Raise the flag. Sing the national anthem. Put up a particular poster. Teach this subject. Stop teaching this subject. Do this test. Submit this form. Schools are asked to do many things and sometimes it can raise challenges and conflicts with educational beliefs and vision.
Chiray Fitton, Principal at Montessori International College presented at our School Marketing Aforia in Brisbane. Recently we noticed her email footer included this text “I recognise the land of the Aboriginal people upon whose lands I live and work today. I acknowledge our ancestors and elders, past and present.” This is not a requirement in emails, but an increasingly common statement when opening public events in Australia, so we asked about her rationale in including it.
Chiray explained “It is something I felt compelled to include in my email signature as it is both necessary and important with regard to ‘living’ both the values of our learning community and those of Montessori philosophy. The decision to include an acknowledgment such as this (re the staff) is never mandatory (nothing in a Montessori school is, as it must come from self). In saying this, we as a learning community are fortunate as we share these values and the acknowledgement is inevitably expressed school wide via many mediums without the need to mandate.”
The decision to include it is consistent with the work of the > Montessori Children’s Foundation
Question: Are there things your school have been asked to do but been reluctant to. Are there ways you proactively express your school’s uniqueness which may be considered counter-cultural to the general population? Comments can be published anonymously if requested.
Video is becoming an increasingly important part of school marketing. Some schools can afford to have professionals on their team. Most can’t. If you would like to include more videos but are daunted by them the Vimeo Video School is a wonderful resource. The series of videos start with the basics. They say of themselves “Learn how to make better videos through lessons, tutorials, and sage advice from us, your friendly personal creativity consultants.”
Is there an ideal size for a school? What about your school? I attended a secondary school of 1,200 people from Year 7 to 12. I enjoyed school and didn't think of the size. It just was. However when organising our 20 year reunion there were names of people I had never heard of. I realised that there were many students who never crossed my path,or shared a class with me. Several independent schools have opened nearby and my former school now has less than 900 students.
Covenant Christian School where I am given great freedom to experiment with marketing is growing. It has gone from 740 to over 870 students and expects to be over 900 in the next two years. Back in 1978 the pioneers thought 300 students would be a large school. This continued growth raises challenges. As a preschool to Year 12 school the growth is concentrated in the Secondary School Year 7 to 12. That means new buildings, reassigning play space, additional staff and parking.
One of the features of a Preschool to Year 12 is coming together for General Assemblies. Growing to 900 may threaten that due to the size of the School Hall.
Across the road from Covenant is a Kindergarten to Year 6 school called Yanginanook which only caters for 20 to 28 students. It serves a distinct target audience. In 2012 the prospectus for Fintona Girls School won a School Marketing Award. The beautiful prospectus deliberately celebrated them being a small school. Canbury School in the UK describes itself as "small, and deliberately so. With only a maximum of 65 pupils on roll each is treated very much as an individual, hence our motto “An individual approach to success”. Whatever the size of your school it is important to think ahead with your marketing. It can be tempting to promote "small class sizes" and "small school community" but it can be a trap. If the reason you have small class sizes is because you don't yet have enough students it may be better to not mention it. If however it is a deliberate strategy, or a physical limitation of your ground or local regulations, then declare it.
As school marketers these are important discussions to be part of. Here are some key questions to ask about growth.
1. Will the reason our current community choose, and like, our school be impacted?
2. Are we attracting the families we actually want?
3. Could we regret this marketing message in five years time?
Gauging your community satisfaction is important. Providing regular opportunities for feedback can be via surveys, informal one on one chats, or more structured focus groups. Listening AND responding is vital. Centre for Marketing Schools offer a range of > School Satisfaction Surveys.
Each week Trinity Christian College in Illinois USA posts a new student testimonial on their website using YouTube. The videos are generally under a minute long and use a simple white backdrop. The variety of videos allows them to cover the diversity of subjects on offer. The videos are also an attempt to identify with the diversity of viewers. The testimonials go beyond what each student is studying and include something about their life, goals, interests or the local area.
