<![CDATA[Marketing Advice for Schools - Advice Blog]]>Tue, 23 Jan 2018 12:59:02 +0000Weebly<![CDATA[Writing for the digital age - what's changed and what hasn't!]]>Mon, 15 Jan 2018 15:16:17 GMThttp://marketingadviceforschools.com/advice-blog/writing-for-the-digital-age-whats-changed-and-what-hasnt
Words still matter - but you have to use them differently!
Fewer and fewer schools are communicating on paper any more - our latest School Marketing Survey found over 70% now send newsletters by email.

But what changes does this bring? Well, whether you're creating an e-mail newsletter, writing a website or using an app to send messages, here are the three things you need to do to compete with paper - and the two big advantages of digital writing!

1. You need to grab readers' attentions more quickly:

People are far more likely to be less distracted working on a tablet or phone than reading a magazine or letter. So your subject lines (in an email) or headlines (on a webpage) need to be 'compelling teasers' that get people to read further. Questions ('want to know what your child did in school today?') and lists ('10 ways to save money during the summer holidays') are good ideas.

2. You have to stop readers being distracted more often:

There's always the next email or open tab in a web brower, so your content needs to offer something to the reader. E-mail service Constant Contact suggests making 80% of your content 'useful' - for a school this would means adding information about holiday opportunities for children, advice on safe internet use, local community links and examples from different year group to your routine notices and news.

3. You need what you write to work across different devices:

While you might think that you'd have more options with digital displays, adapting the way text flows on devices ranging in size from mobile phones to PC screens means that you are best keeping each story as a separate block of text and minimising use of columns and so on. It also means that you're far better off using HTML newsletters (essentially web pages) rather than Word or PDF documents, which also tend to be larger and more difficult to view on different devices.


4. You don't have stick to words and images...

The good news is that now you have a screen, not paper and can use a wider range of content to help engage readers. As well as colour pictures, think about using embedded videos - either full clips or taster 'gifs' - take a look at 'GifIt' which will turn your videos into great animations for example.

5. ...and you can see what works and use it to build relationships.

Most online content as well as downloadable files allows you to embed hyperlinks to external content or websites. If you use a service such as Constant Contact or MailChimp you can get immediate feedback on not just what has been clicked and when, but who has done so. This means you can measure the success of different messages as well as going back to people who were particularly interested in an article.

<![CDATA[Making every visit personal and memorable]]>Fri, 15 Dec 2017 11:01:23 GMThttp://marketingadviceforschools.com/advice-blog/making-every-visit-personal-and-memorable
Will you score top marks when they compare you to other schools?
Every school has a wide range of visitors - prospective parents, potential students (in the picture above), former students and local community leaders. And all the evidence shows that visits are vital to important decisions - choosing a school, giving a donation or helping out in other ways. 

But sometimes schools think a school can sell itself - we'd argue that great preparation and organisation is needed to really ensure success. 

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” 
― Abraham Lincoln

Here are our top tips..

1. Gather information in advance. 
When someone calls and asks to visit, take the time to find out more about them and what they want in a visit. If they're a prospective parent, find out about their children, their ages, if they have any specific concerns, interests or access issues - and how you can contact them with more details. You should ask similar questions for other visitors.

2. Share and use this information
There's no worse way to start a visit that for the person who meets you not to know your name or why you're visiting. Brief receptionists and key staff before the visit, not during it. 

3. Make sure the right people are available and that you know where they are
As far as possible tailor visits - make sure that a potential class teacher, or SENCO, or pastoral leader is available at the right time. It's also worth reminding them a couple of times - and checking that they are where you expect them to be!

4. Use the school's best assets - students and their achievements
One of the most important aspects of marketing a school is to back up any assertions with stories and facts. For a visitor this should involve meeting students and hearing their stories. If the visit is out of school hours, make sure to tell and share written stories. 

5. Plan a bespoke route - you don't have to go to the same places (or everywhere) everytime
Just as you'd tailor who a visitor meets, think carefully about where they need to do. Make sure to cover their interests (music, sport, drama, the Sixth Form Common Room) but you don't need to go too far! 

