Past Newsletters

Issue 654 - 13-mar-2016

Do scholarships create positive word of mouth for your school?

A Sydney Morning Herald article Private school scholarships: the price paid by a mother and a daughter is, I feel, an important one to read if your school offers scholarships. The concept of offering scholarships is very appealing. The challenge is working out how a school embraces these students and their families and the expectations placed on them. Here are some snippets from the article and the role school marketing played in the family’s experience. The author’s identity and the school is not disclosed.

“We had to sign an agreement that our child would stay at the school until she'd completed Year 12, or repay the full amount of the scholarship…Disillusionment set in early. Much was promised; rather less was delivered. The 'individually tailored programs' the school promoted were a furphy …while our daughter was undoubtedly valued as an asset, she wasn't always valued as a person. The needs of the school came first.

Other scholarship parents were similarly burdened and we tended to stick together. We felt we didn't belong. The school aimed to produce well-rounded students, equally strong at the arts, sports and community involvement, but for scholarship students in particular, the result was often exhausted, anxiety-ridden adolescents. What I didn't anticipate was being trapped into a school culture that not only failed to meet my personal needs, but instead alienated me. I'd formed my expectations of the school based on its enticing marketing material, brief interviews with staff and a tour of its sparkling facilities, but I soon found that the school was more concerned with upholding its reputation than with the wellbeing of its students
But because I was there on a scholarship, I couldn't change schools as other students might have. Leaving meant paying back the scholarship's full value – something my family simply couldn't afford. I, and many other marginalised students, suffered in silence.”

Issue 654 - 13-mar-2016

Promoting your school without showing students

The inclusion of Newington College’s advertisement last week generated some interest and several school marketers shared creative examples of what they have been doing. Debbi Wagner Marketing and Admissions of Crawford School in South Africa said “Many thanks I love receiving your news” and included this advertisement of a gear stick with their tagline “Every child a masterpiece.” 

Issue 653 - 6-mar-2016

Would people share your advertising with others?

Few people share ordinary advertisements with friends. Blatant advertisements also may not be shared. However moving stories, with a softer marketing message, are easier to share. In the midst of negative media stories about refugees the University of Western Sydney chose to tell the compelling story of a refugee, Deng Thiak Adut, as part of its marketing. The video is being shared by viewers because of its story and has generated over two million views. The University also set up a page to tell stories of graduates

What human interest stories do you have in your school community which you could share?

Issue 653 - 6-mar-2016

Does your school advertising tell a story?

I recently received a school guide of Sydney private schools. These magazines are popular with some school marketers as part of their marketing mix. As they combine advertisements from so many schools together in one publication you realise that most tend to look quite similar. The traditional photos of smiling faces, neat uniforms, science lab coats, students using an iPad, tag lines and brand new or historical buildings can all blur when lined up side by side. 

One school advertisement stood out to me. It was for Newington College. What appealed to me, especially in the context of so many other schools advertising, was that by using just a few words and single graphic it told a very short story.

What do you think? It is a good exercise when creating any advertisements to see if it will be lost, or stand out, in the clutter of other schools in your market. It does take courage to do something different.

Issue 652 - 28-feb-2016

Encouraging giving to your school through a story

Rather than asking for donations this video tells a personal story of why one man gives to Knox Grammar School

. This video is not a hard sell, or even really a clear request for more donations. I think it is a wonderful example of inspiring others to give for the education of future students – by someone who is leading by their example. Click the graphic to watch the video on the school's Vimeo channel.

Issue 652 - 28-feb-2016

Do you have a school marketing or retention problem?

I faced a challenge this week. Do I edit a promotional video which shows boxes on the floor of a classroom and a teacher’s messy desk? Or do I leave it in and understand that it shows reality believing that if a prospective parent is worried by the image then it may be better they know early we are not perfect.

In my consulting for schools, or working with the Diploma in School Marketing students, I have realised many schools do not have a problem attracting new families to consider the school, or even make the decision to enrol. Their problem is retention. The gap between what was presented and what is delivered can be part of this tension.

