Past Newsletters

Issue 629 - 26-jul-2015

Tips for conducting night time school tours

Most schools conduct tours or hold Open Days during daylight hours. However it means some interested parents are not available. I recently attended a very popular Parent Information Night at a local school with around 250 other prospective parents and children. 

Here are some ideas based on my experience and thoughts:
  • Have people directing visitors to parking and along the route to the meeting place. 
  • Welcome late people with enthusiasm. If someone is running late but still decided to come a friendly welcome can reassure them it was still worth coming.  
  • Turn on lights in all the classrooms, even if your tour group is not going into each of them. (This can be a challenge with modern sensor lights and timers. If so have a team of people run around to re-activate them). 
  • Use interactive white boards to show slideshows of student activities. Empty classrooms can be dull. Help your prospective parents understand what is normally going on in the space. The slideshow don’t need audio, and may not be watched fully, but will offer a window into the school and help generate questions – or answer them.
  • Involve students. Parents believe parents and students believe students. It is important to hear from teachers and leaders but let those who are experiencing your ‘product’ be heard.
  • Plan the outdoor tour route based on lighting. Taking a group from bright classrooms outside into the darkness while trying to find a switch for spotlights can lose momentum.
  • Return visitors to where the tour started or the car park. It is easy to disorientate new people at night time. We are familiar with our school layout. New visitors will not be.
  • Communicate well with cleaners. Having corridors blocked with rubbish bins or vacuum cleaner cords may happen but could potentially be minimised or avoided with planning.
  • Take a note of trip hazards and adjust the tour route or improve lighting (or even better remove the hazard).

Issue 627 - 12-jul-2015

School Marketing Website Awards 2015

GOLD Award 2015
St Paul’s Anglican Grammar School

SILVER Award 2015
Beechboro Christian School

Mundaring Christian College


Download the Judges Report to understand better the criteria and comments.

School Marketing Awards 2015 REPORT School Marketing Awards 2015 REPORT (641 KB)

Issue 627 - 12-jul-2015

School Marketing Prospectus Awards 2015

Each year Centre for Marketing Schools evaluates the effectiveness of prospectuses from a variety of schools. The role of the school prospectus is continually being questioned. These schools have chosen to continue to use printed prospectuses as part of their promotion to parents. Download the Judges Report to understand better the criteria and comments.

GOLD Award 2015
Knox Grammar School, NSW

SILVER Award 2015
St Anne’s Diocesan College South Africa

SILVER Award 2015
Emanuel School, NSW

Ravenswood, NSW

School Marketing Awards 2015 REPORT School Marketing Awards 2015 REPORT (641 KB)

Issue 627 - 12-jul-2015

School Marketing VIDEO Awards 2015

This year our judges gave a significantly higher score to the winning video. As a result we have introduced a Diamond Award.  Download the Judges Report to understand better the criteria and comments. 

DIAMOND Award 2015
West Moreton Anglican College, QLD

SILVER Award 2015
Knox Grammar School, NSW

The Scots School Albury, NSW

Mundaring Christian School


St Catherine’s Waverley, NSW

School Marketing Awards 2015 REPORT School Marketing Awards 2015 REPORT (641 KB)

Issue 628 - 19-jul-2015

Be proactive in handling school parent concerns

Your school’s reputation is a fragile thing. Don’t take a good one for granted. Allegations of breaches in child protection, even historical ones, can bring your school’s name into the media for all the wrong reasons. One school, which as far as I am aware, do not have any allegations against them, took a proactive stance through an open letter to their school community. I have removed references to the school but believe it could be used as a good model for others.

An Open Letter to the [School Name] Community from the Head, [Name] regarding allegations of child sexual abuse - Historical Matters
With the increased level of public awareness and concern arising from past breaches of trust in child protection matters, it is natural for people to reflect on experiences in their lives, particularly during their time in school. The Council of [School Name] encourages any member of the [School Name] community who may have matters of concern from their time at [School Name] to make contact with us. To assist with this process, the School has established a Confidential Help Line [1800 Number]. 

However, if you would prefer to write to us, please use the following email address concerns@[Schoolwebsite].  This confidential email address is managed by our Senior Counsellor, [Name].

If any member of the [School Name] community wishes to discuss any matter personally with me or someone from the School, please do not hesitate to contact the School. Please be assured that all matters raised with the School will be treated with the utmost confidentiality, compassion and respect. Our prayerful support is offered to every generation that makes up our community of [School Name].

Yours sincerely

Here are a few lessons:
  • Be proactive rather than only reactive
  • Recognise that your school has a responsibility for past generations – not just current families.
  • Having such a letter coming from the leader of the school demonstrates it is important.
  • Encouraging responses sends a positive message to the whole community that things will not be hidden.
  • Advise who will be hearing any concerns raised (not the current school leader).
  • Give multiple options of how people can raise any concerns.
  • Ensure confidentiality.

