How easy does your school make it for your school community, who experience or witness bullying, to raise their concerns? Ellenbrook Christian College chose to include a “Say NO to Bullying” icon on their home page which links to an email address. It is a visible and practical way of the school demonstrating that bullying is not tolerated.
A UK newspaper raised the issue of increasing litigation by parents who believe their children’s school has failed to deliver what they paid for. The challenge it raises was to identify these parents before enrolment > Powerful parents threatening to sue private schools. A headmaster is quoted “Part of my job is to put off the people who are never going to understand or appreciate the school’s core values and ethos.”
In "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking," author Malcolm Gladwell shares some research on the likelihood of a doctor being sued. "Believe it or not, the risk of being sued for malpractice has very little to do with how many mistakes a doctor makes. Analyses of malpractice lawsuits show that there are highly skilled doctors who get sued a lot and doctors who make lots of mistakes and never get sued."
Gladwell asks why? His response is startling. "It's how they were treated, on a personal level, by their doctor. What comes up again and again in malpractice cases is that patients say they were rushed or ignored or treated poorly. "People just don't sue doctors they like," is how Alice Burkin, a leading medical malpractice lawyer, puts it. "In all the years I've been in this business, I've never had a potential client walk in and say, 'I really like this doctor, and I feel terrible about doing it, but I want to sue him.' We've had people come in saying they want to sue some specialist, and we'll say, 'We don't think that doctor was negligent. We think it's your primary care doctor who was at fault.' And the client will say, 'I don't care what she did. I love her, and I'm not suing her.'"
The message: How schools make people feel can be more important than ‘successful’ results. If parents are wanting something different than your school can deliver then it can be better to let them go elsewhere.
School surveys can be helpful. Or they can be dangerous. They are helpful if those giving feedback feel they will, or are being, heard. Surveys can be counterproductive if the feedback is ignored or not shared.
The International Network of School Marketers who receive this weekly newsletter are a very diverse group. This week Bennie Stewart, Admissions Director at Northwoods Catholic in Texas USA subscribed. Bernie’s email signature included icons with links to facebook and their customised > YouTube channel
YouTube continue to make changes but their new channel customisation works across desktop, mobile and ipads. For instructions on how to set yours up visit > Channel Art Guidelines
One of the modules of the Diploma in School Marketing is “Working with the Media.” As the Diploma is a very practical course, designed for people working in schools, you are required to have a conversation with your local media. This is to better understand how you and your school can work with them.
The text book for this 6 month distance education course is Marketing Matters in Schools by Dr Linda Vining. In the chapter on Working with the Media she writes “When you start to think positive media thoughts you will see media opportunities everywhere. If the media won’t come to you, don’t be deterred. Go to the media.”
You can read a review and watch my video about this $58 book > Marketing Matters in Schools. Published in 2000 the book may now look dated but the material is still highly relevant to school marketers.
What happens when a major newspaper publish a story on your school, or students, and you wish to share it with your community? Wanting to use a quote about one of their students, Sandy Johnson of Glasshouse Country Christian College contacted the newspaper. She discovered they had very strict rules about quoting from, or even scanning any articles. “The only way to gain permission to even quote them was to fill in a form and wait for an answer. They say it takes a couple of weeks. By then, the news would be too old to be bothered with.” Sandy’s advice, with this particular media group, was to have an introduction to the story, in their own words, and then provide the direct website link to the article.
Fortunately for Sandy she explained “we also have a locally owned, independent newspaper who are much more user friendly and we have a great relationship with them.”
When someone visits your school website what do you want them to do?
The most obvious for a prospective parent is for them to enquire or book a school tour. On the home page of St Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney is a clear graphic including the dates of the next school tours and a booking button. A variation of this graphic appears on EVERY page of the website as well as a “Quick Enquiry” form.
It’s simple, clear and you don’t have to explore the website searching for it.
In creating promotional material for schools it is tempting to say too much in a small space or time. Unfortunately a busy print advertisement, jumbled radio advert, or video can be less effective than a simple one.
Video is a powerful tool for communication – even without narration. While long videos are helpful, short single message ones can be powerful. This Catholic school video from Victoria addresses a major concern by parents for their children with three short sentences. The message is then repeated. The video technique simply uses photos, text and music to convey the message.
This comment from a parent was in a school satisfaction survey conducted by one of the schools in our network. It could apply to many schools. “Lack of communication is always a problem - now we don't have a newsletter. School is assuming all parents have access to the internet. The newsletter online is difficult to navigate and read so now I don't bother. Therefore I find I have no idea what is going on in school.”
Is the problem the parent, the school, or both?
