Past Newsletters

Issue 687 - 30-apr-2017

Would your school survive a court decision?

Who is allowed to attend your school and how are they funded? A Court of Queen's Bench judge “issued the ruling that after the next school year, non-Catholic students won't be able to attend Catholic schools in Saskatchewan (Canada). So as of June 30, 2018, Saskatchewan school children who are not Catholic will have to attend public schools.” The court ruling “calls for the end of public funding for non-Catholic students who attend separate schools."

The Court ruling “could force thousands of Sask. students from Catholic schools” and "the public school system would have "an incredibly difficult time" managing the influx of students."

In marketing our schools we often assume a stable continuation of the current systems. However rules change, new schools start, existing schools close, a scandal can tarnish a school’s reputation. As marketers we need to plan for the future with flexibility.

Australian readers from independent and Catholic schools should be aware of the impact on our school funding from the Catholic School's strike in Goulburn in 1962. Have a read of "A 'strike' changed it all"

Court ruling could force thousands of Sask. students from Catholic schools, education minister says
Expert predicts 'significant change' in Sask. Catholic school system if court ruling stands

Issue 686 - 9-apr-2017

Is your school prepared for media attention?

When 40, of the nearly 400 students, at Lee Christian School in North Carolina caught the flu the school realised they needed to act. They sent a text to all parents advising them that the school would be closed for the next two days. Specialised cleaners were called in to the school in a proactive attempt to stop the potential of a further outbreak. 

The decision was reported in local media including sending out a TV news crew. The news team reported on a single red piece of paper signage and interviewed some students.

While the school’s response was overall seen as a positive one consider:
  • Text messages may be seen on news reports – take care with grammar and tone.
  • The sign you quickly pop on the door could become the centre of a news report – take care.
  • In the absence of school staff reporters will interview anyone. 
  • Media attention may not be in response to your beautifully crafted press release but rather news you don’t have any control over.
It is a good reminder to ask whether students, and staff, know who to direct journalists to.

Source > Sandford School Forced to Close by Flu

Issue 686 - 9-apr-2017

Provide more than enough reasons for families to consider your school

How many reasons do you provide to prospective families to enrol at your school? Lindfield Christian School in USA has created a page of their website listing 101 Reasons – By combining slide over photos, text and links to more details, including some videos, it provides a wonderful series of snapshots into the school.

So as not to overwhelm visitors with 101 reasons you can also narrow categories by areas of interest - “Academics / High School / Elementary School / Athletics / Student Life / Fine Arts / Middle School / Faith.” Naturally, several of the 101 reasons appear in multiple categories.

One reason is the school’s > Great Race “a spirited class competition during Homecoming week that requires students to band together to complete a variety of physical and mental challenges. Dressed head to toe in their class colors, they compete in games of Blind Volleyball, Dodgeball, Academic Bowl, Can-Can, and Tug-of-War before participating in a sprawling race across the high school campus”. 


See also > 2015 Great Race 

Issue 685 - 26-mar-2017

Video helps people know what to expect from your school

When prospective parents and students are considering schools they will: 

  • Ask friends for recommendations
  • Search online
While a positive personal recommendation from a known and trusted people is the most effective promotion of your school it can give a narrow view. School websites, especially when using video, can open the window further. Thomas Hassall Anglican College and The Hills Grammar School have both worked with Daniel Sieff and his video company Revery.
The day in the life of The Hills Grammar School reveals a great deal about the school. One of the things I liked about this video was the inclusion of the maintenance people blowing leaves and setting up chairs. It can be the inclusion of these extra human elements, which are often left out, which says something about a school culture. There is also a clever way of marking the passing of time from each period in the school day.

A day in the life of a school from REVERY on Vimeo.

Issue 685 - 26-mar-2017

Google Alerts is a helpful tool for school marketers

Schools find themselves being reported on in the media for all sorts of reasons. It helps to be aware of it early. Using Google Alerts each week I receive notifications for a variety of keywords and phrases. 

The three basic ones I would encourage you to set up are:
  • Name of your school
  • Name of your Principal
  • Suburb
You may also like to set up ones for local competitor schools. Things like your suburb you may like to only receive weekly rather than daily. I am currently receiving daily alerts for the name of a high profile parent in case they mention their children or school.

