So, how do you set about creating your bank?
1. Identify the individuals to be profiled. Even in a small school it's worth asking around - heads of year are a great place to start. Don't just ask for names - get teachers to say why the students demonstrate the key strengths of the school. Make sure you reflect the gender and ethnic mix of your school as well as the range of achievement in your school (don't just pick the academic or sporting heroes for example - look at those who help others or lead charity work). You should start with a list of 5-10 students - enough to give a decent range without taking too much time.
2. Obtain permission from parents. Most schools routinely ask parents for permission to use their children in marketing activities, but it's worth sending a further permission letter home for a case study - many parents will also get a positive feeling from their child being singled out in this way!
3. Write a list of questions. I always have a number of general questions that I ask every case study at a school. It means you don't miss out anything important - and you can cross-cut between questions in a video or prospectus. Start with easy questions - how long they've been at the school, what they're studying, what they achieved in their GCSE exams or where they went to primary school for example. Then make sure to ask about the things that make your school different - what is it like studying in a Sixth Form College? or a faith school? or a single sex school? Then focus on their individual stories and achievements. What have they done at the school? how has it helped them to achieve? At this stage don't be too rigid when following the list - you can move away from your list and follow up any interesting statements they make.
4. Think multimedia when recording information. Videoing case study interviews is a great idea. It allows you to focus on questioning rather than recording answers as well as giving access to video and audio material which can be put on your website or You Tube feed. Make sure the video is as high quality as possible and that the background shows off your school in a positive light. If you are shooting video, make sure to ask your students to introduce themselves - and in a school be aware of bells and students moving between lessons! If you're not experienced in video editing, find a local specialist or ask around the school community - you might find a budding film director!
5. Tag case studies and keep them up to date. When you start writing case studies, you'll know your way around them. But as the bank increases it becomes more difficult to remember which was which. A simple filing system would list name, address, year group, exam results, extra-curricular activities referenced and date interviewed. Make sure to revisit case studies on at least an annual basis - and you can keep tracking students after leaving school of course!
6. Use them across different media over time. While case studies may be generated initially for a prospectus or website, you should consider how to use them in all your marketing communications. One school I know puts out life-size cut-outs of case study students at Open Days - you could also show video clips at Parents' Evenings or add exam results to the case studies and sent them to local newspapers. They're also great for Direct Mail or newspaper adverts - you are telling prospective parents in their neighbourhood 'your child could be like this!'.
Please add any thoughts below.