12 Inexpensive and Easy Ways to Market Your School

time-and-training1. Create a parent advocacy group.

Suggestion: Identify involved parents who can speak about your school‘s programs and the positive effect they have had on their student’s education. Encourage these parents to join you on tours, school hosted coffees or to host coffees (or gatherings) in their neighborhoods in order to identify and inform additional parents. Engage them in phone tree activities to follow up on letters sent home. Most importantly, identify and work with cohorts of parents who appreciate your school and have children who are from areas of the district where you need to encourage additional enrollment. Ask parents who have children attending targeted middle schools to arrange a “Talk with the Principal” with prospective students/parents at the middle school they came from. It adds a personal/special touch.

2. Obtain mailing labels for schools targeted for recruitment.

Suggestion: Do a postcard with a tag line that makes the community remember your school listing the tour dates for your school on the back of the card. This quick mailing gives your community an immediate heads-up. Follow up by mailing a letter, signed by the Principal, to each student and their families speaking to reasons why they should consider your school. Students and/or parents can volunteer to stuff envelopes.

3. Engage your local media.

Suggestion: Establish a relationship with your neighborhood association. Incorporate regular articles in their newsletters and with the local area publications. Include tour schedule dates and times. Send articles to the most local Patch news source. Also, use church bulletins to convey information about activities and opportunities at the school.

4. Establish Shadow Days.

Suggestion: Develop a calendar of shadow days with middle school students with targeted elementary school students. At the elementary level, focus on third/fourth graders and early fifth grade students (in the fall). Most fifth grade parents have already made up their mind as to which school their child will be attending by later fall. Work with the individual schools to match students and calendar activities.

Suggestion: Regularly publicize shadow days in your principal letters to your community & homeowner association newsletters. Work with targeted schools to ensure information is included in their publications and/or daily announcements.

5. Develop school information packets.

Suggestion: Develop and distribute a packet that includes a brochure (or flyer) of your school that provides school highlights in a very user-friendly manner. Make sure it includes your website URL. Possibly list names and phone numbers of parents that would be willing to field calls from perspective parents.

Suggestion: Make sure these information flyers are in the hands of realtors, neighborhood associations, and others that are in a position to promote your school. Also, make sure to carry over any new messaging (and photos) used in these materials to your website content.

Content ideas: Interview or have your teachers, parents and students bullet things they think make your school special. Direct quotes from parents, students and teachers make a significant statement about your school. Take pictures of students engaging in the learning activities and programs you want to promote—a picture is worth more than 1,000 words!

6. Cooperate with your feeder schools to use your district’s parent database from target/feeder schools to remind parents of tour dates and recruitment activities, and hold information/recruitment community meetings with representation from all feeder schools.

Suggestion: Have a meeting with (or at) all schools represented, involve your council member, board member, administration, parent and student groups. Invite 5th grade parents from the neighborhood, especially targeting those you might know to be moving to private schools.

7. Update your school’s website with current programs, tour dates and times, and other recruitment information.

Suggestion: Content is everything! While slick and savvy websites are undoubtedly eye-catching, well-written and organized content with easy-to-follow links to other information and catchy photos are extremely valuable, and can provide the information that people are seeking.

8. In your school/parent/community presentations, include students and/or parents who can speak to the positive experiences they’ve had in your schools.

Suggestion: Focus your conversations around student achievement (and don’t just talk about test scores—talk about the ways in which your school works with students to help them achieve, student support services, extra-curricular activities, parent/community support groups, etc.). Make sure your campus is clean. Follow up your tours with phone calls and/or written correspondence. This can be even more effective if you have neighborhood school “cluster meetings” with community organizations.

9. Involve your local city councilmember/elected officials in marketing your school.

Suggestion: Have your school site council, or other established parent group, invite your councilperson to a school/community meeting to offer their viewpoints and ideas for supporting you in marketing the successes of your school.

10. Create a student-organized school “Marketing Club.”

Suggestion: Creative entrepreneurship is a valued skill in today’s workplace. Providing students the opportunity to “brainstorm,” develop and implement marketing strategies for your school can be a great way to engage students in the process, while also providing them valuable, hands-on learning experiences.

11. Ensure that everyone is involved with marketing your school.

Suggestion: Work with your staff to understand the importance of projecting that they are part of a positive and focused school culture and environment. Provide them a brief, one-page “talking points” document that highlights the key information that you would like to have all staff share in a consistent manner. A parent’s first point of contact, along with the enthusiasm of staff and students, plays a critical role in making a decision about your school.

12. Develop marketing materials specifically targeting parents and students.

Suggestion:

Parent marketing materials should include:

•    Description of your school’s product and model-in other words, your mission statement, what is special about your school and your school’s approach to student success
•    Support and transition opportunities for parents and students
•    Testimonials from current parents
•    Photos showing the best of student experiences at your school

Student marketing materials should include:

•    Flyer with information about electives and programs, photos showing the best of student experiences at your school, and student testimonials
•    Promotional items: Practical items with school logos or slogans that students would use every day (i.e., pens, pencils, note pads, etc.).

Need help devising a long-range marketing and communication strategic plan?  Contact us regarding our strategic planning services.

We give credit where credit is due!  Some of these ideas were inspired by San Jose Unified School District’s 21 Point Marketing Plan, developed by now-retired Communications Director and fellow California School Public Relations Association member Karen Fuqua.

 

About Heather McGowan

Heather McGowan increases public confidence in public education and improves opportunities for non-profit organizations to succeed through proactive communication and marketing. She provides strategic marketing and communication services that exceed her clients’ unique goals and delivers results that motivate audiences to act, change, and/or otherwise change behaviors for a greater good.

Comments and Feedback:

  1. Betty G Racho says:

    I am very much interested in gaining knowledge about how to market your school because of the significant downfall of enrollment in our school.

  2. Hi heather,
    i’m wiriting from italy, here our private school are very differents from yours.
    we have 3 different categories of it, specially in the high school.
    for a client we use some of your advice, and i have to thank you for giving this ideas.

  3. rebecca stawarski says:

    Hi! I am currently working at a private, “parent run” non-profit school. Our enrollment has gone down and I was just looking for any ideas you may have to help. We have a website, fb page, twitter. I was just wondering if you had any other ideas for a small school to get their name out there! Thanks!

    • Hi, Rebecca–

      Don’t ever underestimate the value of your parent base! They are the connection to future students’ parents–word of mouth goes a long way. Try to increase your school’s authentic face to face interactions with prospective students’ parents: host a community open house (host a fair, so children can come, too!), develop a “buddy” program where older students can help at local preschools (presuming that your school is an elementary school), develop a presence at various community events. Also try to get some of your schools’ stories in the local newspaper either by sending stories (with GREAT pictures) or inviting the media to come to your school. I hope this helps!

      To Your Success,
      Heather

  4. Brenda Poe Flack says:

    We are a K-12 tiny rural school in Kentucky. State funding and enrollment dropping is a huge concern. Thank you for the article here and would love to have some help. We are developing a marketing team.

    • Hi, Brenda!

      I am glad that you found this information to be valuable to your efforts. I am actually co-presenting a workshop about developing a winning marketing team at an upcoming school PR conference, and will be writing a blog post about this in March. I would certainly like to talk with you more about your school and its needs. Please feel free to email me at hvmcgowan@sounding-board.net or call me at 916-673-8868 (available 8 a.m.-5 p.m. PST).

      All the best,
      Heather

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