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School’s Out—But You Should Be In

Posted by on June 12th, 2018
Posted in Blog, Independent Schools    Tags: , , ,

Ahhh. Admissions season is over, summer is nigh, and it’s time to recharge before the fall frenzy starts up again.

Before you take out the margarita glasses, Mission Minded is here with a suggestion that you’ll thank us for later (though you might not feel too fondly towards us in the next few paragraphs): You need to get started on your next admissions communication materials very, very soon. Preferably now.

We counsel our school clients to plan more than a year in advance of the admission season for which they want new materials. That means starting now on a new campaign for Fall 2019.

Truth be told, the two-ish months of summer are about enough time for some minor tweaks—but if you’re refreshing your materials entirely, you need more time.

Here’s why: thinking deeply and strategically about what sets your school apart—and how to communicate that in a way that feels fresh and compelling—takes time. And one of the reasons it takes time is that doing it well, so that the effort will be transformational for your school culture, requires involving your entire community.

Are you envisioning a refresh of your admissions campaign? If so, great! And here’s the clincher: what’s your school’s brand strategy? If you’re not sure how to answer this question—and if your faculty, staff, and board can’t answer this question—you have some work to do.

When you factor in the time and availability of your internal stakeholders to meet, consider, and tackle the big branding questions (e.g. “Is our school’s reputation the one we really want?”), you’ll quickly find yourself adding months on the calendar. Trust us—taking the time to get the school community involved is well worth it.

Think of communications and admissions as everyone’s job, not just the admissions/enrollment team. Every student, teacher, and member of the staff, faculty, and board is a representative of your school’s brand—so, representatives from every one of those groups should have a say in that brand strategy!

Here are three reasons why you should give yourself the time to create great admissions materials:

  1. It takes time to involve your stakeholders in a meaningful way. When everyone contributes their thinking about what makes your school great, they’ll be better, more authentic school ambassadors to the outside world.
  2. Being rushed leads to poor decision-making. Give yourself the time to carefully consider your language and visual options. You want all of your finished admissions communication materials, from brochures to videos to websites, to sing in harmony.
  3. The whole school year is full of great story opportunities. The natural cycles in a school year allow you to collect the very best stories to feature in your materials. It also allows you to set up more than one photo shoot so your image library will have range.

Are you thinking: “Uh-oh. I just don’t have that kind of time!” We understand. Here are some strategies that we hope will help you create the strongest, freshest materials you can with the time you have:

  1. Work with what you’ve got now and add to it. Would a new Frequently Asked Questions brochure round out what you currently have? Then write and design one to match the style of your existing communications. You’ll be that much further along in understanding what you want to communicate when you do a complete refresh next year.
  2. Consider a video. Not an expensive brand piece, but something informal that highlights the unique culture of your school for prospective families. Again, considering what to include will help spur your thinking on the big ideas your next admissions campaign should embody.
  3. Gather brand ambassadors. Spend the summer putting together the steering committee for your branding and admissions campaign development efforts. You’ll need to run next year’s campaign while simultaneously developing your new brand strategy.

Read more about how brand can help your admissions communication efforts here. Also, our white paper details 10 Tips for Effectively Marketing Your Independent School.

Good luck!

Originally posted June 2014.

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Jennie Winton is a Founding Partner of Mission Minded and a 25-year marketing veteran sought for her expertise in branding and positioning nonprofit organizations.

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