The survey is designed to measure the accuracy and strength of the school’s marketing strategies and to identify areas where the school could establish a different practice to better satisfy the needs of its students.

“No matter how many resources we put into promoting our image, if the students do not support the image; if they say something different in the community, our marketing will lack validity, so we need to make sure our final year students are walking the talk,” said Nadia. 

Obtaining accurate and honest answers

At the case-study-school there were 153 boys in Year 12 last year. 142 were available to participate in the survey and every boy returned a survey, giving a 93 percent group response which is exceptionally high for market research. 

The Year 12 coordinator administered the questionnaire which was distributed and supervised in small tutor groups in school time. 

The survey contains a mix of multiple-choice questions and short answer responses. The language of the questionnaire, designed to appeal to 17-18 year olds, and its method of distribution and return, led to a conscientious response from each student. 

The average time to complete the questionnaire was 12 minutes.

In its promotional discourse, the school talks about the nature and quality of its students. In marketing terms the Year 12 class is the finished product, so the students were asked how they see themselves at the end of their school life to gauge if the respondents reflect the values and strengths of the ‘typical boy’ epitomised in the promotional literature?

Putting the Findings to Work

Market research such as the Year 12 Survey offers many valuable opportunities to evaluate your customers, provide feedback for teachers and deliver quantitative outcomes for decision-making.

The five main benefits to the case-study-school were: 

1.  A window into the students’ minds
In an age when schools recognise that senior students are influential customers, it is imperative to know what students are thinking, what they want from their education and what they will say about the school once they move into the outside world. 

In the case study, the survey showed that most students had a strong self-image and felt confident, fit and healthy. Most boys saw themselves as good students and regarded themselves as having good people skills. Strong friendships had been formed and the majority of boys felt they were well prepared to take the next step. (Percentage figures were supplied in the report). 

However, responses were not all glowing. In the free-response section students raised concerns. Some issues related to the changes introduced throughout the year that they did not like, and there were recurring comments about the student leadership program and classroom management. 

All in all, it was obvious from the students’ comments that they welcomed the chance to appraise the school on the eve of their departure. 

2.  Comparative school data

It can be helpful to know how well your school is performing compared with other schools. For example, if 65% of your students say they will join the ex-students association on leaving school is that relatively brilliant, average or poor? Using comparative data from other schools of similar size and character the report can provide comparative analysis. 

In the case study, the responses to many questions were above average and this was a reason to celebrate good practice. But in other cases the results were below average. The school will now focus its attention on these areas of relative weakness.

3.  Areas for improvement.
Market research should prompt change. Ongoing research from year to year can indicate a changing pattern of perceptions which can be an effective method of evaluation to see if the improvements that have been introduced are having the desired effect.

As part of the survey analysis, Centre for Marketing Schools provides a rating out of 5 that reflects the overall level of satisfaction of the group. A rating of 1 to 2 indicates a ‘very high level of satisfaction’. In the case study, the Year received a rating of 2.45 which reflected a ‘high level of satisfaction”. The year before the score was poorer and signified “satisfied but with concerns”. This had prompted the school to address the issues raised by previous respondents. To everyone’s pleasure the recent satisfaction level showed a marked improvement. There is still room to improve, and the school is working on it, aiming for an even better satisfaction rating in the next survey. 

4.  Information for decision-making
There are no right or wrong answers in the survey, only perceptions. Recommendations to the school in the report from the Centre for Marketing Schools based on the findings of the survey, provide a professional and external opinion that can act as a catalyst for the school to question how things are being done, if needs are being satisfied, if service delivery could be better and if the outcomes are as desirable as the school would wish.

And, in a survey like this, students themselves can throw up solutions to perceived problems. In the case study, students offered suggestions on ways the school could have better met their needs, such as training in time management and organisational skills and a Year 12 common room.

5.  Feedback for the school marketer
A survey is one of the best ways to evaluate your marketing plan. It can tell you if the promotional message is accurate, if it being internalised and how well your customers will endorse it. You can learn about gaps in communication and identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

And genuine testimonial statements provide material for further promotion, such as the following gem from a Year 12 boy in the survey: “People see the impact the school has had on my life and through this they see the school as a great place to educate a boy.”

Nadia Stuart said the findings of the survey would change her focus. “We need to explain the school’s strategic plan to our students so that they see the benefits in the changes that are being made. And we need to give all students, not just our school leaders, the information and training they need to be articulate ambassadors. At the same time that we are projecting our school image to the outside world, we need to focus on our internal marketing,” she said.

Availability of Surveys

The Year 12 Survey comes as a package that includes a questionnaire (paper or online), data entry, statistical analysis and a final report. It is affordable and easy to administer and can be applied to any English speaking school anywhere in the world.  

About the author
Dr Linda Vining was Director and Founder of the Centre for Marketing Schools (CMS) and an international authority on school promotion and community relations. She has designed a menu of CMS Surveys.
© Copyright applies – It is illegal to reproduce any part of this article without the permission of the Centre for Marketing Schools.

PR for School Office Staff

Train Your School Office Staff In School Marketing PR Basics In today’s schools, the notion of good customer relations is a central philosophy. As the first-point-of-contact, office staff provide the interface between the school and the public. For many people the office is the only communication they have with the school. Therefore, office staff are important in influencing impressions and defining the tone of the school. But too often front line staff are neglected.
When the Centre for Marketing School conducted a customer service workshop for office staff, the course broke a drought. Many participants had not received professional development for years, some said never! 

For the receptionist at a Catholic College in Canberra, it was the first time in fourteen years that she had been to a training course.

 “I feel refreshed, I can’t wait to get back to school to implement all these new ideas,” she said.

Other office staff spoke of the affirmation they received that they were worthwhile and their job was important to the school. All participants spoke of the encouragement and tips they got from interacting with people in similar positions and talking about issues that mattered. 

Schools are beginning to realise that good front line service is a key differentiating factor in a competitive marketplace. 

On the other hand, poor customer service can undermine a school’s promotional efforts.

The first contact at your school

When Marcia Orbost was contemplating a change of school for her daughter, she telephoned a school in response to their Open Day advertisement. 

The school had invested heavily in promoting the event, but the receptionist who answered the phone blew it in two minutes. 

When the mother asked for details about the Open Day, the receptionist was uninformed and she made no attempt to find the answers. After a curt, unresponsive conversation, the prospective parent decided that if this was the treatment parents received, she wouldn’t bother attending the Open Day.

You can talk about a caring, friendly school in your prospectus, advertisements and newsletters, but if your school does not live up to the rhetoric at the first point of contact, it has wasted its resources.

Good service cannot be achieved by simply hanging a mission statement on the wall. 

Office staff need to understand the powerful market forces that are impacting on schools and the changing ways in which school’s relate to their customers. They need training in customer service, handling complaints, telephone techniques and time management.

The changing nature of the school customer

 “An important public relations function is to give people the feeling that you really want to help them. If you greet a person the minute they walk through the door and if you answer the phone with a willing smile in your voice, you send a message that the school is a friendly, people-centred place,” says Heather Ridenski, the front-line face at Richmond High School.   

When the Centre for School Marketing conducted market research on the indicators used by parents to judge customer service in the school office, the following favourable pointers were most commonly identified:

Appearance of the person and the environment around them.
Recognition on arrival (a nod, use of name).
Facial expression (a smile).
Body language (looking the person in the eye).
Knowledge of the school.
How well the secretary listens to the customer.
Willingness to help the customer.
A jack of all trades

In speaking with office staff at my courses they point out that they are usually the lowest paid members of the school. 

They comment that other members of the school do not seem to appreciate the enormous demands placed upon them and the important PR role they play.

Apart from typing and receptionist work, there is a large element of welfare work associated with the office. Sick children, worried parents and angry customers come into the province of the office. 
The last time I rang the administrative officer at Coogee South Public School, she was dealing with an epidemic of chicken pox. 

“Calling parents when their child is sick or there has been an accident can be a delicate PR job,” she said. 

 “You don’t want to alarm a parent but at the same time you have to insist that they are needed at the school, no matter how busy they are elsewhere. When they arrive to collect their child you need to be caring and concerned. It is moments like these that build lasting impressions in the minds of your parents.”

The school secretary from the International Grammar School describes the job as one of competing demands. 
 “You have to be a jack of all trades; a receptionist, a typist, a counsellor, a go between when customers are critical, a cushion to absorb the shocks, and sometimes, a scapegoat when things go wrong,” she said.

