Past Newsletters

Issue 626 - 28-jun-2015

Immerse yourself in the experiences your school offers

It is currently school holidays in Sydney Australia. Yet for 6 days I am with over 20 Year 11 students, staff and several former students serving, learning and experiencing life with an Aboriginal community in Yarrabah Queensland. This is the 10th year of these trips, but my first. The relationships developed over those 10 years have been mutually beneficial for both communities. The fact that so many former students return, at their own expense, even after graduation demonstrates the impact the trips have had on them.

My main role is to photograph and video some of the activities to help parents better understand what their children are experiencing. Yet I am not a spectator. As school marketers I encourage you to find ways to immerse yourself in your school activities. Attend camps, visit classrooms, spend time in the playground. The stories you share with prospective parents will be so much more meaningful. 

At the recent School Marketing Aforia one delegate was a Science Teacher. She had three hours per week allocated to marketing the school. I was excited for her. She needed to be innovative, resourceful and delegated some tasks to students. Being a teacher in many ways gives her an advantage over the more official marketing roles. Teachers deliver the ‘product’ and are the backbone of word of mouth so take the time to meet, encourage and support them.

Issue 625 - 21-jun-2015

Give your school’s radio advertisements a wider exposure

Many schools include radio advertisements in their marketing mix. Here are some ways to extend the impact of this medium beyond those who listen to any particular station.

  • Ask for the audio file
  • Add a slide, or even better a slideshow of images or video to the audio
  • Upload to YouTube or video sharing platform
  • Embed it in your website
  • Play it at a school assembly
  • Upload it to your facebook page
  • Consider incorporating it in your telephone on hold music
By doing this you help ensure more members of your own community hear the advertisement and are ready if others mention it to them. 

Note: It is important to explain to the radio station what you plan to do with it as it may require permission and extra costs for voiceover artists.

As a very simple example Collegiate High School in the United Kingdom combined a single slide with the audio of their radio advertisement and uploaded it to their YouTube channel. Over several years it has been watched over 2,000 times. The irony is that the school no longer exists which raises the challenging question of what happens with social media channels after a school closure.

Issue 625 - 21-jun-2015

Does your auto responder gives news and reveal your personality?

Michelle Favero, Marketing and Communications Manager at Emanuel School attended, and presented at, the recent School Marketing Aforia. Below is the delightful auto responder she set up during her absence.

Thank you for your email. I am currently out of the office at a Schools Marketing Conference learning new ways to promote our wonderful school. Sorry I can't get to your email until next week when I return, filled with exciting ideas.
Michelle Favero
Marketing and Communications Manager 
Emanuel School
Address / Phone / Website details

Using your auto responder like this can help generate conversations, build relationships and soften any frustration caused by a delay in your response.

Issue 625 - 21-jun2015

Create interest in print and direct curiosity to your website

Barker College in Sydney took out half page advertisements in a local community newspaper. Rather than the more common promotion of an open day or tours they raised curiousity by mentioning two activities students had taken part in. The short teaser finished with “For the full story see our website”.  On their website home page was a repetition of the same heading from the advertisement, a similar thumbnail photo, and a link to the longer story.

Some tips for us from this example:
  • Don’t attempt to tell a whole story in an advertisement
  • Give readers, even those not looking for your school, a valid reason to visit your website
  • Ensure it is easy to find the material you mentioned on your website
Click on thumbnails to enlarge

Read the story > From Gallipoli to St Louis

Issue 624 - 14-jun-2015

Remembering names help build relationships at school

Yesterday I was honoured to attend an 80th birthday party. It was of the Deputy Principal from my Sydney High School. I have kept in contact with Errol Duck Chong and continue to be grateful for the impact he had on the school and myself. Errol is a rare man. 20 years after I left the school, with 1,200 students, he was able to help me identify the 240 people in my own year group by name, their sibling’s names and often the names of their parents. Although these students were in my own year there were many I realised I had never met. Errol and Neil

Errol cared deeply about the welfare of each student. He is often invited and attends school reunions. It is interesting to see the respect, and now admiration, he receives from even the naughtiest of former students. (Name badges do help us both at reunions as people age and change since school).