6. Check for any areas that you might want visitors to avoid....
Schools are dynamic places and some rooms and corridors might not always be great for visitors - for example at lesson changeover or lunchtime. Tell staff where and when a visit is taking place - and if there's a suggestion that a particular area might not be appropriate on that day, avoid it!  

7. ....but also find areas they can be involved in!
As well as avoiding some areas, if you know things are happening around the school that fit with their interests ask if they can be involved - using Science or Technology equipment, listing in to a visiting speaker, watching a Drama rehearsal.  

8. Ask them how things went - don't assume they're happy
Visitors to schools can often be slightly intimidated by the setting and reluctant to give anything but positive feedback. Make sure that you give them the chance to ask questions - a paper or table questionnaire at the end is also a good way of surfacing any concerns. 

9. Follow up visits
However positively a visitor leaves your school, they could be off to visit 2 or 3 more in the next couple of days and might not make a decision for a couple of weeks. A personal letter or email reminding them of your key strengths, a telephone call, or a copy of your latest newsletter can all help 'seal the deal'. And also encourage them to follow your social media feeds!
<![CDATA[How to balance communicating and safeguarding -the four questions we're asked the most]]>Mon, 30 Oct 2017 19:47:38 GMThttp://marketingadviceforschools.com/advice-blog/how-to-balance-communicating-and-safeguarding-the-four-questions-were-asked-the-most

Working in a school there’s so much interesting news going on it’s tempting to focus entirely on sharing it as widely as possible. However it’s also very important that you take all possible steps to ensure the safety of students and indeed staff.

Here are our answers to the most common questions we're asked on our training courses – but please make sure you read your own organisation’s policies and take advice from experts if you’re unsure about anything.
  1. Do I need permission to use student images and names? It’s important that you gather explicit permission from parents to use any image of their child in school marketing. This should be done as part of the admissions process, and they should be given a regular reminder that they can then revoke this permission. The list of students who have not given permission should be shared with those who communicate externally – check for example that teachers taking a camera on a trip and sharing photos on social media are aware.
  2. What information should I share about students?  Our advice is that in general website and social media posts don’t need to include student names. If a student or students achieve something significant such as winning a national competition, discuss how you (and perhaps the organisers!) would like to publicise this with the parents. You should take the same approach with exam results – selecting students in advance to publicise and seeking specific permission. Another similar issue is identifying the location of students outside of school. For example it is better to take photographs on a trip to London and share them at the end of the day than to announce live on social media that you are just about to arrive at a particular location
  3. Are there any particular issues with social media? One of the problems with safeguarding is that once your publish information online (and of course this is as true of websites and e-newsletters), others can and will share information (and of course you want them to!). But you need to be careful that those sharing the stories don’t add back information that you’ve removed. It’s therefore important to keep reminding parents and staff not to tag pictures with student names.
  4. Who else do I need to safeguard? As well as students, don’t assume that you have the right to share staff details - there are reasons why some of them might want to be anonymous. It’s also worth (for your school’s reputation) reminding staff as well as students of the importance of protecting their reputation online.
<![CDATA[5 top tips for creating a new school website that lasts]]>Tue, 24 Oct 2017 10:15:47 GMThttp://marketingadviceforschools.com/advice-blog/5-top-tips-for-creating-a-new-school-website-that-lasts
Replacing your current website is a major task – it’s likely to be one of the biggest marketing costs for a school and invariably takes up much more time than you imagine at the start. But websites do get out of date – the design becomes unwieldy, the site is difficult to manage or can’t cope with modern media, or you’ve run out of your contract with a current provider. The challenge then is to bring your site right up to date and future-proof it as much as possible, so you don’t have to go through the process again!

Here are our 5 top tips for future-proof website creation…

1. Understand your stakeholders. Look at who uses your website at the moment, who you’d like to be using it in the future, what they want to see and how they are likely to access it (probably on a mobile phone!). These stakeholders will include current and future parents, staff and students and perhaps former students and local community organisations – anyone who is vital to the future success of your school. Remember also that your government is a stakeholder and may need to see specific information (for state schools in England, the Government provides a list of information here).  