 “Good manners are important, so is sensitivity and discretion. If you  know your customers by name it sends the message that each family is important.”

The telephone as a school marketing tool

Many school conversations are conducted on the telephone which is a powerful public relations tool. 

Within minutes of starting a conversation a caller begins to measure the quality of a school. 

The words used to greet the caller, the efficiency applied to transfers, even the background music, creates an impression.

The rules for answering a business phone are simple, yet I find in my dealings with schools that many offices fail this basic image test. The most elementary requirements are:

Greet the caller (“Good morning”)
State the name of the school (“Richmond High School”)
Introduce yourself by name (“Heather Ridenski speaking”)

A survey of callers contacting different school offices showed that 80% of callers are mothers; ringing about absence, making appointments, airing complaints or seeking information. 

The admin officer from Coogee South Public School is a marvel at recognising a voice on the phone. Her warm personalised greeting gets every conversation off to a good start. Instinctively she knows that mothers are the primary decision makers about school matters, so they are very important customers, not a nuisance. 
“Keep a mother assured and satisfied and everything else falls into place,” she advises. 

Examine your own office

Office staff often lament the fact that they never get out of their “front box” and they do not receive the information they need to do their job properly. 

Cross knowledge is extremely important for front line people.

Examine your own school. How is information shared? Is cross communication encouraged? Do office staff and teaching staff share the school’s common room so they can talk together? 

Are office staff invited to planning meetings so they know what’s happening in the school. If the receptionist in the example above had been involved in the planning for Open Day she would have been equipped to answer enquiries. 

Does the school secretary/office manager know the school inside out? When was the last time she visited the classroom or attended a school function? Does she understand how the accounts department works, the development department, the enrolment office? Is time allocated for such instruction? 

Are office staff encouraged and shown appreciation for the valuable role they play as image makers for the school? 

Is the school prepared to invest in professional development for office staff?

To be genuine and effective at public relations, a customer culture must permeate the entire school. 

All members must all pull together. Each person is an image ambassador with a public relations role to play.

About the author

Dr Linda Vining was Director and Founder of the Centre for Marketing Schools (CMS). 
For other marketing strategies see Linda’s book  PURPLE POWER for memorable school marketing.
© Copyright applies – It is illegal to email this article to anyone else or to reproduce any part of it without the permission of the Centre for Marketing Schools.

PR at the Parent/Teacher Meeting

Parent Teacher Interview Meetings Are Important For School Marketing PR The parent/teacher meeting is a first-class opportunity for teachers to promote their profession and impress parents - their most valuable customers. To get the best out of the occasion teachers need PR strategies, in addition to educational skills.
Phillip and Peggy Thomas run their own business. When the date for their son’s teacher/parent evening was announced they reorganised their busy schedules to suit the school’s times. 

When they arrived for the interview the classroom teacher greeted them still dressed in his football gear.  He apologised for his dishevelled appearance saying he had just come from a sport’s coaching session.

As the parents discussed their concerns the teacher undertook to address each problem. He promised to send home a curriculum outline, discuss a worry with the maths teacher and alert the principal to a family tragedy.

Then, as the parents were leaving, the teacher said, “Now could you just jot down all the things I said I’d do and send me a note tomorrow. I’ve promised so many things to so many parents, I don’t remember who wants what!” 

What reaction do you think these professional people had to this encounter? What message was the teacher sending to his most important customers? 

As these parents walked away, the image they took was far from positive.

To gain professional status and respect teachers have to be their own best advertisements. 

Their words and actions must leave parents assured that their child is in competent hands and that the service the school provides is professional and personal.

Professional staff appearance

Teaching staff carry the ability in their hands to show the school as a quality operation ... or not. Parents form impressions and absorb much of their information through their eyes. Dress is part of the public measure of professional standards. Good grooming and attention to clothing says a lot about your attitude to your job and your customers.

Customer language

All professions have their own complex language. Education is loaded with technical terms that most non-teachers don’t understand. It is important to talk to parents in appropriate language. Just think how much you appreciate the accountant or lawyer who uses words you can comprehend.

The best communication is a two-way dialogue, so involve parents in the conversation by asking them questions and their opinion. Allow time to respond. Use the parents’ names often to personalise your contact. With so many complicated family patterns, it’s hard to keep track of relationships so have name labels for everyone.  When the interview is over shake hands in farewell. 

Do not have coffee cups on the desk. A parent/teacher meeting is a professional consultation in work time, not a casual chat.

Body language

Smart operators are aware of body language. Look parents in the eye as they approach, don’t dive into your mark book straight away. Look interested in them and start the conversation with a smile and a complimentary comment about their child. 

Satisfy school parents’ needS

When the Centre for Marketing Schools conducted focus group interviews with parents about parent/teacher meetings the parents said that they would get more from interviews if teachers were more aware of parents’ needs. See “The Parents’ Plea”.

Relax me by starting with the good news about my child.
Assure me that my child is well known to you.
Don’t hassle me with the pressure of time. Allocate time to talk.
Relate to me as an individual with individual needs - for example, a busy working mother, a parent with a large family, a single parent.
Seek to understand my child by asking me things about myself and our family.
Remember, it was a long time ago that I attended school. Explain why “we do things this way nowadays.”
Explain things to me in language I can understand, not buzz words.
Show me examples to illustrate the progress of my child.
Suggest realistic things I can do at home to help my child.

Be efficient

A professional operator always has a writing pad to jot down notes. Think of the methods of other professionals. The last time my accountant talked to me he jotted down three pages of notes! 
My dentist impressed me when he recalled a toothache I had twelve months previously. Both realised the need to build professional confidence.

Record concerns and complaints that need further action. Write down your promises. Before you conclude the meeting, determine if there is more service you can offer. For example, you may offer to send home an article on a subject you discussed. Use public relations to strengthen each contact you have.

With good notes as a guide you will impress parents at your next parent/teacher meeting when you recall exactly what was said.

As a parting professional gesture hand the parents your school business card and invite them to contact you if they have a concern. You may be willing to add your home telephone number.

Promise only what you can deliver

Whatever you promise make sure you deliver. Strong relationships are based on trust. Parents want to trust teachers and look up to them. They want to rely on your words and your promises. 
The day after a parent/teacher meeting attend to your commitments as a top priority. If further action is needed, keep your parents informed of your progress on their behalf. Responsive communication is good public relations.

Guard your conversations

Most teacher/parent relationships are fragile. They can change rapidly. Your customer’s perception can improve or decline depending on what they hear. Make no mistake; everything that a parent hears has an impact.

Measure, monitor and think about everything you say to a parent and make sure it will stand the test of the grapevine.

Know what NOT to say. For example, never discuss another child at a parent/teacher interview (even best friends) or another teacher’s relationship with a child, or the shortcomings of others.

Always support your school, your colleagues and your profession.

If you have a personal problem or a gripe, keep that information in the right place; and that is not your customer’s ear.

Walk in the parents’ shoes

Every encounter with a parent either builds a positive image or detracts from it. Painfully, I hear and read criticisms about teacher/parent meetings whenever I survey parents. 

Angela Neighbours described the repeated disappointment she and her husband experienced at parent/teacher meetings when she wrote, “We find that we often come away with a poor impression of a skilled profession who has put a great deal of thought into classroom practice, but not into the presentation of data gathered about their students.”

At one teacher parent evening I attended, the school organised a dinner to follow the formalities, hence the parent grapevine was running hot. Negative parent perceptions abounded. And as parents pulled out their note pads to quote the exact words of teachers, it was clear that the teachers had provided ammunition for the parents to shoot them down. For example at my table, I heard that: 

The geography teacher confessed to some parents that the reason students in his class had not received any assignments last term was because the classes were so disorganised and so large that he could not manage them!

One teacher told horrified parents during their meeting that he had given the students an assignment because Open Day was coming up and the walls of the room needed decoration!

A teacher told his students on the afternoon prior to the parent/teacher meeting that he had 36 families to see in two hours that evening so, “tell your parents to be quick so that I can get home tonight!”

Teachers could not produce a brief written outline of the year’s work and succinctly outline what their child was expected to know.

A mother was in tears because not one teacher she spoke to had been told that her son had contracted a severe illness that had turned him from an A-level student into a lethargic, absent-minded under-achiever. Although the mother had provided letters from professors on her son’s condition and had specifically asked the principal to inform the teachers, not one teacher at the parent/teacher meeting was aware of her son’s condition and special needs. Following the interviews she decided to withdraw her son from this school!

