However, there's one area that I was especially interested in - the views of independent school heads on marketing and how well they thought their school was doing at it. While the picture was mixed, one theme that came through consistently was a perceived divide between 'marketing' and 'word of mouth' - the first primarily meaning advertising and done by professional marketing staff and the second creating links between existing and former parents, students and staff. One Head quoted in the book summed up the problem as he saw it,
'I am not convinced that our marketing department are actually focused on what they want to achieve. We would do better by asking our current satisfied customers over for drinks and canapés, and asking each to bring a friend'
Here are my tips for that school's marketing department!
1. Take charge of communicating clearly what makes the school special
Is it clear to everyone (and I mean everyone!) in the school what the unique selling points of the school are? (if you're not sure, read this article on the 'Brand Pyramid'). Does everyone know what the school is doing practically to ensure that the school lives up to these key messages?
2. Create great stories that support key messages
A prime role of the marketing department is to get out and find stories that support the unique aspects of the school - whether this be profiles stories of academic or sporting success, great pastoral work, or stories of successful alumni. This means networking with parents, staff and getting involved in the day to day running of the school. The marketing department at Bablake School (profiled here) create and share at least one story a day.
3. Share great stories internally to share them externally
It can be so easy for a marketing department to be focused on external audiences that they forget to tell internal audiences (who are focused on their lessons) what great things are happening. It's also vital to make it easy for internal audiences to pass stories on - whether as a physical newsletter or a web article that can be easily shared on social media.
4. Listen to 'word of mouth' feedback
Encourage internal audiences to constantly feedback what people outside the school think of the school - conversations at school gates and supermarkets (and on social media) give a fantastic insight into both the messages you are sending out - and the ways that you are sending them. Set up feedback boxes for scribbled notes and encourage people to email you and drop in for conversations. Above all don't take negative feedback personally.
5. And finally, listen to ideas from academic staff!
The Head quoted above was obviously keen to set up networking events - it might be a good idea for the marketing team to move this idea forward, making sure to track the actual impact!