Starting out in marketing your school

Embrace both popular technology and promotional concepts

To avoid feeling marooned in a foreign land you might want to dodge mixing with certain types – designers, marketing folks and their ilk. They speak a different language and seemed concerned with ideas that didn’t used to exist. Of course, educators relate better to kids… Hang on! – they’re speaking that language, too! They’re tweeting and posting and liking and are all too familiar with a USP or a SEO.

This may not be you at all – you may be an oasis of marketing expertise in a desert of evasion or prevarication. Whatever reason your school has yet to embrace both popular technology and promotional concepts – perhaps you simply didn’t used to need them – you may find yourself left behind in recruiting pupils, building a reputation and being down with the kids, if you don’t take action soon.

Why bother? You will set off in the right direction if you give some thought to the purpose behind developing a marketing strategy. Presumably you want to attract people to your school and perhaps raise its profile. It might also be time to consider branding! If you’re well known because the head back in 1973 fled the country in nothing but the new school P.E. kit or last year the 6th form staged a sit-in demanding Katie Price be employed to teach Citizenship – maybe it’s time for a rethink!

The Rose School, Lancashire, website on an Apple Macbook

Branding – making your school recognisable

Despite its sometimes unsavoury associations with Business, your brand is nothing more than a device to make your school, its style, history, record and positive qualities easily recognisable. It’s not enough to have a lovely logo and a suitable strapline, though these are important; your brand is how you behave, what you achieve, what you are known for. You have important decisions to make about tone, style, language and even colour.

If your school has never had a website or prospectus before – or had the Fred Flintstone version – then you are missing out on opportunities for significant and effective promotion and its impact: boosting the reputation of your school, building yourself a noticeable profile and attracting pupils. But where on earth – or in the Cloud – do you start?

A good old-fashioned prospectus that you can hand out to interested parents is a great way to display your school’s wares whilst reflecting something of its spirit or style. A designer’s job is not to tell you what to put in a prospectus but to find ways to best mirror the school’s soul – as well as giving all the essential information that entices parents and students to take a closer look. Undoubtedly your online footprint may be where prospective parents first look but they will be mulling things over on the settee with a cup of tea at the weekend – if your exciting and tempting prospectus is there to look over then you are ahead of the game.

There is no point in producing a prospectus that makes your school look like Disneyland if it’s more like South Park; you want to be truthful with parents and children and not disappoint them when they visit! Having said that, a good educational design company will have the expertise to highlight your strengths and put into words and pictures the qualities of the school that aren’t always visible at first glance. Designers will be interested in existing photographs, examples of schoolwork and your own words (you can choose to have a copywriter involved or not) but you are advised to trust their ability to listen to what it is you want to portray and respond with beautifully creative, professional designs.

A Cover and inside double spread of the prospectus for Abbey Park School Federation

Utilising your school’s unique selling points online

Once you have a prospectus that you’re tempted to carry with you at all times, (yes, surreptitiously slipping it amongst the magazines in the dentist’s waiting room has been known), you are half way to being in possession of a spanking new website – you can re-use much of the thinking behind the prospectus – and your design team should be well aware of the school’s unique selling points and style. They should also make sure all the official requirements are included such as pupil premium levels, admission criteria and key stage 2 and 4 attainment measures; these will be more prominent and detailed than in a prospectus.

Advantages of a website  include the ability for it to be regularly updated and its potential as an interactive tool. You may want to change displays of children’s work, reports on recent trips & events and update achievements and results. Your website  can also provide class and club pages, offer worksheets and educational games and even teaching resources. No need to panic, though – basic but still beautiful website re available and you can explore the options before you decide, looking at cost, specific requirements and desired outcomes with your designer. You might also talk through ways of linking your site to Twitter and other social media sites and the collection of data about who is viewing the site. Whilst exploiting the expertise and experience of a designer is sensible you should feel entirely comfortable with the results.

Marketing achieves great things when it is underpinned and supported by as many people as possible: Governors, teachers, non-teaching staff, pupils, parents & carers and members of the local community (See Building a School to be Show Off). Have the school’s children and staff had input? Is your mission statement displayed around the school? A designer will want to understand what makes your school tick; if you can present ideas that are embedded in your school community you are half way there. If not, then now’s a good time to start. Those designer folks – they won’t byte!

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]

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