Marketing and Technology

Advances in technology have changed the way businesses market themselves. This section provides tips on social media marketing, information on the latest technology being used and SEO basics for private schools.
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In the first article in this series, Marketing the Small Private School: The First Steps, we looked at the resources available for marketing the small private school. The assumption which we made in that article was that your school probably couldn't afford a full-time marketing professional. Instead you would assign an existing member of your staff the additional responsibility of handling your marketing. That assumption still stands for purposes of this article. Now we will look at how to use the various resources and tools at our disposal.
 
The best strategy for successful marketing is to control your message. That means that you have to know who you are speaking to and through what means you can best communicate with them.  Let's use the proven journalist's approach to understanding our communications strategy.
 
  • Who are we trying to reach?
  • Why are we trying to reach them?
  • What are we trying to communicate?
  • How can we reach them most effectively?
  • When should we communicate our message?

This structured approach ensures that your message will be unified and on message as it progresses from your keyboard to the recipients. Let's look at examples of how we can reach each segment of our school community. My suggestions are merely suggestions deigned to get you thinking in a structured manner. Adapt my suggestions to suit your particular requirements.
 
Communicating with your community
 
Let's start at the top. 

Who are we trying to reach? Everybody in our community as well as everybody outside it.
Why are we trying to reach them? Because . . .read more
I suspect that most small private schools do not have much money in their sorely-stretched budgets for marketing. I further suspect that it is also true that most small schools do not have room in their budgets for a full-time marketing person. With those assumptions let's look at inexpensive ways in which we can market your school effectively.
 
In most small schools marketing tasks, such as they are, tend to be rolled into somebody else's portfolio. This article is aimed at those incredibly multifaceted professionals who have to juggle dozens of deadlines every day and still do a superlative job of getting the word out about their school.
 
What kinds of resources are available to help you market your school effectively? Probably more than you realize. Besides the old standbys such as consultants, books, blogs and affinity groups, popular social media has become a very effective part of any size school's marketing strategy. We shall look at each resource and see how it fits into your school's budget and your schedule.
 
Consultants
 
Having an expert review your marketing strategy is like going to the doctor.  It will cost you some money, perhaps even a lot of money. In return you will receive the benefit of years of professional experience and expertise when the consultant makes her recommendations. As a rule, hiring a consultant is not going to be as expensive as hiring an additional member of staff. You will incur a one time expense. If you plan to retain her services, of course, . . .read more
I can remember when many schools raised their collective eyebrows at social media a few years ago. You could almost hearing them saying under their breath "Over my dead body!" That was probably because few people back then understood social media and what to do with it.
 
The way we used to market schools
 
Decades ago your beautiful school brochures and catalogs were the way you got the word out about your school and its mission. Those printed materials were expensive and time-consuming to produce. But that's all we had. Then along came the Internet. Schools built Web sites. Pretty basic ones at first. But as the technology advanced and professional graphic designers got their hands on those school Web sites, the result was a product just as elegant and compelling as any of those brochures and catalogs we used to have lithographed. While most schools still produce brochures and catalogs, most of these are done in house.
 
It seemed that you had barely got your Web site tweaked to dazzling perfection, replete with online applications, inquiries, video tours and all the bells and whistles 21st century Web designers could cram into them, when along came Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Pinterest. Social media was suddenly socially acceptable. Not only was it acceptable but it was absolutely essential to include it as part of your marketing strategy.
 
Let's look at social media and see how best to use it to promote your school and its mission. As I usually do, I am focusing on . . .read more
A decade ago you spent a fortune on a gorgeous catalog and a couple of recruiting trips. Then you waited. If you had gotten your catalogs into the right hands and had a good turnout for your recruiting trips, you were in good shape. The applications came in hopefully in a three to one ratio. All was well.

That approach doesn't work very well today. Your demographics have changed. More and more of your target parents belong to Generation Y. They get their information from social media.

The diversity goals your school has require different approaches too. You need to extend the reach of your advertising campaigns by using social media which is easily shared. Your market has become more segmented and much more competitive. As the economic outlook makes the future look more and more uncertain parents are examining the educational foundations which their children will need in order to be successful in their adult lives.

The uncertain enconomy which has dogged us since 2008 causes financial concerns for both you and your school and your current and prospective families.

That's where social media comes in. Done well, social media will improve your admissions yield. Done consistently, social media can cement value in place in the minds of your target audience.

But remember: social media is still marketing. It requires planning and execution of that marketing plan to work. It cannot be a hit or miss approach. Neither can you leave your marketing . . .read more
Social media for private K-12 schools is a bit different from social media for businesses. Businesses are looking to develop a client list from their social media efforts. Private schools, on the other hand, should seek to create community. Let's look at some more differences and some techniques to make your school's social media program successful.

Dedicate resources to social media.
My first bit of advice is simple but really quite necessary: devote some resources to your social media program. Your school's web site used to be the only front door your school had. It was the first thing people saw. Now it is the first thing parents or anybody over the age of 40 will see. Facebook is your new front door for folks under the age of 30.

You wouldn't be casual about creating your catalog, would you? (Did anybody ask about catalogs?) Your catalog and other printed materials which you send to prospective families are always professionally produced, aren't they? Same thing with social media. Allocate staff time and money to social media for the best results.

Social media principles are the same as with any professional, well-crafted publicity materials.

Develop an editorial calendar so that your postings are organized and have some consistency.
Your school year has its own unique rhythm to it. Anchor your postings around those milestone events and happenings. For example, if Grandparents' Day is the 3rd Wednesday in October, you would start a few weeks before with . . .read more
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