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9 Things You Can’t (and Can) Control About School Marketing
Connor Gleason

Amid the complex task of marketing your school, so much lies outside of your control. New social platforms launch, algorithms get updated, and the economy fluctuates—unfortunately, all without your input. Some days, it feels like flashy trends and global news have more say about your marketing plans than you do.

Despite all the school marketing ideas out there, there are elements beyond your reach. At the end of the day, there are forces that you can prepare for but not prevent. Sometimes, you need to let go and acknowledge that you can’t decide every outcome, but you can still find a path forward with confidence and a little bit of faith in your abilities to make the most of the tools, knowledge, and creativity at your disposal.

And that requires a mindset that blends realism with optimism. While you can't control everything, you can shape the narrative where it counts, connect with your communities, and build a brand that stands out.

Life’s full of surprises, and the world of school marketing is no different. Let’s look at those curveballs we might not see coming and acknowledge the school marketing strategies that can help you hit a homeroom.

What You Can't Control:

1) New Social Media Channels

The world of social media never stands still, does it? X, Threads, BeReal...Just when you've mastered Instagram, suddenly, every family is on a platform that didn’t exist last season. Follow tech trends, take every new social media platform with a grain of salt, and don't be afraid to experiment with new channels.

Keep ReadingLike & Follow: 6 Strategies for Schools Adopting New Social Media Channels

2) Algorithm Changes

Google and social media LOVE to keep us on our toes with updates that can turn our content's visibility upside-down. Use different kinds of posts, from videos to blogs, so there's always something that sticks.

3) What Your Competitors Do

The private or public school down the street might unveil a new program or plan for a campus upgrade without warning. Stay competitive and focus on what makes your school unique.

4) The Economy

When the economy zigs and zags, it can change how many prospective students can attend your school. Keep an eye on these trends and be ready to show why your school is worth every penny.

5) Public Sentiment

The public’s mood can swing like a pendulum, especially when it comes to hot topics in education. Keep your ear to the ground, gather feedback, and give your community a platform and a voice.

6) Your Marketing Budget

Sometimes, the piggy bank for marketing isn't as full as we’d like. Make every dollar count by knowing which marketing moves give you the most bang for your buck.

7) Tech Advancements

Advancements in AI, mass notifications, and mobile apps.... your school's communication tools are always evolving (and so are ours!), and they can all be game-changers for how we connect with parents, students, and alumni. Continue learning throughout the year, and you’ll keep up and even stay ahead.

8) Global Events

Big world events, from health scares to economic shake-ups, can ripple through our plans. Remember the pandemic? Have a backup plan, so you’re never caught off guard.

9) Local Demographics

Neighborhoods change, and so do the families in them. Keep tabs on who's moving in and out, and their needs and expectations so your message stays on target.

SEO & Digital Advertising Fundamentals for Schools

What You Can Control: Seizing the Initiative

There's a powerful set of tools at our disposal, and while some things are out of our hands, there’s plenty we can grab hold of. From increasing enrollment with marketing campaigns and search engine optimization (SEO), let’s make some marketing magic with what we CAN control:

1) How Well You Know Your Audience

Dive into the data—surveys, interviews, and even casual conversations can all be gold mines of information. What sports do they love? What’s their favorite school event?

The better you know the patterns, interests, and concerns of your families, the more you can tailor your messaging and SEO strategies to speak directly to them. Remember, knowledge is power—use it to connect genuinely and effectively.

2) The Quality of Your Content

Never underestimate the power of a well-told story or a beautifully snapped photo. Content is king, but quality reigns supreme. Whether it's your school's blog post about a day in the life of a student or a video tour of a new campus facility, compelling content captivates your audience.

You can create narratives that resonate on a personal level. Invest time and creativity, and your audience will notice—and, more importantly, they'll engage.

3) Brand Voice and Messaging

Whether you're drafting an email, updating your school's website, or posting on social media, use a consistent tone that reflects your school’s ethos. Are you nurturing? Innovative? Traditional?

Decide how you want to be perceived and infuse that personality into every piece of content. When your online presence's messaging is consistent, your school's identity becomes clearer and stronger in the minds of your audience.

4) Family Engagement

Create avenues for meaningful interaction: surveys that invite their opinions, events that bring them to campus, or volunteer opportunities that make them part of your school’s successes. When families feel involved, they become your biggest champions, and word-of-mouth can be your best friend.

Keep ReadingHow to Measure Your School’s Word-of-Mouth Marketing

5) Marketing Channels Mix

There are usually more ways to reach an audience than we’re aware of. Don't just stick to one; mix it up! Email campaigns, social media marketing, podcasts, PPC ads, and more each have their unique strengths. Find the right blend for your school and adjust based on what your data tells you.

Maybe your Instagram is a hit with the high school crowd, but parents flock to your newsletter. Meet your audience where they are, and they'll be more likely to listen.

6) Understanding Your Data

Marketing without data is like shooting hoops in the dark—you might score, but you won't know why or how to do it again. Track your campaigns, analyze the results, and use that knowledge to refine your strategies.

Which post got the most likes? What time do most parents open emails? Are your landing pages converting? Use the data to make informed decisions that boost your marketing's effectiveness.

7) Innovation and Flexibility

Change is the only constant. Encourage a culture where new ideas are welcome and failures are seen as stepping stones to success. Maybe it's trying out a new email drip campaign or a student-led social media takeover. By innovating, you'll find fresh, exciting ways to capture the attention of your audience.

8) Your School’s Software

Your school's software should be flexible, connected, and fully utilized. Enrollment software to help you keep track of every interaction, manage relationships at scale, and personalize your communications. A content management system to tell your story and engage every prospective family. Communication tools and mobile apps to deliver the one-on-one attention they expect—leveraging a full suite of tools can make all the difference in the world.

9) Personalizing Your School's Communications

Personalized communication tools help your message cut through. Addressing parents and students by name, referencing past interactions, and tailoring communications to individual interests shows that you’re paying attention to what matters to them. You have their contact information, so turn a generic message into a personal conversation. And in the business of building relationships, a personal touch can turn a prospect into a lifelong member of your school family.

Key Takeaway

While there are some scenarios that need us to pivot, it's the controllable details that can truly define the success of your marketing efforts. By focusing on what you can shape, you can create a marketing plan that resonates with families, represents your school's values, and reaches your community, no matter what twists and turns come your way.

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Connor Gleason Headshot


Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.

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