2. Design for your visitor’s journey. Once you know what you need to communicate, you can start to design the layout of your site. Focus your design on the different stakeholders rather than your school’s organisational structure – so for example prospective parents can find all the information relevant to them in one place, with links to the latest stories that support your key messages. You should also create ‘landing pages’ for different stakeholders that can be used in external advertising and social media and quickly capture contact information.  

3. Find the right experts. Once you’ve reached this stage, it’s time to talk about design and content and to talk to several external experts (we recommend a few on our Consultancy page). Send them your ideas and invite them in to talk – at this stage as well as looking for a sensible price, you’re looking for a partner who understands you and schools and who you can work with over time. Don’t be seduced by the latest gimmicks, but make sure your site is easy to update and upgrade. Always ask for and take up references before choosing one supplier.

4. Build up relevant content and file it correctly. While the site is being built, start to build up relevant content that leads back to your key messages – you’ll need up-to-date photos, news stories (written and video) and background information. If you file or 'tag' content correctly it can automatically be shared with the right stakeholders across different pages.    

5. Leave time to test, test and test. A new website has huge potential for something to go wrong – from simple spelling mistakes to broken links and wrong information. As with all school marketing activity, look to engage your staff in the process, letting them check (mark!) the work – and suggesting improvements or new stories in the process. If you launch a site with errors, you’ll lose trust in the whole project and cut the time before someone suggests starting again! 
<![CDATA[Are you prepared for new data regulations? Our Early guide to meeting GDPR Changes.]]>Wed, 11 Oct 2017 14:19:21 GMThttp://marketingadviceforschools.com/advice-blog/are-you-prepared-for-new-data-regulations-our-early-guide-to-meeting-gdpr-changes
GDPR (or the European General Data Protection Regulation) is one of those technical issues that arise from time to time in marketing - if you're prepared for it there won't be a problem, if you're not it could cause a lot of hassle and wasted time after its introduction next year. 

Here's our quick guide, complete with links to find out more.

What is it? It's essentially an update to the existing Data Protection Act, improving and changing regulations on data storage to reflect changes over time - and the many breaches of data that have happened over time. (Here's a frightening list of the UK's biggest ones!)

What is changing? The main focus of change is to increase the responsibility on those who store and manage personal information.

What if we ignore it? Will it go away? Despite the legislation originating from Europe, it will be implemented before any Brexit deal takes place. The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) will be able to fine organisations (including schools) up to £500,000 - and data security is an area that OFSTED inspectors will look as as part of their inspections of e-safety. So no. 

What do we have to do? A good start is to look at the ICO's guide you can download here.
You should take a look at point 11 first - you need to appoint a Data Protection Officer across your school or wider organisation (you might already have one). You can then work with them to look at how your procedures and policies need to be updated. 

For school marketers, a key area will be point 7 - consent. You need to get positive agreement from people to use their personal data - and to be able to demonstrate this. So if you're holding an open event, asking people to write their email address down doesn't mean you can do anything with them!

You also need to review your current stored data (point 2), review the information you give to people whose data you are storing (point 3), check that you can meet people's rights (point 4 - especially the right not to receive direct marketing) and have processes in place for replying to 'subject access request' (point 5). 

Point 9 is also important in the area of reputation management - is your school prepared for a data breach? You might also get involved in communicating changes to your wider community (point 1) and work on the legal aspects (points 6 and 10). 

You should also talk to data processing companies (in the marketing area these will include email companies, CRM providers and website creators) and check they are prepared for the change (key issues are where they store data and whether they are properly accredited for disposing of IT equipment that contains personal details). If you need to change supplier it's better to work this out now before the 'mid-2018' GDPR implementation date. 

Where can we find out more?

The best place for the latest information is the Information Commissioner's Office, which will have the latest information also hosts a questionnaire so you can see how compliant you are. There are also a host of companies that will be offering 'GDPR solutions' - but make sure you educate yourself before you sign up for an expensive one!
<![CDATA[Strategies for making the most of social media marketing]]>Fri, 06 Oct 2017 11:05:56 GMThttp://marketingadviceforschools.com/advice-blog/strategies-for-making-the-most-of-social-media-marketingPicture
A key challenge for schools and school marketers is to make the best of social media – it’s not going away and it can’t be reinvented. This was the theme of our workshop at the 2017 isbi schools marketing conference at Fresham Heights School in Surrey.

