School's out forever!
Phew! We've made it... That's the reaction of most teachers and students at the end of the summer term - perhaps more so given the weather in the last few weeks.
But before we close up, we need to talk about marketing. It's easy to think that nothing happens in August, but for many parents the summer holiday itself is a key reminder that some important choices are coming up. Although they probably won't expect to be able to visit schools, they will want to do some research and have a detailed plan of action for the busy Autumn term.
What can schools do to engage and develop parents' interest over the summer? More and more schools have full-time marketing staff available for several weeks during the summer, but if you don't (and there have been a lot of 'term-time' marketing jobs advertised recently) here are some tips...
1. Given that the number one source of information on a school is its website, make sure everything is up to date - don't wait until September to add details of the school's recruitment process (in many cases parents will be thinking two years ahead) or Open Days. If you don't do this already, make sure you give visitors the chance to register their interest so you can contact them as soon as possible once staff return.
2. If the school office is going to be unmanned, make sure you have detailed voicemail and out-of-office emails set up so that people know when the school can be contacted and how to find out key information in the meantime. Directing them to the website is a good idea.
3. Keep a presence on social media. A good idea is to repost the highlights of the last year on Facebook and Twitter using the scheduling features of programs such as HootSuite and TweetDeck (I use the latter, but have heard good things about the former). I'd recommend posting the top 10 stories from the past year over a couple of weeks - a maximum of one story per day on Facebook, while on Twitter it's worth repeating each message two or three times a day. In the run-up to the exam result days (15th and 22nd August) you can change to schedule specific reminders and advice for students.
4. Communicate great things that are happening in the summer. Two areas I've seen done really well are blogging stories about trips and giving updates on new building work. Both can be done by non-marketing staff (ask your caretaker to post pictures as a new building takes shape) and give a positive impression of the school.
5. Make the most of results days. I've written a separate How To about this in detail, but they are two of the most important marketing dates in the calendar.
6. Pre-book your Autumn advertising. Look at what worked well in previous years and make sure that you've taken advantage of early-booking discounts in the media that work for you. I'd always wait until the exam results come out before confirming the artwork though.
Please add any suggestions - and have a great holiday!