Marketing checklist? Check!

When you start seeing your school’s future in all its golden hues, it’s tempting to just dive right in and start making it a reality. But, even with a clear view of your aims and objectives, you need to do things in the right order – starting with taking stock of how the community sees your school. 

Doing a proper audit of the community’s perceptions will help you to plan your strategy. It will also show you how much work you still need to do, as well as where you need to target your efforts. Even if you don’t agree with these perceptions, you can’t bring about meaningful change without doing the research. 

The people who live near your school, and local service providers like bus drivers and shop keepers, can add critical insights and it’s important that you talk to them at this stage of developing your school’s marketing strategy. 

How you do so depends on your time and budget constraints. It’s possible that a simple questionnaire could do the trick but the more data collection techniques you use, the better your data will be. 

The next step of this audit is reviewing all your school’s publications and communications. You need to see who receives what, and decide whether the range needs to be broadened, or narrowed and refined. Key information includes: 

  • Questionnaires and surveys.
  • Feedback from focus groups, governing board, parents and staff.
  • A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. 
  • Analysis of events like as open evenings.

Communicating with specific audiences

Current parent body: Communicate regularly via school newsletter, SMSs or WhatsApp groups, website, social media, local press. 

Feeder school parents: Prospectus, open evenings/mornings, induction events, website, social media, local press, holiday programmes. 

Feeder school staff: School newsletter, visits, mentoring programmes. 

Students in feeder schools: Regular visits to your school and induction events. 

Community as a whole: A combination of all the above channels.

The end goal

This audit should help you to answer the following questions:

  • What are the school’s strengths?
  • What are the school weaknesses?
  • How is the school perceived by the general community?
  • How well does the school communicate with its stakeholders?Are there any imminent threats – like a new school being built close by, a change in staffing levels, a change in demographics?

You also need to determine whether press coverage in the local newspapers is positive or negative, and so you’ll need to monitor these publications, search their online editions, or sign up for a media monitoring service.

Although setting up and completing surveys, and analysing the results, will be time-consuming, the exercise will generate valuable data and this, in turn, will guide your next steps.

Marketing and public relations 

Now’s the time to start getting your marketing and public relations (PR) team together. This team should include:

  • At least one member of your school’s senior management team.
  • A governor.
  • A member of non-teaching staff.
  • A parent.
  • A community representative.

Naturally, choosing people with experience in marketing will make your team more effective. Some businesses (schools included) prefer to outsource at least the PR function of this team, as media relations are critical and take time to nurture. 

When the team has the outcome of you audit, they can start discussing an action plan. It will help to:

  • List both the internal and external requirements.
  • Refer to the school calendar and key admission dates.

The plan should include:

  • Actions.
  • Deadlines.
  • Costs
  • Each team member’s responsibilities.
  • Monitoring and evaluation criteria.

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