Using our 2016 School Marketing Survey as the basis for our insights, we identified 4 key areas that school marketers can make the most of social media to add value to their school.
  • Gathering information from school networks
  • Segmenting and targeting your audiences
  • Tracking your social media reputation
  • Helping with safeguarding
We take a look at each point below – together with some of the great feedback and ideas from delegates! If you'd prefer to skip to the bottom of the page you can download the presentation and the questionnaire we gave to delegates to rate their own school in these areas.

Gathering information – rather than spend hours chasing round your school looking for the great stories you need, setting up social media accounts for sporting teams and your high-performing departments and training staff means stories will come to you. One delegate built on this by sharing how his school encourages teachers to use iPads to take pictures of great work for marketing purposes.

Segmenting and targeting your audiences – this is something that marketers do as a matter of course with other media, but few schools in our survey set up different social media accounts with targeted content. We also discussed sharing different types of content on different social media, targeting different age groups with different social media and using scheduling apps to produce content at the time people read it most. It was great to hear from one delegate about the way her school ran different Facebook pages for different stakeholder groups.

Tracking your social media reputation – schools can use a range of tools to move beyond simply looking at their number of followers. We discussed looking at engagements, using social media scoreboards such as socialcandy.co.uk (for Twitter) or Klout (for all social media), tracking social media enquiries or contacts from alumni and looking at changing perceptions through focus groups and surveys. There was a good discussion about whether schools should also be on the lookout for people who started following them on social media after events – and if they could be sent specific material to help them through the application process.

Helping with safeguarding – school marketing professionals are using social media regularly and can often see and hear things that will benefit pastoral and safeguarding colleagues. We looked at a few specific areas – identifying new social media platforms used by students (the rise of Snapchat for example); passing on information about dangerous social media trends such as the Blue Whale Challenge; and looking for negative or concerning social media posts by students that include the school as part of ongoing social media monitoring.  One delegate shared how his school had identified risky behaviour in a former student in this way. 

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<![CDATA[How to calculate the return on investment in school marketing]]>Tue, 15 Aug 2017 09:28:00 GMThttp://marketingadviceforschools.com/advice-blog/how-to-calculate-the-return-on-investment-in-school-marketing
One of the reasons many schools don’t ‘do marketing’ is that they think it’s expensive and a drain on the scarce resources that a school has. But if you see marketing as an investment over several years instead the figures show it could be what your school needs to bring in those resources.

We’ll start with the easiest situation - a school that has 5 spare places in each year group. Depending on the school each of these could be worth anywhere from £4,000 to £15,000.

Filling them in the first year gives an income £22,500 to £75,000 - the cost of a typical marketing programme. So where’s the return?

This is where the value that these new students have in future years is taken into account. Recruiting someone into Reception or Y7 mean you can expect income to come in for at least 5 years – for a ‘through school’ you might even get 15 years of income!

You can calculate this total return by calculating their ‘Net Present Value' – essentially looking at what their overall income is worth today. Clicking on 'NPV Calculator' below will bring one up in a pop-up window to help you work this out. The ‘discount rate’ is essentially the value you could get from investing money elsewhere – pretty low in the current economic climate but we’ll leave in the 5% suggested by the calculator. 
Examples: Putting in £4,500 income per student per year over 5 years (we’re even assuming no increase in funding!) against an initial investment of £50,000 gives a return of £64,000 for an 11-16 comprehensive once the initial £50,000 is returned. For a private school that charges £11,000 per year, successfully investing £100,000 in marketing will return over £218,000 if the students stay into the Sixth Form! An expanded marketing budget leading to the opportunity to hire a new teacher or to refurbish a department – or just mitigate current cost pressures.
State school return on investment
Private school return on investment
But what if a school is currently full up – does that mean marketing isn’t worth doing? The problem is that the market isn’t static. All schools in the present climate need to be investing to protect their position, so they don’t end up with spaces when the economy or local population changes or new schools open up nearby.

