Name: Claire Ettinger

Job title: Head of Marketing and Admissions

Current place of employment: Brighton College (Singapore) – a new English National Curriculum international school opening in Singapore in late August 2020.

Years’ experience in education marketing: 10 years.

How did you get into schools marketing?

I began my career in London, working in government media relations. A chance move to Bangkok came along at the right time, and after that, a move to Singapore followed. I moved into a corporate comms role with a large international school (the Australian International School – 2,700 students and 500+ staff) and worked for them for 9 years, with the final 3 years as Director of Marketing and Communications, before moving to Brighton College (Singapore) in September 2019 (currently no students and 8 staff!) to head up Marcoms and Admissions.

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What does a typical day look like for you?

I am currently a team of one in marketing, so on any given day I am strategizing, executing, reviewing what we have done, meeting with external providers for digital marketing and our website, liaising with publishers – basically whatever needs to get done, I do it. 

As we’re new kids on the block, we have a large amount of brand awareness activity happening that I need to create. I also spend part of the day checking in with the Admissions team, reviewing enquiries that have come in and ensuring we are on top of the progress of ones we already have in the pipeline.  

Finally, I also have responsibility for Comms, so I am trying to keep on top of a large amount of preparation for opening that we need to do, including working with the academic team on setting up a new parent portal.  

What do you feel has been the most significant change in your profession since you first started working as a school marketer? 

It is certainly more competitive, with a much larger amount of school places available in Singapore than ever before (new schools and expanded campuses at more established schools). 

More parents are paying for their own schooling these days (rather than the costs being covered as part of the ex-pat package), which has made them more market aware (there has been a rise in ‘low-frills’ schools that do not have facilities or extensive CCA programmes). 

Schools have had to become a lot better at communicating their differences and what outcomes they aim to provide for their students, and adjust to viewing parents as ‘customers’.   

How do you measure the success of your marketing campaigns?

Currently, brand awareness is just as important to us as enquiry driving, as we do not have a strong word of mouth of our own (despite having a very strong brand behind us, which does help). I rely heavily on a digital agency to execute my paid online marketing and SEO, so I check Google Analytics religiously to keep on top of their work, but have also used attribution modelling in the past, which is really useful if you can justify the cost of additional agency support, as you can layer in other activities to better understand what is making the most impact and at what part of the customer journey. 

How do you ensure you’re keeping up to date with different methods of marketing?

I am lucky to work for a school that is part of a large school’s group (Cognita) so there is a lot of sharing of best practice between schools, regionally and globally (and their three schools in Singapore focus on different curriculums, so we can share ideas without cutting across each other).  

In the international setting, Chambers of Commerce often run free workshops/connections with marketers in a range of industries, which brings me into contact with ideas from outside the education sphere. I also lean on our marketing partners, particularly digital, to keep us fresh and up to date. 

Finally, having a team who look to push boundaries and try new things helps, as well as a leadership team who are on board with this.   

Which social media platform do you get the most from? 

We use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to share native content. Cognita and our founding school, Brighton College UK are both particularly active on Twitter and LinkedIn, so have helped to amplify our stories while we are building our own followers. 

For driving enquiries, particularly for events, Facebook can be particularly successful, and we are currently running brand awareness activity on Facebook as well. 

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What’s your favourite tool you use? 

Right now, Microsoft Teams is my best friend, to keep in contact with my colleagues and also in sharing files, as well as connecting with partners and external providers. 

What’s your favourite date in the school calendar for marketing?

At my previous school, celebrating both the 20th and 25th anniversaries were a highlight, particularly in bringing together former Heads of School, staff, and alumni – these milestones are so lovely in providing an opportunity to reflect as a community and a lot of fun to arrange. 

The moment you have been most proud of in your current role?

Adapting to working for a start-up and in a team that is considerably smaller than I had been used to working with. I’ve gone back to doing everything myself, which has allowed me to reflect. I won’t always be working solo, but hopefully, this experience will make me a better leader in the future. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Most recently, control the controllable and to be realistically optimistic about outcomes (in order to manage better the swing between positive to negative emotions).  

Cognita places a strong focus on well-being, both for its staff and students, so a weekly update from our global CEO has been very reassuring and affirming in that we are all in this together. 

What do you see as being the most significant change school marketers will face in the next 10 years?  

Digital! Keeping on top of best practice, as well as managing resources (what to bring in house and what is best managed by external partners).

What’s been the biggest challenge in your role?

The virus (probably same for us all!). We launched our school marketing in January, just at the time the market was beginning to get rocked by the virus. 

Everything I know about the international schools market and how it should behave has been challenged, so it has been very hard to review if our positioning is correct and if the marketing channels we are using are working.  

How is your school dealing with marketing throughout the COVID-19 situation?

It’s uncharted waters for us all, and as a new school, we do not have the past performance to benchmark ourselves against.  

However, as a small start-up team, we are pulling together and trying to keep things as normal as possible, as well capitalising on new opportunities and trying new tactics (just like we had been when things were running more normally). 

So, we’re trying one-on-one virtual tours instead of our usual in-person tours, and we’re running online Open House events instead of ones on campus. We’re also offering online learning support to families who are already confirmed to join us and doing what we can to continue to create excitement for their children about joining us in August.  

Michelle – Q&As

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