Here are two things to consider:
Q. Is there a former teacher you could make contact with and say THANK YOU to? The added benefit for you is that in appreciating your own teachers I believe you can better connect with current and prospective families of your school.
Q. Do you need help remembering people’s names? I find the increasing multicultural nature of schools presents me with even more of a challenge. Check out this strategy to help remember foreign names.

There are lots of YouTube videos with strategies to remember names. Take some time. I know this is an area for me to keep working on.

Issue 624 - 14-jun-2015

Don’t lose prospective parents in the car park

I recently visited a school for the first time. There was a great team, passionate teachers with a good location and facilities. One team member had to leave the meeting to conduct a school tour for a prospective family. I asked “How do they find you?” She thought I meant “How did they find out about the school?” Instead I meant… “When they park their car how will they know where to find you?” I had the experience earlier and knew it could be difficult for first timers.

Signage is something you take for granted until you actually need it. When street signs get damaged or stolen then locals still know the name of the street and where to go. It is new people who get lost. The same happens with our schools. Once you are familiar you don’t need, or notice, the signage. This is a common trap. Signs help reassure your visitors they have permission to be somewhere and confidence on where to go. 

Signage is one aspect of the School Appearance Audit. Order your downloadable copy and then explore your school with a camera > School Appearance Audit 

Signage is important. If your school can not direct a visitor to find the front office then a prospective parent may ask “Can I trust this school to help direct the course of my child’s life?” Choosing a school is an emotional experience. While good signage may not be noticed, or create a positive emotion, poor signage is noticed and can create a negative first impression which is often not understood or verbalised.

Some suggestions:
- Mark visitor spots clearly (and mention you have some when inviting people)
- Set expectations for visitors – for example “Please sign in at School Office”
- Have directional signs
- A map can help – if they make sense (Maps can be tricky. Asking men, women and children to find something on a map and then take you there can help you tweak it. Spatial awareness varies)
- Have a smiling face to greet them when they arrive

At Covenant Christian School we have been progressively improving signage. The welcoming of visitors is one aspect we feel has been dramatically improved. This photo gallery shows the progression.

Signage can be expensive. Paint can be cheaper. You could say to visitors “Look for the red wall” or some other landmark. When schools have multiple car parks don’t assume your visitors will turn up in the right one. Again signage can help. 

Issue 623 - 07-jun-2015

The power of a teacher who cares

Students, parents and staff may all appreciate great educational facilities, well trained teachers and even our school website, but ultimately they will remember relationships and the experiences they shared. This video tells a real story. It's a story of a young man and his elementary school teacher and her lifetime commitment to her students and their lives – beyond school. 

It is a reminder to me that facilities, training, curriculum and websites don’t make education – people do. 

Whatever your type of school let’s help create, record and share stories of the difference our teachers are making.

Issue 623 - 07-jun-2015

Above all, ignore the school’s marketing material

My Google Alerts recently directed me to an article on ‘How to spot if a school is right for you when job hunting’The article, written for teachers, highlighted that how schools treat prospective teachers says a lot about their culture. The article concluded with this amusing, but true statement 

“Above all, ignore the school’s marketing material – most of which will make a play on three words: excellence, creativity and community – and go with what seems right in the flesh. One gets a feeling as to whether or not one will be happy in a place. Don’t ignore that gut feeling.”

Each teacher who applies but DOESN’T get employed by your school has still had an experience with your school and is likely to tell others about it – positively or negatively. While most school marketers are not involved in recruitment remember that our teachers actually do more ‘marketing’ than any of us. They have networks and parents often respect their advice when asking about local schools. 

How you and your staff treat teachers in training on professional placement at your school is another opportunity. Take the time to meet, greet and engage with ‘prac’ teachers. They can be a source of great information and insight about your school plus other schools they may have been to.

Why a prospective parent, student or teacher chooses your school often comes down to “that gut feeling.” How we treat people creates feelings that can override any logic or rational decision making.

Issue 623 - 07-jun-2015

Is your school newsletter worth reading?

Greg Pendlebury of Think-write Consulting says “Publishing a document that nobody reads, or that people don't understand, or that users don't act on, is a waste. It's very risky to assume that a published document is achieving its purpose. Test early, test frequently to check that your document is hitting the mark with users.”

