Marketing and admissions departments in schools are usually very exciting places to be. In our experience, they are made up of forward-thinking staff with an abundance of ideas. Often their main challenges lie in getting the huge amount of work done with the limitations of budgets and manhours, and getting idea buy-in: for example persuading the senior management team to agree to sometimes unknown and untried initiatives.
Sometimes these initiatives are a great success, but with so many marketing levers to pull to ensure the success of a school’s reputation, it can be the case, especially when competition is fierce, that trial and error plays a huge part in what is successful. Marketing departments often have to pull one lever after another until they find that tipping point of successful elements that drive change.
Key things that successful departments need to focus on are:
- Recruiting the right pupils and staff
- Meeting the needs of the school
- Reputational issues
- Parental liaison
- Wider school relations
- Business links and income generation
Key to all of the above is a need for joined-up thinking. Successful school marketing and admissions departments have this in bucket-loads. Once they have taken the time to ensure that their marketing pillars and key messages are in place, the key to success is to ensure everyone is on board. That doesn’t just mean informing everyone of brand messaging; it’s about having formal documents in place that everyone uses in all outputs from the school, from letters to parents and the community and the website content to prospectus design and social media.
Good marketing and admissions departments focus on their brand. The brand covers every aspect of the school’s marketing strategy. The brand is what encourages a parent to buy into that school and directly supports all marketing activities. Creating good marketing and communications campaigns allows the school to think about what they really represent and, as a result, what they want to say.
Core values to represent are a given: embedding those values into the communications is the tricky part.
The branding is seen everywhere, from uniform to signage, hence its importance, and the importance of whole-school buy-in.
Knowing the market
Knowing a school’s target market inside out is key. Successful departments spend time analysing their demographics and targeting and retargeting them. Research is everything. Schools already have a huge data set in the form of current parents but rarely do schools engage with them enough. A school’s immediate client base is sometimes overlooked in the quest to reach out to new parents but they are key to your reputation and word of mouth marketing. Talking to them also means you can act on key feedback from your own parents first and let it inform how you interact with others.
Good marketing and admissions teams know though, that what you say is of importance to more than your current and prospective parents. When you market to those outside school, you are also talking to local businesses and the community as a whole. It’s important to embrace all your staff and governors’ relationships to ensure that any potential relationships and help can be maximised.
When it comes to international markets, traditional advertising and social media advertising plays a huge role in who will come to see you at international fairs. Reputations are built on visibility and continuity of presence.
When you need to recruit staff, prospective applicants will already have formed an opinion about the school. It’s important to make sure any correspondence or job ad really reaches out and appeals to them to ensure they buy into the school ethos. No ordinary job ad will do.
Knowing the competition
Good marketing and admissions departments stand out because they will not only know exactly what the USPs of their competitors are, but how they themselves differ. They monitor their marketing output not only to get ideas and see how they are performing but to find key differentiators. If something negative happens to a competitor, good marketing departments will never mention it – just reinforce the positive elements about their school.
Persuading your team to take risks
Trying new strategies is always risky but the results can often be superb. Teams who see opportunities to try something new are the most successful. With competition among schools so fierce, taking a risk on something like your strapline, website or prospectus can often seem too risky but when done right, these approaches can lead to the best outcomes.
It’s the unusual marketing campaigns that get talked about and ultimately, if that is good talk, that is the goal you are looking to achieve. At a time when parents are looking at multiple prospectuses and websites, the ones that stand out often make the most impact.
Realising outside help is sometimes the answer
With huge workloads, constant demands and time constraints, sometimes an external view can help. It’s not always easy to tick the boxes mentioned so far. At Blue Apple Education, we help school marketing and admissions departments create real impact with their actions. We work to distil the essence of the school and ensure everyone knows the school’s unique story. We then help you tell it consistently across all your marketing channels. We look for gaps and can help you tackle them effectively. Often school departments don’t have enough man hours or budget to run the marketing business of the school and we like to look at ourselves as an extension of your marketing and admissions team. If you would like to get in touch for a chat, do contact us for a free consultation:
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Blue Apple Education are School Communication and Design Experts. We believe each and every school is remarkable and unique in some way. We see it as our duty to unearth what this is, and to convey the essence of this both beautifully and convincingly.
Please feel free to comment below about the elements of your school’s communications and design you feel could be improved. Or, simply get in touch… we’d love to hear from you: [email protected] or 0330 223 0766.
We are school communication & design experts
If you want to find out how Blue Apple Education can help you unearth the remarkable in your school you can call us on +44 (0) 330 223 0766 or email us [email protected]