Issue 628 - 19-jul-2015

A good school video can last for years

When considering promotional videos for your school the expense of a professional quality production can seem daunting for many school budgets. A good video can be used for years. Since 26 January 2012 the John Paul College 'Spirit Video' has received over 100,000 views on YouTube.

I believe the ongoing success of this video has several factors.
  • It includes LOTS of people. The more people in a video the more people who will watch and then share it.
  • It showcases the school facilities without a sales spiel
  • It is fun and shows students having fun
  • It demonstrates students and staff would have had to work well together
  • It doesn’t try to tell the whole school story
A video like this is not designed to explain the school’s philosophy, curriculum or history. It serves as a reassurance and celebration piece for the current community and an invitation to the wider community to learn more.


As school marketers you may also appreciate the ‘Behind the scenes’ video to better understand what was involved.

Issue 628 - 19-jul-2015

Are we delivering on what school parents signed up for?

Have you re-read your school advertisements from five, ten or fifteen years ago? Are they still true? Would your current parents who responded to them think so? A recent article reported that “The Armidale School (TAS) would admit female students next year for the first time in its 123-year history.” The decision was considered divisive among parents. “One mother calling it a "disgrace". "It's not about tradition it is about what was sold to us," she said.

A good test for your advertisements, prospectus, website and promotional material is to submit it to the reality test. Ask current parents, students and staff if what it said is real for most members of your community. If it is then your advertising supports and reinforces what will already be happening with word of mouth promotion. If it is not then try again.

Be very careful about changing your marketing message. One imagines that the parent who called the change at The Armidale School a ‘disgrace’ may have been convinced of the benefits of single sex education and chosen the school on that basis. It is very reasonable for schools to make significant changes yet understand that each change may give your current community a valid reason to re-consider their choice of school.

Read more at > Single sex schools in decline as coeducation favoured

Issue 626 - 28-JUN-2015

Can we blame the curriculum for complaints about education?

I like to watch popular videos about education on YouTube to better understand the many messages our parents are exposed to, or bombarded with. I call it research. Many videos are easy to agree with yet do need to be challenged. I find many solutions offered are simply based on alternative worldviews and belief systems. All education starts with a belief system. Replacing one belief system with another may satisfy one group and alienate others.

This video encourages us to consider the real purpose of education for children and adults. Do we agree that ‘Working’ and ‘Sustaining good relationships” are really what we should be aiming for? The following words and phrases - “should”, “ideal”, “utopia”, “what they actually need to learn” all reveal a belief system about education.


Issue 626 - 28-jun-2015

What do you already know about our school?

What do people think of your school? What reputation does it hold in the community? Greg Pendlebury of Think-write Consulting believes "Most people tend to stay loyal to their initial point of view. A single piece of paper, no matter how well written, may not be sufficient to sway an entrenched mind. Persuasion sometimes takes time and multiple presentations. Keep the lines of communication open so that your audience can understand and assimilate your message."

School marketing does not rely on a single advertisement, presentation or conversation - either positive or negative. The continual combination can shift perceptions.

An effective question to ask a prospective parent is "what do you already know about our school?" This gives you an insight into what is either attracting them, or possibly causing hesitation, and allows you to better tailor your responses.

Issue 626 - 28-jun-2015

Immerse yourself in the experiences your school offers

It is currently school holidays in Sydney Australia. Yet for 6 days I am with over 20 Year 11 students, staff and several former students serving, learning and experiencing life with an Aboriginal community in Yarrabah Queensland. This is the 10th year of these trips, but my first. The relationships developed over those 10 years have been mutually beneficial for both communities. The fact that so many former students return, at their own expense, even after graduation demonstrates the impact the trips have had on them.

My main role is to photograph and video some of the activities to help parents better understand what their children are experiencing. Yet I am not a spectator. As school marketers I encourage you to find ways to immerse yourself in your school activities. Attend camps, visit classrooms, spend time in the playground. The stories you share with prospective parents will be so much more meaningful. 

At the recent School Marketing Aforia one delegate was a Science Teacher. She had three hours per week allocated to marketing the school. I was excited for her. She needed to be innovative, resourceful and delegated some tasks to students. Being a teacher in many ways gives her an advantage over the more official marketing roles. Teachers deliver the ‘product’ and are the backbone of word of mouth so take the time to meet, encourage and support them.

Issue 625 - 21-jun-2015

Give your school’s radio advertisements a wider exposure

Many schools include radio advertisements in their marketing mix. Here are some ways to extend the impact of this medium beyond those who listen to any particular station.

  • Ask for the audio file
  • Add a slide, or even better a slideshow of images or video to the audio
  • Upload to YouTube or video sharing platform
  • Embed it in your website
  • Play it at a school assembly
  • Upload it to your facebook page
  • Consider incorporating it in your telephone on hold music
By doing this you help ensure more members of your own community hear the advertisement and are ready if others mention it to them. 