See the series at: > www.trnty.edu/studentvideos
How accurate are your website statistics? When Covenant Christian School’s website visits went up by almost 40% in one week in March 2014 it wasn’t because of exciting events at school or enrolment enquiries. It was robots and spammers.
One of the few downsides of an extensive school website is that it becomes more attractive to people not interested in your educational offering. In the week of increased hits the website engine was flooded with spammers attempting to make comments on the over 2,500 blogposts. Each comment needs to be manually approved so they were wasting their time – and website administrators. The school then introduced comment function using www.disqus.com. Now visitors need to sign in as a guest or via social media which is working well and keeping the spammers at bay.
The Australian statistics for the week showed 3,728 website visits, resulting in 10,612 page views. With a school of 850 students from 470+ families that number makes sense and is the one the school focuses on.
In Australia all schools are required to publish an annual report. Some schools invest time, creativity and resources into it. Others treat it as a compliance issue and keep to the essential requirements. On school websites I will often look at Annual Reports. Generally it’s only because the information is not conveniently displayed elsewhere. However I expect few current or prospective parents would eagerly anticipate the release of an annual report, display it on their coffee table or share it with friends.
Greg Pendlebury of Think-write Consulting www.thinkwrite.com.au suggests we ask evaluation questions when reviewing the effectiveness of our documents.
1. Did it achieve the outcome?
2. Has the behaviour or attitude of readers changed?'
The more common questions like 'Did we get it published on time and within budget?' are less useful.
When considering your school publications ask:
- Who is the audience?
- How much work is worth putting into this
- Can the information be displayed, or repeated, elsewhere to give it a wider audience?
Often stories in Year Books, and especially weekly newsletters, have quite a small and very time sensitive audience. Yet the same material sprinkled throughout a website or blogsite could be seen by prospective families years later.
1. Don’t waste good stories and news.
2. Don’t waste time and money on publications if people are not going to read, appreciate or make decisions based on them.
Video is a wonderful way of giving current and prospective parents and students an insiders view of your school. This promotional video was filmed by a student for Heritage Christian School. It’s relaxed style, clever use of words on screens and combination of student and staff emphasise the relational nature of the school without over promising anything. That is the beauty of letting people share their experience. It stops being selling and becomes a story – or as one staff member puts it –the school is a chapter in her life. John Clarke, Business Manager says “It’s great that the video demonstrates that our school is relational.”
School marketer David Orchard, from Canbury School in the UK responded to a recent article > Welcoming parents to school on wet days “Just wanted to say how important the idea of looking after parents and students in little ways is... A little thoughtfulness goes a very, very long way. I found this video from Toronto when I was looking for a photo of an umbrella."
The Centre for Marketing Schools offers a range of books by founder Dr Linda Vining. The 124 page Purple Power continues to be a valuable resource of ideas and examples. Chapter 30 is titled ‘Obstacles to School Marketing’ and identifies staff resistance as the most common issue faced by school marketers. Is that your experience?
“What marks Linda’s approach to school marketing is her hands-on, practical focus on the subject. This is why her books and courses prove to be so popular with educators. And which is why Purple Power is an interactive book full of reader activities, top tips and a wealth of practical advice, strategies and inspiration.
If yours is a market-oriented school – as it will need to be in today’s fiercely competitive educational environment – then you’ll need a copy of Purple Power.”
Using a graphic in an email footer can be a simple way to carry branding and consistent messages to your community. Paula Price, Director of Community Relations at Trinity Lutheran College includes this graphic in their emails. The tagline “Excellence in Education. Love for Humanity” is reinforced with a photo of boys and girls of various ages and a call to action to “Click here to enrol”
Some tips for email graphics:
• Keep the file size small. Your IT Managers will be happier with server storage space
• Ensure your contact details are text. Many people copy and paste details which is not possible from a graphic.