I believe many schools have trained their community to NOT read their newsletter. Long newsletters, poorly formatted, multiple fonts and colours, and most importantly lacking in interesting news means they become counterproductive. Instead of debating with ‘lazy’ parents who don’t read the school newsletter for ‘essential’ information it is vital we review how information is being delivered. Schools are now often mixing SMS for urgent and important information, emails, blogs and mobile apps to better tailor information to their readers. Some schools now create separate Newsletters with student news and Bulletins of just what parents need to know for the next week.

This week I met with Mark Barrett of CIMarketing to discuss further transforming the Covenant Christian School email newsletter (see > June 3 example plus > past newsletters). Currently it is a combination of links to the school news site plus a pdf download. Pdfs are very hard to read on mobile devices so its end is now clearly in sight.

Quick newsletter checklist
  • Can we shorten articles (or even delete them)?
  • How do parents want to be communicated with? (Hint – they are not all the same)
  • Can people read the newsletter on a mobile device?
  • Are we making the most of past news stories? (Most schools waste past stories and hide them from prospective parents who may also be interested)

Issue 622 - 31-MAY-2015

School’s Acts of Kindness sends a positive message

Many schools have policies and strategies on bullying. Instead of focusing on what NOT to do students at East Ridge Middle School have been challenged to do 1,000 acts of kindness. The media, and several bloggers picked up on the initiative.

“It is our goal to achieve 1,000 acts of kindness by the end of the school year, and at this point we are more than halfway there. Acts of kindness are written on slips of green paper which will be linked together and on display in our cafeteria. It is a colorful reminder to spread kindness, and also highlights the thoughtful actions of our students. It demonstrates how the smallest act of kindness does truly make a big impact overall. This is such a valuable program because it takes a fun, unique approach to cultivating kindness,” she said. “It also fits especially well with our school’s PRIDE initiative, launched at the beginning of this year, which promotes student growth in Personal responsibility, Respect, Integrity, Determination, and Excellence.”

We would love to hear what school activities have resulted in good media coverage for your school.

>  Article:  'Ben's Bells' ring for kindness

Issue 622 - 31-MAY-2015

Family, Community and Education valued by Jewish Schools

When you have a group of schools to promote video can be an effective way of presenting a united vision. 

Eleven Jewish Day Schools in New Jersey USA combined resources to create this 5 minute video. It makes it very clear what they value and their strong Jewish identity. The combination of current students and Alumni works well. Many schools claim to ‘prepare students for the future,’ or ‘making a difference,’ or ‘influencing future generations’ yet the inclusion of so many Alumni gives great weight to their claims. 

The students also explain some of the service to the community they are doing. The video is also friendly in having students say things like “we are taught to ask a LOT of questions” or “we ate a LOT of Jewish food.”

One purpose of the video was to “take the mystery out of the schools for the wider community”.


> Article: Eleven Schools, One Message

Issue 622 - 31-MAY-2015

Let prospective parents hear from your students

A highlight of the past six years has been attending the annual School Marketing Aforia. Visiting other schools, exploring, and discussing ideas is an essential part of our role - and it is good to do as often as you can. 

I recently took advantage of an Information Evening at a local school. It had been several years since my last visit so I was keen to see their new facilities and how they presented their story.

What impressed me most was their use of students from Kindergarten (5 year old) to Year 12 (17-18 year old). Rather than relying on the staff they had a panel of students being interviewed. Hearing from students, in their own words, about their passions, interests and how and what they were learning was refreshing. Too often schools can rely on their Principal or senior staff to present. Students may not be as polished but they often come across as more authentic. While seeing the school's new facilities was good the lasting impression was of articulate, confident and expressive students with a personal love for their school. I imagine many other prospective parents would have left with the same thoughts.

The two day School Marketing Aforia includes tours of two schools. It provides an interactive  forum for discussion and learning from others who understand the challenges of your role. 

Register your place > School Marketing Aforia June 11-12

Issue 621 - 24-MAY-2015

How would you notify your community of a school closure?

