1. Identify the messages you want to get across. Your prospectus needs to quickly highlight the key strengths that make your school different. It also needs to be consistent with all the other advertising that stakeholders see.
2. Use stories to back up every statement. It is easy to say that your school is academic, or caring, or hi-tech. It is much more important to demonstrate what this means to students at the school. You should use case studies of students, hard evidence such as exam grades, awards, or value added performance, and external endorsements from parents, OFSTED or the ISI wherever possible. If you say you offer small class sizes or great pastoral care, give evidence!
3. Let your students illustrate the prospectus. Don’t just put the same picture of the front of your school on the prospectus – parents will be able to see this! Ask students to draw, paint or design their image of the school. You can also include exemplary student material inside the document – whether this is creative writing, a scientific poster, or the sheet music of a new composition. If you use pictures of sporting or drama events, identify the event.
4. Use a folder to make it easy to update: In the world of weekly website updates and daily Twitter feeds, you need to be able to add information to your prospectus more than once a year. Swapping your printed booklet for a colour folder with space for updates is a simple solution that saves a lot of money.
5. Personalise your prospectus. When you meet parents, let them tell you what is most important to them. At the end of their visit, tour or event give them a personal prospectus with the most relevant case studies and information. A handwritten note also generates amazing goodwill!
6. Give lots of contact details. Your prospectus must of course contain websites, phone numbers and email addresses of key people, but you could also set up specific Twitter feeds and Facebook pages for prospective parents.
7. Encourage revisits. Using a folder will also allow you to slip in details of forthcoming sporting events, concerts and other events that show your school off.
8. Don’t ration or hide them. A prospectus may be passed around a number of families – put enough out at events for current parents, teachers, governors and other contacts to take them – they’re not expensive in the context of a school’s annual marketing spend. And teachers need to read them to know what to say when prospective parents ask questions!