Marketing For Schools - How To Build Your Schools Image

Few would welcome a formal 'market' in public services, least of all a key service like yours, education. Independent education operates in a real market - as we have seen with the demise of several schools in tough times. They have a real fight to attract fee-paying students. But even in publicly funded education there is a market. Parents, and increasingly students, have a choice-- and they exercise it too. Welcome to the world of marketing for schools!

Schools have impacts on related local markets too. Just take a look at housing for example. If you move to a new town or city and you want to know where the 'best' schools are, ask the local estate agents-- they would always tell you!

How did they form a view? Because every school emits marketing messages, whether for good or bad. The messages can be overt, as in school brochures, or subliminal, as in attitudes perceived by onlookers.

This external perception directly impacts a school's capability (or not) to draw in students and therefore funding. Because we all want to work for a winning team it also affects a school's ability to attract and retain skilled resources, which in turn influence academic results, which affect your ability to attract students ... and so on!

It is easy to make the mistake of thinking that what we know to be true is the same 'truth' that others perceive. This is not so. It is perception that make a differences to those with influence over a school-- parents, potential parents and students, LEA officers, community leaders and so on.

Public perception of a school can be profoundly weakened by events that take just moments to undermine what has taken months or years to create. Hopefully few experience a continual stream of problems like the school in BBC's Waterloo Road! But it can happen. Not everything goes as hoped.

Let's look at a real life story. When a new principal took charge of a very large community college not far from where I'm sitting, it had a substandard local reputation. He examined the application forms for the intake two years previously. He was shocked to find the school was first selection in only 46 % of cases, despite having no local competitors. A pupil would have to travel at least 10 miles to find another secondary school. As the marketing people express it they were 'voting with their feet'. He took positive action to address this. As a result, now his school, with over 2,500 students, is over-subscribed. It has not taken place by chance.

A school's perception by the public can be regulated, changed or boosted in many ways. A significant part of this can be achieved by what companies call 'marketing communications'. This is definitely not the 'spin' with which we are all so heartily disenthralled. No, the communications must be underpinned with substance or you will be caught out and worse yet will follow.

Sustained progress in perception depends on many elements. A school is no different from any other organisation in this regard.

Can communications with the school's stakeholders-- and there are many-- be improved? Do your staff members give out good news about the school? Are they provided with the good news to talk to others about? Is it possible to enrich the national curriculum with your own angle in some way and thereby add value to a scholar's experience? Can the skills and experience of the schoolteachers be delivered in new and exciting ways that make the school stand out from the crowd? How do you find out what the parents need from the school so that they sing your praises too?

Each and every school needs a marketing plan to address these points. These are just some of the features that need to go in!

Carefully developed, confirmed by some simple research, with meaningful discussion and engagement of school staff and others, a School Marketing Plan makes a real and positive contribution to a school's success. It delivers a common purpose in which all school members can be engaged.

It brings together a range of actions that otherwise risk being missed or, sometimes worse, take place in an uncoordinated and conflicting manner. Invariably a piecemeal approach of this nature results in a mix of subliminal marketing messages-- often diluting the main message or worse, being seen as confused and negative in nature. It is a key element when you plan to build a successful school.

Constructing a School Marketing Plan may not be easy first time round but specialist guidance and templates are available to simplify the task-- even for those who have never done it before. A structured approach identifies clearly what the objectives are. It allows staff and others to see their role in fulfilling the plan. These proven tools can be used again and again to ensure the school's plan remains relative and supportive, no matter how the education environment changes.

To read more about how and why marketing can benefit your school visit right now. You'll find information and tools to help you on your way as you explore the site. Discover what's special about marketing your school, and how you can do it better. Call in to

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