Name: Paula Smith
Job title: Marketing Manager
Current place of employment: LVS Ascot. LVS Ascot is owned by Licensed Trade Charity.
Years’ experience in education marketing: 6 years. Almost 30 years in marketing. I started in the role of Schools’ PR & Marketing Manager and now head up the marketing team for the Charity and our three schools.
How did you get into schools marketing?
I took the role as Schools’ PR & Marketing Manager as a four month contract back in 2013 and loved it, was offered the role permanently and took it …… I’m surrounded by inspirational young people and teaching staff and there is always something different going on.
What do you feel is the biggest misconception about your role?
That we are the team who ‘take the photos’!
What do you feel has been the most significant change in your profession since you first started working as a school marketer?
The growth of digital and the way that it has changed the customer journey for our prospective parents. Even as far as moving the position and role of the school prospectus in that journey. Some years ago a parent would have requested a prospectus before visiting the school, now they visit the website, book for an open day online and take a prospectus away with them as a reminder.
Your top tip for engaging stakeholders in your marketing?
Help the whole organisation to understanding the important part every one of them plays in delivering the LVS Ascot brand values. Be open, sharing and inclusive with the wider organisation.
What do you think makes for a successful school marketing campaign?
Cut through! We have a very ‘busy’ independent education sector in our region and a lot of independent school marketing looks very similar. Our recent campaign has been so successful because it stands out and cuts through the noise.
Preferred social media channel?
Tricky question. I’m a little older than I look (if I could add an emoji on a desktop I’d put a winky face in here) and so I must confess that while I love digital for it’s speed and measurability, I’m not a natural with social. They’re all so different… LinkedIn for business. Facebook for a slower connection. Twitter for speed at events and engagement using hashtags.
Do you feel there’s any aspect of digital advertising/social media that’s underrated/overrated?
Programmatic has delivered for us but with low click through rates and difficulty controlling the tone of content where our ads appear we are sceptical. Facebook had vastly improved its targeting capability from years ago when I first started advertising on it but recent updates to legislation has meant it’s taken a bit of a backward step. Custom audiences on social are, I believe, underused… they present an opportunity to be included in a personalised customer journey that we haven’t had before.
If you had endless budget, what would you implement into your school’s marketing?
I’m pleased to say that I have the full support of my Executive Team who trust that the marketing plan we create for LVS Ascot will achieve our objectives and will deliver those objectives in the most cost effective way. They support new innovations and allow us to take measured risks to keep our team and activity innovative. There is nothing I have wanted to try that we haven’t tried already.
Moment you have been most proud of in your current role?
I took over managing the marketing team around 18 months ago and since taking over we have grown in strength and confidence as a team. Seeing team members grow in experience, start to take responsibility for the part they play in delivering a seemless customer journey and having the confidence to share that with a wider audience makes me proud. Especially new team members who came to us with little or no experience at all.
What are your favourite tools to make your job easier as a school marketer?
Hootsuite for scheduling social, CRM for managing contacts and email marketing, I couldn’t manage without my calendar and our fantastic Marketing Co-ordinator who catches me as I’m running out the door to make sure I’ve remembered everything I should be taking with me.
How much do you rely on data to inform your strategy?
Data has been a challenge for us. I can access the data I need and it plays an important role in our planning, however we struggle to connect the whole journey and therefore to carry out the depth of data analysis that I would like.
What do you see as being the most significant change/trend school marketers will face in the next 10 years?
Continued growth of digital journeys and the difficulty in standing out in a digital arena. Continued growth in focus on environmental issues changing the sector with parents looking to reduce their carbon footprint.
The dreaded ‘B’ word! Do you think Brexit will have an impact on your role? If so, how?
I do not think Brexit will have an impact on my marketing role. We have been looking at the wider international market for our international boarding students for a number of years so are not reliant on Europe. We will need to wait and see what impact it has on our wider economy as that could impact our pupil recruitment and our marketing/promotional channels.
What are your favourite professional resources (e.g. blogs, authors, books, etc.) you use in your role?
Blogs, LinkedIn and I usually have a couple of books on the go at any one time… one that is easy to read, light entertainment so to speak and another ‘professional resource’… I’m currently reading ‘what big brands do’!
What’s the best piece of career-specific advice you ever got?
Always ask yourself… what are you trying to achieve… and who are you trying to reach. With every project always make sure you know your objectives and your audience.
What’s the one piece of advice would you give to a new school marketer?
Same as above, I repeat it often with my team… what are the objectives and who are you trying to reach.
If you weren’t a school marketer, what would be your alternative job?
I’d love to be a fabulous musician. I’m currently having flute lessons but I’m afraid my musical talents have only ever been average ….. so I will stick to what I’m good at and the job that I’m loving in marketing.