Generally in school marketing we seek to attract more families like our existing ones. Each school has a unique flavour and appeals to different groups of families. Schools grow most effectively by word of mouth. However this can, over time, lead to unexpected outcomes depending on who is doing the most talking.
If 75% of a Christian school's students are Muslim what does it look like? A Church of England school in the United Kingdom has chosen to remove Christian hymns from Assemblies to reflect, or respect, the faith of the majority of students. Meat in their canteen is Halal. Prayer rooms have been created.
Demographics change. Immigration can dramatically shift the culture of local suburbs. Your school’s viability depends on local families. Schools cannot control these changes. Yet if your school Board and marketing efforts don't specify your target audience your enrolments will end up re-defining your school. For this English school it appears to many observers that they have re-defined Christianity as toleration and values.
Does it actually matter if schools change their focus and audience? Most schools outlive their pioneers. The challenge for school marketers is knowing what part of the pioneers vision and goals needs to be retained in the midst of a changing world. If your pioneers sought to create something distinctly different then we believe they should be honoured. We would be interested to hear what you think. Add comments below.
You can read more of this story, and the often heated comments at: > Anglican school drops Christian hymns
Many schools are on holidays for mid summer or mid winter breaks. Here is a practical tip for when you return.
When greeting people at school I often say to them "Thanks for coming to school today." This includes teachers, parents and students. It is a simple greeting of appreciation. When visiting another school I said it to the receptionist. I met her several weeks later at a function. She explained how she had gone home that day and told her husband how nice it was to be thanked by a stranger simply for coming to work. It made her feel appreciated rather than taken for granted.
Let’s be grateful for our staff, parents, and yes even students. Let’s be grateful that people do chose to get up each day and come to work, or have chosen your school rather than all the other options. There are plenty of other things they could do and places they could be. A little bit of kindness can cause a ripple effect through a school. Let’s start a positive revolution of gratitude in our schools.
Oh, and thank you for coming to school - it wouldn't be the same without you :-)
A friend who lives several hours from Sydney posted this comment on facebook, “My kid’s School Principal got up in the school assembly today and urged all the students to pressure their parents into voting Labor. Hmmmm....”
What I found interesting was that he didn’t write a letter to the school. He didn’t ring the office to complain. He didn’t talk to the Principal to say this was inappropriate. Instead he took to facebook to air his complaint to his 422 friends. I imagine the school would be unaware of this comment. The feedback from ‘friends’ was fascinating.
We live in a new era. What was talked about in the school carpark is now done online. Fortunately my friend was diplomatic enough not to name the school. His close friends would be aware of which school he was referring to. However by not naming the school it meant that the school couldn’t rely on Google alerts or Social Mention services reporting on it.
Some practical ideas on managing facebook for school
If you are involved in marketing a school build relationships with parents. Then personally befriend as many school parents as possible via your own facebook account. If you have class or year parents encourage them to do the same. Encourage these supportive parents to KEEP OUT of online debates about school. This way you will have multiple ears and eyes to situations that may need your attention.A few years back when ‘planking’ was popular, a former student commented on a current student’s photo gallery. Our school policy is staff don’t befriend current students. Yet when the former student commented on the post I was now able to see the photo gallery she was referring to. A quiet word to the Deputy Principal drew the inappropriate photos to the school’s attention. The result was disciplinary action for something the school was otherwise unaware of.
Would students willingly sing about the wonders of your school? Trinity School in the United States have created a promotional video about their school inspired by the musical Les Miserables. The video features student life, and their students. It is creative and a little quirky.
What song or current fad could your school marketing adopt to help generate more interest and be passed on? People talk about and share what they find funny, interesting, quirky or inspiring. We don’t have to be gimmicky for the sake of it but we can think outside the box. After all we are educating students to think, communicate and use their gifts.
Source: Viral school marketing video
Schools are communities. That means people. At times that can mean conflict and mixed expectations. Some schools complain parents are not involved enough. They feel that parents expect the school to raise and discipline their child. Others feel that parents are too involved. In Australia we call these overly involved ones “helicopter parents.’ They hover around, keep their child in sight, comment, complain, give constant feedback, drop in, or stay too long.
