"For many years we have had an "Every Day is Open Day" policy as we believe it is important for prospective families to experience a school in action. They can get a 'feel' for the school, ask on the spot questions and get immediate answers from staff and pupils. They can then decide if this is the place they want their child to be. Schools are about people, not buildings. This approach has definitely worked for us.
As a school with day schooling and boarding facilities we also offer a Boarding Experience Weekend for prospective boarders. This too has proved beneficial."
Naturally one of the big topics at this year’s Two Day > School Marketing Aforia in Perth will be the topic of Social Media in Schools. As schools are social organisations I am a great believer in schools being proactively engaged in connecting with their community. Social Media can help.
Yet as we all know there are downsides. In his newly released book > 501 Great Social Media Ideas for Schools, David Rawlings makes the following refreshing statement.
“One of the more common reasons I hear from schools about why they have embraced social media is that somebody in a senior position went to a conference and was told by a presenter that social media was the way of the future. They’re told about the ‘next big thing’ and they need to get on board.
Schools … start off with a blaze of glory only to find their contributions to social media fizzle out in no time. The challenge to get the most of our social media is not to use the biggest of most popular, it’s to use the one your audience uses and respects and the one you can maintain.”
Naturally with a newsletter going to over 1,000 subscribers it generates quite a few automatic replies. Many school marketers are part time roles and juggle other demands. An automatic reply can help set realistic expectations, and explain why you are not responding immediately. Yet they also convey a message and often an attitude. Here is one we received …
I am unavailable from Wednesday to Friday of each week.
I am unavailable from Month Date through to Month Date due to extended sick leave.
I will attend to my emails when I return to the office.
If required, please contact the Office on PHONE # to speak to the most appropriate person for your query or contact …
Thank you for your understanding.
Suburb State Postcode
Thank you for your email.
I am in the school office, and checking my emails, on Monday and Tuesday each week.
However I will be taking some sick leave from Day Month Date and return on Day Month Date.
Once I am back at my desk I will respond to your email.
If you do need a quicker response could you please contact the School Office on PHONE # or by email X@X
Thank you for your understanding.
Some school traditions are important. Others are questionable. Students at St Aidan's Anglican Girl's School decided it was time for change. "Previous years had celebrated their final day by throwing their left shoe into the Brisbane River. It was thought the tradition came about with students throwing their left shoe as a symbol of no longer needing their 'faithful brown shoes' but keeping their right to represent the link they would always have with their old school. Class of 2013 thought it was time to break this tradition and donate the shoes to charity Soles4Souls, which distributes the shoes to people in need of footwear in more than 125 countries."
When stopping a school tradition it can be important to replace it with another. Adding a story around the change helps people understand both the old and the new.
This change was reported by the local media > Congratulations to the Class of 2013 on finishing school
School tours or Open Days can provide a very sanitised or artificial impression of your school. Many schools instead offer prospective students a “Try Us” for a day. This is a way of letting students, and their families, make more educated decisions on a school. Students are allocated a buddy and attend normal classes to experience first-hand a real day of school.
Belgrave Heights Christian School took this concept to a whole new level. In 2007 they were a small but growing school, with room for many more students. While trying to grow their school, they provided an obligation free trial. This ‘Come and Try’ Promotion was the idea of the Principal, Mr Andy Callow.
For $500 a family received textbooks, uniforms, bus service (if seats were available) and all other school related costs for Terms 3 and 4. The promotion was released for families who visited leading up to and during Open Day, which is held in mid Term 2. This extended trial lowered the barrier to entry for curious parents and had a very high conversion rate to full time enrolment. BHCS believed their school had unique qualities that families would love once immersed in the community. It was also a big help financially as the promotion boosted census funding, future student numbers, promoted a growth culture and filled classes and busses which were already running. BHCS has continued to grow in numbers and facilities and is now at capacity.
In 1:43 minutes a Principal’s video welcome by Pymble Ladies’ College covers academic results from the past year, introduction of some staff, a welcome to a social event, reminders of the school newsletter, facebook and app. Importantly the video provides a human face, and voice, to the school.
Setting up your facebook page, and feeding it, can take some time and planning. Knowing how big to make images can help. Thanks to Brendan Schneider for sharing this link > Facebook image Size Cheat Sheet
Keep sharing your news and stories. We look forward to seeing school marketers in June. The Early Bird rate for the two day School Marketing Aforia closes on 28 February 2014.> School Marketing Aforia 19-20 June 2014 Perth
What new ideas have you considered in school marketing? What training are you going to take? What resources, conferences or people do you need to take or meet to progress to the next step?
With more schools engaging in the use of video for school marketing here are some tips.
- Make it emotional
- Kid proof your message (can a six year old understand it?)
- Instruct action (what should they do next?)
- Pick one message and stick with it
To expand on each of these points check out > PR Web The Connection
If your school has created a promotional video enter it in the > School Marketing Awards 2014
Deidré Proxenos, Director of Marketing and Foundation at Dainfern College, Johannesburg, South Africa is the most regular correspondent in the network of school marketers. When asked why she makes the effort to show appreciation she shared this story.
“I learnt this at one job where my boss thanked me ALL the time and one day when I asked him why he did it - he said that there was a lot that he noticed but there was so much that he didn't notice that I did and yet everything just kept running smoothly - so he wanted me to know that he REALLY did appreciate all that I did.
It made a huge difference to me and now I try and do this as much as possible - even with people I do not know - e.g. someone sending me accounts from the doctor or something small I notice in a restaurant - I make a point of writing and saying thank you or of making a comment about it in person - it is also wonderful the response you get most of the time.
