My parents recently returned from a cruise. They asked to be picked up at 7am. Having had a previous experience I arrived on time but brought along a good book. I had plenty of time to read. They finally exited the terminal at 9am.
What happened? A lack of Australian customs staff meant long queues. In contrast there were too many parking attendants standing bored in the carpark. There were several helpful and smiling staff at the door of the terminal directing, and assisting, guests coming and going. The cruise liner staff did not cause the delay but the queues did form the final impression of the experience for guests. Unfortunately it wasn’t a positive one.
What could they have done differently? It made me consider some ideas for schools
Schools often celebrate times of student transitions with formal graduations, dinners, formal dances and speeches. However it is often simpler events which the students remember and look forward to. St Aidan's Anglican Girl's School have created a unique event at the graduation of the junior girls. A road physically divides the Junior and Secondary campuses. "Junior School students form a guard of honour to farewell the girls from the junior campus, the students pause in the middle and perform their warcry the 'Charma', then continue on through a welcoming guard of honour formed by the Senior School students on the other side of Ruthven Street."
Capturing and sharing these events via video give current and prospective parents and students an insight into important school traditions. It becomes part of the school's story the more often it is repeated.
Earlier this year I decided to attend the start of a school event and then go home. I wasn’t required to be there but decided it would be nice to meet new families. However what became my most important role was welcoming latecomers. For the 20 minutes after it started I would spot and then go out and meet parents as they crossed the quadrangle. In the 30 seconds as we walked together I welcomed them, thanked them for coming and gave them a quick overview of the main things that had already been covered. I then suggested where they may like to sit. In those 30 seconds you could see their tension ease, their smiles returned, they slowed their pace and were able to enter the meeting in a better frame of mind.
Yes, we would prefer people to arrive on time. Yet let’s be grateful that they came at all. When they knew they were going to be late they could have decided not to come, but they didn’t. Understand that parents are more likely to remember how they felt emotionally than anything that was said at these events. Respecting parents’ efforts, showing empathy and working to minimise any embarrassment conveys a message that they are important. You are not doing this to ‘market your school’ yet your proactive actions are far more likely to generate positive word of mouth referrals than multiple paid advertisements in a newspaper.
Interestingly, while we are on this subject, a UK school has reportedly been charging parents if their child is repeatedly late to lessons > School fining parents
What do you think?
Graham Lacey, Executive Principal at Southbank International School in United Kingdom wrote an insightful article for the Telegraph, > Parent power: choose the right independent school
"Ask to visit the school on a normal school day, and to see a taught class of your choice, not that of your tour guide. Observe the demeanour of the students and the teacher’s management of them. Is there a positive working atmosphere? Do the students appear engaged and interested in their work?"
"Ask to see the school during morning or lunch break, and stand in the corridor when students are due to return to class. Are the students and teachers punctual to their classes? And how ripe is the students’ language as they enter?"
Most schools have a crest or logo. Some are complicated. Others very basic. When I explained to a class of Year 9 students the meaning of their own school logo they were very surprised how much thought had gone into it. St Aidan's Anglican Girl's School created a video animation to help explain the various elements of their crest.
In his newly released book > 501 Great Social Media Ideas for Schools, David Rawlings offers this practical idea to engage an important segment of your school community – grandparents.
Many schools have Grandparents Day. Yet often grandparents are willing and available to have a higher level of involvement. David’s suggestion is:
“#249. Show what it’s like when grandparents volunteer at the school. Show them helping in class, listening to reading and the various other activities that they can assist with around the school. If you pursue this idea, one element to consider is to get one or two comments from children whose grandparents have been helping at the school. Apart from the cute factor of having a child talking about how much they love their grandparent and having them around their school, it is another way to showcase your school’s community and how you bridge the gap between the three generations of the families in your school.”
When visiting school websites we often play their videos. Three of the most common players are
- YouTube. Most popular
- Vimeo. Good platform. High quality. Less advertising.
- Quicktime. Older and less common format. Requires additional software and in my experience is the one most likely to crash.