An article in The Sydney Morning Herald suggested some ‘Rules for parents’ for schools to introduce:
Are you a school marketer, a Storyteller, a helper, a salesperson or an actor with a well-rehearsed script? How you see your role is important. Peter Irvine wrote an article on employees being trained to 'Speak a different language.'
I recently met a school receptionist who shined. She remembered my name, greeted me enthusiastically, smiled and showed delight that I was visiting. I watched her do the same with others.
I chatted to her about her role and enthusiasm. She felt she had the best job in the school. Previously she had recognised her ability to remember names and faces was better than most people. She hadn’t thought much of that skill. However as receptionist in a busy school she now appreciated how valuable the skill was. Her name was clearly displayed on the counter top to help visitors like me know her name.
Her genuine warmth said a lot. It created a very positive first impression of the school.
How is your reception area? Is the name of your receptionist displayed? Is the visitors sign in process simple? Do visitor nametags or lanyards look professional? Does your receptionist smile? How good are they at remembering names of staff, parents, students or visitors?
The > Customer Relations Course offered by the Centre for Marketing Schools is a 6 module course that can be done at work or home. It is practical, hands-on and easy to follow with diagrams, cartoons and many interactive exercises. It is presented in a hard-cover binder and there is a textbook for learning support.
Without any narration this 4.32 minute video for Moreton Bay College beautifully highlights friendships, sports, music, school grounds, dance, swimming, art, gymnastics, library, speech giving, school work and teacher interaction. Yet many school promotional videos do this.
What makes this video special is something that many videos miss. It includes families. These students have homes. They have people who love them.
The students interacting with their parents is, for me, one of the most appealing aspects of this high quality production. Mother and daughter, father and daughter, community pride and celebration of each other’s educational journey. Choosing a school is an emotional decision before it is a rational one. This video realises that. The viewer joins in the story without the complication of words.
Well done to Peter of Fade in Productions who has entered this year’s > School Marketing Website Awards on behalf of Moreton Bay College. Entries for this year’s > School Marketing Awards close tomorrow – Monday 24 June.
For the past five weeks I have been in classrooms. Firstly observing other teachers, then preparing and delivering lessons. This was to complete my Graduate Diploma of Education (Secondary) as a Business Studies teacher. I was fortunate to find a beautiful local school willing to supervise, correct, train and mentor me. It was tiring, yet a great experience.
As a school marketer I encourage you to ask yourself these questions.
When was the last time I…
- stayed in an ordinary classroom lesson to observe?
- supervised students on an excursion?
- listened to what staff talk about in the staffroom?
- asked students whether they understand, or agree with, my school marketing?
The challenge we face is that these tasks take time away from our ‘main’ duties. I am guilty of being too busy which is why these five weeks have helped me realise I need to get out more. I find I am usually only invited to the special photo worthy lessons, or I pop into class with a tour only long enough to gain a short glimpse of school life. Yet it is in these longer experiences that you can see, hear and better understand the reality of your school. Does your prospectus, website and videos display the reality experienced by your students and parents?
In taking up this challenge I anticipate you will gain fresh real life stories to support your school marketing efforts. Real stories bring school marketing to life and are more likely to be remembered and shared. Please let me know how you go.
Many schools are using video. Most are talking heads or narration. Some break into song. Australian Christian College chose to create an animated video. While the target audience of the message is parents the animation makes it appealing to a wider age group.
When was the last time you asked parents or students for some feedback on your school? The >Family-School & Community Partnerships Bureau conducted a survey of parents about their child’s transition from primary to secondary school. The findings highlighted the need for secondary schools to lift their game in the area of communication.
Less than two-thirds of surveyed parents (62%) were satisfied/very satisfied with communication about school decision-making. They wanted to see more communication, improved electronic communication and more direct communication with their child’s teachers.
Conducting a survey of parents or students can help identify areas where your school has room to improve. Making changes can refresh positive word of mouth promotion by parents. The danger of surveys is asking for feedback and then ignoring it. This can cause negative word of mouth. Often when parents are unhappy with their child’s school they will talk to others and then make a decision to leave.
The Centre for Marketing Schools has a range of affordable > school surveys including those for current parents and Year 12 parent exit surveys. They can offer a shortcut to uncovering areas of discontent before parents withdraw their children from your school. In addition surveys can provide school marketers with positive comments and real statistics for use in your promotions.
School marketers can see their role as simply bringing new families into the school. But the marketing role is so much more than that. It is a role where a ‘bird’s eye view’ of the school is needed. This view will aim to see how each area of the school can affect marketing to potential new families, but also existing families.
Why do parents choose to leave your school? I believe the answer is often that they are being ‘nice.’ While schools may not like complaints from parents we probably should be more concerned about the “nice customers” who stay silent.I have seen this article in various places but I first read it on Tony Gattari’s website and wanted to share it…
I'm a nice customer. You all know me. I'm the one who never complains no matter what kind of service I get. I'll go into a restaurant and I'll sit while the waitress gossips with her boyfriend and never bothers to look and see if my hamburger is ready to go. Sometimes someone who came in later than I did gets my hamburger, but I don't complain. If the soup is cold or the cream for the coffee is sour, whatever happens, I try to be nice about it.
It's the same when I go to a store to buy something. I try to be thoughtful of the other person. If I get a snooty sales person who gets rattled because I want to look at several things before I make up my mind, I'm polite as can be. I don't believe rudeness in return is the answer. I wasn't raised that way.
And it's seldom I take anything back to a store. I've found people are just about always disagreeable to me when I do. Life is short - too short for indulging in these unpleasant little scrimmages for the sake of a dollar. I bought a toaster that burned out after two weeks. I've found people are so busy telling me I had burned it out on purpose, that I didn't get a chance to ask them if they knew where I could send it to have it repaired. I never kick, I never nag, I never criticise and I wouldn't dream of making a scene, as I've seen people doing in public places.I think that's awful.
No, I'm the nice customer! And I'll tell you what else I am. I AM THE CUSTOMER WHO NEVER COMES BACK!
That's my little revenge for getting pushed too much. That's why I take whatever they hand out, because I know I'm not coming back. It's true that this way doesn't relieve my feelings right off, as telling what I think of them would, but in the long run, it's a far more deadly revenge.
In fact, a nice customer like myself, multiplied by others of my kind, can just about ruin a business. And there are a lot of nice people in the world just like me. When we get pushed far enough we go down the street to another motor business, and have our needs serviced there. They're smart enough to hire help who appreciate nice customers.
They say, “He laughs best, is he who laughs last.” I laugh when I see them so frantically spending their money on advertising to get me back, when they could have made me welcome in the first place with a few kind words and a smile.
Some people will only experience your school once. It may be through an Open Day, a musical or school tour. Effective marketing might get them in the door, but what makes them come back? Do your front office staff welcome your visitors with warmth and make them feel important? Do teachers listen to their questions? Are students courteous?
‘This year saw my (Emily) role in the Enrolment Office expand and one of these aspects is to conduct tours of the College for perspective new families. Admittedly I was overwhelmed at the thought of it. How could I possibly know everything there is to know about the school? I took home every booklet I could lay my hands on in a bid to prepare myself for any question a prospective parent may ask.
It was after I finished my third tour that I realised I played the minor role in promoting Broughton. Yes we have extensive grounds, multiple soccer ovals, tennis courts, basketball courts and volleyball courts. Not to mention our jaw dropping Hospitality Kitchen and state of the art Sports Centre. In addition to all that, we have the technology and resources available in the IRC, commonly referred to by parents as “the biggest school library they have ever seen”. I could go on about the high calibre of academic achievement demonstrated by our students and the impressive percentage that continue on to University. The list goes on…
But it’s the regular day at Broughton that excites parents and has them submitting an Application for Enrolment before they leave:
- The personal welcome our guests receive from the Headmaster and Executive team as they pass by the Main Administration.- The mob of 4 year olds in Prep Yellow that block the doorway so excited to tell us every bit of news they can possibly think of without taking a breath.- The affectionate laughter from our guests faces as we notice the little boy in Prep Green spinning around in circles with a rug on his head.- The well-mannered Office Messenger from Year 6 who holds the gate open for us to pass through without being asked.- The disbelief when we visit Kinder Yellow and 20, 5 year olds are quietly writing sentences, putting their pencils down at the teacher’s request to greet our guests in a mature, controlled unison.- The Staff that greet our prospective families as we pass by, welcoming them and giving the opportunity to ask questions about their specialised areas.- The desire for their children to be as responsible as our senior students when they see the immaculate condition the kitchenettes are left in.- The focused facial expressions of the students in the robotics class as they work from plans to build a mechanical device has parents wishing they had the opportunity to go back to school!- The music composition lab without fail generates “ooohhh”, followed by “wow, your school has everything”!The ultimate compliment is the response to “Why are you interested in Broughton?” The answer being, “We are so impressed with the conduct of your students. I want my child in an environment that develops well mannered, responsible students.” I am pleased to say that conducting tours of the College is no longer the most overwhelming part of my role. It is now the most rewarding!’
