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Marketing your school effectively
How can schools market themselves to prospective pupils and parents? We refer to a range of advice on marketing a school, covering factors such as developing a strategy, using internet-based marketing and securing media coverage. You will also find a case study from a teaching school.
- Marketing strategies for schools
- Building a communications strategy
- Internet-based marketing
- Media coverage for your school
Marketing strategies for schools
Six-stage marketing cycle
An article in SMT Magazine, a publication focused on school management, says that since parents have an increasing amount of choice when it comes to finding a school, schools need to respond by using better marketing techniques to attract them.
[Identify] three or four key statements about the school and a simple visual design for the website
The article describes a six-stage 'marketing cycle' that schools can work through to ensure that they "stand out":
- Market research – interviewing and surveying current and prospective parents and analysing the findings
- Meeting market needs – for example, you could consider what your school does to meet the needs of prospective parents, and what it could do
- Message and brand development – identifying three or four key statements about the school and a simple visual design for the website
- Evidence gathering – regularly collecting news stories about the school that support your key messages
- Using mass media – the stories gathered in the previous stage can be communicated to the local community through posters, social media and publications
- Relationship management – keeping in touch with anyone who has shown interest in the school, whether they have attended an event, asked for a prospectus or spoken to a member of staff
Why does marketing matter?
The National Association of School Business Management (NASBM) has a presentation on why marketing matters to schools.
Marketing is one of the six professional disciplines included in NASBM's professional standards for school business managers.
You can download the presentation by clicking on the link below:
12 marketing tips
Sounding Board, a marketing and communications company based in the United States, has published a list of 12 marketing tips for schools. These include:
- Create a parent advocacy group
- Engage local media
- Co-operate with feeder schools to remind parents of open days
- Update the school website
- Create a marketing club organised by pupils
The website makes references to the American school system which will not be relevant here, but you may still find the tips useful. You will find further information on each tip here:
Suggestions from one of our experts
At The Key's strengthening leadership and governance conference in June 2015, Justine Berkeley, the managing director of SBM Services Ltd, gave her own tips on marketing for schools. You can hear Justine's thoughts in the video below.
Building a communications strategy
Engaging the community in a marketing strategy
At an event organised by NASBM in July 2015, Jessica Ilenkiw, a sales manager at FSE Design, explained that everyone in the school community plays a role in marketing the school.
The opinions of parents, pupils and every member of staff contribute to the image formed of the school in the wider community, so it is important to engage them in the marketing strategy.
To achieve this, Jessica said the school could:
- Ensure that branding is present and consistent throughout the school
- Aim to maintain high levels of staff and parent satisfaction
- Communicate its strengths at every opportunity, both internally and externally
Please note that this mention of FSE Design does not constitute an endorsement from The Key.
An article on school publicity from Teachernet looks at putting together a communications strategy.
It says that a strategy should address questions such as:
- Who are your target audiences? (For example, parents, prospective parents, other schools, local businesses, the general public)
- What messages do you want to communicate?
- What means will you use to communicate them?
- What aspects of school life can you use to attract good publicity?
- Who is responsible for managing the school's communications?
- How will you handle negative news stories?
- How will you respond to media requests for more information about your school?
- How will you deal with inaccuracies and misrepresentations in the media?
- How will you monitor and evaluate your publicity?
The article is now hosted on the National Archives website.
Please note that mention of specific social media platforms and commercial providers in this article does not constitute an endorsement from The Key.
Social media for schools
The Guardian has a brief guide to social media for schools written by Matt Britland, who was head of the ICT department at Kingston Grammar School in Kingston upon Thames when the article was written.
His recommendations include using a ‘broadcast’ account on Facebook as a means of one-way communication with parents. He also says that schools can use an RSS feed to link website updates to a Twitter account.
This will automatically add a tweet to the Twitter account when new material is added to the website, thereby keeping parents who use Twitter informed and up to date.
Using pupils' artwork and photography: case study
We spoke to the head of photography at George Abbot School, a secondary teaching school in Surrey, about using pupils' artwork and photography to market the school.
She explained that pupils' work is displayed throughout the school, and is highlighted to current and prospective pupils and parents at events.
Pupils' work has also been used at events outside the school, including local art exhibitions and fashion shows.
Schools can create a Facebook page here:
Another article from The Key links to further guidance on using Facebook:
You may wish to create or update your school's page on Wikipedia.
Most pages on Wikipedia can be edited by anybody. Information on creating and editing articles on Wikipedia can be found here:
SecEd, a magazine for the UK secondary education sector, features an article on engaging parents through social media. It says that schools looking to share longer pieces or encourage more detailed conversations with parents could consider keeping a blog.
The article explains:
By getting teachers and pupils to use the blog to share news of extra-curricular activities as well as classroom antics, you are letting parents see behind the school walls in a more meaningful way.
It adds that schools can choose whether to open a comments section on each post and allow parents to contribute publicly.
Relationship with local newspapers
Jessica from FSE Design advised schools to stay on good terms with their local newspapers.
She recommended inviting local journalists to school events, and sending a photograph with any press releases.
She added that sending stories and press releases to newspapers over the summer holidays is an effective way of maintaining the school’s profile outside term time.
Media coverage for your school
The Marketing Advice for Schools website says that media coverage is highly valuable for schools. It explains that this kind of marketing is free and offers "independent, credible evidence of the success of your school".
The website gives tips for making effective use of this kind of marketing. For example:
- Find the right publications – ask which media pupils, parents and other stakeholders read to find information on schools
- Find the right journalists – read publications and make a note of which journalists cover stories about schools
- Find the right stories – look through the media to find see what kind of stories they publish about schools
- Personalise your stories – for example, you may want to focus on pupils from the area a media outlet covers
- Look out for relevant features – schools may be written about more at certain times of year, such as exam season
- Collect background material – send high-quality pictures and case studies to media outlets to illustrate stories
Schools may also write press releases relating to certain events. You can find further advice on writing press releases on the Pressbox website:
This article was updated in response to a question from a deputy headteacher at an independent school in the north west.
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