Further to a recent newsletter item, after wild weather in Sydney, Australia some schools were closed due to flooding, loss of power and fallen trees blocking roads. Three of our local schools were closed.  One school posted on their website the following:

“We have been advised that power should be returned to the school by tomorrow Thursday 23 April, in which case school will be open and we anticipate all usual programs running tomorrow. We will however keep you updated via Facebook with posts at 3.30pm and 8.00pm today and 7.00am tomorrow morning.”

Advising the community of WHERE and WHEN updates would be given would have reduced questions and uncertainty.

Are you ready for emergencies at your school? At a previous School Marketing Aforia 2011 delegates from New Zealand explained how difficult, yet essential, it was to have systems in place when both power and access to the school was not available following the earthquakes in Christchurch.

Could you do the following while offsite and without power?
Update your school website
SMS your school community
Post announcements on Facebook

Northern Beaches Christian School placed this announcement on their website knowing it was unlikely they had power (beyond their essential services using a generator). The announcement gave clear directions to parents.

Thursday 23 April
We have made the decision that tomorrow will operate as a normal school day as much as possible. Bus transport will operate as normal within any changed traffic conditions.
The canteen is not expected to operate.
Primary students will need the following:
- Mufti clothes
- A favourite book, to be used as the basis of an activity
- A torch
- Packed recess and lunch

Secondary students will need the following:
- Normal school uniform
- Any food requirements for the day
- A charged mobile device or laptop (if available)
- Adequate notebooks/paper and pens to use for the day
- Materials for a normal Thursday Week A timetable

Question: Would your school be ready with an action plan should a closure need to take place?

Issue 621 - 24-MAY-2015

Who is the main audience for your school website?

I was recently asked to travel interstate for a meeting of five school Principals to take part in their discussions about launching new websites. They had already been doing some great work in planning and considering what they wanted. The challenge I presented was in regard to who the main audience for the website was to be.

They had previously decided that 80% of the audience would be prospective parents, leaving only 20% for the existing school community. I suggested they flip this view of their website. Here are some of my reasons why:

Websites need traffic. Giving your existing community a reason to visit regularly is the easiest way to build traffic. Photos, videos and news are the main reasons to return to a website - but announcements, dates, notes and canteen ordering all help.
Google favours websites with fresh content rather than static material.
If your current school community like your school website they are more likely to share it with friends (and dramatically cut down your need to advertise).

Ultimately your school website should be a wide open window into your school, and it's community. If a prospective parent likes what they see, hear, experience then a physical school tour can be a natural first step. Many schools lose prospective parents because their website doesn't reflect how good the school actually is.

I will be covering the topic of Effective School Advertising – More Than Print, at the School Marketing Aforia in June. Your website is an important part of your advertising as it is often the first step taken after other forms of advertising.  It’s not too late to join us.

Issue 620 - 17-MAY-2015

St Catherine’s Love School Video

What do you include in a school promotional video? St Catherine’s School decided to break away from the traditional video. It is music only, with only two written words.  There are no interviews, no parents and no staff.  It includes all the students, some of their facilities and a wonderful sense of movement and joy. A drone was used for the final shot.

Our previous video was more than three years old and it had served us well,” said Media Manager Peta Newbold. “But we felt it was time to make something innovative, a video that would have wide appeal, evoke strong emotion and that would literally go to the heart of what a St Catherine’s education was all about.”

To do that the MediaComms team held focus groups with the girls and staff to find out what they loved about St Catherine’s. “The girls told us they loved their red duffle coat, their friends and the care and commitment of their teachers” Digital Media Coordinator Liz Jones said.

Two of the students also reflected a growing phenomenon - that older girls are increasingly choosing their school. It had significant implications for the video. “It needed to be compelling and short enough for girls over the age of 13 to happily share it on social media, where word of mouth is so powerful.” Ms Jones added.

The video launched just over 4 weeks ago, has officially gone viral and reached over 115,000 people, according to Facebook and YouTube statistics!

Congratulations St Catherine's.

> Love School

Issue 620 - 17-MAY-2015

Satisfying Goldilocks: Telling your school’s story just right!

Robyn Armstrong of Chapter Three will be leading an interactive session at the School Marketing Aforia, 11-12 June 2015.  Her session will explore tips for telling your school story effectively and efficiently, keeping time poor prospective parents in mind.

