Top tips for developing your school’s marketing strategy

Vision

Starting to formulate a marketing strategy for your school – like starting anything new – is an exciting process. Now’s the time to define your goals and figure out how you’re going to achieve them.


But, like all things, you need to begin at the beginning. What kind of school do you want to become? What kind of school are you going to market? It’s time to define this in a vision statement – an empowering exercise that allows you to focus on an ‘ideal’ future. 


There are many ways to arrive at your vision. Here’s one of them:

  • Working in small groups, imagine it is five years into the future and talk about how you would like your school to be perceived at that time. How will people talk about your school? How will media report on your school?
  • Write down statements that describe this future, and then discuss them first within small groups and then with a wider audience.
  • Summarise the resulting statements – mind-maps diagrams, clusters of ideas could all be useful. The aim is to start distilling the 'essence' of the ideas by synthesising the main points.
  • Prepare a written description of your vision, using active and positive language: “Our school is X.” “Our students are Y.” “Our parents believe Z.” Our community thinks L.”


Although your principal, and the school management and marketing teams, will be responsible for driving the vision, many people should be involved in defining it. Teachers, admin and support staff, parents, learners and stakeholders from the broader community all play a role here. There are various ways to bring together these people together, but the most effective will generally involve informal meetings where small group discussion is encouraged.


Unique features and strengths

Your vision will identify things that need to change before your school can become more successful, but you shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that you already do some things very well. In all your work:

  • Stress the things that your school already does shines at.
  • Highlight your school’s unique features.


These unique features and strengths could be the basis of a motto or creed, which you could build your entire campaign on.


Getting into more details, a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis will help you to think in more detail about your school's strengths and weaknesses. Ask your school’s stakeholders, ideally working in mixed groups, for their input and prompt them to look for both internal and external opportunities. In turn, this will help you to identify your key messages for both internal and external school communities.


Mission statement

Your school’s mission statement should articulate your vision and communicate its unique features. Be warned: this is very hard to capture in a simple sentence or paragraph. But you need to have one. 


Your mission statement should:

  • Be clear and concise.
  • Encapsulate your school’s essence, aims and values.
  • Be consistent with your vision.
  • Give a clear view of what your school is trying to do
  • Enable any ‘ambassador’ to explain your school’s purpose.
  • Show a clear understanding of your stakeholders’ needs.


When defining your mission statement, you should also:

Set specific aims to help achieve your vision.

  • Consider how these aims relate to your development/improvement plan.
  • Agree on protocols for the work, including who you are prepared to work with, how you will operate, and the ethics underpinning your work.


Aims and objectives 

With your vision and the mission statement as a base, you are now able to develop specific aims and objectives – the actions that will bring your visions and mission to life.


Examples of general aims:

  • We will create a better image and improve our school’s profile.
  • We will keep parents informed and involved in the life of our school.
  • We will tackle any negative perceptions of our school.


Examples of specific aims:

  • We will increase intake by 5% every year.
  • 90% of parents in the feeder area will see us as the only school for all-rounder learners.
  • By 2022 our school will be acknowledged as the most progressive arts faculty in the province.


By identifying your school’s aims, you can develop focused, clear objectives. Objectives should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timed.


Examples of objectives that would facilitate the achievement of aims include:

  • Find out about all the local media in the community.
  • Increase the number of press releases issued by the school.


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