No doubt, the teachers at this school thought that they were being friendly and chatty with parents by confiding their personal feelings and discussing the school’s shortcomings. They had no idea how their comments were being interpreted, how their words were being recorded, and how their personal image and the school’s reputation was being undermined by their own admissions of poor professional practice.

This feedback serves to illustrate how vital it is that staff receive training in community relations. Teachers have to work consciously at maintaining customer loyalty and building public confidence. 

Add value to the basics

Parents crave information about school and how they can help advance their child’s learning, so teachers need to be prepared with a selection of handouts for appropriate distribution, for example, essay writing guides, time management tips, extended reading lists, course outlines, assessment guidelines etc. 

A teacher’s preparation for the meeting should include a thorough review of each student’s work record and identification of strengths and weaknesses.

Prepare your showroom for a polished performance

How would you feel if you visited a computer showroom that was stuffy and messy with broken bits of product lying around, dirty mugs on the tables and a salesperson who looked a dag and never stopped talking at you? No doubt you would face a psychological hurdle to doing business with this person. 

When selling the education product and profession, the classroom is the teacher’s showroom. Before a parent/teacher interview set up your showroom for a polished performance in the following ways: 

Create an ambience that puts people in a receptive mood by decorating the walls with your students’ best work and scattering some workbooks about for browsers. Fill the boards and screens with impressive material, arrange the furniture, put up direction signs, turn on all the lights, open the windows and add some flowers or greenery. 

Tidy up electrical cables and give the computers a clean.

Provide plenty of seats in clusters so people can chat in small groups. Set up the school video in a quiet corner.  

Arrange for perfectly attired senior students to circulate and serve tea, coffee and very nice biscuits. Play the host and give your school a professional and welcoming feel. 

Treat your parents as VIPs for the evening. For many of them it may be a rare night out and most will have made special arrangements for childcare, so make it a worthwhile pleasure to attend. 

Be aware that a parent/teacher meeting can be a highly charged emotional experience for parents, so an intimate space for interpersonal closeness is needed. Noise is a distraction and the thought of other parents hovering nearby, catching a word from a private conversation, is off-putting. It would never happen in a surgery or a law firm. Emulate the practice of the respected (and highly paid) professions.

As your parents approach you, stand up and move towards them with a smile and an outstretched hand. Shake the hands of both parents – no sexism at your school.

In a courteous manner, invite parents to sit down. Similarly, as parents are leaving, stand to farewell and shake hands. 

Good public relations is many little things done well and it adds up to a positive impression at every level.

Strengthen your Parent Teacher partnership

Parents like to think of themselves as doing the right thing and that they are intelligent and competent. They want to be treated as individuals with individual needs. They feel good interacting with people who help them maintain this positive image of themselves and their child. If you show parents how to get the best from the school, how to contact teachers and how to resolve problems, you will be building stronger relationships - and that’s what PR is all about.

About the author
Dr Linda Vining was Director and Founder of the Centre for Marketing Schools (CMS). 
For other marketing strategies see Linda’s book  PURPLE POWER for memorable school marketing.
© Copyright applies – It is illegal to email this article to anyone else or to reproduce any part of it without the permission of the Centre for Marketing Schools.

School Open Days: converting enquires into enrolments

School Open Day | How to convert interest into school enrolments A School Open Day is extremely labour intensive and expensive to stage.  For a return on your investment it should be much more than a showcase of your pupil’s best efforts. If well designed and targeted to the right audience it can be a valuable marketing tool to increase enrolments and strengthen your school’s position in the education marketplace. 
When you open your school gates on Open Day you will attract all sorts of people - including your competitors. Your job is to be sure that you target, attract and focus on the people you really want to influence; your potential customers. 

A well designed advertisement, flyers and banners will draw a crowd, but to attract the right audience you need to issue some specific invitations.

Depending on the nature of your student intake, target community organisations that work with youth, rotary exchange students, vocational colleges,  language colleges and agencies that place overseas students.

There are many people in the local community who can recommend your school if they appreciate your work for example, the municipal librarian, and professionals who run special programs such as music, maths coaching, sports coaches. 

Educational consultants are a must for your mailing list. Send these people a personal invitation from the principal. 

You may wish to send a personally addressed invitation to influential community members such as the mayor, members of parliament and the president of the chamber of commerce.  Make sure there’s something in it for them and tell them what it is.

Your present school community can be your best promoters but to do the job well, parents, staff,  council members and pupils must have information and material to work with, so send the Open Day program home a month prior to the event; not the night before. 

Offer child care to free up parents so they can concentrate on educational matters.  Send notices to child care centres and pre schools.

If you are exhibiting at an expo during the year,  prepare some flyers about your Open Day/s so that after people talk to you at the expo they can take a tour of your school. 

How to influence your audience

Your audience will be extremely diverse so engage all the supporters you can to help the promotional effort. 

Former students can be great advocates as the following example illustrates. 

Businesswoman Maria Combes had not been back to her school for 20 years. She had two primary school daughters, both comfortably enrolled in another school. Seeing an Open Day advertisement at her old school, Maria decided to have a look for “old times sake”. At the reception booth she was asked if she was a former student. Within minutes the president of the Ex-students Union appeared, greeted her warmly, produced Maria’s yearbook full of old photographs, took her on an impressive personal tour and invited Maria’s entire family back to another function. 

With a little further cultivation, the  school earned two new pupils for the following year as a measurable outcome of their Open Day. 

Consider the decision-making process for choosing a school and who makes the decisions. Children as young as five can be influential in the choice of a school. What are you going to offer them at your Open Day?

An Open Day is a PR event.  Staff can easily miss this point. They can become consumed with putting on a good show and rely on the displays and performances to do the work. They don’t. 

Rows of books, projects, science experiments and class performances are open day clichés. They provide pleasant decoration, but in a competitive environment much more must be done to convince parents that your school is  right for them.  

A customer focus

Assume that every parent is asking:   “How will the school meet my special needs?” Before you can answer this question you have to know what their needs are.

Needs can relate as much to the parent (e.g. after school and holiday care) as they do to the child.

Focus on the customer. Let the customer tell you what they want then adapt your discourse to match their needs. In each case, before you outline the school’s  features you need to measure:

The customer’s requirements and what they really value. Where they are in their level of awareness and commitment. How they perceive your school (are there negative perceptions you need to counter?).

Teachers who take an active role in demonstrating their professional skills can have a major impact on  discerning families. For example, instead of every child in the class reciting a poem (as entertainment for the visitors), there is greater impact if the recital is short and selective, and the teacher talks to the audience (or one-to-one) about how the poem fits into the curriculum, what skills are developed in learning a poem at this age, what excursion was used to develop this topic, how is it integrated with other subjects, what happens with fast learners/slow learners in the class.

In other words, don’t send your observers away with just a poem. Tell them what an education at your school can do for their child. 

Basic Provisions for a School Open Day

For many visitors your Open Day will be their first encounter, so make it easy for them to like you. Be generous. Nobody should leave empty handed. Invest money in promotional items. They work because they live on after the event. A free school pen, a mug, a ruler, or a school diary can all bear the school name and phone number. Design a carry bag with the school crest and contact number to carry collectables. 

Provide clear, simple information to guide people through the school maze. Essential material includes a map, program of activities, subject brochures, scholarship availability and a master plan to show future development. 

One school handed out a wonderfully presented self-guided tour, researched, written and illustrated by its history students. The notes described 20 or so STOPS which were boldly signposted throughout the school and students were rostered to each STOP for added information and appeal.  

All teachers should have BIG clear name badges, on their top right hand shoulder, indicating their area of expertise.

Similarly, children can have name badges with their areas of interest. 

Give visitors a handle to grasp; a starting point for enquires. Make your place people-friendly and customer-focused.

I have observed families come to an Open Day, walk around, take a look and not talk to a single school member. Often it’s because teachers and students cluster together chatting amongst themselves and parents do not like to ‘interrupt’. At an Open Day teachers need to rove as individuals and initiate conversations with visitors.  

Getting ready

Don’t rush into an Open Day. You only get one chance to impress visitors, so do it right. Plan it carefully. Determine the outcomes you want.

An Open Day is a first class opportunity to “sell” your school, but selling doesn’t have to be brash and loud. It can be subtle and gentle. It means being proud of what you do and promoting the school in positive, customer focussed terms. 

Teachers often argue that their job is teaching, not selling. However, in today’s competitive environment part of the team effort involves promotion. Staff need to work through these issues, understand the open day objectives, perfect their selling techniques and plan their customer-centred approach. 

