Effective marketing is about much more than an attractive prospectus: it starts with developing a brand for your school.
Most schools are becoming aware of the need to implement marketing strategies; for many larger schools or independents this is something that has been part of school life for many years.
But marketing an education institution shouldn’t just be about short term ‘selling’ of places on the register. It is about establishing a brand that reflects your ethos and values, improves performance and builds long term support for recruitment (of students and staff), funding and business and community relationships.
What is a brand?
Consider a household a name like Tesco, BP or Cadbury’s. You may picture a logo and certain colours, but your understanding of the brand goes beyond that, including ideas about value, quality, service, friendliness, status and, ultimately, desirability.
A brand has many components, which may include a logo, slogan and the application of these to everything from uniform to signage. But it also includes a set of shared, defined values for the way the organisation operates, the constituents, quality and dependability of the services you offer, and even the way the telephone is answered or the physical environment of the establishment.
In other words, the way you interface and interact with customers – in the education sector, pupils, parents, stakeholders and visitors – is as important a part of your brand as the school crest.
Why should you develop a brand?
A clear brand will help you develop an effective marketing strategy. Effective marketing is not ad hoc activity but a cohesive strategy with long and short objectives and planned events and promotions.
A clear brand gives you a ‘goal’ for this plan – it represents the image and ethos you want to promote. Combined with a clear, and honest, picture of where the school is now (discovered through informal and formal surveys, brainstorms and feedback), this gives you the outline of your marketing plan and you simply need to find the tools which will take you from your starting point to your goal.
A brand also gives you ‘guidelines’ to help plan events and publications – having a clear set of brand values to compare any marketing tools against ensures your messages are consistent and effective.
How can you develop a brand?
Start by defining what you want your values to be. This can be done within your organisation, and a good starting point is a brainstorming session, or series of sessions, with staff and governors. Think about the words and phrases you would like others to use to describe your school or college, such as responsive, accountable or recognition of individuals. Too many conflicting ideas can make your brand less effective, so it’s worth using an external facilitators to help create consensus.
When you have successfully gone through these processes, you will have the basic ingredients for developing a marketing strategy. This consists of two elements:
- A plan that identifies your brand values, sets goals in terms of targets, and a costed and prioritised action plan for achieving those goals through marketing
- A set of tools to achieve your goals
Key marketing tools are likely to include:
The visual identity
Other brochures and publications
Open days and school tours
Networking and community interaction
Advertising and mail shots
Effective marketing is not ad hoc activity but a cohesive strategy with long and short objectives.
For more information please contact Brian Howell on 0151 328 0672.