Marketing your school’s brand to its full potential, although a significant factor in its success, can often be neglected and consequently restricted by a budget that may not meet your ideal needs. However, a great deal of marketing for schools can be low-cost and easy to implement. This is the second of a two-part series that will outline the ways in which to market your school effectively on a tight budget.
Creating marketing materials
- Brand identity manual: Having established your brand, you’ll need a brand manual which at the very least will give you a clear guidelines about using the logo, colours and fonts consistently so that everyone recognizes your brand when you start to produce marketing materials.
- Templates: To create really cost and time-effective marketing materials, go one step further and create templates for anything that you know will be repeated on a regular basis such as open day advertisements and flyers. Learning the basics of an application like InDesign will enable you to make the small changes yourself without incurring outside costs.
- Digital letterheads keep stationery print costs down
- Print the prospectus digitally if you are a small school to keep numbers low and avoid having to store a great deal of prospectuses.
- Keep the core details in the prospectus but put all the information that changes on a regular basis into a single-colour booklet or ideally on the website where it can be changed quickly.
- Press Advertising: This is not an exact science. Very few parents will be able to cite a certain publication as the source of your school advertisement, so it’s not vital to invest in the most expensive local magazines if you’re trying to save money.
- It’s just as likely that prospective parents will see your ad in a local church magazine or in the library as a glossy magazine and this is a much cheaper option. Distribute as many flyers as possible out into local sports clubs, church halls, libraries etc.
- Websites: Make sure you use a web company that doesn’t use their own Content Management System otherwise you’ll be locked in with a high monthly fee. If they do, you need to get permission for as many areas of the site as possible. Make sure your contract is flexible so that if after a few months you find you’re not using as many hours as you’re contracted for, you can adjust this accordingly.
- Try to glean as much information from them as you can so that you are able to change all the main areas in-house without having to ask them, which is expensive and takes time.
- Above all ensure your new site is Mobile-optimized.
- Vehicles: Use your vehicles for advertising as much as possible. Drive it as often as possible and park conspicuously at various school events. Getting it wrapped (with a photo or bigger graphics) can make it stand out from your competitors for a relatively low extra cost.
- Social media: Unless you are using social media in its most sophisticated form i.e. analyzing traffic and use behaviours to the point of convergence and targeting advertising accordingly, it is just another useful communication channel. This is especially true as schools are the perfect places for content. There is plenty of constant news to report on. Facebook can be updated as often as there is an interesting event taking place.
- Facebook can replace newsletters with regular updates rather than the Head creating a newsletter to cover the whole week.
- Twitter can be used to communicate more immediate news such as cancellation of matches, school closure due to bad weather and late arrival of the coach after a school trip. Use social media to advertise school events such as concerts, plays and Open Day.
- Photography: Photography is absolutely vital for every communication channel and it’s worth investing in with an experienced school photographer as its specialized business.
- Get an annual day booked and be well prepared to brief the photographer on what you want to communicate. When the shots come in from the photographer, archive them immediately and name them so that you can find them easily.
- Get the copyright for all of them so that you can modify them, crop, apply filters to repurpose them. It’s worth investing in a course of Photoshop to grasp the basics in terms of retouching so that you can make the most of the shots you have.
- PR: Get to know your local paper and editors of local glossy magazines. Are any of them parents? Invite them in for lunch. Make friends so that they know what to expect at your school if you need some publicity.
- Invite your suppliers to Christmas concerts – this is usually greatly appreciated and encourages a warm feeling towards your school.
- Get out into the community – your children are probably already singing at the local Christmas fair, care homes and other community activities, so make sure the event is recorded and tweeted with a mention for another local organization.
- When using outside suppliers give them a clear brief with your objectives, expectations of delivery, timing and budget. Spend time on the preparation so they know exactly what’s required.
- Make sure you give them final proofread copy otherwise they may charge you for any extra changes. They will expect you to read through and sign off the printers proof otherwise it will be even more expensive once you’ve got to this stage.
Making the school look good
- Ensure that the School Receptionists are warm and friendly. Remember that this is likely to be the first person from the school that visitors meet.
- Make sure your Reception Area is welcoming and comfortable. Are there up to date issues of your school publications available for visitors to read while they are waiting? Are visitors offered a coffee while they are waiting? Are there fresh flowers or plants to enhance the atmosphere?
- Pupils’ artwork: Take shots whenever you can before they get taken home. They make great backgrounds for marketing materials. You might also use them for added interest in publications and digital media.
- Get as much data from applications as possible and make sure this is used on your admissions system.
- Make use of parents who are willing to help.
Ways in which parents can help
- Ask for their support on Open Days and on Assessment/Exam Days to welcome prospective parents.
- Check to see if there are any parents with specific expertise i.e. PR that they would be willing to share.
A video documentation of the TES interview with Carolyn Reed and Andrew Maiden on this topic is available here: TES Interview