Repair work may be needed and a new coat of paint. Don’t forget the gardens and surrounding areas. Freshen up the notice boards. Material needs to be designed - brochures, carry bags and other give-aways. This may be the time to make a school video. 

Clear direction signs (possibly in different languages) are essential. The lead time for advertisements and publicity has to be determined. 

Who is going to provide refreshments? 

What about parking arrangements and direction signs? 

Do you need to hire a canopy in case of wet weather or hot sun. Hire it well ahead.

Make sure there are seats everywhere for elderly and weary visitors to take a rest. Think hard about how you can demonstrate customer concern in little ways.

If pupils will be the guides they need instruction and practice on the route, the history of the school, greeting and parting words, the information they may be called to give and safety considerations when dealing with strangers.    

Gauging success of a School Open Day

An Open Day is not the place to sign up enrolments. Primarily it is a lead-gathering and image building activity. The return on your investment may not be realised for several years.
The tangible measure of success lies in the number of people you entered onto your database of potential customers and the opportunities the information gives you for follow-up activities.

All visitors who are not presently on the school’s database should be entered and for the next twelve months should receive a copy of appropriate school publications such as invitations to functions, the annual report, the school newsletter, the development quarterly or a newly released prospectus.

As with any marketing exercise, follow-up is essential. It is perfectly legitimate to make further contact with people who have responded to your invitation to attend your Open Day. 

By way of follow-up, one registrar sent a hand written photo card of the school to families identified as prospective enrolments.  She invited them to contact her if they would like more information or another look at the school. A little later she rang offering to send a newly published school calendar. In this way she gauged their level of interest and maintained person-to-person contact.  She sent a clear message that the school would value their enrolment. Her follow- up success rate was phenomenal.  

A personal touch, a focus on customer needs, good follow-up and an enthusiasm for the education process expressed at every level of the school will ensure that your Open Day provides a valuable return for the time, energy and funds invested in it. 

About the author
Dr Linda Vining was Director and Founder of the Centre for Marketing Schools (CMS). 
For other marketing strategies see Linda’s book  PURPLE POWER for memorable school marketing.
© Copyright applies – It is illegal to email this article to anyone else or to reproduce any part of it without the permission of the Centre for Marketing Schools.

Money for School Marketing?

School Marketing Budget | Prepare a Budget For Your School Marketing No matter whether your resources are magnificent or meagre, with good planning you can stretch your dollar and get a good return on your marketing investment. Informed preparation, critical appraisal of strategies and clear financial accountability will ensure that your marketing plan helps your school achieve its image objectives.

School marketing is a booming multi-million dollar industry, set to grow even further because marketers manage the most valuable asset of a school – its reputation. 

Marketing proclaims the achievements of students and staff, directs perceptions about its capabilities, researches customers’ expectations, discovers market opportunities and builds links with external partners. With skilful management of the school’s reputation, the school has an asset that appreciates in value over time, unlike so many other assets that depreciate. 

Research by the Centre for Marketing Schools (CMS) shows that schools from all sectors are preparing to spend more on marketing and include more people in the marketing process. As the competition for students, staff and resources becomes fiercer, the role of marketing is becoming a serious management function in schools. 

How much money is enough for school marketing?

It is not easy to provide average figures on the budgets that schools are allocating to marketing. Costs are often hidden, and many schools don’t really know what they spend on marketing. Others are reluctant to disclose an amount.

My research indicates that a conservative marketing budget for a high-fee paying private school is $300,00 plus a year, not including salary costs. This amounts to about $250 per student. A low-fee paying school will spend on average $40,000 a year, which equates to approximately $50 a student. 

Non-fee paying schools are also finding funds to devote to school marketing. A small state school with which I worked last year invested $1,000 of parent-raised money to increase community awareness. This investment of $3 per student was sufficient to develop a highly successful campaign. As a result, the school is planning to triple its marketing expenditure this year.  

The principal of a public school in Sydney’s inner west has negotiated with his school council to allocate 25 percent of any fundraising venture to marketing.

Schools that operate quite sophisticated marketing programs often downplay their marketing budget. For example, the principal of a large high school in Western Australia with a roll of 1,400 students is quoted as saying that the school allocates only ‘a small allowance to marketing’. However, when he outlined his marketing strategies he mentioned 25 scholarships to the value of $250 each which are awarded annually. The school also produces a high quality website which was developed by a commercial company. If these costs alone are attributed to a marketing budget (as they are in some schools) the figure would be in excess of $15,000 per annum. Budget figures aside, this principal strongly believes in the value of marketing. Ten years ago his school was attracting only 4 out of 10 students from local feeder schools. Today, that number is 8 out of 10 and he says that without a vigorous marketing plan there is every likelihood the school would be a shadow of what it is now.

At your school, what costs are attributed to marketing? Is this realistic? (See the sample marketing budget below). Statistics from the business world tell us that succcessful small businesses typically invest between 5% and 10% of their total income on marketing. What percentage of annual income does your school spend on marketing?  

Prepare a school marketing budget

A marketing budget fits into an overall marketing plan. 
Short-term financial planning refers to the expenditure for the year ahead. 
Long-term planning looks to projects beyond the immediate needs and may include costs such as market research, a new prospectus in a few years time, a website and more staff in the marketing office.
Your marketing budget is a roadmap of what it is possible to achieve given your resources. You will need a clear picture of where you want to go. To do this you need to :
Define the school’s image objectives 
Decide strategies to accomplish them
Outline the actions necessary to execute the strategies
Estimate the cost of performing each action

Below is a hypothetical yearly budget for a school marketing department. It is a broad guideline only. Not every action is needed every year, costs will vary enormously, and different schools will select different actions depending on their objectives and resources. 

In the planning stage, estimate as accurately as you can the cost of an action by getting several quotes. As each action is completed, record the actual cost. This will guide you when preparing your budget for the following year.

It is far more effective to spread your budget over the year rather than blow it all in one go. A steady profile will maintain your presence in the marketplace.

Make sure you include a professional development component in your budget. Marketing is changing in schools and you need to be challenged and stimulated by what others are doing. When Glenda Mackey, principal of a Catholic primary school, undertook the Diploma in School Marketing she went away full of vigour saying, “The course made me conscious of the great opportunities for marketing in my school that can occur each day, and yet before this I did not seize these magical moments. All has changed now!!!” 

Marketing in a school can be an isolated position so make sure you allow funding in your budget for staff growth and the exchange of ideas.

Staffing costs
It is difficult to put a staffing cost into the equation where the principal, executive staff, the school secretary or a parent performs marketing functions. Some schools rely on a committee of volunteers. However, a salary survey by CMS this year indicates that where a school employs a professional marketer the annual salary is likely to start at $50,000.

As marketing in schools becomes more businesslike the number of dedicated staff are rising. In the salary survey it was not uncommon for private schools to have several people in their marketing departments, usually a mix of full-time and part-time staff who specialise in publications, event management, media relations, business partnerships, alumni relations and admissions.

When the NSW Department of Education and Training advertised for a director of public affairs the salary ranged up to $152,000 - an indication of the value placed on public sector school marketing. 

Slimming the school marketing budget
A big marketing budget spent badly may not be as effective as a small budget spent with flair and imagination. 

To earn credibility, marketing must stay within its means and on budget. This often calls for creativity and flexibility. For example, if you are targeting career mothers with your message and you discover you cannot afford to reach all career women in Australia, then redefine the target. Try career women in NSW. Now your target is a much more affordable size. Still too expensive? Try career women in ‘Beautiful Hills’. 

Good ideas need not be expensive, as Judy Robinson, Principal of Richmond Hill State School at Charters Towers in Queensland illustrates. She has an imaginative way to reach prospective parents at school functions.

When the school has a fete or open day and the parents come out with their prams and strollers, the teachers tie a helium-filled balloon with a soft ribbon to the wrist/pram of all the littlies at the function. Attached to the ribbon is a small school brochure. The children have the balloon to play with and they always ask mum to tell them what the brochure says. Parents have the ‘advertising’ to read while they watch the children playing. For just $250 Judy bought 500 balloons in the school colours of purple and yellow, had them printed with the school’s name and crest, purchased ribbon, helium gas and had brochures printed. 

Generate your own kitty for your marketing activities. When Marist College Ashgrove in Queensland developed its “Marist Family Business Directory” it raised $17,000. A business directory is a great PR exercise that connects members of a school community, while it raises funds from advertising and sponsorship. If you have some volunteer helpers a business directory makes an excellent project.

