If one thing is sure, after a year and a half of strategizing school marketing during a pandemic, it’s that nothing will ever be the same. And that is certainly not a bad thing. School communications and marketing need a drastic overhaul. The summer of 2021 is a perfect opportunity to examine your marketing and make changes to engage your audiences.
The next three months will be crucial in winning back parents and students from the worst school experience of their educational careers. It will be critical to tell stories that will resonate with audiences like never before. We have to make the experience of choosing and going to school exciting and rewarding. The way we market will determine how well their experiences will be.
This article will explore ten school marketing strategies to focus on this summer before the 2021 – 2022 school year. Implementing these strategies will help develop tactics that will win over your audience and select your schools to enroll.
10 School Marketing Strategies to Focus on This Summer
There are numerous marketing tactics you can implement next school year. Still, this article will focus on overarching strategies to help develop tactics to engage parents, students, employees, and the community.
1. Focus on Your Customers, Improve Their Experiences
Every great marketing campaign starts by knowing your customers. For school districts, customers mean your parents, students, community, staff, businesses, churches, and whatever entity comes into contact with your schools and facilities. For marketing purposes, you will spend the most time analyzing your parents, students and staff.
Knowing all you can about your customers is critical before you develop one marketing campaign or tactic. You can analyze your audience in a variety of ways. You can become a digital archeologist by becoming familiar with Google Analytics, Facebook Audience Insights, Social Listening, Social Media Insights, Surveys, Roundtables, and other insight tools.
One of my more popular blog articles in the past year has been about social listening. Learning the proper way to social listening is very important to know more about your audience. Eavesdropping on their public conversations can give a much-needed understanding of how they feel and their problems with your school district.
The more you know about your audience, the better you will get at marketing. Learn all you can about your audience.
2. Observe and Learn About Your Audience by Going to the Source
The ultimate way to learn about your audience is to go to the source. Find out where your audience hangs out. Be a fly on the wall and listen to what they are saying. There is no better way to learn about someone than hearing their thoughts directly from their mouths.
Go to Starbucks and listen to moms discuss their child’s teachers. Go to a gaming cafe, and learn what words and terminology your students are using. Go to a city council meeting and hear the concerns from your community. There are numerous places you can go to listen.
Where do your audiences go? Where can you be where you can listen. Do your best, James Bond (or Jason Bourne for you young professionals), and spy on your audience. Keep a journal and use what they say in your next campaign.
3. Stay Tuned to the Pulse of Culture, Get Better at Pivoting
It would be best to listen to your audience, but you also need to be familiar with trends in the real world. What is popular with your students, parents and staff? If you know what’s trending, you know how to formulate your messaging for specific audiences.
Trends also let you know when to pivot. Data is your friend. You need to know about cultural trends, but you also need to know about trends with your content. What content is resonating with your audiences? What are they responding to when it comes to your content? You also need to know what is not working, so you can pivot sooner.
“In God we trust, all others must bring data.” – W. Edwards Deming
The more you stay on top of data and trends, the better your content will become. In the past, it could take months before companies pivoted with their campaigns or tactics. Now you can change at a moment’s notice.
4. Focus on the Right Students, Know What’s Trending
One of the biggest problems I see in school districts when they market to students is using the valedictorians. They use popular cheerleaders to promote their community. These are not the students you should promote. At least not all of the time. Your school district needs to examine your student audience and broadcast to the other kids.
There are much more of the other students than the straight-A students who are going to Harvard. That might work for a while with parents (probably not, they know their kids), but students want to see the students like them. They want to see the students involved in eSports. They want to see the students who build drones in physics class.
“The riches are in the niches”
You need to drill down and find the niches. There is a bunch of cool out there. Find the cool, and find the students that ooze cool. You will get much more mileage out of a story about a sneaker flipper than the kid who is going Ivy League. Learn what resonates with your students.
5. Focus on Stories About Human Connection
Every tweet you see about School Public Relations is that you need to tell stories. That is correct, but many school districts are doing it wrong. Much more goes into a story than posting about a student winning an award. It would be best if you found the element that will make a connection with your audience.
The stories that resonate are the ones that make a connection with the reader or the viewer. We need to see ourselves, or our child, in the story being told. How can you adjust your stories to make a connection?
Stories have a beginning, middle and end. They have a protagonist, and they have an antagonist. We need to see our hero overcome obstacles to win the day. Your audience needs to see how they can win the day.
6. Meaningful, Solution-Oriented Actions and Content
If you have read any of my articles, listened to any of my podcasts, or attended any of my speaking engagements, you know I love content marketing. I think helping our audience is the ultimate form of marketing. Parents are scared of navigating the world of education. They want to be the best for their child but unsure of what is best for their specific student. That is where we come in.
School districts need to create content that helps their families. The more we help, the more trust we build with our parents and students. When you have confidence, you become the go-to source for educational information. When you are the expert, they choose you like the district to send their children.
7. Make the Shift to Online Channels
What are you waiting for? If you are not on digital channels promoting your district, you need to be. The COVID Pandemic shifted even more humans online as they navigated a non-tangible world. Social media platforms grew. Online video grew. Email made a comeback (it was never gone). People need digital platforms. You need to utilize digital platforms.
Even with IOS updates blocking digital ads, it is still crucial to use social media ads. We must use video to tell a story. You need to be collecting niche email lists to provide them with helpful content. You must embrace the digital world.
School districts seem to be the last to feel comfortable using this modern technology. We are living in a digital world where Millennials and Generation Z know no other way to interact. Schools must embrace digital, or they will die.
8. Focus on Hybrid Events, Be Prepared for In-Person Interaction
Even though we live in a digital society, people still crave face-to-face interaction. With COVID-19 calming a bit across the country, it is time to start thinking about in-person events. Events could be the most crucial marketing tactic for the 2021 – 2022 school year. What are you doing to plan events for the new school year?
Not only do you need in-person events, but you need a digital component as well. It would be best to cater to the families that want human contact and the families that are not ready to embrace in-person events. Find the perfect blend on in-person and digital.
9. Build Your Internal Brand
Not all of your marketing goals should concentrate on your school district. In 2021, it is just as essential to build your brand. People resonate with other people. They want to see the face behind the brands. You must build Brand You and the personal brands of your teachers and administrators.
Parents care more about the schools their children attend than the district as a whole. And really, they care about the teacher their kid has day in a day out more than anything. The better you help build the brand of your teachers, the more the parents will enjoy their school experience.
10. Invest in Yourself
In the end, it comes down to investing in yourself. Learn all you can about school marketing and corporate marketing. Read blogs that write about the latest trends in marketing. Listen to podcasts from leading experts. Watch videos on YouTube about digital marketing, traditional marketing and social media. Become a student again.
Here are some places where you can start:
As I stated initially, the next three months will be crucial in winning back parents and students from the worst school experience of their educational careers. Do all you can to win the school year. Happy enrolling.
If you need any help or want to bounce ideas off me, do not hesitate to reach out.