To state the obvious: This year was tumultuous for schools, their leadership and educators. In most cases across the country, schools – whether they are public or private primary schools or higher education institutions – have found themselves pivoting based on local, state, and federal healthcare mandates while doing their best to educate all students in both virtual and in-person settings, sometimes simultaneously.
In the nearly 20 years Chartwell Agency has strategized and implemented educational marketing initiatives, this was definitely one for the “text” books. Now, with light at the end of the COVID tunnel, some schools are realizing they had trade in their marketing efforts to focus on the critical needs of running the institution during the past year.
As this school year draws to a close and educational institutions begin to focus on enrollment in the year ahead, leaders are regrouping to develop and/or enhance their marketing efforts and creating proactive communications efforts to share their unique differentiators.
From small private colleges to large universities and from countywide school districts to private independent college-prep institutions, there are elements that each can leverage to impact their fall enrollment. Even public school districts are seeking to become the “school of choice” due to all the educational options families have in each market. Follow some simple guidelines to move your school forward beyond the competition.
- Formalize your admissions process. It’s easy to be less-than-strict on your enrollment process when in the midst of turmoil, but schools making the biggest impact on their admissions funnel have a formalized process. What exactly does that mean? Outline specifically timed communications efforts with potential students/families. From an initial call to families before, during and after a tour to the admissions and financial aid (if applicable) process, providing your internal team members with a protocol for interaction helps ensure appropriate and timely communications are happening and benefit both your admissions team and the families you want at your school.
- Know and train your ambassadors on your school’s unique differentiators. Who are your school’s ambassadors? Teachers, administrators, students, families, board members, alumni, coaches, and the list goes on. The marketing person is not in charge of your brand – that is a everyone’s role. And when done right, it’s much more powerful than a website, a viewbook or an advertising campaign. When conversations and messages are shared in an authentic manner, it will do more for your brand and enrollment efforts than any other marketing initiative. So, identify those ambassadors, share with them your goals (e.g., can they each provide you with referrals?), and provide them opportunities to ensure your school succeeds.
- Review/update your current marketing materials. Marketing efforts are still essential. I know I just said brand ambassadors are most important, and they are critical. But you must have marketing to back up your efforts. Does your website share your unique differentiators and/or culture? Do marketing slicks accurately portray your school’s amazing outcomes? Conduct an audit of your school’s messages: Are they consistent and engaging?
- Mix up your communications efforts. Individuals, no matter their geographic or demographic circumstances, receive their information in a variety of ways so ensure you’re communicating in a variety of ways to meet them. At Chartwell, we believe in the “owned, earned and paid” approach meaning initiatives that are inclusive of collateral/website/social media (owned), public relations/outreach (earned), traditional/digital advertising (paid) are most successful for schools. These activities, combined with word-of-mouth efforts (refer to the bullet on ambassadors), allow your message to be communicated more efficiently and effectively.
Let’s face it, 2020 (and even early 2021) has been a year like no other, but schools can thrive post-COVID by focusing on what makes them unique and their approach to reaching their audiences.
Chartwell’s education marketing division is experienced at meeting objectives for schools and school support organizations, and we can provide objective insight and immediately implementable initiatives to impact your enrollment this fall.