A key tool for a school is the story grid - thinking like a newspaper to focus the most important messages for recruitment while being flexible enough to respond to exciting new developments. In the process you'll also find it very easy to create a regular balanced newsletter. Here are the steps to take...
1. Identify the key messages you want to communicate (ideally 2-4). These should together reflect the unique offer of your school - for example you might offer extensive academic support and parental feedback, a focus on academic and sporting success or opportunities for wider community involvement or personal development.
2. Create a content calendar. Take your school's diary and identify events that would be of interest to prospective parents and students - as well as the obvious events such as sporting events, drama productions and school trips, make sure you're aware of academic competitions, visiting speakers, charity events and collections and school clubs. Keep talking to teachers and school leaders to keep this up to date - both adding new events and removing ones that are postponed or cancelled.
3. Work out how many stories you can effectively cover in depth. For small schools with limited marketing resources you may want to focus on 4 per month, while larger schools with dedicated marketing personnel and student news teams might be able to cover 8 or even more per week
4. Calculate your 'story cycle length'. Within each 'story cycle' you will focus on one story that promotes each key message as well as the 'biggest' story in the school over that time period even if it doesn't specifically fit a key message. You can work out the time it will take you to do this by dividing the number of stories you can cover each week by the number of key messages plus one - the 'story cycle length'.
5. Choose your stories. In each 'story cycle', choose the single most news-worthy event. Then pick one story from the remaining events that most exemplifies each of the other messages. If you find a gap in any area, fill it with a 'feature' story that looks at the work of a department, club or team, or an individual student success story.
6. Plan how to record each story - and do it in multimedia. Being focused in advance means you can involve your students, skilled teachers and perhaps you external media relations agency in recording the event.
7. Publish and reuse. As each story takes place you can publish it on your school website and share it via social media, as well as seeking media coverage. You can then collect the stories into a regular weekly or monthly printed or e-newsletter, which can be targeted to specific audiences, and use individual stories in advertising material.
Here's an example of a content plan for a monthly newsletter that communicates three key messages - perhaps from a large primary or small secondary school.