Marketing your school. It’s a brilliant job, but it can be a lonely existence. Having met so many fantastic school marketers over the years, I still can’t get over what an incredibly talented bunch you are. Nowhere was this more apparent than the AMCIS admissions conference that I attended late last year. Get you all in a room and the buzz is incredible. You’re competitors, yes, but you’re also comrades – you understand the highs, the lows and the challenges.
But can you guess what the most common complaint that I always hear when I go out to meet school marketers? It’s not ‘Why isn’t social media getting more likes’ (although that’s a great question, we’ll save that for another blog). Nor is it ‘Our emails aren’t being opened’. By far, the common frustration is…
No one understands what I do!
I’ve heard all sorts of stories; you’re the person that ‘takes the photographs’ or ‘does that social media stuff’. I even met one lovely lady at a marketing conference last year who was very competent but was always asked to book the minibuses for school trips!
I also recently posed this question to the members of the Inspired School Marketer’s Facebook group and the answers confounded this. The group has a lot of US-based school marketers, but it seems that our cousins across the pond also share this frustration. Answers of ‘I spend my day playing on social media’ to ‘Nothing…we never see her! She’s always on her phone or taking people out to dinner!’ were commonplace.
Clearly, there is a lot of perceptions of what school marketers do, but most of them are far from accurate, and dare I say it, completely misguided. It’s pretty depressing, isn’t it? We all know that pupils don’t just magically appear out of thin air!
Why is this?
I think a lot of this stems from the fact that marketing is given a bit of a bad rap from other sectors. Many see it as schmoozing, long lunches or just ‘fannying about with press releases’ as Daniel Cleaver says to Bridget Jones.
This is further compounded by the fact that marketing and schools have never been words that you’d naturally put together. I mean, shouldn’t pupils be ‘lucky’ to go to our schools? (I’m pretty sure you’ve heard this one before!) But school marketing is big business, especially in the independent sector where some larger schools have teams to rival an SME. You could find a team of 4 or 5 people just working on marketing.
Even in state schools, where budgets are increasingly tight, they’re looking for more commercial tactics such as marketing to secure new pupils. In fact, we’ve just been commissioned by a North London state school to audit their open day experience and communications processes to give them a fighting chance, given a new academy is opening up around the corner later this year.
With marketing becoming increasingly prevalent in both independents, states and academies, yours is a pivotal role to any school. As Michelle Metcalfe, Registrar at Haileybury School pointed out at last year’s AMCIS Admissions Conference, your equivalents in the commercial sector are in charge of bringing in numerous leads that equate to millions of pounds worth of business. It’s no different for Marketers.
So, if you’re fed up with your role being misunderstood, I want to give you my top 4 tips for standing your ground and making sure that you are no longer referred to as ‘the email person’.
Update your job description. Whether you’re new into the post or a seasoned professional. You’re the best judge of what you do and what is expected of you. You wouldn’t dare question the Head’s experience and skills, would you?!
Get a copy and update it to accurately reflect what you do and share it with your SLT. I can almost guarantee that it wasn’t written by someone who understands marketing! Not only does this make your responsibilities crystal clear, but it can also be brought out when you are asked to take on things that aren’t anything to do with you.
Use an inset day to explain to the wider faculty what your role is, why it’s important and what the marketing strategy is, in its most basic form. I’d also tailor your presentation to various key stakeholders. If you’re talking to the bursar, explain in cold, hard cash how much extra income more pupils bring in. If you’re talking to the SLT, they are likely to be academics, so deal with facts and figures.
The best way to get teachers and support staff on your side is to get them involved and help spread your message. In the run-up to open days, speak to everyone from the Head to the cleaners and let them know how they can all play their part in ensuring a warm and welcoming environment.
Show off your skills to help others. Draw up helpful templates, show them how to use Canva or offer lunchtime InDesign or Photoshop clinics for those staff want to improve their skills. There’s no better way of showing your expertise by passing on your skills to someone else. Not only will they appreciate your experience, but all those pesky off-brand posters that suddenly appear on noticeboards will start to look a whole lot better!
So armed with these tips, everyone will know what you do and what a valuable contribution you make. Although don’t even get me started on what your marketing budgets are asked to pay for. That’s definitely another blog piece in itself…