During college, I worked in a restaurant as a server. What I remember most about that experience was the very specific support I received from my manager. You see, part of the manager training program was that she had to be able to perform each restaurant job to earn real-world experience, gain empathy for the task and to understand the challenges to overcome for the individual and organisation to be successful.
While I understand that in the world of independent schools this type of training would be impossible, it does beg the question, “How does a school Head learn about and lead in areas of the school where they are not very knowledgeable?”
If you have an opening for a marketing and communications (marcom) position, best practice would suggest that the school Head hire a person with marcom expertise. I think we can agree that this is sound advice, but I would go further and say this should only be considered a starting point.
The reason is that marcom is such an important yet overlooked and undervalued area of schools. I would argue that most school Heads treat marcom like electricity. They never pay attention until there is a problem.
Marcom is the lifeblood of independent schools:
- It helps to attract mission-appropriate families who pay tuition.
- It helps tell your school’s story to your many stakeholders to raise money.
- And finally, by telling your story, it helps to re-enrol your current students.
While it’s essential for you to pay attention to your school’s marcom efforts you should also have a basic understanding of how marcom functions.
While there has been much progress at schools concerning pedagogy, learning styles, equity and inclusion to name a few, there has been a quiet revolution happening around marcom led by changes in the consumer world.
The way businesses market to consumers, who are also your prospective parents, has changed drastically over the last fifteen, ten, even five years. Schools’ adoption of these changes has lagged behind the business world, but needs to keep pace because parents now expect to be marketed to and communicated with in the same way as their bank, favourite brand, and even supermarkets interact with them.
With the above in mind, let me suggest three things you can do now to achieve this:
- Elevate the position of marketing and communications at your school by making that person your direct report and meet with them on a regular basis.
- Ask your marcom staff to create a dashboard of essential metrics which you’ll review in your one-on-one meetings each week to track progress and evaluate their efforts.
- The third and final thing you can do involves tying the particular metrics from your marcom dashboard to school metrics. The specific metrics that you include and measure on your dashboard will depend on your marketing initiatives. However, regardless of which metrics you select, I can’t impress on you enough the importance of tying those metrics to enrolment metrics like your number of enquiries, giving percentage or retention rate. In the paraphrased words of my own school Head, “I don’t care how many Facebook fans we have if it doesn’t translate into increased admission enquiries.”
While you won’t be able to take a turn at being the marketing and communication professional at your school, I hope that after implementing my three suggestions you’ll have a better understanding of this critically important area of your school.
Brendan Schneider is the Director of Advancement at Sewickley Academy in Pennsylvania USA, and a leader in the field of inbound marketing for schools. He is also the Founder of SchneiderB Media, a digital marketing agency specialising in helping schools use inbound marketing. Blog: schneiderb.com Podcast: schneiderb.fm