Uploading videos to Facebook is increasingly common. This service is improving but I feel lacks some important features. The advantage is that so many people use facebook and their comments and likes all appear. Another service to consider is Wisteria http://wistia.com/. It has some wonderful features, very clever analytics, and varying levels of customisation. It is only free for the first 3 videos and then goes to a monthly charge.
YouTube has several benefits which is why it is the service I recommend for schools:
• Viewers are familiar with both watching and sharing YouTube videos.
• YouTube is free for both viewer and user. There are more advertisements but I accept that is how they make it a business.
• It is the second largest internet search engine. This means your videos can be found by searches rather than only relying on people finding your website.
• YouTube is owned by Google. It is often easier to rank well with a video than with other organic Search Engine Optimisation.
• It provides easy html code to embed videos in your own school website or share links via social media.
• If YouTube freezes, goes slow, or has an error the viewer doesn’t blame the school.
• It offers enough built in analytics for most users.
• The integration of YouTube and Google+ means comments can reach a larger audience.
Helping schools manage and make the most of YouTube will be an important topic at this year’s School Marketing Aforia.
Register your place this week > School Marketing Aforia Perth 19-20 June 2014
Greg Pendlebury of Think-write Consulting (www.thinkwrite.com.au) offers this practical advice.
People tend to read all the way to the full stop before pausing to absorb what they have read. Long sentences with multiple ideas put a strain on their memories. The words "and", "but", "because", "if', "or", "unless" are often good places to break a sentences.
Our local paper ran a lovely article about how a government school was using their prominent signboard. Journalist Kat Adamski reported “The messages are changed on a weekly basis and the message last week read, “The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see”.
Updating and changing signs does require time and thought. Most schools use signage to sell themselves, promote an event or simply say ‘we are here’. Changeable signs give you an opportunity to tell snippets of an ongoing story, share what your school believes is important, or just make people smile. We would love to hear and see examples of what you are doing.
Read the article at: > Brookvale Public School inspires people to count their blessings
"For many years we have had an "Every Day is Open Day" policy as we believe it is important for prospective families to experience a school in action. They can get a 'feel' for the school, ask on the spot questions and get immediate answers from staff and pupils. They can then decide if this is the place they want their child to be. Schools are about people, not buildings. This approach has definitely worked for us.
As a school with day schooling and boarding facilities we also offer a Boarding Experience Weekend for prospective boarders. This too has proved beneficial."
Naturally one of the big topics at this year’s Two Day > School Marketing Aforia in Perth will be the topic of Social Media in Schools. As schools are social organisations I am a great believer in schools being proactively engaged in connecting with their community. Social Media can help.
Yet as we all know there are downsides. In his newly released book > 501 Great Social Media Ideas for Schools, David Rawlings makes the following refreshing statement.
“One of the more common reasons I hear from schools about why they have embraced social media is that somebody in a senior position went to a conference and was told by a presenter that social media was the way of the future. They’re told about the ‘next big thing’ and they need to get on board.
Schools … start off with a blaze of glory only to find their contributions to social media fizzle out in no time. The challenge to get the most of our social media is not to use the biggest of most popular, it’s to use the one your audience uses and respects and the one you can maintain.”
Naturally with a newsletter going to over 1,000 subscribers it generates quite a few automatic replies. Many school marketers are part time roles and juggle other demands. An automatic reply can help set realistic expectations, and explain why you are not responding immediately. Yet they also convey a message and often an attitude. Here is one we received …
I am unavailable from Wednesday to Friday of each week.
I am unavailable from Month Date through to Month Date due to extended sick leave.
I will attend to my emails when I return to the office.
If required, please contact the Office on PHONE # to speak to the most appropriate person for your query or contact …
Thank you for your understanding.
Suburb State Postcode
Thank you for your email.
I am in the school office, and checking my emails, on Monday and Tuesday each week.
However I will be taking some sick leave from Day Month Date and return on Day Month Date.
Once I am back at my desk I will respond to your email.
If you do need a quicker response could you please contact the School Office on PHONE # or by email X@X
Thank you for your understanding.
