Sydney Morning Herald Journalist Cosima Marriner believes "The boundaries between school and home are dissolving at some of Sydney's top private schools, as students stay on campus until mid-evening when their parents collect them…. Students remain at school after the bell to do their extra-curricular activities, complete their homework supervised by teachers, eat afternoon tea and dinner, and have a shower before being picked up by their parents at 8pm or later."
At the end of last year a Victorian journalist, Timna Jacks, contacted me for an article VCE results day: top schools and unis spend big on marketing. I was mentioned as offering diplomas in school marketing and being one of the only people in the country offering training in the niche, albeit growing industry. The main part of the story however was the marketing campaign by Deakin University in videoing students as they received their ATAR (Australia’s final University entrance scores). The university hired the main cricket ground in the city of Melbourne. "The aim was to release the video on social media and make it go viral - an $80,000 project which involved two film companies and hiring out the stadium for half a day."The video has generated over 30,000 views on the Age newspaper’s website, another 60,000 on YouTube, and an amazing 490,000 views on the University’s facebook page. When you consider these numbers the $80,000 investment compares very well with other forms of marketing.
For many parents what happens at school is largely a mystery. They may see and help with homework and assignments, watch performances, come to parent teacher interviews and enjoy some parent social gatherings yet actually experience little of school.
As we celebrate Christmas this year I have chosen to share a video made by a Malaysian petrol company. The video has nothing to do with petrol and even uses subtitles. It is however a very good story - and I believe one relevant to education and what we may define, and promote, as models of success for our students.
It is also an interesting way for a company to promote themselves simply by engaging with an audience and creating something we are likely to share with others. Enjoy.
With the school year finishing up in Australia have you considered how to record and share the first day of 2016 with your community? Harlem Village Academies did a short video, added a sound track, and included a few sound bites of children but most importantly included LOTS of children's faces. It is a simple model to copy. New families are usually the biggest talkers about your school. What they experience in their first few days can reassure them they have made a good choice. Enjoy the video.
I recently attended a school fair. It was advertised in the local community paper. There were banners outside the school and elsewhere in the area promoting the event. There were a lot of cars and quite a few people there in spite of the wet weather. There were games, stalls, food and music.
Is there a clear theme to your school marketing? Schools appeal to different families for different reasons yet having multiple messages can be confusing in promotion. The International School of Brussels have a series of advertisements at the Brussels Airport. One advertisement, posted on facebook by David Willows Director of Admissions and Advancement, is quite unusual with a series of computer coding behind a student. It is not your usual advertisement which is in itself part of the message. The core theme is ‘innovation’ and it carries through to their website. ISB use a consistent variation of taglines ending with “Innovate” such as the advert shown below “Code Create Innovate.” Another at the airport uses “make, create, innovate.” By using a specific landing page www.isb.be/innovate it is easier to reinforce the theme of the advertisements without changing the whole website.
Innovation is a way of thinking that seeks, through the use of a set of core skills and dispositions, to create new or improved solutions to challenges that face us in our daily and future lives. The words innovation and creativity are, in many instances, interchangeable. The innovator strives to bring about significant change in positive ways, with the intent of bringing about an improved outcome for the general good.
Innovation is less about the tools and technologies of the 21st century, but more, as author George Couros contends, “about how we use those things.” We need to prepare our students for a rapidly changing world and to empower them to understand the potential they have as innovators themselves. At The International School of Brussels we are committed to developing the following skills and character dispositions and providing our students with the opportunities to apply these in authentic learning situations.
Jacob Lowry, Community Relations Officer at Emmaus College Rockhampton shared with me a Facebook post made on the last day for Year 12s in Queensland before their final exams. Their Assistant Principal Missions sings and prays for the students. Jacob explained “As you can see, the post was received very well with over 300 likes and a reach of nearly 8,500. Not only were many of the interactions from current and prospective parents but there was also a huge response from alumni, as far back as 1988 who remember John doing the same thing for them.”
I agree with Jacob when he says “these quirky little traditions can grow into firm rites of passage for students and something that staff and students alike can look forward to at the end of the year.”
Marion Walker-Campbell, Assistant Director of Enrolments & Publications at Townsville Grammar School shared three of the billboards they have created to promote the school. The latest Christmas Campaign is displayed on a billboard on the highway. The message is simple “The greatest gift… a grammar education.” With an 1800 phone number it is a message that can be read quickly. As the school is 127 years old there is not the same need to educate the audience about the location.
Another of their billboards is in the airport. Over the years I have noted several school advertisements in airports around the county. A third billboard promotes their new campus. The “1800 GRAMMAR” telephone number repeated on each billboard is a simple and memorable call to action.
One highlight of each year’s School Marketing Aforia is when host schools have their students present a musical item. Finding, and creating, opportunities to showcase students’ work beyond your own school community can also be a very effective form of school marketing. I don’t believe it should be the motivation for you or your school but it can certainly be the result if done well.
Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis Tennessee recently entered students in an “All-School A Cappella Challenge” run by Macy’s stores and won $25,000. “The young singers beat out high school a cappella groups from around the country with their video of “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5.”
Bree Haynes, Manager Marketing and Communications at Ormiston College shared a great initiative which reflects very well on the college and generated positive word of mouth.
“Absolutely great to see the respect that is being taught to our children in this anniversary year of the Anzacs which carried through to the speech night yesterday for our graduating year 12's!”"It was a truly beautiful and moving service. The poem about the Poppies moved me to tears. Well done to the MOCCHA Club, OC staff, students and wider OC community, you should all be very proud.""What a beautiful tribute, thanks you from a mum of a young returned soldier."
In Australia, on the first Tuesday of November, a single horse race generates an enormous amount of media attention. To celebrate the race that stops the nation, Townsville Grammar School’s younger students participated in the annual Pre-Prep Paper Horse Race. It is a day in their calendar that the whole Junior School look forward to, as they too can feel as if they can take part in the Melbourne Cup festivities. The enthusiastic four year olds wear their handcrafted paper horse hats and run 100m on the School Oval, while some other members of the School attend the ‘race’ and cheer on the horses in their big day. Great fun and the activity was reported on by the local TV news media.
What message can you say on a billboard to promote your school? It partly depends on the location. If it will only be seen from cars travelling at speed then a very short message and impression is essential. If there is slow traffic, or people on foot, the message can be a bit longer. At my local suburban shopping centre there are now five schools advertising. These schools are located four to eleven kilometres from the centre. Two use only a single photo while the others have multiple photos. Read the messages and click on the image to open the photo gallery.
The university campus where I did my first degree is closing down. I returned to say goodbye and relive some memories. I really liked one of the mementos they had to remember the campus by. While the university campus was known for its architecture, bush setting and naturally the academic subjects the most distinctive feature joked about by students was the carpet. There was kilometres of bright green carpet. It was everywhere. The memento they created was drink coasters of carpet squares. There is no branding but it simply creates a fun talking point.
In my experience schools produce a lot of written material with letters, forms, newsletters etc. This is fine for parents who like to absorb information that way. Yet as we now attempt to differentiate for learning styles in the classroom the same is required for communication with parents. Nobody expects a letter or school newsletter to ‘go viral.’ Yet with video we often assume that more views means the more successful it has been. I was impressed with Girls Preparatory School Chattanooga TN USA use of videos to do what most schools do with letters.
When prospective parents explore your school website one of the most read, or downloaded, documents will be your school fees. Most schools display their fees and in Australia as we head towards the end of the year many schools will be announcing the fees for 2016. This announcement and document should, I believe, involve School Marketers. I have seen schools with a great website, prospectus and video yet the fee page and document is unprofessional and difficult to calculate and read. Here are some tips.
Attracting quality applications for teaching roles is important. Sometimes it is based on your school’s location. For others it is your reputation. Harlem Village Academies created a video Why teach with us? to help explain to prospective teachers what attitudes they are looking for. “If you are passionate about education and social justice, join our team of teachers and leaders serving Harlem's children.” The video includes Hugh Jackman as well as TV news interviews with their passionate leader.
Reece Cummings, Communications & Marketing Manager at Canberra Grammar School shared a press release with us of a major change for their school. A decision, for what is considered a ‘boys’ school, to become co-educational is not something to be rushed. The school chose to announce the decision at the same time as relaunching their website www.cgs.act.edu.au. If you know news will drive people to your website it is best to be well prepared for it.
"CGS will not be a boys school with some girls, but a School where boys and girls can learn and flourish together in an environment where they are equal citizens, each valued for their talents, personality and qualities that he or she bring to the School."
"We are delighted by this development, which builds on forty years of co-education in our early Primary School."
"This has not been a decision taken lightly nor rapidly, nor will the transition happen all at once; indeed, its pace will in part be determined by community demand and by our desire that no boy currently waiting for a place be disadvantaged."
"We know, therefore, that this decision will be welcomed by many; indeed we know that many parents have called for it for years, or, in frustration, have chosen other schools instead of ours. We recognise, too, however, that for some this is not the choice that they made in joining the School nor will it seem a reflection of the School’s predominantly masculine history and traditions. We respect that and have not rushed towards this change, which will be introduced over a number of years. Ultimately, however, we know that this step is in the interests of our students. It will provide them with an education that best prepares them for their future in the modern world. It is also essential for the School’s on-going capacity to flourish."
"There are far greater differences in learning styles within each gender group than there are between the two."
Your recruitment advertisements for teachers, administration support and other staff offer a window into your school community. Take a look at your job advertisements. Do they reflect your school well?
Breaking away from how we do schools is challenging. A recent article Mark Zuckerberg invests in the future of schools tells the story of AltSchool. It is a deliberately alternative school which celebrates its differences rather than trying to be the same as other schools. It is a bold strategy which will attract one niche segment of the community while repelling others.
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 Pierson.
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