• Independent Schools
The New Marketing and Communications Office for Private Schools
Hadley Rosen

Have you noticed some pretty interesting job titles out there lately? From Director of Storytelling and Chief Bean Counter to Ambassador of Buzz and Digital Prophet, creative job titles started in the tech industry and have found their way into many other sectors, including schools. (Here at Finalsite, we’re lucky to have both a Chief Evangelist and a Chief Innovation Officer.) And, whether you think these titles are helpful or annoying, they’re likely here to stay as the millennial and Gen Z generations seek professional roles that reflect their uniqueness. 

Independent schools have realized for some time that a marketing/communications department made up of one person isn’t a great idea, especially when they’re tasked with print communications, social media, online and print ads, branding and logos and much more (check out this great post from Heather Lambie, Director of Strategic Marketing at Tampa Prep for more on this topic). But, many schools wonder: what’s the right size of a marketing communications office and how should we structure it? As importantly, what are the right job titles to attract candidates that are going to help us reach our goals? 

InspirED recently shared the results of their annual survey of hundreds of independent schools in 2018, and found that more than 75% of school marketers had come from an industry outside of education, meaning that this group of professionals is used to a set of job titles that might not line up with “Director of Communications.”

Finding the Right Mar/Comm Department Size and the Right Titles for Your School 

InspirED’s 2018 survey shared some eye-opening statistics about school marketing and communications offices, such as: 

  • 85% have 3 or fewer staffers (30% have just one!)
  • Only 15% have 4 or more; pretty stark when compared to admissions offices where 24% have five or more staff members, and development, where 41% have five or more staffers. (Source)

So, while it’s clear that plenty of school resources are being spent on attracting families, enrolling them, and raising money, many marketing offices are left short-staffed and with shoestring budgets. 

For many smaller schools, a department of two can work, with a director of communications and an assistant or associate director splitting the work of creating content, managing social media, and coordinating outside agencies to assist with magazines, photography, public relations and online ads. 

But for mid-size and larger schools, especially boarding schools like Loomis Chaffee and The Hill School, a marketing/communications staff helps to cover the wide range of activities they’re responsible for, including managing graphics for print and digital, creating and curating content for the website and publications, including video and photography, and maintaining an active social media presence on channels for current students and alumni, to name a few. 

loomis chaffee's communications office

For example, Loomis Chaffee’s office of more than eight professionals have backgrounds in journalism, marketing, and admissions lend complementary perspectives to a complex communications strategy that reaches a worldwide community of families and thousands of alumni.  You can read more about their roles in their online directory.

Similarly, The Hill School in Pennsylvania knows the importance of new media channels in engaging their community—just check out their Instagram video challenge to raise money for the Hill Fund. Pretty cool! Their communications office of five includes roles to manage photography, including the school’s photo database; a staffer to cover Hill’s legendary athletics program, and roles to manage the school’s weekly newsletter, the website, community relations, and more. Their organized webpage shares their mission, and each staff member’s responsibilities. 

the hill school's communications office

Brentwood School in California, a K-12 day school with two campuses, has a Media Center page that shares archived press releases, contact information, and links to social media channels. Their office structure of four staffers and their organized website page makes sense for schools that regularly provide interviews with local press, maintain and curate numerous social media channels, and manage an active website that serves a large current parent and alumni community.


A New Title Reflects the Importance of Marketing for Enrollment 

Finalsite recently surveyed independent schools and held a focus group of professionals in advancement, admissions and communications; we were surprised to learn that these departments aren’t often working together, and may be very removed from one another on campus, each working in silos towards their own goals. 

For Canterbury School in Indiana, a three campus, K-12 day school with nearly 1,000 students,  the timing of hiring a new senior staffer in marketing was the perfect time to reassess the role to ensure that the incumbent would work closely to align communications goals with enrollment and retention. 

Jessica Morales, formerly Director of Marketing and Enrollment Management at St. Joseph’s School in Connecticut, was hired in by Canterbury School in June, and shared, “My title, Director of Enrollment Management, gives me the privilege to lead a synchronized, institutional operation and respond to recruiting and retaining the right student body which ensures sustainability and longevity for Canterbury School. When someone hears my title, it often sparks curiosity and generates a conversation, which excites me.”

And, while Jessica could stay in her silo just focusing on admissions and retention, she makes sure to connect with every office on campus to truly integrate her role with the entire school. 

“I work across teams to foster a dynamic process that aligns the marketing strategy, financial targets, admissions management, data analysis, and human capital optimization. My role is impossible without the collaboration and support of many teams and individuals including Admissions Directors, Database Supervisors, Marketing Specialist, School Directors, Financial Officers, Development Director, Head of School and the Board of Trustees. This is a role and strategy about people, for people, and with people; therefore, why have a title that speaks for me, when I can speak on behalf of myself? That is the power in my title.”

The Takeaway

It's not easy to figure out what the right office size is for each school, but it usually depends on a combination of budget, leadership buy-in and finding marketing talent. But if you're feeling short-staffed, stressed or otherwise overwhelmed in a marketing office of any size, we can help. Finalsite Advantage extends your reach and gives you the guidance and support you need to reach your marketing goals this year. Learn more and request a consultation! 

Learn More About Finalsite Advantage


Hadley is Finalsite's Director of Communications and is a former independent school teacher, fundraiser and marketing director with a passion for cooking, travel, and spending time outdoors with her growing family. She founded the FinalsiteFM podcast network and enjoys meeting Finalsite clients from around the world.

  • Marketing/Communications
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