Some school traditions are important. Others are questionable. Students at St Aidan's Anglican Girl's School decided it was time for change. "Previous years had celebrated their final day by throwing their left shoe into the Brisbane River. It was thought the tradition came about with students throwing their left shoe as a symbol of no longer needing their 'faithful brown shoes' but keeping their right to represent the link they would always have with their old school. Class of 2013 thought it was time to break this tradition and donate the shoes to charity Soles4Souls, which distributes the shoes to people in need of footwear in more than 125 countries."
When stopping a school tradition it can be important to replace it with another. Adding a story around the change helps people understand both the old and the new.
This change was reported by the local media > Congratulations to the Class of 2013 on finishing school
School tours or Open Days can provide a very sanitised or artificial impression of your school. Many schools instead offer prospective students a “Try Us” for a day. This is a way of letting students, and their families, make more educated decisions on a school. Students are allocated a buddy and attend normal classes to experience first-hand a real day of school.
Belgrave Heights Christian School took this concept to a whole new level. In 2007 they were a small but growing school, with room for many more students. While trying to grow their school, they provided an obligation free trial. This ‘Come and Try’ Promotion was the idea of the Principal, Mr Andy Callow.
For $500 a family received textbooks, uniforms, bus service (if seats were available) and all other school related costs for Terms 3 and 4. The promotion was released for families who visited leading up to and during Open Day, which is held in mid Term 2. This extended trial lowered the barrier to entry for curious parents and had a very high conversion rate to full time enrolment. BHCS believed their school had unique qualities that families would love once immersed in the community. It was also a big help financially as the promotion boosted census funding, future student numbers, promoted a growth culture and filled classes and busses which were already running. BHCS has continued to grow in numbers and facilities and is now at capacity.
In 1:43 minutes a Principal’s video welcome by Pymble Ladies’ College covers academic results from the past year, introduction of some staff, a welcome to a social event, reminders of the school newsletter, facebook and app. Importantly the video provides a human face, and voice, to the school.
Setting up your facebook page, and feeding it, can take some time and planning. Knowing how big to make images can help. Thanks to Brendan Schneider for sharing this link > Facebook image Size Cheat Sheet
Keep sharing your news and stories. We look forward to seeing school marketers in June. The Early Bird rate for the two day School Marketing Aforia closes on 28 February 2014.> School Marketing Aforia 19-20 June 2014 Perth
What new ideas have you considered in school marketing? What training are you going to take? What resources, conferences or people do you need to take or meet to progress to the next step?
With more schools engaging in the use of video for school marketing here are some tips.
- Make it emotional
- Kid proof your message (can a six year old understand it?)
- Instruct action (what should they do next?)
- Pick one message and stick with it
To expand on each of these points check out > PR Web The Connection
If your school has created a promotional video enter it in the > School Marketing Awards 2014
Deidré Proxenos, Director of Marketing and Foundation at Dainfern College, Johannesburg, South Africa is the most regular correspondent in the network of school marketers. When asked why she makes the effort to show appreciation she shared this story.
“I learnt this at one job where my boss thanked me ALL the time and one day when I asked him why he did it - he said that there was a lot that he noticed but there was so much that he didn't notice that I did and yet everything just kept running smoothly - so he wanted me to know that he REALLY did appreciate all that I did.
It made a huge difference to me and now I try and do this as much as possible - even with people I do not know - e.g. someone sending me accounts from the doctor or something small I notice in a restaurant - I make a point of writing and saying thank you or of making a comment about it in person - it is also wonderful the response you get most of the time.
I also understand that putting your newsletter together does not just happen - it is intentional, time consuming and hard work. I certainly feel inspired every week as I read it - so THANK YOU.”
How differently would your school staff, parents and students treat each other if gratitude was the culture? It can start with you.
The Archdiocese Chicago Catholic Schools asks visitors to their website to consider three important questions:
1. What do you want your child to believe?
2. What do you want your child to focus on?
3. What do you want your child to learn?
Importantly they do not ask “What job do you want your child to have after school?”
Their promotional video is effective in that it only features parents. It is promoting a group of schools so does not mention any of them by name. As school marketers we need to recognise that parents believe parents more than those who are paid to speak well of our school. Parent testimonials, language, values, questions and answers tend to have a greater impact as they are authentic. It is also hard to argue with parents personal experiences.
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.