Often schools want to find someone to blame to fix the problem of retention. Is marketing to blame, or the teachers, fees, location, discipline or the uniform? Is it lack of electives, facilities, bullying, sports or transportation. These can all be factors. Often marketers say “If only we…” and insert a magical answer that could dramatically increase enrolments.

In marketing a school I believe our main role is to open a window for current and prospective parents and students to see reality in your school. Yes even a messy teacher’s desk. We can change and influence our school yet we cannot enforce our ‘ideal’ school model on others. The best way I have found to open the window is stories – often with photos and videos. 

I believe talking with, yes talking and not surveying, parents and students who leave your school is an important part of your marketing role. If our promotion of the school creates a false picture of what a parent and student will experience then it is inevitable that this gap will cause frustration, disappointment and them potentially leaving the school.

This week I encourage you to take a walk. Sit in some classrooms. Talk to students and parents. Find some stories and tell those to others. 

Issue 651 - 21-feb-2015

Unique landing page for school radio advertisements

Norwest Christian College created a series of radio advertisements. Each follows a consistent theme. Rather than directing listeners to the usual school home page a unique landing page was created

Creating a unique landing page makes it easier for a school to measure the response to a marketing campaign. The landing page repeats all the advertisements and links them to aspects of the school.

Issue 651 - 21-feb-2015

Video technique to showcase your school

Many schools create “A day in the life” video. It is a clever way of giving viewers an overall view of your school. It doesn’t require scripts or interviews. It just captures footage from a school day. This “A day in the life at Santa Sabina College” video speeds up the footage which I find makes it more engaging. See what you think.

Issue 650 - 14-2-2016

Comments from a Diploma in School Marketing Graduate

The latest graduate of the Diploma of School Marketing is Thi Huyen Huong Cao of the Vietnam-Australia School Hanoi. Huong’s summary was “I have found the course very helpful for someone with no prior knowledge of school marketing like me. It changes the way I see things happening at my current school.” Congratulations Huong on all your work.

In marking Huong’s assignments it was both challenging, and fascinating, to understand the oversupply of schools offering parents a very similar ‘product’ of education in the area. Hopefully Huong’s six month investment of time and thinking with the Distance Course will help distinguish the school from others in the city.

To learn more and read other testimonies about the Diploma visit > Diploma in School Marketing 

Issue 650 - 14-2-2016

Introduce new School Principal via video

Video is a wonderful way to introduce new staff to your community. When Anne Johnstone became the 10th Principal of Ravenswood School for Girls in Sydney the school introduced her by video. The interviewer Karl Stefanovic, though not named in the video, is a very familiar face on Sydney TV.

Enjoy the video and consider how your school can introduce new staff with video.

Issue 650 - 14-feb-2016

Video at the Children’s eye level

This past few weeks I have been writing, editing, re-editing and testing scripts for a variety of school promotional videos. It is challenging and fun. I have also been reviewing drafts of a series of videos for an updated school website. As I read, watch and listen it is a reminder that video is a very powerful tool in storytelling especially when it engages the viewer’s emotions. Entries for the School Marketing Awards for 2016 will open in April. If you have created new videos, a website or prospectus then consider entering.

In the article Video production for schools – The Key Techniques Neil Waddington's 'fortyfoursixteen films' offers several pieces of advice yet my favourite is this one.

Shoot at the Children’s eye level
Another great tip is to always shoot at the student’s eye level, especially when working with younger students. This brings you into their world and allows you to really capture them engaging in their work and activities. You’ve also got a much better chance of capturing one of those “moments of magic” if you’re shooting at a lower height as your closer to the subject and action.

In my years of working with children I have found going to their eye level when talking, playing, taking photos or doing videos helps you connect. 

Issue 649 - 7-feb-2016

When does your school day finish?

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."

