Yet school directories do provide important and innovative services for parents and schools need to be considering how best to use and engage with them. This article takes a look at some of the major players in this area and offers advice to make the most of your relationships with them. Please share your experiences of directories via the comments section.
What types of directory are there?
Some national directories are set up by school membership organisations. These include the Independent School Council's 'Find a School' service and the Boarding School Association's 'School Search' option. By definition these contain a limited number of schools - but are comprehensive within their sector.
Other national guides are independent - these include isbi schools and School Guide. Both contain basic information such as the size and type of the school as well as links to widely availabe information such as OFSTED or ISI inspection reports. How they differ is in the ways that they include additional content. isbi schools encourages schools to pay for enhanced coverage and to appear higher up in shortlists, while School Guide encourages parents and students to leave feedback about the school while offering more traditional advertising opportunities.
Why should my school consider directories?
The main advantage of directories is that they allow parents to compare schools and pick the attributes of the school that are important to them. That means that although you don't have exclusive access to them, by the time they've chosen your school there is a high probability that they will follow through and make an application.
Directories can also reach far wider than your own marketing. Most schools focus their recruitment on a local area and may try to attract those moving into an area, but those relocating are far more likely to start their search through a directory than by looking for individual schools.
Directories can also be very efficient at marketing themselves and give you access to events you might not be able to afford to go to yourself. They're also experts at attracting parents to their websites.
How can schools best engage with directories? Our top 5 tips...
1. Make sure your information is up to date. The summer term is a good time to do a sweep through all the directories you are listed in to check they've got your contact details and key facts right. Don't assume that just because you're a member of a particular school group that their comparison website will have the latest information about you.
2. Take advantage of free options. For example Schools Guide offers a free 'School Noticeboard' where you can add information about Open Days and school successes.
3. Carefully consider and evaluate paid advertising options. isbi offers a range of packages for example - you need to make sure that you don't overpay for services you're not going to use.
4. Share your presence on review sites with parents and other stakeholders. It's not a good idea to directly ask parents to place positive reviews but if you're following a content marketing strategy and sharing good news regularly, parents will be be armed with good stories to back up their reviews.
5. As always with marketing, evaluate closely the success of your choices. Ask parents and prospective parents if they have heard of or used named directories, and directly link enquiries and conversions back to your marketing spend.
isbi's online directory is viewed by parents, relocation officers looking to place children in day or boarding schools and professionals placing children with special educational needs in the UK and worldwide. It has more than 30 different search criteria to choose from and schools can be compared side-by-side. Subscriptions cost from £225 per annum for Bronze to £350 for Gold Plus. The higher the level of subscription the more content schools can add and the higher up on the directory ranking the school appears.