Hiring a marketer from another industry seems the obvious option. But there are problems with this approach - do senior marketers from industry know education, do they know the challenges of working in a school, do they even have the breadth of knowledge of all the marketing techniques needed? I've worked in the past for a number of universities and it was interesting to see how many great marketers from blue-chip companies left after a few months in a different environment.
Perhaps it's better to train up a teacher or senior manager? The problems here are actually quite similar - as a school is a small place, there is a lot to learn and little support from other marketers. While training is widely available, it takes time and money to gain CIM qualifications for example.
Of course, either of these approaches may turn up the ideal candidate. But if I was looking for someone to succeed in a marketing role in a school, my three priorities would be:
1. Marketing experience in a small company or wide-ranging marketing consultancy. In a small company you can experience all aspects of marketing - from PR to advertising, direct mail to website design. People with this background will also probably have experience working with a wide range of senior managers in client organisations - from directors of small businesses to marketing directors in large ones. This means they know when not to use 'marketing speak'!
2. A knowledge of and interest in education. As someone who has moved into teaching, there is so much that is different about a school. You need to understand the structure of education and also appreciate the roles of teachers and other key staff in a school. For example, few teachers see marketing as a key role of a school and will almost always prioritise time with students over time in marketing meetings!
3. A sense of urgency. In a very small team a marketer needs to be able to make progress themselves towards your goals without waiting for approval. Similarly they have to make an impact quickly - while in industry a 6-month research programme before a major brand repositioning may be ideal, schools don't have this luxury.
And if you can't find the right person? It might be that you want too much for one person - perhaps engaging a marketing consultancy for a short term and working with them to come up with a better view of the job you need might be better - you can find a selection here.
If you're a school recruiting for a schools marketer, I'd really appreciate your thoughts on this (and if you want to advertise a job on this site, just Tweet it with the hashtag #schoolsmarketingjobs).
And if you've got a job in schools marketing (well done!) make sure you sign up to Marketing Advice for Schools to keep up your sector knowledge and network with other professionals!