Marketing can also help you grow specific parts of your school such as a Sixth Form, save money on staff recruitment, set up a development function to raise money from former students, let out your facilities to the community and set up an income generation programme. The calculator above will allow you to model returns on all of these activities.

And you also need to consider the other benefits of marketing that will be happening around this – from centralising and making existing activity more efficient to raising your profile and improving relationships in your community.
Where should you invest in marketing?

The two examples above assume marketing investment of £50,000 for a state school and £100,000 for a small private school.

What would £50,000 get you? For this level of spend, a school could hire a marketing officer who would work with you during term-time as part of your administration team. They would focus on finding great stories, running your social media and organizing community events, and ensuring that applications convert into a full school through email newsletters – the most cost-effective marketing tools.

What would £100,000 get you? At this level, a school would be able to hire a full time experienced marketing manager and give them an effective external marketing budget. As well as the activities above they could focus on creating a strong brand and website, work with local media to achieve wider coverage for the great things your school does, and run targeted on- or offline campaigns to fill specific places. They could also support other school needs such as helping attract new teachers.

Both marketers would of course benefit from Marketing Advice for Schools’ networking opportunities and discounts!
<![CDATA[Measuring, reflecting and improving - 3 important (and different) tasks for the end of the year.]]>Sun, 02 Jul 2017 11:55:52 GMThttp://marketingadviceforschools.com/advice-blog/measuring-reflecting-and-improving-3-important-and-different-tasks-for-the-end-of-the-year
​Last month we looked at making a marketing plan - the start of the marketing process. Today we're looking at the end.

​What do you do at the end of a year? The usual answer in marketing textbooks is evaluation. But evaluation isn't one step. Perhaps it would be best if we split the idea into three?

Evaluation = Measuring + Reflecting + Improving

1) Measuring - what does the data say?

​You need to look at what has been achieved against your school and marketing objectives. Where did you meet them, where did you fall short, where did you exceed targets? The big advantage of explicitly splitting out this section is that you can do this objectively - don't try to explain or defend what happened.

2) Reflecting - making sense of the data.

You can now take time to understand each area, turning data to knowledge. Were targets wrong? Were things always planned early enough? Were messages appropriate? To avoid focusing too much on either the negatives or the positives (it's rare to find people who don't prefer one or the other!), a good tool is 
Edward de Bono's PMI process - giving equal weight to positive and negative factors as well as generating anything 'interesting' that you can use in the third stage.

3) Improving - so what are you going to do next?

​This is the key to successful evaluation and involves the most creativity as well as humility. You should certainly look at moving your marketing expenditure from areas that didn't work to those that did. A good rule of thumb is to move the least effective 20% of spend - 10% to the most effective channel, and 10%to something new. Our School Marketing Survey tracks innovations that schools are trying - perhaps one of these would work for you?

You should also use the evaluation process to refine targets for the next year. Don't forget to feedback the impact marketing has had and ask for extra resources if you feel they will help you reach critical business targets!

Please add your end-of-year tips below!

<![CDATA[5 things every school marketing plan needs (template included!)]]>Mon, 05 Jun 2017 08:38:03 GMThttp://marketingadviceforschools.com/advice-blog/5-things-every-school-marketing-plan-needs-template-included
How to get from A to B - a school marketing plan is essential
One of the most common Google searches related to school marketing is 'creating a school marketing plan'. And at this time of year in particular, it's what all school marketers are rightly focused on - because no matter how much research you do, or how creative your writing and design is, you need to get those key messages across to the right people in an efficient and effective way. 

There are many different ways to create a marketing plan and of course it depends a lot on your school and what you need marketing to achieve. But there are 5 things every plan should contain... 

Click here to download a template that focuses on these 5 areas - and you can fill it in as you read further...

If you'd like more help with planning or would like to learn more about the whole marketing process, consider booking a place on one of our School Marketing Workshops or our online School Communications Course

1. Business (school) objectives

You could start a marketing plan by listing the 'marketing' things that you're already doing and carrying them forward, but this approach quickly becomes divorced from the needs of your school (and leads to people complaining that 'marketing is a waste of money'!) If you're not part of the senior leadership team of your school you need to ensure that they share the school's priorities for the next year. If possible these should be as specific as possible ('we need more income and better staff' isn't as helpful as 'we need to raise £50,000 from lettings and recruit 3 maths teachers'.)