• Understand that an increasing number of people probably won’t see your graphic as have set email or smart devices to ignore pictures. Therefore repeat essential information – like a school name
• Some emails will move the graphic as an attachment so it loses some of the context.
On their facebook page St John’s Regional College posted in March “Today is Harmony Day and the College is celebrating the students, teachers and families in our College Community that are from all over the world. At St John's, Everyone Belongs.”
With the text was a photo of their LED school sign stating “85 nationalities. We are the World in a School.” The Catholic school is located in Dandenong Victoria. This is a growth area attractive to many migrants. The demographics of schools in the area has changed significantly over recent years. With over 1,100 students 42% have a language background other than English.
Some schools may choose to hide, or downplay their multi-cultural mix. Other schools highlight it. The challenge for school marketers is to understand the vision of their school, what it was that attracted their current school community, and the changing demographics of local populations. An Adventist Christian school’s vegetarian canteen menu attracted some Hindu families. Then the positive word of mouth promotion about the school within the Hindu community increased. This development was welcomed by some yet threatening to others in the current school community.
Our role is to help ensure prospective families see beyond the separate pieces like a canteen menu and embrace the bigger picture of what is on offer. Otherwise we may lose, or disappoint, these families further down the track when they realise what attracted them wasn’t central to your school’s vision.
What has been your experience? Stories can be treated with confidentiality if requested.
As Australia introduces a national, rather than state based, curriculum there are lots of changes. For some states this means Year 7 is being transferred from Junior to Secondary School for 2015. The implications of gaining, or losing, a whole year group is significant. This 7 minute video by Emmaus College is being used to help their current and prospective parents and students understand the transition. The combination of interviews with staff and students, while showcasing the facilities and reassuring parents of the pastoral care structure serves several purposes.
Last weekend I put on a funny gown with colourful stripes and an even funnier hat to walk across a stage. I shook two people’s handsand picked up a thin folder of relatively expensive documents. It was the final step in a Graduate Diploma of Education Secondary (Business Studies). It felt good to have completed it.
At the School Marketing Aforia in June David Rawlings will be helping delegates appreciate the strategic role social media can have in the marketing of your school. He will challenge us to look beyond the creative.
This video “Look UP” is thought provoking. It is also ironic that it was shared via facebook, and watched using YouTube. The popularity of this video demonstrates that a significant portion of your school community may not be as excited about the use of technology as you are. The video is a reminder that members of your school community will talk more about the EXPERIENCE of your school than its social media strategy. Let’s focus more on creating experiences than the insatiable desire to record and share it. It is important that school marketers don’t just add to the clutter.
Having said that however, many schools can utilise the opportunity of helping prospective families to see the type of experiences they are missing out on through social media. Sharing photos or videos can extend the life and memory of the experience.
Happy Mother’s Day, or is it “Mothers’ Day” or simply “Mothers Day” Wherever you choose to place, or not place, the apostrophe I hope the mothers among our subscribers feel appreciated.
On Friday at school we ran a Mother’s Day Family Breakfast for over 200 people. As each family entered the school Hall we asked if they wanted a family photo. A teacher, who has his own photography business, had set up a photo studio backdrop. Each family will receive the photo emailed to them as a gift.
A slideshow during the morning showed family photos taken at previous events. The combination of encouraging speakers, cooked breakfast, opening the event to whole families rather than just mum and kids, the ease of online ordering, providing large games plus colouring in on tables, and the family photos means it has become an increasingly popular event.
You can check out the family photos on the school blog at > Mothers Day family breakfast celebrates our community
In 2009 I attended the two day School Marketing Aforia in Adelaide. The format of being hosted by schools, hearing from a diverse range of practising school marketers and the generosity of sharing ideas all impressed me. It was also fun.
I took part in the next two events as a delegate before Dr Linda Vining invited us to buy the business. The Perth Aforia on 19-20 June will continue the culture of encouragement, discussion, show and tell real world examples and practical workshops. This is not a large scale conference of delegates sitting and listening. It is more intimate, practical and discussion based. Plus we will tour two delightful schools > Guildford Grammar School and > Lake Joondalup Baptist College.