Note: It is important to explain to the radio station what you plan to do with it as it may require permission and extra costs for voiceover artists.

As a very simple example Collegiate High School in the United Kingdom combined a single slide with the audio of their radio advertisement and uploaded it to their YouTube channel. Over several years it has been watched over 2,000 times. The irony is that the school no longer exists which raises the challenging question of what happens with social media channels after a school closure.

Issue 625 - 21-jun-2015

Does your auto responder gives news and reveal your personality?

Michelle Favero, Marketing and Communications Manager at Emanuel School attended, and presented at, the recent School Marketing Aforia. Below is the delightful auto responder she set up during her absence.

Thank you for your email. I am currently out of the office at a Schools Marketing Conference learning new ways to promote our wonderful school. Sorry I can't get to your email until next week when I return, filled with exciting ideas.
Michelle Favero
Marketing and Communications Manager 
Emanuel School
Address / Phone / Website details

Using your auto responder like this can help generate conversations, build relationships and soften any frustration caused by a delay in your response.

Issue 625 - 21-jun2015

Create interest in print and direct curiosity to your website

Barker College in Sydney took out half page advertisements in a local community newspaper. Rather than the more common promotion of an open day or tours they raised curiousity by mentioning two activities students had taken part in. The short teaser finished with “For the full story see our website”.  On their website home page was a repetition of the same heading from the advertisement, a similar thumbnail photo, and a link to the longer story.

Some tips for us from this example:
  • Don’t attempt to tell a whole story in an advertisement
  • Give readers, even those not looking for your school, a valid reason to visit your website
  • Ensure it is easy to find the material you mentioned on your website
Click on thumbnails to enlarge

Read the story > From Gallipoli to St Louis

Issue 624 - 14-jun-2015

Remembering names help build relationships at school

Yesterday I was honoured to attend an 80th birthday party. It was of the Deputy Principal from my Sydney High School. I have kept in contact with Errol Duck Chong and continue to be grateful for the impact he had on the school and myself. Errol is a rare man. 20 years after I left the school, with 1,200 students, he was able to help me identify the 240 people in my own year group by name, their sibling’s names and often the names of their parents. Although these students were in my own year there were many I realised I had never met. Errol and Neil

Errol cared deeply about the welfare of each student. He is often invited and attends school reunions. It is interesting to see the respect, and now admiration, he receives from even the naughtiest of former students. (Name badges do help us both at reunions as people age and change since school).

Here are two things to consider:
Q. Is there a former teacher you could make contact with and say THANK YOU to? The added benefit for you is that in appreciating your own teachers I believe you can better connect with current and prospective families of your school.
Q. Do you need help remembering people’s names? I find the increasing multicultural nature of schools presents me with even more of a challenge. Check out this strategy to help remember foreign names.

There are lots of YouTube videos with strategies to remember names. Take some time. I know this is an area for me to keep working on.

Issue 624 - 14-jun-2015

Don’t lose prospective parents in the car park

I recently visited a school for the first time. There was a great team, passionate teachers with a good location and facilities. One team member had to leave the meeting to conduct a school tour for a prospective family. I asked “How do they find you?” She thought I meant “How did they find out about the school?” Instead I meant… “When they park their car how will they know where to find you?” I had the experience earlier and knew it could be difficult for first timers.

Signage is something you take for granted until you actually need it. When street signs get damaged or stolen then locals still know the name of the street and where to go. It is new people who get lost. The same happens with our schools. Once you are familiar you don’t need, or notice, the signage. This is a common trap. Signs help reassure your visitors they have permission to be somewhere and confidence on where to go. 

Signage is one aspect of the School Appearance Audit. Order your downloadable copy and then explore your school with a camera > School Appearance Audit 

Signage is important. If your school can not direct a visitor to find the front office then a prospective parent may ask “Can I trust this school to help direct the course of my child’s life?” Choosing a school is an emotional experience. While good signage may not be noticed, or create a positive emotion, poor signage is noticed and can create a negative first impression which is often not understood or verbalised.

Some suggestions:
- Mark visitor spots clearly (and mention you have some when inviting people)
- Set expectations for visitors – for example “Please sign in at School Office”
- Have directional signs
- A map can help – if they make sense (Maps can be tricky. Asking men, women and children to find something on a map and then take you there can help you tweak it. Spatial awareness varies)
- Have a smiling face to greet them when they arrive

At Covenant Christian School we have been progressively improving signage. The welcoming of visitors is one aspect we feel has been dramatically improved. This photo gallery shows the progression.

Signage can be expensive. Paint can be cheaper. You could say to visitors “Look for the red wall” or some other landmark. When schools have multiple car parks don’t assume your visitors will turn up in the right one. Again signage can help. 

