Karen Brookes-Ferrari - Exeter School

Name: Karen Brookes-Ferrari

Job title: Communications Manager

Current place of employment: Exeter School

Years’ experience in education marketing: 6.5

How did you get into schools marketing?

A love of language has led me on a meandering career journey taking in publishing, editorial and communications roles in a variety of institutions – public, private and charitable – from the Catholic Church in Italy to the Police Service in Devon!

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What do you feel is the biggest misconception about your role?

That all I do is walk around and take photos for social media. Luckily for me, the Head and senior management at Exeter School are very supportive of the marketing function and understand its variety and complexity. I am very grateful for that.

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

Digital marketing – it has exploded since starting my role at Exeter School in 2013 – and is a truly fascinating area.

Your top tip for engaging stakeholders in your marketing?

Relatable content that makes them feel good and that families – prospective and current –and alumni can identify with. We pride ourselves on our down-to-earth, friendly and welcoming environment, offering value for money, so our marketing needs to reflect this, in everything we do.

What do you think makes for a successful school marketing campaign?

Planning ahead and flexibility.

Preferred social media channel?

I love Instagram – both personally and professionally. Our pupils also love following our school’s Insta feed and ask to appear on it – which I take as a huge compliment!

Do you feel there’s any aspect of digital advertising/social media that’s underrated/overrated?

They are all tools at our disposal. How we use them to reach out to our audiences is very dependent on one own’s situation. I’d have to say that possibly Facebook is becoming more of an “older generation” social media, since even my 69-year-old dad has recently joined…

If you had endless budget, what would you implement into your school’s marketing?

More hands-on deck would be helpful – I have so many ideas I’d like to implement but my schedule is already jam-packed.

Moment you have been most proud of in your current role?

I am very proud of Exeter School being named top independent secondary school in Devon and top co-educational secondary school in the South West in The Sunday Times Parent Power 2019 table – it’s a tribute to everyone’s hard work, dedication, energy, enthusiasm and care.

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What are your favourite tools to make your job easier as a school marketer?

I am currently getting to grips with Trello and it is fantastic! It acts as a content calendar, enables me to plan ahead and is scalable so other teams can get involved. It is also a great way of showcasing a busy department’s role to senior management and governors.

How much do you rely on data to inform your strategy?

Data is crucial; how else can you make an informed decision? We are delighted with our new website created by Interactive Schools which allows us to have all the data we need, at our fingertips!

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

Is print on the way out? As an avid reader, I love the feel of a book in my hands but I wonder whether prospectuses may be on the decline?

The dreaded ‘B’ word! Do you think Brexit will have an impact on your role? If so, how?

Who knows? Certainly there will be implications for GDPR, data and cloud platforms.

What are your favourite professional resources (e.g. blogs, authors, books, etc.) you use in your role?

LinkedIn is fantastic for inspirational content and ‘meeting’ like-minded people, sharing ideas and best practice. I enjoy posts by Alta Justus (the Virtual Marketer), Arianna Huffington (Thrive Global) and Sally Alexander (Ambleglow – thanks for the recent mention about our use of Instagram stories!). Helen Reynolds’ cartoons are spot on and always very funny. I also use the IDPE website and appreciate its members forum. AMCIS is another fantastic organisation and offers interesting workshops, seminars and conferences; it is also great to meet people in similar roles, be inspired by their ideas and creativity, and commiserate over the similar issues we face! The isbi schools Annual Marketing and Admissions Conference is really helpful and I found it hard to choose which sessions to book onto as they all sounded good.

What’s the best piece of career-specific advice you ever got?

I remember my primary school teacher telling me never to write anything I don’t understand and this has stuck with me. As communicators we should make sure our copy is understandable and suitable for the target audience, avoiding acronyms and jargon. I always make sure I ask lots of questions and thoroughly understand my topic to ensure others will engage with the content.

What’s the one piece of advice would you give to a new school marketer?

Internal comms is very important and we invest a lot of time in making sure our community of pupils, staff, parents and alumni is well informed and engaged; they are after all, our best advocates. Never underestimate the power of ‘word of mouth’.

If you weren’t a school marketer, what would be your alternative job?

I love animals so being a vet – or more realistically perhaps working for an animal charity.

What are you currently reading?

I always have a book on the go – ideally thrillers – am currently reading ‘I Let You Go’ by Clare Mackintosh.

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