At a previous school I read the printed weekly newsletter. When it went online I had to sign in to read it. My readership went from very high to nil. Paper had worked much better for me. If schools believe information is important to communicate then we need to create multiple ways for parents to receive it. Technology now allows the same information to be presented in a variety of formats to suit the end user.
Question: Can your electronic newsletter be read easily on a mobile phone?
Dr Timothy Wright is the Headmaster of a large and very well regarded Anglican school in Sydney. Jane Caro is an advocate of Public (Government) education. They agreed to discuss their very differing views on education, funding and the role of religion for a video with the Centre for Public Christianity.
One School Marketer lamented to me that the local media rarely used their press releases. My encouragement was that they never needed to waste a press release. Rather they could ensure the information is still distributed to their own school community, and given a permanent home on the school website.
During one session at the recent School Marketing Aforia we reviewed school advertisements in local media. A common trend was to make the name of the school the main feature. This may increase awareness of your school name but is less likely to raise curiosity among prospective parents. Often when people see your school name they already have made judgements on what you offer.
Kristin School in New Zealand chose a different approach with their “Big Decision” campaign using print, web, buses and billboards. The campaign fed into the website www.myfirstschool.co.nz. Lucy Wilson, Communications Manager explained “This is a unique campaign in NZ and is a big step away from our usual advertising. It doesn't specify that we are Kristin until the very end but it does showcase the many aspects that make Kristin a very unique school.”
The first line of the website qualifies the target audience “Are you the parent of a young child?” and is followed up by the question “Which is the right school for your child?”
It is a very simple, clean website which invites interaction with the visitor to unfold the story. Rather than just yell “Choose Us” it showcases how Kristin answers common questions about schooling.
As a school marketer I am grateful families can choose who will help them educate their children. That freedom of choice is why we have a role in schools. I admire parents who choose to home school, as it is an expression of this freedom. Home schooling has a much longer tradition than our more formal mass education.
Videos give a window into your school community. We suggest having a number of videos on your school website. They don’t have to be of a professional standard to make an impact. Sometimes events captured using an iphone can create a window that would otherwise not be there if you are waiting for the budget to do a professional video.
Could your school be a venue for non-school community events? The ideal event reflects your school’s life and culture, and attracts your targeted prospective parents and families rather than just being a general event. Daytime events can work best as visitors can see more of your school grounds.
Graduates, and their stories, are usually the best form of marketing for any educational organisation. The Missouri State University chose to highlight some graduates but decided large posters around the campus would not have the impact they were after. Instead they created a banner 37 feet by 16 ½ feet and hung it on side of a University campus building. This way students, and part of their story, almost become artwork serving as a reminder that education is about people and their journey.
We were going to save this video till December but decided sharing it now may inspire other schools to consider what they can do. We have seen schools do Christmas assemblies, Christmas cards and Christmas lights. Last year Diocesan School for Girls in New Zealand did a video with their Year 1 students to retell the story of Christmas. It is high on cute factor, relevant for their school audience and something likely to be shared by families so great for word of mouth marketing via social media.
Most schools are limited by time and space. Schools are expensive to start and operate and there are only so many classrooms you can build. The attraction of online education is obvious – both financially and to enable a school to serve more families.
Many schools are creating alternative learning spaces beyond the traditional classroom and libraries. The University of Technology in Sydney has taken the unusual step of deliberately adding spaces for sleeping into a group learning area. The area is open day and night. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald, Sit Swot, Sleep, stated “there are banks of computers and televisions for individual use, workrooms with videoconferencing facilities that vary according to group size, a variety of seating from cushy to studious and nooks for curling up to sleep.”Most schools are content for students to go home at the end of the day. In contrast the University is trying to find ways to help them stay on site longer with the article mentioning the area was full of students at midnight.
Last year I saw a public art project called the Inside Out Project. Over 120,000 people in more than 100 nations have taken part in this large‐format public display of black and white portrait photographs. The photos may cover entire walls of buildings. What appealed to me was how it celebrated people and tried to share something of their message and personality.
We decided to run a variation of it as part of a Year 12 Graduation. Some students had individual portraits and others insisted on being in groups. Some are serious and others quite silly. Two walls of the school Hall was used to display these black and white photos for Graduation and end of school assemblies. Many students and parents requested to take the large format photos home.
Visit: > Year 12 Wall of Celebration
Visit: > Inside Out Project
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 & Jenny Pierson. Neil is a Storyteller. His stories are designed to encourage, equip and connect over 1,000 school marketers.
Join us. Together we can learn, share ideas and tell the unique story of our school community.