Stretch your school marketing dollar
There are a multitude of ways to add value to your marketing budget without spending more. Some suggestions are below:

Plan your advertising on a yearly calendar. For example, you may want to promote your open day in March, a career market in May, a parent seminar in July and scholarships in October. Contact the media at the beginning of the year to negotiate a discount rate based on repeat advertising. 

Check out radio and cinema advertising which can offer inexpensive alternatives to print advertising.

Always send an article and photograph with your advertising copy. If your article gets printed you have doubled the value of your marketing dollar.

Be aware of parents’ occupations. If you need a banner to announce a coming event, or any other items, ask a parent in the trade to supply it at cost price. Good planning will ensure you give parents plenty of notice. Good PR will ensure you recognise their contribution. 

Invest in a professional designer for your corporate logo and letterhead. Get the designs on computer and then do your printing in-house. 

Offer local businesses advertising space in your publications to defray the cost of production. 

How to get more money for school marketing

If you think your budget is too lean, you will need to geberate some income for the marketing office or convince the money managers – the principal, financial controller, bursar, school board, parent association etc - to invest more in marketing. It may sound impossible, but with the right approach it can be done. Here are some tips to increase your budget. 

1.  Show what marketing can deliver
Demonstrate a clear link between marketing strategies and the objectives of the school. For example, if the school aspires to be a leader in vocational education (an image objective) you may plan a range of marketing strategies to develop external relations and build partnerships with industry. The actions may be a business breakfast and a series of meetings. The smart marketer will pre-plan ways to capture and present the data needed to demonstrate the link between marketing and successful outcomes for the school and its students. 

2. Speak in businesslike terms
Do not put all your energy into operational procedures, such as proofreading, designing brochures and mail outs. Consider the business side of marketing. The language of business is rational with a strong focus on return on investment. Concentrate on the big picture. Know what your competitors are doing. Do a comparative analysis to estimate how much other schools (particularly your competitors) are spending on marketing. Gain a global perspective by joining the free online school marketers network 

3. Get quantitative
Don’t talk in generalizations using anecdotal feedback. Collect hard data to back your claims of the success of your marketing initiatives. Your Open Day provides a good example. At the end of the event you should have quantitative answers to the following questions. How much was spent on advertising to attract a crowd? Where did people hear about the Open Day? How many visitors came through the gate? How many were prospective families? How many prospectuses/information sheets were handed out? How much did this cost? How many prospective families were followed up with a phone call? What responses were received? How many people enrolled on the spot? How many prospective families booked an interview? 

Pour all these figures into an enrolment funnel (see diagram on page 2) to determine your conversion rate and to see how effective your marketing strategies were. Present the information in a report. If you cannot provide answers to these questions you have missed a vital opportunity to impress the money managers and put your case for more resources.

4. Put your facilities to work
Do you have facilites that could generate income in non-school hours and during school holidays, if they were hired out to suitable members of the community? This may include a swimming pool, a hall, playing fields and classooms.

5. Analyse your wins and losses 
Professional marketers regularly assess, measure and review the results that their marketing plans are delivering. Use your budget to collate information on your wins and loses over the past 12 months. How many opportunities did you pursue? How many did you win, and how many did you loose? How much did you spend on each opportunity? (You may only be able to provide an estimate as it can be difficult to apportion every dollar to every opportunity). If you had a budget increase how would it impact on the return to the school in terms of growth in enrolments, higher interest in the school and support from external partners.

If you cannot get this information then agitate until you can, as it is vital data that will tell the school how its investment in marketing is paying off. 

A financial analysis alone will not provide all the answers, but it will be an excellent pointer to help you analyse where your marketing plan is hitting the mark and where it is not.

Most importantly, in terms of seeking increased resources, you will be seen to be managing costs effectively and to be accountable for the money you control.

About the author
Dr Linda Vining was Director and Founder of the Centre for Marketing Schools (CMS). 
© Copyright applies – It is illegal to email this article to anyone else or to reproduce any part of it without the permission of the Centre for Marketing Schools.

Managing the Media During a Crisis at School

School Crisis Management | Media Management Tips for Schools Accidents, criticism and sensational allegations are likely to hit a school at any time. How you handle the media during a crisis can make a huge difference to the reputation of your school.
The first words are simple ... and alarming ... a phone call ... “Central Media Network here ... our camera crew is on its way ... is it true that a student was seriously injured at your school?”

The crisis is upon you.

Surprise stuns you. There is never enough reliable information. Events escalate. There is intense scrutiny from outside, from inside, from neighbours and community leaders. Confusing and conflicting patterns, shifting like quicksand can easily produce a siege mentality and panic. 

The short-term spasm will pass but the long-term perception of the school will be decided by the way in which the school handles the crisis. Any interaction with the media represents both a threat and an opportunity. 

If you become a media target you can attempt to merely parry the threat, or you can turn it around so that your school emerges with a stronger reputation than it had before.
Be Ready for a school crisis

In calm weather assemble a  “nightmare team”. List everything that could possibly go wrong and how to approach it. Talk to key people in at-risk areas and ask how they would head off such disasters, what they would do if one occurred. Prepare a list of contacts with home and work phone numbers, email and mobile contacts, emergency services and local press.

Confidence in management

The essential element in crisis management is for the Principal to communicate confidence and a take-charge approach by attending to the following:

Information Flow 
The flow of information must be centralised and controlled. It is the Principal’s job to protect the health of the school and act as the ONLY spokesperson, unless other arrangements are put in place. School policy needs to be very clear on this and students and parents need to know the policy.

Crisis Team
Convene a top-level crisis team and relieve members of other duties. Their first job is to collect precise information on the crisis. Options for action are needed. Map out a worst-case scenario keeping an eye on the horizon as well as the immediate step in front. In a crisis the tendency is to focus exclusively on the emergency. For the school’s future, that is only part of the problem. How well you improvise in the face of the unexpected, and how well you control the unleashed forces will be the criteria by which the school is judged.

School Image - Making or Breaking
In a crisis situation the media seeks a quick, concise, newsworthy response. Failure to respond quickly gives an impression to the outside world of indecisive and incompetent management.
The worst reaction is to suppress information and deny comment. It only encourages rumours to spread on all sides. Worse still, it may be interpreted as a cover-up. The media will chase information from other sources. If you provide rapid and credible data yourself you remain in control and deflate rumours.

Rapid spread of information
Your most deadly enemy in a crisis is confusion. 

If you tell your story to six journalists you will have six different interpretations of the crisis. Therefore it’s very important not to rely on the media to inform significant  others of the situation. Directly address your key audiences with precise information. Students, parents, staff, local residents and prospective families must not be overlooked. They need assurance that the Principal is in control of the crisis and reassurance that they/their children are safe.

Tips for coping with tough reporters
Beware of “off the record” comments. If you don’t want it repeated, don’t say it. Don’t be sarcastic or lose your temper. You’ll lose audience support if you put reporters down, or try to outsmart them, and they may lose face and be hostile. 

Never repeat a negative because you will give it double exposure. Correct the negatives in a positive way. Keep your answers simple. Stick to the known facts and don’t embellish or speculate what has happened and what might happen.

Don’t allow yourself to be pushed around by a reporter. Take time to answer, think first and say what YOU want to say, even if it does not directly answer the journalist’s question. 

Don’t be afraid of silence. Do not feel you have to fill a conversation gap. Say what you want to say and no more. Watch other people being interviewed on TV and give each a critical rating and learn to distinguish good tactics from bad.

If you don’t like what the reporters write, never send a nasty, defensive email to the media in response. This is dangerous and unproductive. Be careful about letters to the editor in the middle of a crisis. They can be turned against you. 

Buy time to mobilise your response
When the alarm sounds and the call comes through you can say that the Principal is not available just now, but promise to get back to the caller. Ascertain when the information is needed and make sure you return the call. You can keep the media on hold for a short time to give you space to think and gather information. Honour your promise or they will hunt for information elsewhere.

A show of support
Call on your allies in the difficult days of a crisis. At a time when the school’s judgment or competence may be questioned, outside support from community leaders, educational professionals and parents can create a positive show of confidence in the management of the school.

Rebuild your school reputation
Once the media glare dies down you have to work on re-establishing your reputation and your position in the education marketplace. Invest in ways to get the good news about your school out to the public. Increase the amount you spend on advertising, submit editorials to the media and buy advertorial space to highlight the positive aspects of your school. Use the social networks on the internet. 

