- General Best Practices
“Show, don’t tell.” This is often the first, and most important, lesson any young filmmaker and writer will have to learn if they want their stories taken seriously. Emotions should be conveyed through action or striking visuals, not blunt dialogue.
Shamelessly riding off of the Game of Thrones hype, a great example of “show, don’t tell” can be found in the character arc of Daenerys Targaryen from season one to seven.
Since we're all probably thinking about Game of Thrones (at least I am!), the transformation of Daenerys from a weak, timid young girl who’s controlled by her brother to a powerful, self-confident queen is a timely example of showing, not telling, her evolution over seven seasons.
The same is true for school marketing, though probably with fewer dragons and white walkers.
Show -- don’t tell -- how amazing and unique your school is.
Show -- don’t tell -- how your school cultivates an atmosphere of excellence that fosters student growth.
Show -- don’t tell -- how your school uniquely prepares students for success in college and beyond.
These are just a few examples of what video marketing can be used for, but if you can accomplish these three goals, and more, you can transform your school’s typical marketing videos into a far better first step into their application journey.
For many schools, that’s easier said than done. There’s a delicate balance that’s often difficult to find between disseminating information and creating a fun video that people actually want to watch. We’ve identified these five schools who have managed to find this delicate balance. And, most importantly, these schools don’t just tell you their story, they show it.
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Ironically, one of the hardest questions for schools to answer is “Who are you?” Or, asked another way, what makes your school really different.
Though this is a more conventional marketing video, Forman’s video has incredible production value, soft narration and music that invites the viewer to watch until the end, and testimonials from parents and staff alike on what makes Forman such a great place to learn.
Forman specializes in teaching students who learn differently than their peers, a point the “Who is Forman?” video makes sure to stress. For a parent with a child who has had difficulty learning in a more conventional educational system, seeing students with similar difficulties express their new-found joy in learning creates a strong emotional tie that can make that decision to apply that much easier.
Forman’s “Can one school make a difference?” video focuses more on real-world cases of students who found success at Forman by using parent testimonials.
Prospective parents are more likely to connect to other parents who have made the same decision they are currently considering. What’s more, the shorter format makes these videos far more appealing and easier to watch, increasing the chance a prospective parent will watch.
Keep these testimonial videos short and direct with answers to the very questions that parents are most likely to ask. These one to two minute marketing videos should be one of the first resources prospective families see when they visit your website. Having those initial questions answered and potential objections addressed greatly increases the likelihood that these families move along to the inquiry phase.
Avon Old Farms
In their own words, Avon Old Farms’ mission is to be “the best college preparatory school for boys.” It’s a lofty goal, and one that can be hard to show, even through video. Play too aggressively on that approach, and you risk turning away prospects who feel like they’re being sold to. Go in to soft, and you risk failing to showcase why your school is the best of the best.
Avon found the Goldilocks zone with their “Welcome to the Village” video.
Avon is such a beautiful place, it almost feels like cheating - how many schools look like they were built in medieval Europe? Avon smartly focused on how their core values of brotherhood, scholarship, and integrity build and define their students.
With an extremely compelling narration from Headmaster Kenneth LaRocque, this video masterfully shows how Avon cultivates an environment of leadership and education that prepares students for future success.
For a more relatable approach to prospective students, Avon featured a handful of current students in their “Academia at Avon Old Farms” testimonial video.
Seeing current students express how much they love Avon does wonders for helping persuade prospective students still on the fence about applying. And seeing Avon teachers also helps them connect to the school with a sneak-peek of the people they will work most closely with.
From music videos and program highlights, to testimonials and scholarship overviews, McCallie has a video for nearly every question a prospective family can ask, and a video for nearly every reason a person might be interested in applying to their school.
For example, take a look at their “Run This Town” music video.
Why is this so awesome? Simple: it’s fun! But that’s like saying water is wet. Of course it’s fun! That’s why nearly three-quarters of a million people watched the video on YouTube. Just look at that view count!
Spitballing some numbers here, let’s say just half of a percent of the people that watched this video decided to apply to McCallie. That’s still more than 3,600 applicants.
The video doesn’t come across as a marketing video thanks to the emphasis on student involvement, incredible production value, and playful attitude while also getting the McCallie name out to the general public.
