You run a small private school. You're facing many challenges filling seats. You're concerned about how next year's intake will look. With all the unexpected expenses facing you during the pandemic, you can't afford to hire a marketing firm to promote your school. So, what to do? The answer to that question lies in your school's unique trove of photos, news, testimonials, awards, and other memorabilia. I'm presuming that you have all those materials saved somewhere on your school's computers. If they are spread about over several computers, save them all in one system that is backed up securely. Better yet, save them in the cloud. These materials are unique and priceless. Saving them securely in the cloud is an expense that you should consider as cheap insurance. (I'm not sure how your accountant will allocate that expense, but we'll let her decide.)
Where am I going with this? Well, take a moment to look at commercial websites or commercial Instagram accounts. The photos and the artwork grab your attention, don't they? They draw you into their story. They help deliver the message. That's all I'm suggesting that you do with your collection of digital photos. They're unique. They'll your story to a stranger who knows nothing about your school and how excellent its reputation and academics are. They're one of the first steps in generating contact by email or phone with your school. You know how to convince parents to send their children to your school. But you need parents asking about the school to begin your sales pitch. Those photos will help open the door.
1. Develop your photo library.
Spend 10-15 work hours cataloging your collection of digital photos. Organize them into four main categories: Academics, Sports, Extracurricular Activities, and General. You can further subdivide the categories according to the pictures you have available. For example, under Academics, you might add a category for each grade, class, and subject. Sports could include subcategories for baseball, field hockey, soccer, and so on. Extracurricular Activities could include photos of all your various club activities. The General category is a catchall that includes anything that you cannot easily file under one of the other main headings. This first step of organizing your photos is important because it allows you to see at a glance what you have. That will help you fill in any gaps you discover.
This video shows you how to organize your photographs.
2. Develop your news item library.
Depending on how long your school has been in existence, you will probably have scrapbooks filled with press releases, graduation ceremony leaflets, invitations, awards, magazine and newspaper clippings, and lots of other records of your school's history. Cataloging these will make an excellent project for a parent who has the time and ability to organize those print materials for you. Once that task has been completed, select 20-30 items to scan or photograph digitally. For example, newspaper clippings showing the school's opening forty years ago or your first graduating class will be very effective when used on your website or social media accounts.
3. Post regularly.
Fresh material always attracts the eyes. Online readers scan notifications that appear on their phones or in their email inboxes. Posting regularly on your website and social media sites is an essential task. Assign it to a staff member who writes well and has an eye for what will attract parents. Once you have assembled all the material to which we referred earlier, in a small school, allocate 1-2 business hours daily to posting on your website and social media sites. Some days it will take less time. On other days it could be much longer. For example, publicizing new student acceptances or the school's tennis team winning against a longtime rival school will demand more time.
This video explains why businesses should post to social media regularly.
4. Encourage interaction.
Once you have eyes on your website and social media, the next step is to encourage contact with your school. Display your school's phone number prominently. Record a brief after-hours greeting encouraging the caller to leave her number for a callback. Display your school's inquiry email address prominently. Notice that I described the email address as an "inquiry" email address. Assign this address to your admissions staff. Have them set up an Out of Office reply which lets the person emailing the school knows that somebody will reply the next business day. Use the same strategy with your social media accounts. Prompt replies are essential. Add a simple form for inquiries on your website. Keep it short and sweet. You don't enjoy filling out long forms online. Neither do your prospective parents.
Do you have a crest, school motto, or some other branding item? It should figure prominently in all your digital materials.
5. Follow up.
Consistent follow-up will yield the results you want so much, i.e., an admissions application. At the beginning of this five-step marketing project, meet weekly with your staff to review what each person is doing. Depending on how experienced your team is, you will get plenty of excuses such as "I thought you meant...", "we didn't have time to...", and so on. Patiently explain what you want, encourage your team, and praise good results. It's the same as teaching. Your school's future depends on a well-executed marketing strategy. You can make it happen.
This video shows you how to master follow-up.
There's plenty of free material online to help you market your school. Explore YouTube and the web, but do so critically. You'll quickly figure out which articles and videos are aimed at businesses much larger than yours. Look for the ones who have small local businesses as their focus. You aren't a regional or national organization. You are a local hometown institution. Keep that focus sharp and unique.
You''ll also find several professional enrollment strategists when you do a Google search. Explore that option as you will learn so much from those specialists. They get private schools and how they work.
Questions? Contact us on Facebook. @privateschoolreview
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