The challenges with Alerts can be:
  • Other schools, Principals and suburbs with the same name around the world can also appear in your alerts. 
  • The sheer volume of some words and phrases means you receive more emails than is helpful or the alerts don’t feature what is actually relevant to you.
Encourage your staff to be your eyes and ears in local media. It is better to have several staff mention an article than for all of them to assume someone else brought it to your attention. This is especially important if you don't live in the local area of your school.

Another paid tool is > Mention 

Issue 685 - 26-mar-2017

Simple school sign receives global media attention

At the entrances to St Joseph’s RC Primary School, in Middlesbrough UK are signs “Greet your child with a smile, not a mobile”.  

These simple signs reflect the school culture and are an encouragement that communication matters. The positive media attention would be worth more than any school could pay for.

Have you taken a look at the signs around your school lately? What do they communicate about your school to staff, parents, students and visitors? 
  • Is the tone harsh, informative or friendly?
  • How clean are they?
  • Are they legible?
  • Are there spelling mistakes or grammatical errors? 
  • Are they consistent with colours and school branding?
During a visit with a Principal I pointed out a small sign at a school entrance which misspelt the school name. The sign had been made by a contractor but no one had noticed the error.

I find the biggest challenge is not with signs that go through the marketing staff but rather the enthusiastic staff member making Workplace Health and Safety, or event signage, with no regard to consistency or who still think clip art is wonderful.

You may be surprised how many signs there are at your school so take a walk with a camera and record them. A handy tool for schools is the > School Appearance Audit which guides you through some things to look for.

Source: UK school puts up signs to parents: ‘Greet your child with a smile, not a mobile’  

Issue 684 - 19-mar-2017

Movie night for Christian school’s documentary

“You’ve seen the book, now come and see the movie” is how Belgrave Heights Christian School’s promoted their “Heights of Hope” hour long documentary. While gathering short stories for the printed Heights of Hope book of stories the school also interviewed several people. The school booked a local theatre and invited the school community, past and current, to attend. With tickets being only $5, including refreshments, it was a good way to regather and connect the community.

See the movie at > Heights of Hope - Documentary

Heights of Hope - Documentary from Belgrave Heights CS on Vimeo.

Issue 684 - 19-mar-2017

Monthly video release builds interest for school centenary

Regina Blackburn, Marketing Coordinator at The Cathedral School Townsville has produced a 100th anniversary commemorative book. The history includes stories of being an all girls school, to being evacuated to a small inland town during WWII, to the Sister departing in the late 1970s and becoming co-educational.

One of the biggest Centenary projects for Regina has been a series of past student video stories. One video has been released each month since the 99th Foundation Day in July 2016. Each three to four minute video covers a different era. The last one will be released on the school’s 100th Foundation Day. “It’s been a great way to showcase the history of the school but in a personal way as we are sharing the personal stories and memories from past students. There will be 13 stories in the series.”

The first video released in July 2016 was of Mother Eunice, who was the only non-past student interviewed. Mother Eunice is the only remaining Sister from the time the School was run by the Sisters from the Society of the Sacred Advent so it was an important story to share. 

Enjoy exploring the stories at: Centenary Stories. The videos have also been released on facebook with one being viewed over 12,000 times.

Issue 683 - 12-mar-2017

Publish your school’s history with short stories

Sarah Kelly, Events and Promotions Coordinator at Belgrave Heights Christian School sent me a gift this week of a copy of “Heights of Hope.” It was a wonderful read. Rather than attempting to tell a whole story of the school’s history the book contains 85 double page spreads of short stories with corresponding photos. 

Each author is identified with their role or length of time at the school. Students, parents and staff – past and current are included. I felt that the diversity of voices, stories and new and old material gave the book appeal to a wide audience. It also left the reader with a sense that the stories are continuing. Kelly explained “It’s been such a fun and challenging project to share some of the school history with the aim to also share our unique culture.” The book is not a dry or formal historical document. It makes you laugh, cry and imagine. 

The book was presented to current families late last year. All alumni who come in to collect a book also receive a voucher for the Tree Tops Café. The book is being given to new families to “help give them a context and see where they fit.”

Andy Callow, the Principal says “this small book is a collection of stories where the common thread is a school community whose very existence itself is a story worth telling.”

Well done Kelly and team. Thanks for sharing your story. 

Issue 683 - 12-mar-2017

School Open Day tips and ideas

Most families will look at several schools to reassure themselves they are making an informed decision. It is important, as school marketers, to remain aware of what options your parents have as they compare and choose schools. St Augustine’s College Sydney  had an extensive advertising campaign in local media leading up to their Open Night. The series of advertisements, each with different photos, gave an insight into their updated facilities. The event was well attended.