I also understand that putting your newsletter together does not just happen - it is intentional, time consuming and hard work. I certainly feel inspired every week as I read it - so THANK YOU.”
How differently would your school staff, parents and students treat each other if gratitude was the culture? It can start with you.
The Archdiocese Chicago Catholic Schools asks visitors to their website to consider three important questions:
1. What do you want your child to believe?
2. What do you want your child to focus on?
3. What do you want your child to learn?
Importantly they do not ask “What job do you want your child to have after school?”
Their promotional video is effective in that it only features parents. It is promoting a group of schools so does not mention any of them by name. As school marketers we need to recognise that parents believe parents more than those who are paid to speak well of our school. Parent testimonials, language, values, questions and answers tend to have a greater impact as they are authentic. It is also hard to argue with parents personal experiences.
Each year at the School Marketing Aforia we announce the winners of the School Marketing Awards. These awards are open to all schools. They are an opportunity to have a independent panel of parent judges evaluate your website, prospectus, and for the first time promotional video.
I love visiting school websites and it seems to have become a bit of a hobby of mine. What I have discovered is there is no perfect website. But the most effective are the ones that tell a schools’ story. If they are treated as a living part of the school rather than an online brochure then the life of the school will come across.
Here are the biggest mistakes we find with school websites
• Google ignores them. These websites may look pretty but are not found by search engines. This type of website is often built by graphic designers. This mistake really hurts. It is a missed opportunity to be found by people who haven’t heard of you yet, but want what you are offering.
• Lack of interest or life. As website visitors we want to look inside the school not just see another glossy ‘brochure.’
• Too much text with school jargon. Write it as if English is my second language. Effective communication is the goal.
• Too little text. Visitors may end up having more questions than answers. (Graphic designers can be guilty of this by focusing on the look rather than the content).
• No clear call to action. It’s vital you capture my attention, tell me what to do next, ask for my contact details. I may never be back so take this opportunity to engage with me.
• Using long text to say what a photo or short video could communicate better
• Not saying where the school is, or who it is for.
In 2009 I attended the two day School Marketing Aforia in Adelaide. The event was run by Dr Linda Vining, the Founder of the Centre for Marketing Schools. I loved it. The opportunity to meet other school marketers, the fresh ideas, the diversity of speakers sharing their own experiences, the one on one conversations, the group discussions and the school tours all made a big impression on me.
When St Aidan's Anglican Girl's School launched their mobile phone app a senior student helped introduce it with a voiceover and animation of what it included. The 2.01 minute video gives a good overview.
The Australian newspaper included this provocative statement “Australia’s perennial "school wars" erupted again this week when the Productivity Commission confirmed the inexorable trend towards non-government schools. Almost 35 per cent of Australian school students (more than 40 per cent at high schools) are now educated in private or non-government schools, up from less than 32 per cent a decade ago and one fifth in the 1960s. > Private Schools aren’t a drain on the systemThe > Productivity Commission’s 510 page report on School Education is not a light document but it is something school marketers in Australia should consider exploring. International readers may be shocked as to how generous Australian governments are towards independent and Catholic schools.
Connecting with other school marketers is a great way of sharing ideas and learning from others. While facebook is good for personal connections it is LinkedIn which dominates work related online networking. These tips may help you improve, or decide to create an online profile.
> 21 Steps to create an awesome LinkedIn profile
I am happy to connect with school marketers online. My own profile is > au.linkedin.com/in/neilpierson/An even better way to connect with other school marketers is face to face at the annual two day School Marketing Aforia. This year it is in Perth 19-20 June.
Misty Adoniou, Senior Lecturer in Language, Literacy and TESL at University of Canberra wrote an insightful article on > ‘Why good teachers leave.’When teachers are new to your school, parents and students are often curious to learn more about them. Sharing video interviews via your website or newsletter may help them express their passion and vision.
How do you feel about this statement? "The purpose of school is to get kids out of the house so parents don't need to take care of them."
Homeschooler Penelope Trunk states this in an article > 'There is no difference between school content, only school marketing." As you can see from the reader comments there are some heated debates about the topic. School marketing, like many forms of marketing, is often viewed as deceptive, manipulative or unnecessary. Yet in response to these thoughts it is important not to dismiss criticism from home schooling families of our now 'normal' mass education system.
Real people sharing their real stories, emotions, hopes and fears is the heart of word of mouth marketing. It is these stories which will demonstrate if, or how, your school is actually different to another. People can argue about marketing images but sharing actual experiences gives your school marketing a true sense of authenticity.
Grant Birse, Director of Marketing, Communications and Enrolments at Pymble Ladies’ College shared with us their email newsletter and video from the start of the 2014 year. The short 1.40 minute video doesn't include speeches or the school's impressive academic results. In fact the only words are what appears on the screen at the beginning and end. What it does include are girls in relationships who are happy to see each other again after their summer holidays. It includes new families starting school.
The video includes some facilities, and the beautiful school grounds, but they are not the focus. They are merely a backdrop. The video works very well because it says Pymble Ladies' College is about people. With an in-house Audio Visual Producer the video's cinematic standard is reflective of the school's culture. Comments on the school's Facebook account included "Heartwarming!" "Beautiful video I teared up," "Absolutely stunning video! Just loved it!"
The Centre for Marketing Schools is an international network of people passionate about schools. Founded by Dr Linda Vining the Centre is now led by Jenny Pierson.
Join us. Together we can learn, share ideas and tell the unique story of our school community.