2. SMART Marketing objectives

Each business objective will have at least one (and often more) corresponding marketing objective. These are objectives that are within your control as a marketer - you can't recruit 3 maths teachers through marketing activity as you don't control the recruitment process - but you can increase the number and quality of applicants and see this feed through to better hires. It's worth setting targets and making them SMART (that's Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound). So you might set a target to get 20 Maths teachers to register their interest in working for your school and 10 to come for interview over the next 6 months.

3. Marketing tactics

Each objective will have at least one tactic. For example, taking the recruitment objective, you might run adverts on a national website - or you might create a recruitment section on your website, make videos showing the great things you do to develop Maths teachers and share them via social media and Maths teaching networks. Or you might do both and compare effectiveness. 

4. Budgets (Money and Time)

In order to show the impact of marketing it's really important to have a clear budget for each tactic - and particularly if you're marketing around other responsibilitie at school you need to allocate your time in a similar way. This allows you to compare different tactics - a series of national adverts might cost several thousand pounds but only take a few hours to write, while videos and websites are cheaper but more time consuming. You also need a contingency of spare time and money to allocate in case things don't go as well as you plan.

5. Evaluation

You need to be regularly checking and adjusting your marketing plan at each level. It's a good idea to set time aside monthly to look at how each tactic is working, how you're working towards your marketing objectives, and if there's any changes (hopefully not!) to school objectives.

If you haven't already, download our template here

Please add your thoughts by commenting!
<![CDATA[How to create self-esteem by sharing what makes your school great]]>Mon, 12 Dec 2016 20:30:39 GMThttp://marketingadviceforschools.com/advice-blog/how-to-create-self-esteem-by-sharing-what-makes-your-school-great
Follow the communications spiral upwards for success (c) Resonate
Self-esteem? In April? In many schools, this is when tired teachers, school marketers (and many students) drege up their last reserves of positivity as we head for external exams, SATs and their like.

But when you think about it, now's the time when you need your school community at its most positive. Students need to feel confident about themselves, their school and their teachers. Equally important, staff need reminding of the great things they and their school are doing to help avoid them looking for jobs elsewhere.

​And raising self-esteem is also a key step for your school on the road to success if you follow the excellent spiral diagram above (the brainchild of Andy Goff of Resonate). Self-esteem allows you to say 'this is a great school', 'we can do great things', and 'we must get out and tell the world how good we are!' in order to attract students, staff and engage your communities. 

So, how do you go about it? The key is to record and remember all the great things you do and have done throughout the year, and get your internal communications systems geared up to deliver regular doses of good news rather than just telling people which reports to write and which students are falling behind their (probably highly inaccurate) target grades. 

Here are six tips (that hopefully won't take too much energy)....

1. Keep an ongoing list of the top 10 (or 20, or more!) highlights from the last year and share them internally and on social media if you've nothing new that day. Don't worry about repeating yourself.

2. Collect some great photos from trips, visits and lessons over the year and use Animoto (alternatives available but it's a great simple tool!) to create a great video for your Facebook page and website.

3. Keep in touch with former students and share their good news. If you're a primary school, you can do this by keeping in touch with parents or following the secondary schools they go to on social media. If they visit, ask them to share their thoughts, ideally on video!

4. Make it very easy for busy teachers and students to share news with you. Whether you're a school marketer or school leader, get out and about and ask what is going well. Set up a student news team or club to help. Encourage and train teachers to take good photos and video (following your safeguarding policies) and set up a Twitter network to capture this. 

5. Survey parents and share the great things they say about your school - an especially good time to do this is at events that celebrate the end of school career - prizegivings, graduation ceremonies and so on. And use the quotes in all your adverts. 

6. Create a weekly internal newsletter, blog or social media feed aimed at students and staff to share these good news stories, and make sharing them a regular part of form time or registration (most teachers will also be very grateful for something to fill the time!).