Q. Is this level of longer supervision a growing trend in education? 

Q. Is it a point of differentiation between schools which would help parents choose one school over another?

Understanding the demographics of your own school community is vital. What works well for one school may not have sufficient demand in another. If offering before and after school programs is not viable or self funding then attracting new families because of it can be problematic if the programs do stop.

Issue 649 - 7-feb-2016

University celebrating school results in a whole new way

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.

Yet the University released another video in December 2014. As school marketers I feel this is a good case study. Which video do you prefer? Which are you more likely to share? 

In 2014 rather than hiring a stadium Deakin asked 30 school students to use handheld GoPro cameras to film themselves as they logged on to their computers to check their ATAR scores. The four minute video has over 350,000 views on YouTube and 94,000 views on facebook. The stories, the families, the 'unprofessional' filming of students in their homes, the joy and grief may have proven to be less popular in total views yet it is the one which resonates more with me as a parent and storyteller.

Do you have a preference? If so why? Is the increased views of 2015 video solely because it is shorter so easier to share?

Source: Viral video gives front-row seat as students discover ATAR 

Issue 648 - 20-dec-2015

Do your parents understand what happens at school?

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.

A Waldorf Steiner school in the UK charges local families a small fee to attend a relaxed outdoor session where they personally experience some of the school’s approach to education.
“Parents have the chance to have a hot drink and they can take part in an optional seasonal craft or cooking activity. There are songs, rhymes and snacks and the session finishes with circle time. The sessions are growing in popularity because parents not only enjoy being outside in nature with their children in a social setting, but they are also looking at alternative approaches to education The intention of this outreach programme is to give parents a taste of what we offer, which is a tried and tested alternative to a state run nursery, kindergarten or school. The outdoor sessions, which cost £6 per family, attract a wide cross-section of local parents.”

Source > Steiner reaches into the woods  

In 2016 how will your school educate and engage with both current and prospective parents to better understand what happens with children and their education?

Issue 648 - 20-dec-2015

What does success look like for students and their parents?

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.

Issue 647 - 13-dec-2015

How will you record and share the First Day of School?

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.

First day of school from Harlem Village Academies on Vimeo.

Issue 647 - 13-dec-2015

Why advertise a school event if you don’t expect people to come

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.

While I was attending as a curious local I also had my ‘school marketing’ hat on. Sadly I concluded it was overall a missed promotional opportunity for the school. I explored, bought some treats, explored some more and left. I estimate I spent 25 minutes there.

Here were some impressions of what I felt could have made the fair more effective, and a better return on their marketing efforts into the local public.
- Displaying some student work, 
- promotional material to pick up or even read on a board, or a video to watch,
- a team of greeters, or roving ‘meeters,’ looking out for new people to welcome them. (It was a relatively small school so strangers like me would have been easier to identify than larger schools),
- students demonstrating something of their skills or learning,
- signage explaining some of the more unusual or interesting parts of their property,
- students playing music (rather than the adults – who were quite good but obviously not students)

The reminder for me was that if I advertise an event publicly – and not just internally – I should expect people to come? If I expect people to come then I should prepare a meaningful experience which opens a window into our school for visitors to take away with them. We often only have one encounter with local public to make a permanent impression.

Issue 646 - 6-dec-2015

Consistent message between school website and advertising

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 it is easier to reinforce the theme of the advertisements without changing the whole website.


This is a quote from the landing page…

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.

The video on their landing page reinforces how students are innovating. Watch it at: >

The message: Being known for one key message makes it easier to market your school.

Issue 646 - 6-dec-2015

The importance of celebrating school traditions

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.”

What traditions could you share to reconnect with Alumni and your wider school community? Often our traditions become so normal we forget how special, or quirky, they are in revealing something special about our school community.
Click on the graphic to view the original post. 

At Covenant Christian School  the annual Year 5 Billy Cart Race, complete with crashes, is one tradition that older students remember well and younger students look forward to.

Issue 645 - 29-nov-2015

Simple messages for school marketing billboards

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.