Marketing is not a course that is required of education professionals. In fact, the process of marketing public schools to gain students is a fairly recent phenomenon. But with the advent of multiple education choices, public schools are now competing for student enrollment. Unfortunately, setting aside any part of a school’s precious budget for marketing activities is not easily done in this economy. Here are a few cost-effective ways that you can begin to effectively market your school:
Take ownership of your message-in many communities, the only way parents hear about your school is through newspaper and television stories or website forums. Are those outlets communicating the true story of your school? Most likely the answer is no. In fact, the information that is being reported is usually negative, sometimes misleading, even downright wrong. But if you’re not getting your message out there, then the image being created for your school is not the image you want. So to start the process, identify your message, clarify your goals, find out what it is that sets your school apart, then build your message around that.
Review marketing activities you’re already doing- You may not have launched a radio campaign, or created a direct mail piece, but you probably are already engaged in marketing activities. For a school, these are activities that showcase your school in a positive light to any potential school families. Things like school carnivals, community expos, even school newsletters and websites. When you’ve identified these activities, examine how they communicate the message of your school. Have they been effective in terms of attracting new families, creating multiple contacts (i.e., families who make follow-up calls or visits), creating positive press? Tailor all of your marketing activities in a way that they fit your school’s message.
Find no-cost ways to communicate your message-Get your teachers and staff into the habit of creating press releases about the exciting things going on at your school. Have a press release template available and assign someone to approve releases, then create an email list of media contact. Create partnerships with area businesses that can help promote your school.
Become an active member of your community – Most communities have events, business organizations, parks and rec activities, and neighborhood organizations. Search these out, create a master list, contact the organizers and find out ways you can participate. Have a float in a 4th of July parade, hand out popsicles at the weekly soccer club, or join the local chamber. Remember, public schools are non-profit organizations and many businesses offer special rates.