Some things which impressed me
  • Balloons and signage on the local main road acted as a prompt for directions
  • A staff member greeted visitors at the gate, handed out a map and explained where to go
  • Free gelato and sausage sizzle stalls
  • All, or many, of the staff were there from 3.45pm to 7.00pm with clear name badges
  • Many of the 1,300 boys were there – well presented in uniform
  • Boys were doing science experiments or working with clay and talked with visitors
  • Student bands played in the quadrangle
  • Students were doing sport training on the field
  • Large pot plants were strategically placed to block off some areas to visitors
  • While the Principal spoke a slideshow of images scrolled through behind him
  • A student spoke to the audience in both sessions
  • Students took visitors on tours in small groups

One of the challenges is that the school is in a residential area and fills the site. Parking is limited. The school asked that senior students use other forms of transport to school that day as one way of freeing up some additional street parking for visitors.

Issue 682 - 5-mar-2017

Producing a commemorative book for your school anniversary

In 2016 Rehoboth Christian College in Western Australia celebrated its 50th birthday with several events. The school first opened its doors on 14 February 1966. This was also the day decimal currency was introduced to Australia. On 14 February this year the College launched a beautifully presented 132 page book of stories, photos and memories called "Seed Nurture Flourish."

A complimentary copy was provided to each family of the over 600 children enrolled, plus current staff, Association members, and anyone who attended the 50th dinner. With only 1,000 copies produced past students and staff members could order a copy at the heavily subsidised price of $40.

Seth Merlo, Projects Officer explained “the mandate was that it be a high quality, coffee table style book that was visually rich and very different from our yearbooks in terms of look and feel.”

The response has been tremendous, with people expressing how overwhelmed they are with the quality of the book and proud that humble little Rehoboth has grown so much that we are now able to pull something like this off.  Inside there is a "visual timeline" of concerts, graduations, sports, and camps that folds out to 4 pages in the centre of the book. Archived videos of concerts, openings and other events are accessible via QR codes.

“Rather than tell a dry blow-by-blow history, we also wanted the tone of the book to be very community-focus - to tell our story with many voices. Our anniversary theme was "Seed Nurture Flourish" - so the book is divided into three corresponding parts. Seed tells the early days, before the opening of the school, while Nurture tells the five-decade story in five chapters and Flourish covers the anniversary year and a look forward. Each chapter was written by different members of the school community, with many little side stories included throughout from past and current students and staff.”

With many more stories to share the College created an anniversary website

To help build interest and increase appreciation for the quality of the publication a series of videos were published via Facebook giving a look behind the scenes into the printing process. Click on links to watch each video.
1. Producing the Slipcase
2. The Print Process
3. Binding, Covers and Final Product
4. Launch Day

Congratulations Rehoboth and thanks Seth for sharing with us some of the journey.

Issue 682 - 5-mar-2017

Can you make people laugh with your school marketing?

Sometimes an effective advertisement is simply one that makes you smile while it reveals a problem and provides a solution. I laughed at this advertisement by School Stream who help many schools in Australia and New Zealand with communication to parents. 

Many schools have a "Doris" and all of our schools will have a Mandy, Sarah and Brad. Have any schools used this humorous style of video for their own promotions?

Issue 681 - 19-feb-2017

Cluedo mystery activity adds some fun to School’s Annual Gala Dinner

The Community Christian School in Baraboo USA decided to introduce a “live action, Clue-themed mystery contest” during its annual gala. The competition resembled the classic board game Cluedo with a few minor twists. Rather than solve a murder participants were asked to locate one of the teachers. 

Actors played Colonel Mustard, Mrs. Peacock and a handful of other characters as they wandered various rooms at the function and waited to be asked questions about the teacher’s whereabouts.

Activities like these provide another topic of conversation before, during and after the event. It also helped them gain some media attention as it made an otherwise possibly predictable gala dinner newsworthy. What have you done to make an event newsworthy?

Source: Baraboo Christian school hosts Clue mystery contest 

Issue 681 - 19-feb-2017

Can you describe your school in one word?

This is a simple project. Set up a video camera. Ask students individually or in pairs to take a seat. Then ask them a few questions. Edit it together and you will have a unique window into your school community. 

