Out Of The Blue – Episode One
Should my school still be producing a prospectus?
No doubt, it is every teacher’s desperate cry: Does everyone just stare at a screen instead of reading a book these days? Well, perhaps not the IT teacher. These days we are so used to accessing information digitally. These days data is more visual and less tactile. These days children meet people, play games, learn and even exercise online! Many of their young parents courted their sweethearts online – and they think we’re old‑fashioned!
So, a prospectus – a bright and shiny booklet that squeaks when held and smells like Great Aunt Maud’s Christmas gift – do schools still need it? Naturally, the need to market your school, to unearth and present its remarkable qualities – that’s more important than ever. And naturally, a school video, an exquisitely designed interactive website, a digital outlet to promote what you do – these days, they all need consideration. A prospectus, an actual thing! – however, may belong to the days of the bibliopole and the pluviophile.
Yet, who can deny there is still something quite lovely about receiving a printed copy you can hold? Picking it up somewhere and looking forward to settling down to read it once home, running your hands over the cover, looking firstly at the pictures and headlines, noticing the colours and the style, and all the time soaking up the feel, the message, the connection. Furthermore, a printed version can be returned to easily, and in a context unlike returning to a screen – it sits there, on the breakfast bar or the garage freezer, asking to be browsed through and considered. Because a school prospectus is most often the first thing a prospective parent or student looks at. Your first chance to reach out and suggest – gently and in comfort – that your school could be the right school for them.
Schools still producing a printed prospectus have thought about its purpose; they know it helps to have something tangible for a parent to pick up at an open day or feeder nursery, to order online, even. If your website is your school’s avatar, a printed prospectus is your working scale model, and that’s why paper and print quality is as important as content. It needs to show that yours is a school that takes pride in its appearance, that presents well outside and in. Content matters, of course, less to give information – though there will be some key facts – and more to continue the narrative about what your school offers. You’ve produced a stylish and impressive brochure, surely you’ll produce great results and awesome students!
For this reason, superb photography needs to accompany snippets of information that paint a picture of a remarkable school. Some cleverly crafted words or a quotation from a pupil or parent can make the reader smile. After that they want to find out more and that desire will take them to the website or get them stalking you on social media; they might even find the digitised prospectus and go straight back to the real one!
A beautifully produced prospectus gives parents and students faith in the school, trust in their professionalism, and how they approach life, the universe and everything. These days, cost needn’t be a barrier because you can have just a few printed without losing any of the print and finishing quality . If you want just 50 copies, for an open day, for example, you can afford it and ensure your visitors are handed it in style – with just enough spare copies for your memory box and one for Great Aunt Maud. (For more on fabulous printing see My School Printing).
The Covid-19 pandemic provided opportunities for many to improve their digital skills and to seek new ways to communicate. These days, that sometimes means keeping up with the kids and the IT teacher. It has become evermore important to make sure parents can access information online and to offer virtual school open days and guided tours. Perhaps surprisingly, the printed prospectus is an effective complement to all that screen information. When people can’t visit the school, they can’t meet you, but they can get that feel and trust. If you registered for a virtual tour, receiving a brochure in the post is googolplex times better than another bland follow-up email (sorry, but how interesting can an email be?) Who doesn’t love answering the door when a parcel is delivered? A prospectus isn’t a guitar (different shape) or a set of ethical wooden recycled toothbrushes (much bigger) but it feels and smells great, contains inspiring and valuable information, and holds the promise of educational excellence.
For us at Blue Apple Education, there is nothing worse than seeing a school invest money in a prospectus that sits in the box under the headteacher’s desk. If that’s your plan for it, don’t do it. Get the guitar or the toothbrushes. But if you can see how it works in your admissions process and it’s going to help to get parents onboard, then a prospectus can be a brilliant part of your success – one part of a whole communications and marketing package. These days you don’t want to be left behind. Order your fabulous prospectuses and then relax with a good book – or you could sit down in front of the VCR. These days isn’t that what they do?