The term ‘marketing’ in the education sector is no longer a swear word and is now a discipline that schools and colleges are interpreting and using to maximum effect. We believe there’s another term that is so commonly misunderstood but which schools and colleges should be embracing and capitalising on – Brand.
The stakes have never been higher and the maelstrom continues around leaders in our education system, particularly new headteachers. It’s halfway through your first term, in a new role, probably in a new school, all in the midst of a pandemic.
In our experience of working with new headteachers, the priorities in terms of marketing and communications are at their height in the autumn term. There is also the balance of establishing credibility and promoting yourself to internal and external stakeholders whilst communicating and embedding yours, and your school’s culture, vision, values and key messages.
Effective communications should always be part of your toolkit and even more so during a national crisis that is directly and indirectly impacting on the running of your school. Mastering and implementing the priorities of this term will lay strong foundations for next year, particularly around pupil recruitment, reputation management and building brand loyalty. Each of these strands are multi-layered and should be seen as strategies rather than actions or events that need to be ticked off a list, ie. open events.
An effective marketing and communications strategy should be part of your school development plan and critical incident planning as it will support the school in the short, medium and longer term as well as minimising additional pressures that can escalate quickly and sometimes without foundation.
As we know the real test of leadership is often during a difficult situation or crisis and how you behave and act will establish your credentials in the short and longer term. Our advice, always tackle things head on and use it as a stepping stone to enact change:
Project honesty and confidence: it’s business as usual and the school is in capable hands. Take a proactive approach to positive communications, and manage negative issues in a confident and honest manner.
Decisive and adaptable: never has there been a greater need for a strong headteacher and solid SLT that feel prepared, capable and empowered to make quick/hard decisions: the everyday, the out of the ordinary and the extraordinary.
Controlling the controllables: a leader must take control from the outset and a SLT that can effectively manage and communicate the controllables will have more time, energy and resources to deal with future difficult situations or any ensuing chaos.
Effective risk assessment: quickly evaluating all the facts and then making a calculated decision on the best course of action is a valuable skill and good habit to adopt. Our challenge to you is how then best to communicate to internal and external stakeholders.
Stay positive: this applies personally and at school level. Personally, a good game face helps to keep any insecurities at bay that can lead to self-doubt. From a school’s perspective, keep pushing out the positive news so that when any negative or sensitive issues arise there is always a positive balance in the bank.
So, what next for new headteachers in terms of marketing, reputation and pupil recruitment:
General: keep up the positive good news and open up as many media channels as possible making sure everything is of high quality and as up to date as possible: website, social media channels, video content, branding and photography.
Primary: closing date for pupil recruitment is still a way off, what else have you got planned? Virtual coffee mornings with home delivered fresh bakes? Virtual musical extravaganzas? Virtual storytimes?
Secondary: the marketing window to consolidate Y7 numbers for next September continues until end of March, what are your deal clinchers? Virtual winter musicals? Onsite Friendship Afternoons in March? Online academic seminars/lectures?
Whilst the world continues to use every proverb, idiom and adage under the sun: hold your nerve, this too will pass, always put your best foot forward…… we’ve added another! We believe forward thinking and visionary new headteachers can get ahead of the curve… and we can support you on the truly remarkable journey ahead.
Book your place on one of our complimentary online workshops or schedule a 15 minute online clinic with one of our education experts – full details are on our website. Good luck!
As the debate continues on the conversion of schools to academies, growth of MATs, financial efficiencies, school improvement….. our take on it is that there are a raft of additional opportunities - if only they were viewed from a strategic marketing and communications perspective. There is no getting away from the statistics and the ever-greater number of schools that have converted to become academies; half of all pupils in England attend an academy, over 33% of schools are now academies and over 75% of academies are part of a MAT (S, M, L, XL)!
In our view, a successful Trust (whatever its size), and its ability to establish a quality reputation, is directly linked with the success of its schools – and in most cases a Trust’s reputation will only be as good as its weakest school(s).
The staff room is typically the central hub of a school pulsating with everyday trials, tribulations and jubilations along with chocolates, biscuits and cakes! This autumn term the key priorities of communications, pupil recruitment and managing the school’s reputation continues at a pace with the same deadlines but complicated by new and additional problems and challenges. With a whole new world ahead of us, rather than looking to overcome these challenges is it time to face them head on? Is it time to adapt and do things differently? How ready is your school in dealing with these key areas that will ultimately impact on the school’s future?
Who doesn’t love a motivational quote – and moreover a sports motivational quote, in fact a ‘Yogism’ from Yogi Berra, an American professional baseball catcher of the 1940s-60s. This quote is particularly relevant to the autumn term and the strategic marketing of secondary schools.
“Originality is simply a pair of fresh eyes” – these are the words of Thomas W Higginson, a 19th century theologian, and we believe they resonate strongly in terms of marketing your sixth form.
It is easy for any organisation to become too inward-looking. Additionally so, in the education world where year in year out, at the same time of year, schools and colleges communicate the same marketing messages through the same marketing channels.
Topics: Sixth Form Recruitment
Who would have thought that open event season 2020 would feature empty corridors, classrooms and playgrounds? As a society, we are creatures of habit and we like patterns, regularity, familiarity…but this is the year we have to do things differently, starting with your school’s traditional open mornings, days, evenings, tours… We can no longer run the same events that we have for years, tweaking here and there, in the hope that when we open our doors hordes of prospective pupils and their families will come
In our experience, schools are generally good at communicating with their internal stakeholders however, some lack an awareness when it comes to key external audiences - be aware that with the pace of change that is happening in society - there is now a need for change and for schools to be extrospective and to embrace how this can support their brand enhancement and reputation management.
The need for schools to have a clear vision and a core set of values that underpin all that they do, and a concise communication strategy aimed at all key stakeholders is more important than ever.