Issue 623 - 07-jun-2015

The power of a teacher who cares

Students, parents and staff may all appreciate great educational facilities, well trained teachers and even our school website, but ultimately they will remember relationships and the experiences they shared. This video tells a real story. It's a story of a young man and his elementary school teacher and her lifetime commitment to her students and their lives – beyond school. 

It is a reminder to me that facilities, training, curriculum and websites don’t make education – people do. 

Whatever your type of school let’s help create, record and share stories of the difference our teachers are making.

Issue 623 - 07-jun-2015

Above all, ignore the school’s marketing material

My Google Alerts recently directed me to an article on ‘How to spot if a school is right for you when job hunting’The article, written for teachers, highlighted that how schools treat prospective teachers says a lot about their culture. The article concluded with this amusing, but true statement 

“Above all, ignore the school’s marketing material – most of which will make a play on three words: excellence, creativity and community – and go with what seems right in the flesh. One gets a feeling as to whether or not one will be happy in a place. Don’t ignore that gut feeling.”

Each teacher who applies but DOESN’T get employed by your school has still had an experience with your school and is likely to tell others about it – positively or negatively. While most school marketers are not involved in recruitment remember that our teachers actually do more ‘marketing’ than any of us. They have networks and parents often respect their advice when asking about local schools. 

How you and your staff treat teachers in training on professional placement at your school is another opportunity. Take the time to meet, greet and engage with ‘prac’ teachers. They can be a source of great information and insight about your school plus other schools they may have been to.

Why a prospective parent, student or teacher chooses your school often comes down to “that gut feeling.” How we treat people creates feelings that can override any logic or rational decision making.

Issue 623 - 07-jun-2015

Is your school newsletter worth reading?

Greg Pendlebury of Think-write Consulting says “Publishing a document that nobody reads, or that people don't understand, or that users don't act on, is a waste. It's very risky to assume that a published document is achieving its purpose. Test early, test frequently to check that your document is hitting the mark with users.”

I believe many schools have trained their community to NOT read their newsletter. Long newsletters, poorly formatted, multiple fonts and colours, and most importantly lacking in interesting news means they become counterproductive. Instead of debating with ‘lazy’ parents who don’t read the school newsletter for ‘essential’ information it is vital we review how information is being delivered. Schools are now often mixing SMS for urgent and important information, emails, blogs and mobile apps to better tailor information to their readers. Some schools now create separate Newsletters with student news and Bulletins of just what parents need to know for the next week.

This week I met with Mark Barrett of CIMarketing to discuss further transforming the Covenant Christian School email newsletter (see > June 3 example plus > past newsletters). Currently it is a combination of links to the school news site plus a pdf download. Pdfs are very hard to read on mobile devices so its end is now clearly in sight.

Quick newsletter checklist
  • Can we shorten articles (or even delete them)?
  • How do parents want to be communicated with? (Hint – they are not all the same)
  • Can people read the newsletter on a mobile device?
  • Are we making the most of past news stories? (Most schools waste past stories and hide them from prospective parents who may also be interested)

Issue 622 - 31-MAY-2015

School’s Acts of Kindness sends a positive message

Many schools have policies and strategies on bullying. Instead of focusing on what NOT to do students at East Ridge Middle School have been challenged to do 1,000 acts of kindness. The media, and several bloggers picked up on the initiative.

“It is our goal to achieve 1,000 acts of kindness by the end of the school year, and at this point we are more than halfway there. Acts of kindness are written on slips of green paper which will be linked together and on display in our cafeteria. It is a colorful reminder to spread kindness, and also highlights the thoughtful actions of our students. It demonstrates how the smallest act of kindness does truly make a big impact overall. This is such a valuable program because it takes a fun, unique approach to cultivating kindness,” she said. “It also fits especially well with our school’s PRIDE initiative, launched at the beginning of this year, which promotes student growth in Personal responsibility, Respect, Integrity, Determination, and Excellence.”

We would love to hear what school activities have resulted in good media coverage for your school.

>  Article:  'Ben's Bells' ring for kindness

Issue 622 - 31-MAY-2015

Family, Community and Education valued by Jewish Schools

When you have a group of schools to promote video can be an effective way of presenting a united vision. 

Eleven Jewish Day Schools in New Jersey USA combined resources to create this 5 minute video. It makes it very clear what they value and their strong Jewish identity. The combination of current students and Alumni works well. Many schools claim to ‘prepare students for the future,’ or ‘making a difference,’ or ‘influencing future generations’ yet the inclusion of so many Alumni gives great weight to their claims. 

The students also explain some of the service to the community they are doing. The video is also friendly in having students say things like “we are taught to ask a LOT of questions” or “we ate a LOT of Jewish food.”

One purpose of the video was to “take the mystery out of the schools for the wider community”.


> Article: Eleven Schools, One Message