Make sure your website is up-to-date and looking good as you will receive many hits during a crisis. 

Get out into the community and talk face-to-face with people so they can see another side. For example, attend expos and use the platform to showcase the quality of your product. Put your students on show in the local community. Participate in local events and festivals. Be seen and be heard more widely.

Schedule an open day or a community event where you can invite outsiders to step inside and experience your school first-hand.

Are you ready to handle a crisis?

Many schools only think of image management when things go wrong but a smart  marketing office is building community appreciation all the time.  You never  know when this will be helpful.
 Accidents, criticism, sensational allegations and embarrassing situations are likely at any time. An organisation with a good image and positive community awareness is in a strong position to weather a storm. No magic blanket can shelter a school from crisis, however there is much that can be done to prepare for a crisis. Having worked through the questions in the table you will be better prepared to cope with one.

Managing bad news at school

Given the total population of a school and its range of activities it is inevitable that a crisis is going to happen from time to time and it is largely going to be in the human tragedy area. Each crisis is different, so don’t expect to slavishly follow a predetermined plan when something happens. Plans, contacts and information are important but there is also the need to think creatively and instinctively when a crisis erupts.

Start by following the public relations rule. Deliver accurate information as promptly and truthfully as possible. Then do all you can for the people involved. Provide counselling for those in shock, allow free phone calls, invite distressed parties to use your office or home, make arrangements for recovery time whereby a student’s work will not suffer. Bring in grief or trauma specialists. Change the rules to suit the situation. 

Be quick to set up an appeal for financial assistance if appropriate, and call on the school community to assist by providing comfort, a listening ear for the distressed and protection for those in need. 

Human warmth and contact is vital for those involved in trauma, particularly young people. Make sure they are not left alone. Long after the drama has faded it will be the kindness, care and flexibility that the school extended in unusual circumstances that will be remembered and retold.

Preparing for a school crisis

To be ready for a crisis there are things to settle in advance. 

The following questions will help you prepare:

What message do you want to emerge from your crisis? (e.g. united school community, strong decisive leadership, a school in control in a crisis)
Are all members of the school community (teachers, staff, parents, council members) aware that the Principal is the only spokesperson for the school in a time of crisis, unless otherwise arranged?
Who will form the crisis team? How will they operate?
What is the system for rapid and precise information delivery to all audiences to prevent panic?
Does every member of staff have a written policy on crisis management?

Further reading 

Marketing Matters in Schools by Linda Vining. See Chapter 17, Working With The Media and also page 81, for an analysis of how Wesley School in New Zealand handled the media during a crisis.
About the author
Dr Linda Vining was Director and Founder of the Centre for Marketing Schools (CMS). 
© Copyright applies – It is illegal to email this article to anyone else or to reproduce any part of it without the permission of the Centre for Marketing Schools.

What does your School Logo say?

School Logo | Do You Need To Update Your School Logo Schools are full of empty logos. Lifeless crests. Soul-less brands. Look around you. What is the quality of your logo/crest? How old is it? How well does it reproduce in electronic form? How many variations exist?
A logo is a concept in graphic form that captures the spirit of your school. A strong logo reflects a distinctive brand or identity. It is the school’s signature. But without attention, your logo can become dated and poorly defined. 

In a competitive marketplace your logo must be working for you all the time, reflecting exactly what your school wants to say about itself. It must be given voice, be polished and set on a pedestal for all to see. 

Below are 10 ways to present the face of your school in a highly visual way through your crest/logo.

1. Say it in one

In the past, an organisation could spell out its philosophy in half a page. In today’s fast-paced world, you have 10 seconds! 

Your school logo needs to say it all in one. Business brands provide examples. Striking business logos are characterised by extreme simplicity. They are uncluttered and use only a few lines, colours and geometric shapes to stand out boldly. Slogans are brief.

By contrast, many school logos are cluttered with old world icons of flames, books, scrolls, shields, crosses, stars, crowns and heraldic devices that speak of a medieval past, not of a promising future.

2. Do away with poor design

Does your logo suffer any of the faults below? If so, it’s time to design a new one or modify your old look.

A logo/crest without the school’s name.

Language that most people cannot understand or remember (eg Latin).

A logo that tries to capture too many images in a small space.

A hairy-edged design that does not reproduce well in electronic form.

An image from long ago that depicts disused buildings, dated icons, obsolete colours or other long-deceased features.

Too many variations.

3. Present a professional image

There are two or three elements to a logo - the brand name, the brand mark, which is a recognised symbol or colour, and the brand slogan consisting of four to six words. To bring all these elements together it’s a good idea to invest in a professional designer.

A logo should be flexible, reproducible, enlargeable and  uncluttered.

 It should be timeless – not trendy, as fashion is quickly outdated. 

Consistency is the factor that makes logos work. 

Direct your designer to prepare your logo in colours suitable for online use, that work in 3D, that can be animated, and that will work even in a very small size on a computer screen.

Ask your designer to prepare a Crest Block that illustrates the sizing of letters and the spacing around them.

4. Let colour unify your image

Colour grabs attention. It helps us retain and recall information. The use of a consistent colour scheme in your logo and throughout your printed communication will unify the school’s corporate identity. Colours become your ‘voice’. 

A strong accent colour such as red or yellow can revitalize a drab look.

5. Add personality to your logo

Once you have a basic design for your logo don’t be afraid to adapt it creatively for different uses. 

At one school with a soldier icon, a designer crafted the logo into a playful, whimsical symbol for kindergarten awards, and on another occasion it was creatively interpreted to decorate the childrens’ ski caps for their annual ski trip. As you entered the school, the soldier appeared on school direction boards and it was used as the central image for the school’s 150th anniversary. 

6. Take your time

A new corporate image does not happen overnight. It is an ongoing process. Reaching consensus on a crest, name and slogan typically involves many hours of angst. People respond to graphic design subjectively, so plan lots of lead time. Get the foundations in place with a modern design, then as funds become available, place the new visual identity on flags, uniforms, publications and other items to create a consistent look.

7. Say it with words

A descriptive slogan adds strength to a school’s identity. Some examples that evoke sentiment in just a few words are: 

‘In the direction of our dreams’ 
‘Creating the future’ 
‘Learning for Life’ 
‘We do more than teach. We Inspire’ 
‘An indestructible school for boys’ – this is a winning combination that conjures up both timelessness and an unwavering purpose.

8. Use your logo consistently

Reiteration of brand builds awareness. Here are ideas for repeated exposure.

Put your logo boldly on everything to create a ‘together’ look - stationery, uniforms, vehicles, buildings, publications, brochures and websites.

Position it prominently on your advertising. 

When you deal with business partners and sponsors, print your logo on reports and proposals – on the cover and the footer of every page. 

Use the logo to design a suite of award certificates Position the logo as the stamp and use different coloured paper to signify levels of achievement. 

Your logo can also be made into merit stickers. 

Add it to your honour boards, sports equipment, shade marquees, school and house flags, medals, keyrings and other memorabilia. 

Mould your logo into chocolates which you can box and use as special gifts.

Get your logo out into the open. Have it in the newspapers, on books, on fridges and at every event. Make it bold and put it on a pedestal so that people recognise your visual signature at a glance.

9. Control the design

Once you have decided on the look you want, set a standard in writing. Prepare a manual called a Style Guide (reference: The School Style Guide by Linda Vining and Lynette Eggins)

In your Style Guide you can define the school’s image symbols and how they should  be used. Specify fonts, spacing, borders and the colour of inks. Indicate clearly where the logo must be positioned on stationery and how all the elements of the design fit together. Show an example of the crest block. 

Issue computer templates to every member of the school. Don’t forget the accounts department, parent organisations and your alumni groups. Insist on standardised usage. 

Computers have made it ever so easy for people to modify corporate designs so you need to keep strict control over the use of all aspects of the school’s corporate identity or it can easily revert to old copy and individualised interpretations.                   

10. Provide substance to backup image

A new logo cannot miraculously fix a school’s image problems. It cannot make your school into something it is not. A good product, reflected in the classroom, the front office and the principal’s domain will add substance to your visual image. Your logo is your signature and your calling card. It’s up to you to make sure the memory is positive.

About the author
Dr Linda Vining was Director and Founder of the Centre for Marketing Schools (CMS). 
For other marketing strategies see Linda’s book  PURPLE POWER for memorable school marketing.
A useful how-to-guide available from Centre for Marketing Schools is the book The School Style Guide by Linda Vining and Lynette Eggins. 
© Copyright applies – It is illegal to email this article to anyone else or to reproduce any part of it without the permission of the Centre for Marketing Schools.

