The changing nature of schools’ marketing
I got my first job marketing a school in 1999. I’d been appointed as the School’s Public Relations Manager because they felt they weren’t getting enough media coverage and I was the only journalist who had applied. I’ve been in schools’ marketing ever since but it has now become a multi-million pound industry. Back in 1999, I used to send little post-it notes to staff and I was a department of one, able to communicate clearly and efficiently with my Line Manager, the Head. These days the proliferation of emails, the meteoric rise of social media, the increased immediacy and the way in which prospective families browse and choose schools, means the job has changed beyond measure. Take emails, for example. Today, you’re part of email conversations when people ‘cc’ in everybody else and you suddenly have too many opinions and not one single decision. And, the art of email etiquette hasn’t quite been learnt by everyone! Today, schools now have Marketing Departments with several people carrying out different roles – Director of Marketing, Marketing Assistant, Website Manager, Events Officer etc. The list can be extensive!
Today, independent schools are slick businesses running estates and bringing in thousands, even hundreds of thousands, in donations or legacies. New builds form a regular part of each five-year Development Plan and pupils enjoy state-of-the-art equestrian centres, golf courses, sports complexes and theatres that any city would be proud of. Marketing Managers are required to keep up every hour of every day, checking work emails on mobiles or tablets, posting and retweeting. Work is no longer just inside the office Monday to Friday.
Keep on Track
It is vital to remember what your goals are and surely they must be the same as they were back in 1999 – to attract prospective families, build on your reputation and increase your pupil role. Even though the devices we use today to market schools are much more complex, keep your goals firmly in sight and don’t be distracted by the volume in your email in-box or doing something just because your competitor school is doing it. Being a leader in your sector means being different, offering to parents what other schools don’t and making sure you look after your current families as well as your former and prospective ones.
I’ve been to many Marketing conferences and watched Marketing Managers from independent schools either fall asleep or their eyes glaze over as they listen to some ‘marketing expert’ and you suddenly think, how is this relevant to my school? Keep focused on your goals, don’t be afraid to say something when you think ideas are bad and don’t be drowned out by other voices just because they are louder. After all, you’re the Marketing expert.