You also can’t just “show”. On the page with McCallie’s “Run This Town” music video, is “The Spirit of McCallie”:
Text like this should be used as a framing mechanism: tell your audience about your equal commitment to excellence and fun, but be ready to back that claim up with video evidence.
For boarding schools in particular, this can be a make or break decision. Fortunately, McCallie has a completely different type of video to address that very concern.
“More Than We Expected” answers the question of “How could you let your boys go away for high school?” with real-world answers from parents who did exactly that. As a parent, seeing other parents who trusted McCallie to care for and educate boys at the most formative time in their lives is a major selling point, especially when this particular family trusted McCallie enough to send all three boys to their school.
And as boys curious about the prospect of leaving home to attend high school, perhaps leaving home for the first time, seeing other guys their age talk about how the McCallie experience has made them stronger, self-reliant, and more self-confident with close friendships that will last a lifetime is a hard-to-beat argument for attending McCallie.
Short and sweet. That’s the best way to describe Trinity-Pawling’s “Our Campus” video embedded directly on their homepage.
Videos embedded on the homepage have a tall order to wow and impress every visitor with spectacular imagery and/or important information. Trinity-Pawling wisely focuses on the former for this campus tour video that features impressive drone shots of their beautiful campus and energetic music to create an enthusiastic mood. It’s hard not to be blown away after watching this incredible aerial tour of their campus
While the excellent “We Call Ourselves the Pride” introductory video is notable, let’s focus on another more unique video from the school that highlights a key differentiator that might make their school more attractive for sports-oriented families.
Trinity-Pawling was the first prep-school in the nation to implement PlaySight video and analytics technology to help improve their student athlete’s performance. The school demonstrated this awesome piece of technology in their “Trinity-Pawling School Athletics Plays Smart with PlaySight Sports Technology” video.
Showing technology on video is easy. Showing how that technology actually impacts the students is the real challenge. Rather than focusing solely on people telling you how the technology impacts the player, the video shows students engaging with the technology on the sidelines before, after, and even during games.
Seeing the multiple cameras that surround the soccer field or basketball court, seeing the clear video recordings, and seeing students reviewing their own footage makes it clear to understand how PlaySight helps.
And just for fun, Trinity-Pawling also offers livestreams for all of their home sports games, with support for those watching on mobile devices. It’s an added step that family and friends unable to make the game in-person are sure to love.
Springfield School District
School districts approach marketing differently than independent schools, which often means less video marketing. However, Springfield School District bucks the norm with video highlights on how individual teachers are using technology in new and creative ways.
A few videos from the Springfield Educational Television (SETV) series are found tucked away on the district’s technology page under the Instructional Technology accordion in the Spotlight Videos tab.
The first of the five videos, titled “Live Center Lesson Strategy,” shows how students are more engaged and interested in their classroom learning exercises after their teacher, Sandy Connor, created video lessons for a more personalized learning experience.
The second video, “Kahoot,” has high school history teacher Scott Holloway demonstrate how the Kahoot learning software made classroom learning a more competitive experience, causing his students to become more engaged as they try to outscore their fellow classmates.
You can see in each of these videos that the students are far more engaged in the classroom as they actively participate in discussions, raise their hands to answer questions, and genuinely enjoy learning evident by the smiles on their faces.
It’s always easy to plop a camera down in front of someone and film them talking about how technology improved the classroom learning experience, but Springfield went the extra step to capture plenty of footage of children learning and having fun in the classroom to show, not tell.
Lastly, looking for a way to feature all of your amazing video content? Springfield has a dedicated page for videos that is just what you’re looking for.
SETV videos of all varieties from alumni profiles to commencement speeches, from school board meetings to entire basketball games. It’s clear that Springfield built this extension of their website as a one-stop-shop for everything video related.
Just like filmmaking, school video marketing always comes down to show, don’t tell. After all, video is a primarily visual medium. It’s tempting to keep your videos simple with just “talking heads”, but prospective families want to and expect to see more.
Use everything your school has to offer to impress those families still on the fence about applying. Follow in the footsteps of these five schools and make the most out of your campus’s natural beauty, your talented students and staff, and current parents who are willing to speak on your school’s behalf. But most importantly, show, don’t tell, your school’s unique story.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite’s Product Marketing Specialist, Andrew writes blogs and creates videos to share information about all the latest and greatest Finalsite products. Andrew has more than 10 years of video production experience and a journalism education from the University of South Carolina. He is excited about bringing his experience and expertise to Finalsite.