How Customer-Friendly Is Your School?

Customer Friendly School | Attitude & Behaviors WIN School Families Schools often spend big dollars on brochures and advertising to develop a set of marketing tools, but there is one important marketing strategy that costs nothing - good customer service. This article asks: How customer–friendly is your school?
Whether you are a principal, a teacher or support staff; whether you are in the private or the public system; whether you deal directly with students and parents, or work behind the scenes; whether you like it or not … You provide a service to a set of customers.

Customers keep your school open.

Customers pay your salary. If you think customers are unimportant, try doing without them for 90 days !

We all recognise bad customer service when we receive it - being treated like an invisible customer; told WE have the problem, not the organisation; receiving wrong information; no greeting, no eye contact; unable to get through on the telephone; messages not returned; left forever on hold.

In a survey of 135 parents conducted by the Centre For Marketing Schools, 92 per cent of respondents ticked one or more of the characteristics above as a feature of their child’s school. 
And yet, good customer service is a powerful marketing tool that can set a school apart in a competitive marketplace. 

Who are our school customers?

Customers come in all sizes and shapes - our students, parents, past students, visitors; indeed, anyone who wants something from us, is a customer. And, whenever a person has dealings with us they have a legitimate credential to broadcast an impression about the school. It’s up to us to make sure they carry a positive message. 

The ABC of customer service

Good service cannot replace a good education, but there is a supporting ABC of customer service that everyone in a school can perform. For little extra cost, attention to Attitude, Behaviour and Communication can advance your educational objectives.

When a mother rang to talk to the school principal about a matter of concern, the secretary’s voice was flat and perfunctory as she said: “I’m dealing with someone else at the moment. Please hold.” 

Before the parent could reply, she found herself on hold, and as she waited, she decided that it wasn’t so much the words that upset her as the way they were delivered. The tone and tempo of the secretary’s voice suggested the mother was a nuisance. The mother waited a while longer and hung up. The parent’s problem never did reach the principal. Mind you, it got a good airing in the car park.

Had the school secretary used a more positive tone of voice, smiled down the phone, used the parent’s name and waited for a response, the customer would have willingly waited her turn. Such small, easy to learn communication techniques can enhance customer relations at your school.

It’s up to school management to model a good customer culture. When executive staff answer a ringing phone or go out of their way to assist a parent, they send a message that customers are important.

I’m sure that achievers are recognised in your school, but what about good customer service providers? Are they acknowledged with a pat on the back, a public announcement, or a certificate for outstanding service?

It was Friday afternoon when the school bus driver noticed a bag on the seat of his empty vehicle. He put the bus away and used his own car to take the bag home to a relieved mother.  On Monday morning the mother rang the school to commend the driver. When the principal told the assembly, the bus driver received many unexpected strokes from the staff. By recognising his act of caring service, the principal was rewarding the behaviour he desired and encouraging others to have the same attitude.

How many times have you approached a counter wearing your ‘invisible clothing’ and nobody acknowledged you?  Sets a bad tone, doesn’t it?

People form an impression based on your response/or lack of response to them.  

When parents were asked to list the criteria they used to judge good customer service, the six most frequently mentioned features were:

Method of greeting (eye contact, cheery, use of names)
Body language (smile, attentive, open)
Listening ability
Appearance of person and environment
Knowledgeable (re: school/subject/arrangements)
Sincerity and willingness to help

Accurate, up-to-date information that helps your customers solve their problems, answer their questions or advance their goals drives positive customer sentiment.

How friendly and informative are your school newsletters? Are they easy to read, with plenty of white space, clever illustrations and short articles, written in non-jargon language? Do they invite feedback and involvement? What are they saying between the lines?

When CMS conducts student surveys we ask the respondents if they read the school newsletter and if is a useful information tool. The response to this question frequently indicates that schools need to give more thought to their newsletters to make sure they are satisfying the customers’ needs.

What about your school prospectus? Does it use the words ‘you’ and ‘your’ to describe what it can do for its students, or is it full of chest-beating and historical detail? 

Does it consist of loose sheets of paper that annoyingly fall to the ground or are impossible to fit back into place? Is it posted out quickly in response to an enquiry?

A school web site is an information system that can meet your customers’ needs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year round, even when the school is on holidays. Do you have a parent portal for easy parent access to information such as results, notices, timetables? Is your website easy to navigate, quick to download and to up-to-date? Do you have a virtual tour of your school, a staff page and a frequently asked questions page (FAQ)?

Are all customers equal in your school? I hope not. Customers don’t want to be treated equally; each person has different needs, which they want you to understand. So, an important aspect of customer communication is listening. You must hear what the customer wants. Ask, and be open to input. Invite customers to give feedback through face-to-face contact, informal functions, market surveys, tear-off forms on newsletters, phone calls, open forums and so on. 

Are you defensive when a customer complains, or do you acknowledge that it’s a difficult thing to speak up, and do you thank people for telling you how they see a situation? Most people will accept your decisions as long as they feel they have been heard and your reasons have been logically explained.

Silent Communicators
Your school’s environment is a silent communicator about the attitudes and actions within its walls. Cleanliness and the condition of the grounds and buildings reflect concern for the school and the people in it. Do you have a regular ‘walk around’ with your marketing staff with pen and pad in hand to inspect the physical features of your school? 

Is your foyer alive with displays of student work that impresses visitors with the academic and creative merit of the school?

What about school notice boards? Are they up-to-date and inviting, or tired and faded?

Now read your signboards through the eyes of your customers. Are they welcoming or forbidding?  Which sign comes closest to your script “Welcome to XYZ School? All visitors please check in at the main office” or the bossy message, “All visitors must report to the school office.”

Customer Contact Points
You can assess how well your school is interfacing with its customers by using the Self-Assessment Customer Contacts Chart on page 5. This is a useful analytical tool that focuses on points of contact and actions to improve responsiveness.

Here’s a good exercise for a staff development day.

Prepare a copy of the Self-Assessment Customer Contacts Chart for each member of your school (teachers, office staff, students and volunteers).

Ask each person to list all the points of contact they have (voice mail, telephone, fax, corridor conversations, a knock on the door).

Now get each person to grade their contacts with their customers on the basis of sight and sound attributes. 

Finally, consider actions that would improve service delivery (personal, environmental, technical). 

And, remember, it is often the little things that make a difference to how people see you.


Are You:
Polite, courteous, enthusiastic?
Familiar with parents’ names and use them frequently
Able to compartmentalise actions so as not to carry problems into other relationships?
Aware of your own appearance and the impression it has on your customers?
Familiar with the strategies for handling complaints?
Aware of each student’s academic, social and family history and how it may affect behaviour?


Are You:
Polite and courteous, even under pressure?
Greeting all people with a smile and eye to eye contact?
Calm, collected and in control?
Dressed to project a professional image?
Well acquainted with all aspects of the school?
Able to give directions and answer enquiries?
Wearing a name badge?
Telephone friendly - do you answer the phone with a smile?
Offer the name of the school, your name and department?
First impressions count 
First impressions are vital and often indelible. They start from the customer’s initial contact with the school. Try seeing it through a stranger’s eyes. 
What message does your school communicate to new-arrivals? 
Without asking for directions, would they find their way to your school without frustration? 
What would they see as they approached? 
If there were no-one in sight would they find their way to the office?
Where would they park? 
As they sit in the waiting room, what sight and sound images would impress/disturb them?
What would be their first impression of the school?
A revealing exercise is for a small group to begin driving towards your school from the outskirts of town, pretending they have never been there before. They are nervous and of two minds about enrolling their child. 

About the author
Dr Linda Vining was Director and Founder of the Centre for Marketing Schools (CMS).   Centre for Marketing Schools offers a Customer Relations Course for Non-Teaching Staff.
© Copyright applies – It is illegal to email this article to anyone else or to reproduce any part of it without the permission of the Centre for Marketing Schools.

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We recommend the following affiliates:

School Website Design with CIMarketing

CIMarketing is a school web design specialist, offering you a complete online marketing solution. Let us help you!

As a marketing consultant and Director of the Centre for Marketing Schools I visit a lot of school websites. It's a hobby and a passion. There are some great ones. There are many ordinary ones. Some … well… need major work.

The Centre for Marketing Schools do not build websites… but we certainly know people who do.