Christian Gordon, Business Manager at St Teresa’s College, Abergowrie in far north Queensland, Australia shared an inspiring story with us this week.
The College supports parents and communities to educate remote Indigenous Australian students from the Northern Territory, Cape York, the Torres Strait and the Brisbane area. With this in mind, they have embraced the spirit of > National Reconciliation Week and have launched the fourth instalment of the Gowrie Boys Project
Jean Christie, Marketing Manager of Emmanuel College, Warrnambool, Victoria, came to last year’s School Marketing Aforia. She was inspired by the ‘Creating a Signature Event’ presented by Julie Hillier at St Paul’s school about their > Imagen8 Holiday Program.Jean’s inspiration lead her to creating a signature event at her school. On Sunday 19 May the College held the > EMMagination Creativity Festival and Open Day. This was an open day with a difference. The College offered 21 different free creativity workshops in 32 sessions available to any students in grades 5 or 6. The topics ranged from robotics, to forensic science, hip hop dance, farming, mosaics and much more. Enjoy the promo video
Jean also wanted to say “A thank you is due to those who generously share their ideas and information at the Aforia to help raise the standards in our profession and in our schools.”
Barker College in Sydney has over 2,000 students from Kindergarten to Year 12. Their 46 second cinema advertisement was shown over the summer holiday period in Sydney cinemas. We love that it combines three different students sharing their story. Academics, facilities, creative arts, sport, cadets and the sense of community are all touched on in this very short presentation.
The College has traditionally been recognised as a boy’s school. Now with Years 10 to 12 being co-educational it was important to include a female student in the promotion. Julie, the Director of Enrolments, and Sarah, Community Engagement Coordinator, from Barker have taken advantage of the early bird special and registered for the > School Marketing Aforia to be held in Sydney 15-16 August.
Using Google alerts provides us with news from schools around the world. It is sometimes fascinating what stories the media run with. In Washington state USA schools may close due to snowfall. When Bellingham Christian School realised their 205 students hadn’t had any days off due to snow they decided to give one to enjoy the sunshine.
Several years ago I attended a conference where the keynote speaker was Dr Barrett Mosbacker. In an age where technology promises so much he reminded us that teachers are still vital – unless they are replaceable. In his article ‘Do We Need Teachers or Are They Becoming Obsolete?’ he reminds us of the human element of teaching…
“Transmitting knowledge is necessary for a good education but is not sufficient. Teaching and educating are not necessarily synonymous. No matter how sophisticated our technology becomes, it is doubtful that it can replace educators. Here is why.
The transfer of information does not:
• Equal nor impart wisdom
• Provide a role model
• Convey passion and a love of a subject
• Build relationships nor teach how to navigate difficult relationships
• Add the emotional element vital to learning
• Question deeply by engaging in Socratic dialog
• Mentor students
• Serve students
• Pray for students
• Love students
Technology can only be conceived as a replacement for traditional classroom teachers if we reduce teaching to the transfer of information, drilling skills, and preparation for test taking. Sadly, too many teachers have been reduced to this mundane level: such teachers ARE replaceable.”
Does your website enable prospective parents to see inside your school? While Hagley College’s website does have quite a bit of text it is their use of photos and videos which tell more of the story. How better to showcase thetalents of students than with a series of videos > News Events at Hagley
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 Neil & Jenny Pierson. Neil is a Storyteller. His stories are designed to encourage, equip and connect over 1,000 school marketers.
Join us. Together we can learn, share ideas and tell the unique story of our school community.