School Marketing Across the World

School Marketing Across the World
21 Jun 2023

If there's been one difference to my work post-COVID it's that it has become more international - despite leaving my home office less! The rise of Zoom and similar tools has made it much more cost-effective for anyone seeking training and consulting help to reach out around the world.

As a result, when I reflect on this school year what strikes me is how much time I've spent on projects for schools outside of England, the system I know best! I've worked with schools in North America, Asia, Africa and Europe - including British overseas schools, local independent schools and groups of state funded schools. I've delivered training sessions, carried out focus groups, mystery shops and parental surveys and created marketing and communication plans.

What have I found?

Firstly, at the risk of stating the obvious, there are a lot of similarities around the world!

1) Parents want the same things, but not necessarily from the same place!

Wherever I've looked the top things parents want are similar. They want schools to have an international outlook, offer languages and computing skills, and deliver good pastoral care and support to help students move on to great destinations. However, competition for many of these isn't just from other local schools now - there are online alternatives and people can source expert tuition or 'super-curricular' activities from anywhere in the world. Schools need to consider how they create a holistic package or 'journey' for children and families.

2) Choosing a school is often too complex and inflexible.

There's a growing realisation of the value of each student to a school - even in state funded systems money increasingly follows each child - but this doesn't always translate into high level customer service. I won't name them, but one international school didn't reply to our mystery shop for 2 weeks, while others have complex application procedures that require significant deposits early in the process.

3) Informed word of mouth is still the way most people hear about schools.

Most people choose a school after listening to friends and family who have first-hand experience of a school, which makes a lot of sense. However, that doesn't mean marketing stops for these parents - 'informed' means providing great content, giving it to your stakeholders in a way that can be shared easily, and then keeping doing this with those who enquire to ensure they commit to your school.

And of course, there are quite a lot of people who don't use this method, especially those moving to a new area or country for work - they rely on the image the school directly projects of itself. If there's one thing all schools need to do more of for these people, it's keeping the school's Google profile up to date and encouraging reviews there.

What are the differences?

I've explored some fascinating differences between countries, including.

1) The dynamics between state and independent education.

Coming from a country that has a fairly positive view of private schools (although that might change in the next couple of years if the next election goes as predicted!) it's interesting to see how things change overseas, ranging from US states that offer vouchers for private schools to the situation in South Korea where families have to (and do) leave the country for a number of years to access (private) international schools!

2) The move towards a more 'standard' set of schools.

Working in the UK I'm used to a large number of different types of schools - just compare England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for example - but when you look internationally there's a welcome degree of consolidation. This is good news for parents, but there's still a need to communicate how different systems such as the International Baccalaureate or the American Curriculum fit with each other and perhaps more importantly allow future study options.

3) How schools relate to their wider communities.

This is something that changes by type of school and location but it's interesting how engaged some schools are in their local area - the small schools I worked with in Minnesota, USA were real community hubs - or with their alumni or parent community, while others had few links with stakeholders and were looking to develop them.

 I'm looking forward to where 2023-4 takes me - virtually or in person!