The reader's interest needs to be piqued almost instantly by the look and feel of your prospectus and website.  Their first response to these marketing tools will be an emotional one, and will determine whether they investigate further.  If they do, quickly satisfying them depends on how easily they can discover your school’s philosophy, distinctives and offerings.

This brings us to the ‘what’ and ‘how’, the content and design elements that will hook browsers into your story and make them readers.

Picture storybooks have a lot to teach us. We love them because clear messages are conveyed with beautiful, easy to assimilate images that are combined with relatively few, large, well-spaced words. Their powerful impact on us validates the use of well-chosen images as the heroes of our hard copy and electronic marketing pages.

Using fewer words to tell our school stories puts the onus on copywriters to be succinct, and on school leaders to review, think through and distil their core messages.  A marketer’s role involves posing the questions that might assist in this important process. Once the message imperatives are decided, summarising them in effective headlines, call outs and captions on each page will allow those with only the time for a cursory glance at your publications to absorb their essence. Prospective students will find this format appealing too.

Like Goldilocks, those impressed with an initial sampling of your story, will find the time to test you further. When school visits and enrolments result, you know the combined strategy for telling your school’s story has been just right.

Hear Robyn expand this idea in her session on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria 

> School Marketing Aforia 2015, June 11-12

Issue 619 - 10-MAY-2015

Are your office staff undermining your school marketing?

School support staff often have more interactions with parents and community members than any other school personnel. They are also school marketers.  That’s why skills in customer relations are so important for customer facing staff. 

The book Marketing Matters, by Dr Linda Vining, has the following story: 

A mother contemplating a change of school for her daughter, responded to an Open Day advertisement by telephoning for more information.

The school had heavily invested in advertising, but, unfortunately the receptionist who answered the phone dissolved the investment in a matter of minutes.

When the mother asked for details about the function the receptionist obviously knew nothing about it and made no attempt to find out.

After a curt, unresponsive conversation, the prospective parent decided that if this was the way in which parents were treated, this school was not for her.

You can talk about a caring, friendly school in your prospectus, webpage, advertisements and newsletters, but if your school doesn’t live up to the rhetoric at the first point of contact, you have wasted your money.

The Customer Relations Course for school office and support staff is designed to equip busy people with the specialised skills needed to project a professional, caring and efficient face to the outside world, even when the pressure is on. The course has six modules, which are undertaken by distance learning. 

Issue 619 - 10-MAY-2015

Does your school have a plan in the event that severe weather closes the school?

St Paul’s Catholic College, Manly closed during severe weather recently, due to a power outage which lasted several days. They had an innovative way for students to stay engaged, giving them the opportunity to switch to a virtual classroom.  

The Lighthouse website via the school website, directed year groups to activities and YouTube clips relevant to their learning.  They were also directed to completing assessment tasks and home study.

Parents and students were kept up to date via the school’s website, Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter feed.

This also became a small news item in the local newspaper @School section.  A positive point of difference where other schools were closed in the area, this school’s students had the opportunity to continue with their learning, despite the school closure.

Issue 619 - 10-MAY-2015

Schools and Google+

Mike Leembruggen, is our guest speaker at the School Marketing Aforia 0n 11-12 June on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria.   At the Aforia, Mike will be speaking on new trends in digital marketing and increasing your website conversion, as well as effective digital marketing strategies and how to create a winning campaign.

He has an informative video for schools if you are looking at setting up Google accounts, and linking that to Google+, which increases your search engine optimization.

> Schools and Google+

> School Marketing Aforia 2015 Program

School Marketing Aforia 2015 Program School Marketing Aforia 2015 Program (1180 KB)

Issue 618 - 03-MAY-2015

Smart Ideas for School Marketers # 83

Schools are human systems and kids are loose cannons.  It's inevitable that there will be slip ups, mistakes, bad behaviour, even disasters.  You cannot control everybody.

When a crisis strikes, follow these steps:

* Admit the error; don't try to cover it up.
* Empathise with the victims.
* Explain the facts as far as you know them - what happened, to whom and why.  This will help quell rumours.
* Reassure that actions are being taken to reduce/resolve/repair the problem.
This and 127 other ideas can be found in this gem of a book
Smart Ideas for School Marketers