The business of marketing and public relations (PR) is a relatively new concept in the school space but increasing numbers of Australian schools, both public and private, are embracing the need to market and manage their public image.
Traditionally, many educators may have regarded marketing with a degree of negativity and scepticism.
Accepting marketing as an essential management function has seen a shift in the minds of these educators, with the positive results speaking for themselves.
But what exactly is marketing and public relations in the school environment? How can it benefit your school? And where do you start?
What is marketing and PR for schools?
Marketing is the business of attracting students and parents to your school, and retaining their loyalty and support.
Public relations (PR) is about actively maintaining a favourable public image/impression for your school.
Why market your school?
It’s no secret; enrolling students is critical to your school’s existence. Without students, your school simply could not function and greater number of students the greater the chance your school has for making an impact in your community.
Right across the country it’s evident that schools that are managing their school’s image and have embraced marketing and public relations devices – such as websites and social media, professional prospectuses, advertisements, direct mail and billboards – have increased enrolments and improved community engagement.
So while image is not everything… it’s certainly worth getting right.
Why you can’t afford to ignore your school’s image:
• Healthy recruitment of students is essential in financing your school – enrolments are vital
• There is a proven link between a school’s image and the achievements of its students
• A positive image allows you to attract and retain high quality staff, which can improve school success and further bolster your image.
• Supporters and members of the community are hesitant to be associated with schools that have a poor public profile. With so much competition and other viable alternatives – poor image will drive prospects away and through the gates of another school down the road.
• Promoting your image can lead to a performance focus in your school community and serve as a powerful tool for school improvement generally.
How to promote your school
Once you understand the importance of promoting your school and managing its image, how exactly do you go about it?
How do schools go about managing their profile and what can they do to promote this positive image?
Essential elements of a school marketing and PR strategy
1. A shared vision of a preferred future for your school
2. A mission statement
3. Clarification of your school’s unique features and key messages
4. An honest appraisal of your school’s current image and position in the community
5. An action plan that includes practical everyday activities
6. Ongoing monitoring, evaluation, reflection and improvement
Quick tips to start promoting your school
1. Ensure the image the school wants to project is evident from the school gate through the newsletter and website to the playing fields, noticeboards and car parks, etc.
2. Create a new school identity – consider engaging a professional designer to work on your logo and visual brand
3. Consider the vital role of the school secretary/office in creating an effective public relations image - encourage people to “live the brand” and reinforce your school’s positive image through every interaction
4. Use your recorded telephone message to promote school activities and key brand messages
5. Use any school-home contact to your school’s best advantage
6. Determine the marketing and PR platforms that will work best for you. Think about websites, social media, advertising, promotional flyers, direct mail, banners and large wall displays or billboards.
7. Determine who will be responsible for managing marketing and PR at your school. Whether it is an individual, a group or a committee, it is important to name these people and provide them with the necessary resources to perform these functions.