Some web designers are graphic designers, others are web marketers. I would recommend the second. Covenant Christian School’s website was created by  former student Mark Barrett of CIMarketing. I have since used Mark and his team personally for several other client websites. They have also built several websites for people who asked for my recommendation.

Mark’s personal knowledge of the school did help the process. Yet it was his experience and expertise as a online marketer which was most important.

The CIMarketing team come up with ideas. They see what's working. They are passionate. They have gone beyond my brief and created, and continued to create, websites that work. Web 2.0 is all about two way interaction rather than a one way presentation of information. CIMarketing build on the Business Catalyst platform owned by Adobe. The platform makes it so much easier to expand and develop. It is worth finding a good platform as otherwise it can really limit your options.

I endorse and recommend the CIMarketing team. They have made this website as well. If you are wanting a website then include them in the discussions. I have been glad we did.

Neil Pierson
Storyteller - Centre for Marketing Schools

Cut the Cost of your School Electricity Lighting

Smart schools are discovering ways to cut costs and at the same time improve the environment. How would your school like to save A$24,000 per year on electricity costs? 

Would that saving put a smile on your Business Manager's face and give you a chance to increase your marketing budget? That is what Covenant Christian School on Sydney’s Northern Beaches is expecting.

Covenant has over 800 students. That means a lot of classrooms and a lot of light bulbs. Actually there were 1,390 fluorescent light tubes. One day a team of technicians explored the school. They were counting light tubes and armed with light meters to record how much light was being generated. Some rooms were brighter than they needed to be. Others were darker. Some rooms had good light in places, but possibly not over the computer keyboards where it most counts for staff on computers.

The team was from the Carbon Reduction Institute. They are passionate about the environment and business minded. They are approved to generate Energy Savings Certificates by the NSW Government. They are proactively helping many organisations, including schools, reduce their carbon footprint - which is great, yet they also save businesses money.

Over a few days in the holidays a team of workers swept through the school changing over the fluorescent light tubes. The new ones are thinner, produce dramatically less heat and create a brighter light. Due to very generous government rebates the overall expense to the school is expected to take less than six months to recoup. From there on it is ongoing electricity savings for the school. The current rebate scheme only applies in NSW Australia. 

If you are interested to know more email Storyteller Neil Pierson > Yes tell me more about CRI

Quick facts:

  • 50% energy savings in common scenarios
  • lasts over 8 times longer than a standard fluorescent tube
  • includes a minimum 2 year warranty

Did you know? - Quick History of Light Bulbs

In 1879 Thomas Edison and Joseph Swan developed the first incandescent lamp. It reportedly lasted a remarkable 13.5 hours. Edison continued experimenting and created filaments which eventually lasted 1,200 hours. The humble lightbulb changed society. 

However in the last decade the Western World has recognised that traditional light bulbs are terribly inefficient in terms of energy use. Only four to six percent of the electrical power was used for visible light. The vast majority was wasted as heat. They literally burnt money. Fortunately many homes have now converted to the more energy efficient compact fluorescent lambs.

Yet schools and businesses don't tend to use lightbulbs. They use traditional long fluorescent lamps.  Developed in the 1930's these use less energy, waste less heat and last 10 to 20 times as long as an incandescent bulb. They were remarkable. Yet sadly little has changed in the design for over 70 years - even with rising electricity costs. Fortunately the New Generation of fluorescent lamps are thinner, use less raw materials to make, save 45% of energy consumption and last longer.

QR Stuff - Harness the power of mobile

Make it easy for the increasing numbers of people surfing the web via mobile to find you. QR Codes are those funny little squares which are popping up everywhere. 

QR stands for Quick Response. Using a smart phone camera the Code is scanned and prompts an action. With increasing number of people accessing the internet via mobile their popularity is set to grow. Scanning a QR Code could open a website, open an email, make a phone call or link direct to an online video. It is a quick and easy way of adding life and interaction to your school marketing materials.

Many websites offer QR Code generators. The Centre for Marketing Schools recommends QR Stuff. QR Stuff enable you to generate, track traffic, and EDIT the action taken. This ongoing flexibility makes it much easier for you as a school marketer. Changing where a QR Code directs the user can means the viewer can always be taken to your latest material.

LogoInn School Logo Design

Need a new School Logo design? Low cost online option. Create a logo for school events, fundraising program.

School Logo Design is Important

Are you wanting a new school logo? Or do you just need a new logo to promote your After School Program? Don’t settle for a boring logo created in Microsoft Word or Publisher. The internet now gives you access to a world of designers at good prices.

A good logo can make a big difference in setting first impressions.  What do people say about your logo? Would they use any of these words:

  • Unprofessional
  • Old fashioned
  • Busy
  • Cluttered
  • Ugly
  • Confusing

If so then whatever people say about the logo they are likely to attribute the same qualities to the entire school.

Changing your main school logo is not something to be treated lightly. As well as the history connected to a logo there are practical considerations to be budgeted for. Stationery, uniform, signage and website would all need to change. I have twice been involved in changing a logo for a corporation. While I loved the process of being presented with loads of designs it was extremely time consuming. Logos are extremely subjective. Rarely will you have a logo that everyone likes – no matter what your budget!

Other Logos for Schools

Schools often have other uses for other less important logos. They are often easier to change.

Having a school fair? A concert? Launching a fundraising drive? A professional logo can often quickly lift first impressions of the school activity.

Over the years I have used the online logo design company LogoInn for four logo projects. LogoInn are based in the UK. Each time I have chosen the ‘Unlimited Package’ as it usually takes quite a few revisions before I sign off on a logo I am happy with.

Advantages of LogoInn for Logo Designs

  • very economical. Their logo design packages are extremely cheap
  • basic stationery of business card, letterhead and email footer is included. This is usually extra with designers
  • includes logo files in all the formats both your printers and staff would need
  • they can also design brochures and websites
  • designs are rarely ‘outstanding’
  • stationery is basic
  • you may not feel like you deal with ‘people’ as all feedback is via a website (some would say this is an advantage as
  • although changes are made in 48 hours it does slow down the process
  • you need to have some idea of what you do and don’t want for your brief

At Covenant Christian School we wanted to promote the ‘After School Care’ Program. The existing brochure for it did the job but wasn’t very attractive. Having LogoInn design a logo for the brochure lifted its’ whole appearance.

When the school launched online Gifted & Talented / Extension & Enrichment Courses we again turned to LogoInn to create a logo. 

Both our Centre for Marketing Schools and Marketplace Answers logos were created by LogoInn.

For value for money LogoInn are hard to beat. Check them out. Mention you heard about them from Centre for Marketing Schools.


Customised laptop skin for student and staff notebooks. Huge range. Great prices.

Customised School Laptop Skins

Tekskin is a customised skin stuck on the cover / lid of your laptop computer. It is a simple, inexpensive and extremely effective way of branding laptop computers for your school staff and students. When I first saw a Tekskin I was impressed. I was introduced to the idea by a member of the School Marketers Network.

The range of customised designs is HUGE. Your school logo, student name and any information can be individually added to each skin.

Advantages of Tekskins for schools

  • promote your school wherever the laptop goes
  • improved personal ‘ownership’ of laptop computers if students select design
  • less mistakes with students picking up the wrong laptop
  • adds colour to the classroom

How schools choose a laptop skin design

  1. All staff and students receive a standard design – add school logo, name & code # if needed
  2. Select 10 to 20 “School Approved” designs for students and staff to select from

Personally I prefer the second option. Students already wear uniforms – their laptop can be a way to express some of their own personality. Have a class of students pick the top designs for their year group. Make sure there is a mix of males and females. Have someone on staff eliminate any inappropriate ones. Some designs while attractive to students may not be consistent with your branding! Also some may not work with your school logo design. Change some of the mix of designs each year.

Things to watch out for with laptop computer skins

a) Give the exact measurements of your laptop flat surface area. (Laptops come in so many sizes).
b) If the edges are tapered make the skin dimension smaller as you don’t want them peeling off
c) Ask for a sample and attach it to a laptop to check it works
d) Allow time between ordering for printing and adhering them before delivery to students
e) Expect to reorder some as new students come and some skins are damaged

Tip with attaching Tekskin Customised Laptop Skins…

It does take time to peel and correctly adhere the skins to a batch of laptops. It is best done by a team rather than left up to the individual staff member or student.
Steve the owner of Tekskin is easy to deal with. Let him know you heard about Tekskin from the Centre for Marketing Schools.

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