Effective School Marketing

Today, with two colleagues I attended The Mustard Agency’s seminar ‘Effective School Marketing.’ As School Marketing Consultant, Paul Sample explained, the seminar would cover six condensed workshops;

  • Marketing strategy
  • School brand image and identity
  • School websites
  • Media releases
  • School newsletter
  • School prospectus

specifically as they apply to schools.

What are parental priorities when choosing their child’s school?

Following a short elevator pitch exercise to help us clearly conceive our schools strengths, we focused on parental priorities, or the contributory reasons for choosing their child school.

  1. Teaching quality 86%
  2. School discipline 84%
  3. Child’s happiness 82%
  4. Control of bullying 76%
  5. Caring teachers 67%
  6. Maximising potential – was noted as the sixth.

Armed with this information, we are presented with an opportunity to communicate our school strategies for addressing and improving these aspects of our brand, it would be neglectful if we didn’t. The question I ask myself was, do we currently addressing these issues in our communications? Is ‘teaching quality’ a focus in our newsletter and parent communications, in the prospectus and the Hamble Voice? Are we sharing our new Behaviour for Learning policy clearly and effectively with our parents and especially the reasons for it? Are we seeking and sharing student opinions and ‘happiness’ reflections, promoting our contribution to their wellness? Even more significantly, do we give our students the opportunity to share their own opinions with our future and current parents. Are our anti-bullying strategies effective and communicated. Which reminds me, we have a ‘Text Someone’ feature in our ‘Contact Parents’ communication package, and I also liked the ‘I’m sorry’ dropbox shared by a colleague on the course. Finally, how do we show our parents, guardians and carers that we have, at Hamble Community Sports College, some amazing staff, staff that go well beyond the extra mile. Should we recognise ‘Random Acts of Teacher Kindness’ or create ‘Staff that go the X-mile’ awards and even ask parents, guardians and carers to nominate (Thank you Mrs Still)?  We should definitely include 3rd party quotes and references in our marketing materials (and not just Ofsted)  and actively seek and share positive feedback from parents, guardian, carers and visitors. We should ask staff for copies of letters of appreciation / recognition.

School brand image and identity (as it applies to the school prospectus and newsletter)

Paul then took us through creating a brand map, highlighting relationships, the functional elements and strengths of the school, the emotional descriptors and school belief systems which define the schools core identity. The core identity is then refined to reveal a brand essence.

Using mood boards, Paul demonstrated how ‘brand essence’ can then be transferred to the school prospectus and newsletter. Having numerous examples available for review and discussion certainly benefited my understanding. Paul went on to emphasise the importance of colour, high quality photos / images, short text (font), strong headlines and of course great design. On the point of photos, lets not forget our parents priorities, showcase what is best about your school and remember close ups can conceal a lot more than I realised.

Tips of the trade…. for your school newsletter

Your newsletter is on a journey. On a journey to the bin. Your job is to keep it out of the bin for as long as possible.

7 ways to get your newsletter read and out of the bin

  • A colour newsletter is three times more likely to be picked up and read than black and white newsletter.
  • Aim for a reading age of 9. WORD has a reading age diagnostic tool but it does need a box ticking. Sample some of the text from a recent newsletter and you might be surprised.
  • Simply tell the parents, guardians and carers that the newsletter is important and to keep hold of it.
  • Add Emergency Contact details. (Who would throw away emergency contact details?)
  • Holiday, term dates and event dates extend the longevity of the newsletter.
  • Photos, group photos in particular, connect with as many families as possible. Encourage the family to hang on to it, at least until the relatives next visit.
  • Write articles that address the parental priorities (that was my idea, not Paul by the way).

Size vs Frequency – now that is an individual school decision, although I would advocate frequency over size. IMHO a 6 page, 3 fold fortnightly newsletter is more engaging than a mini brochure every half term. In light of what we know now, our last newsletter or ‘Hamble Voice’ was clearly too text heavy, there were not enough images and groups images, the reading age sample I took was 13 and we did not encourage staff to report the ‘who, when, what, where and why?’ One final consideration is how and where to share the newsletter and I am still thinking that over.

Media releases

Finally, easy wins with the media. Next, make sure you are not accidentally revealing unwanted media attention. Finally, share a copy of your newsletter with all your media partners (local newspapers, parish newsletters, local and commercial radio. Let your media partners decided what to pick up on, all for the effort of simply sharing your newsletter.

School Website

Paul also covered school websites. The key message here was to defined the strategic aim of the website. I would recommend that it presents primarily static information, (after all we have newsletters), plus quick wins such as document downloads for school trips, parent letters, application packs, FAQs.

New Media

There was a fleeting presentation on the use of new media and social media. Paul presented a very positive case for the use of new media, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube but lets leave that for another day.

Paul Sample was the highlight. Paul definitely knew marketing and more importantly he understood schools. He was able to clearly and effectively communicate basic marketing principals and showcase a plethora of high quality design exemplars, and a few key poor quality examples to boot. Now where is my group image??

School Marketing Heats Up with Mustard

It is clear that Hamble Community Sports College is not taking student enrollment for granted having sent three of its senior staff to ‘The Mustard Agency’ seminar ‘Effective School Marketing.’ Schools from across County discussed their current marketing strategies with The Mustard Agency’s Paul Sample, offering expert opinion and practical examples on how to improve and refine that all important school brand image and identity.

“The seminar certainly reassured us that the schools ‘Engaging Parents’ focus is on track, yet we still managed to picked up three or four really useful strategies for doing it better,” beams Assistant Headteacher Kristian Still, “and our aim remains the same, to be Outstanding. This said, being Outstanding is only of value if our our parents, guardians, carers and the wider community get to see, hear and act upon that message.’

Here’s hoping that at least my press release writing skills are at least more focused.

2 Comments

  1. Twitter is, esentially, the best place to market online these days. Although Google may have something to say about that soon enough. Only time will tell. It’s always interesting to read about new Twitter marketing techniques, especially as I have been in the game basically since Twitter begun and now couldn’t live without the income that it brings in. Things change quick in this world, so we’d better be ready if the big G becomes the big social network too.

    1. Kristian Still

      Twitter for school is ‘brave new worlds.’ However, I am a Twitter advocate but it needs a brave and open minded Principal or Headteacher behind it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *