When it comes to the educational sector, we all know there is quite a lot of competition between schools. For parents, for example, it is no easy decision to find the right private school for their kids, so how can colleges overcome the many marketing challenges in the market today?
Recent studies believe these are the top 5:
- Attracting enough students to fill available spaces
- Differentiating my school from others
- Attracting enough students to create a waiting list
- Fundraising to support long term development
- Rebranding as a result of a change in key messaging
- Understanding the differences in ‘my schools’ market
You may have some of the above areas covered, but can you identify gaps in sections that need improvement? How can you solve some of these marketing challenges? There are a few important steps that school marketing departments need to understand and therefore manage.
As you have probably experienced, we exist in a world where life seems to just get busier with both parents lacking time while trying to conciliate work and family commitments. Parents have higher expectations than generations gone by and want to be continuously involved in their children’s education journey. As schools’ marketers, it is our job to answer all of their questions clearly and cohesively.
The average number of schools considered by prospective parents ranges from 2.8 for primary schools and 2.6 for secondary, so ensuring that the school’s communication is consistent and straightforward can be a differentiation in the process of their decision making.
How can you create stronger connections with parents and the wider school community? Here’s a list of a few essential steps to keep in mind.
- Devise a set of key messages that people in your school community can relate to and identify with. Parents talk can create significant miscommunication in many school communities, frequently resulting in damaged reputations through misinformed networks. Protecting your brand, reputation and core values becomes even more critical.
- Find stories that back up your key messages. Always be looking for these stories, asking questions of people within the school community. Social media and EDM’s are a great way to showcase these stories. Celebrate the success of your students, large and small. It goes a long way, and chances are the community will always love to hear about it. It’s not just the students who should be honoured for their achievements. Teachers who achieve great things should be commended, these kinds of stories instil trust and respect from the wider school community. Once you have compiled them, it is essential to get them out there for people to read which re-enforces your key messages.
- Set up some clear guidelines for who these messages and stories are going to be communicated to. It is important that your key messages appear across all facets of your marketing strategy. Everything from photography and videography to school yearbooks, prospectus’ and newsletters. Advertising, signage, pretty much all marketing channels can be used to promote and market your school. Everything with your school’s name on it needs to be consistent, constantly referring back to the key messages established to reinforce your school’s core values. The modern parent usually needs about six touchpoints before they decide to purchase. A strong school marketing plan should embrace this, with benchmarks geared towards social media, websites and traditional marketing channels that nurture these decisions.
- A well thought through brand strategy will eliminate any confusion as the messages are consistent. Once the visual tone is established, it is important to document it in the form of a style guide. Rules and guidelines that will ensure the brand is protected.
Working closely with a brand agency that has substantial experience working with private schools in Sydney is the first step. Building an alliance that can guide you and promote your school visually to the market. An agency that can continuously assist in keeping your messaging on target, not being distracted but also keeping you across trends. It is a partnership where your knowledge in your school and its’ community is supported to produce strong communication that is not only visually strong but strategic in its execution.
If you would like more advice or perhaps conduct a brand audit on what your school is currently doing, please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org.