Book your place at this two day gathering specifically for input into school marketers. > School Marketing Aforia – Perth 19-20 June 2014.
This year's topics and presenters include:
Social Media - David Rawlings is an online professional who has been on the web for 20 years and working with schools for 10. His book > 501 Great Social Media Ideas for Schools isn’t about embracing social media for social media’s sake. David’s Aforia session will dispel the concept that social media relies on creativity. Rather than wanting a YouTube clip that takes off like Old Spice, or a Facebook presence like Nike, David will look at the four areas in which schools can creatively harness social media that goes beyond the pretty, creative stuff and delivers results.
Working with Graphic Designers - Sandy Nelson, Director of Admissions and Marketing at Lowther Hall Anglican Grammar School will share her insights, experience and warnings of working with graphic designers. This is an important topic. School marketers may be shocked by what can happen when business relationships deteriorate.
Starting with WHY - Barrye Dickinson, Director of Marketing, The Knox School is a regular and popular Aforia presenter. He brings passion and practical experience and continual willingness to experiment. This year his session is titled “Starting with WHY” He asks “Do you know why your school exists? Are you telling your customers?” He believes the most successful companies don’t tell you what they are, they tell you why they’re doing it. Thinking in reverse could make your prospective parents see you in a different light.
Fundraising - Michelle Favero, Marketing and Communications Manager, will inspire us with Emanuel School’s Capital Appeal raising an amazing $7.5 million in four weeks!
Going Digital - Jessica Brinsdon, Communications Coordinator at Xavier College will be sharing her experience having led two schools through embracing the digital age in newsletters, websites and advertising.
Grant Birse, Director of Marketing, Communications & Enrolments from Pymble Ladies’ College was one of our hosts last year and the first to register for this event. He has a wealth of ideas to share. Plus Jan Garner, Executive Manager Enrolments & Promotions is one of our hosts at Lake Joondalup Baptist College.
Download the brochure, fill in the form and join the fun.
> School Marketing Aforia – Perth 19-20 June 2014
There are many funny videos online. The funniest often have an element of truth. This video is from a series on ‘Honest Advertising.’ It promotes a fictional University but asks questions on what a degree will actually cost you, and what it will give you. As school marketers we need to be aware of this cynicism. The popularity of this type of videos (over 5 million views) indicates that the message does resonate with viewers – even if meant as a joke.
A temptation we school marketers face is of using ‘Bait and Switch Advertising.’ We promote one thing but does our school actually deliver another? I will be addressing this topic at the School Marketing Aforia with some stories and ways to avoid it.
In an era of beautiful school buildings, wonderful and creative brochures and slick multi-media presentations the use of mud by schools is unusual. We suspect that is part of the novelty, and perhaps why the media picked up this story. The Trinity Christian School mud trek is a 13-obstacle course mud run. Before you dismiss the muddy concept as crazy consider this, “Last year, the muddy mayhem brought in $35,000 to $40,000 for the school”
Scotch College's website includes a video telling the personal story of a family emigrating from South Africa to Perth. The parents share the newspaper article which first prompted them to take a look at the school. Now years later as their son is school captain they are looking back on their experience.
The beauty of this video is that it is a story. A true story. It is not a 'sales' promotion. No staff are interviewed. This is a family, mum, dad and son talking from their 12 year experience, and it works.
Catholic schools in Hawaii have been introducing a contract for teaching staff to make their expectations of them clearer. This can be a contentious issue. Yet it is an important one for school marketers to consider. How we portray our school sets expectations for parents. Helping staff to understand any expectations BEFORE employment is vital.
"The church wants to be unambiguous about what the moral teachings are so those teachers can know what they're saying yes to when they say, 'I want to be a minister as a teacher in a Catholic school,'"
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.