Sophy Walker

Name: Sophy Walker 

Job title: Director of Marketing, UK & Global 

Current place of employment: Felsted School, Felsted, Essex 

Years’ experience in education marketing: 15 

How did you get into schools marketing?

Networking in my local gym! 

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

I think marketing in schools has come a long way… when I joined we could not even sit on the same table as teachers at lunch! Now they realise that we are professionals, with degree qualifications, and that our work can have a big impact on shaping the future of the school. 

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

The growth in online communication channels and having to manage them all! 

Your top tip for engaging stakeholders in your marketing?

Evidence in the impact you are having – regularly analysing your data is crucial for this. 

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

A campaign that triggers emotions – everyone wants the best for their children. Do your research and build a campaign that is segmented to the market you wish to target. 

Preferred social media channel? 

A hard one – I love them all for different reasons! Facebook for personal, Twitter for interest, LinkedIn for professional and more recently I have been enjoying the visual joys of Instagram! 

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

There are many aspects that my non-marketing colleagues do not understand. As we are not targeting them, they don’t see many of our campaigns so they don’t think we are doing any advertising! I still have a few colleagues who are not on any social channel and I just feel they are missing out on so much. I learn so much each day, from podcasts and work related articles to what is going on in our community and with our competitors. I would seriously be out of touch if I did not spend a considerable amount of my day perusing work and my own social channels. 

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

I would invest in people – so we have more creative heads and hands to implement more campaigns; and more people to follow-up on enquiries – there is nothing more frustrating for a marketeer than to collect enquiries for them not to be followed up swiftly and nurtured. I would love to do some big outdoor poster campaigns in target areas but they are so expensive. However I love the value that digital campaigns bring and how you can so easily track what is working and what is not. I would also invest in an all through web enquiry to final admission CRM system that allows remarketing and regular updates to support conversion. Our customer journey could be so much better if we had a better system to support us. 

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

Being nominated for ‘Marketing Campaign of the Year’ 2018 and 2019 by TES.

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

Google analytics and RSAdmissions database for data analysis, and Shareable for mulit-social posting and tracking. 

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

All the time. You have to base your strategy on data otherwise how do you know how well you are doing? 

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

Digital, Digital, Digital …. 

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

Independent schools are used to working in a challenging environment, and the current uncertainty doesn’t make it any easier. We are going to have to get better at communicating how much we contribute to our local and wider economies. At Felsted we employ over 500 staff, contribute £18million to our local economy and save the government from subsidising over 1000 school places. 

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

The InspirED Facebook group shares some really useful real issues. I enjoy Alta Justes’ blogs as her topics are all so current and a recent visit to the FinalsiteU Conference provided some great insight in future digital developments. It is always good to take some time out to go to AMCIS or ISBI conferences… I often read blogs and CIM marketing articles in the bath and some of my most creative thoughts come when I am running! 

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

Hard work gets you everywhere, and trust your instinct. 

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

Network and learn from others in the school community. Much of what we do is very similar in content and most people are willing to share what is working for them. Then make it different so your school stands out! In schools marketing there is always more you can do, but focus on the basics and the rest will follow i.e. do your research and then build from there … the beauty of digital campaigns is that you can test and segment your market for very little outlay. 

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

I would love to be a newsreader, a childhood dream. However I recently married a long haul BA pilot and have come to realise what an awesome job it is to be paid to fly such amazing aeroplanes around the world and the opportunities to explore different countries that come with that. 

What are you currently reading? 

‘Becoming’, by Michelle Obama – what an incredible lady she is, striving to achieve what she did in her career against all odds, alongside the challenges of bringing up a young family in the glare of the world press. 

Michelle – Q&As

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