Wenona School has done this beautifully. This video has a natural conversational feel to it. Hearing what students say about your school can be much more effective than the Principal or School Tour leader saying the same thing because it is perceived as more authentic.

Issue 681 - 19-feb-2017

How does your school respond to helicopter parents?

Last year Catholic High School in Little Rock, Arkansas generated a great deal of online discussion, debate, support and dismay over a sign in their Front Office. The sign said 

 "If you are dropping off your son's lunch, books, homework, equipment etc, please TURN AROUND and exit the building. Your son will learn to problem-solve in your absence."

The sign wasn’t in response to annoyed Front Office staff being overworked and distracted.  Rather the “all-boys private school in Little Rock has long had a rule barring parents from coming to the school to drop things off - such as forgotten lunches, assignments and sports equipment - for their children, but parents occasionally forgot about it and had to be turned away at the front door.”

Now that the media response has quietened down I wonder if your school executive had any response? My office at a Preschool to Year 12 school is near the front office so I often hear parents dropping off forgotten items. However this school has a policy of encouraging, expecting and wanting parents to be involved and in partnership with the school. The discussion over this sign did however mean we decided for now not to introduce a clever system which would have sent text messages directly to a parent when an item was placed in lost property.

Source: Arkansas school puts helicopter parents on notice

Issue 680 - 12-feb-2017

Fly kites to attract visitors to your school

Imagine hosting an event at school which attracted 15,000 visitors plus an additional 4,000 local students. The Aga Khan Academy  in India hosted a three day kite flying event with the help of 250 volunteers. 

“Twenty-seven international kite clubs from 17 countries participated in the event. A regional food fair, a two-day Telangana cultural program and crafts stalls provided the backdrop to stunning giant kite displays over the Academy grounds.”

Other schools have Christmas light displays, fetes, run runs or cultural festivals. What has your school done to bring the local, or wider, community onto your campus?

More details: KITE 2017 flies to new heights 

Issue 680 - 12-feb-2015

School promotional video in dual languages

When your school community speaks two languages which one do you use in your promotion in? The Aga Khan Academy in Maputo India decided both. While this situation doesn’t face most schools I found it interesting how, even when the video switches from English to Portuguese, there is enough activity happening to keep a non-Portuguese language person engaged. 

The other beautiful aspect of the video is that the children are taking the viewer on the tour and doing the narration. 

Do you have any other examples of dual language school promotions?

Issue 679 - 5-feb-2017

The importance of photos in celebrating the start of school

This week in Sydney we welcomed new students and families to Kindergarten.  A professional photographer from our community takes family photos. Each year we then gather the classes for their First Day photo. However this photo includes anyone who has come to be a part of the morning. The mums, dads, grandparents and siblings all join in around the new students. It is a visual representation that this is a joint team effort rather than the more traditional students and teacher posed photo.

Parents are then encouraged to join us for a morning tea. This helps them linger at school yet away from the classroom where they may be tempted to watch through the windows. The morning tea is an opportunity to meet others and share stories.

By the end of the day at pickup time we have printed a simple folded card with the group photos, some family photos, plus some from inside the classroom showing first day activities. A printed copy is given to each family as a memento of the occasion. The card includes a specific URL on the school website where these, and more photos of the day, can be found. This URL also shows parents where they will find more photos and stories documenting their own child's journey over the next 13 years.

Issue 679 - 5-feb-2017

Tough times reveal the heart of your school community

When Principal Dr Scott of Wenona, a private girls school in Sydney was facing a cancer diagnosis and treatments her students created a video to encourage her to be Brave.  The video reveals a great deal about the school's sense of community, their respect for Dr Scott and obviously with over 20,000 views was watched my more than just her. 

This is not a traditional school marketing video. While it is beautifully executed, it is the story, and what it reveals, that says a lot more than any "marketing" piece could. 

How has your school communicated when sharing tough news and situations?  

Issue 678 - 18-dec-2016

School Christmas carols prove simple is popular to share

St Cyres School in Wales shared their Christmas celebrations by filming students singing a Christmas carol. However it wasn't their own students singing. Instead they went to several local primary schools and filmed them. By combining several different groups and weaving into a single production they maximised the number of people involved and therefore likely to watch and share it. With a combined audience already over 24,000 views the videos have proven popular. As a secondary school this is a very clever, and low cost way, of connecting with local feeder schools.

Enjoy these videos from 2013, 2015 and 2016 and consider if you can do something similar for Christmas 2017.