For the past few months I've been working with two Faculties at my school, St Bede's College in Manchester, collecting the stories that show the college at its best - academic achievements, sporting victories, some great charity work., extra-curricular opportunities, success for former students and so on.
The first place for many of these stories, as you might expect, is the school website. But that's not the end, because these stories have much more value than this. We've been using the following methods to push them further...
- Internal Noticeboards - a simple idea but it's important to share news internally - and putting stories next to the cover list means all staff are aware of the great things going on!
- Social media - The school Twitter and Facebook accounts are used to push stories to parents, students and more.
- Targeted publications - we have two printed Faculty newsletters (created in Microsoft Publisher which is available on every computer in the school). We started with the idea of one newsletter per term, but quickly realised that this wasn't needed. Instead we have a rolling publication which is always up to date and printed before an event - on the school's colour copier. We've done specific editions for Parents' Evenings, Open Days and the new Y7 students' Induction Day, and taken copies on visits outside of the school.
- PDF Newsletters - as well as printed media, we produce PDF copies which have been emailed to parents and are available to download from school website. (Try this one from the last Open Day)
- Emailshots - we've integrated the newsletters with the school's parental email system.
- PR - the strongest stories have been packaged and sent on to local media.
- Presentations - rolling displays of stories projected on classroom smartboards at any opportunity!
What have I learned from this process?
- Every school has more great stories that you could imagine...but you need to work hard to get them!
- Teachers have a lot of demands on their time and need help to put stories together
- It's vital to have a central school safeguarding policy for publicity that covers all students, as you can never predict which ones do exciting things
- You need to have a balance of news - remember all the key messages your school is putting out and don't worry if you miss out stories in an area that's already been covered
- It's actually very cheap to do content marketing - as long as you can find the time
- If you feedback success to teachers, you'll get a lot more stories
- It's much easier to 'sell' your school if you have a newsletter with great stories in your hand
- Parents and visitors read stories much more than prospectuses.
What do we need to do next?
Of course, as with every marketing project, implementation is only the first step. The impact of content marketing needs to be measured over time. The good news is that we first used the newsletters at the Sixth Form Open Evening - and Sixth Form numbers for next year seem very healthy! Fingers crossed please for September.