1. Before you do any planning, look at your key messages.
Think carefully about what you are looking to communicate to prospective parents and students – focus on your strengths, what makes you different from other schools and the innovations you are making to meet stakeholder needs.
2. Start early and get a wide range of staff involved in creating the day.
As a school marketer you know the messages but teachers and other staff know the student and their stories that best demonstrate them, as well as the most innovative ways to get messages about teaching and learning across. And any creative process benefits from having many people involved.
3. Research and use student achievements and stories in as many ways as possible.
Parents choose schools because they believe their children will thrive and succeed there. You need to show how students like their children have done this, through case studies and personal interaction. You can present case studies as videos, as posters, or as presentations from the students themselves. One school successfully used cardboard cut-outs of previous successful students with their stories attached.
4. Make sure your adverts use these stories to say why people should attend your event.
It’s so easy to place adverts that just announce an event. Any advert needs instead to say why your school is different and to back it up with evidence. And as there will always be parents who can’t make a specific event, give them alternatives.
5. Don’t rely on adverts alone.
Use your whole stakeholder network to publicise your event – from putting posters in parents’ businesses and faith and community meeting places to sharing what the event will look like on social media. Use targeted direct mail as Solihull School did. Visit feeder schools and tell them what to expect.
6. Use other stakeholders at the event as well as students and teachers.
I’ve never seen the PTA used to do more than pour drinks or sell uniform. Let them talk privately to prospective parents or ask some to present on how they have found the school! Ask governors to talk about the strengths of the school and their role in maintaining them.
7. Make sure everyone knows what to say.
As a teacher I’ve never been briefed properly before an Open Day – something that would scare any commercial exhibitor to death! All teachers, students and parents involved should have copies of information given to visitors in advance, know what the strengths of the schools are and who parents and prospective students can talk to to answer any difficult questions.
8. Don’t make it too formal.
A lot of events follow the same pattern – speeches, tours, goodbye. Try showing a short video on a loop and letting your Head talk to every parent individually. This also means less of a crush in the school hall!
Guest article from Simon Hepburn from Marketing Advice for Schools, click here to visit the site.
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