These days, a one-person marketing and communications office isn’t enough. Between meeting enrollment goals and executing development initiatives, on top of all the regular daily school communications, website updates, social media posts, and campus events…the work never stops. The appropriate staffing, expertise, and extra time never seem to accompany those demands, does it?
That’s when it’s time to find assistance from a school marketing consultant — before your work suffers (or you burn out.)
Receiving help with special projects isn’t a bad thing — it’s being realistic about your workload and resources; it shows you understand what’s needed to successfully complete an assignment and being proactive about seeking professional assistance to get the job done right.
Whether you’re an office of one or were just handed down a directive from your board, there’s always hope. If any of these signs hit a little too close to home, it may be time to find a strategic partner to assist with developing your school marketing strategy — and potentially help implement it too!
1. You’re new to the position
The start of any new position can be overwhelming — new people, new school, new priorities, and new rules. As you settle into your role, knowing where to start can be a challenge, especially if you’ve been brought on to restructure a department or immediately begin a new initiative.
Before getting lost in the shuffle of the busy calendar, partnering with a consultant to help prioritize what can make the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time will make a world of difference as you catch your breath and let the dust settle.
When Lesha Engels, executive director of communications and digital strategy for Issaquah School District, was new to her role, one of her first priorities was to redesign and launch a website redesign project for the district — a large undertaking for anyone, let alone someone starting a new position.
“As a leader, I have a ton of institutional knowledge within the district, but I needed an expert in marketing,” Engels shared. With guidance and hands-on support from the school marketing experts of Finalsite Advantage, Issaquah developed a new site that reflects a cohesive design and prioritizes the most important content for both prospective and current families. The beautiful site recently won a Gold Award from the NYX Awards, an Award of Excellence from the Communicator Awards, and an Award of Excellence from the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA).
2. You have a small team (or no team)
No one should have to work in a silo. As one of the busiest departments, school marketers are constantly putting out fires and responding to the crisis du jour. When you’re working in a one-person office, you’re in a reactive state of mind and it’s nearly impossible to find the time or energy to think strategically. Sometimes it feels like you’re putting down the tracks right before the train…
Working with an expert can make your small office feel like an army, whether that’s hiring a virtual webmaster to tackle your website’s administrative tasks, or collaborating with a school marketing pro to finally launch that marketing campaign you’ve been dreaming about.
“There is no way I could have accomplished all of the projects that I have over the past 3+ years without Advantage,” shared Jodie Shoemaker, now assistant head of school at Woods Academy, who reached out previously for assistance in planning and executing the school’s overall marketing strategy. “The support and expertise provided by Advantage are invaluable.”
3. A website redesign is on the horizon
A large project like a school website redesign is a commitment of time, finances, and let’s face it — bandwidth. Adding a massive initiative like a redesign on top of your busy schedule is a tall order, often needing a significant time commitment.
St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School teamed up with Finalsite Advantage to assist with its award-winning website AND overhaul its communication plans, essentially rebuilding its marketing and communication strategy from the ground up.
“The website lived in ‘no man's land,” explained Karolina Canning, director of communications & marketing at St. Patrick's. “My colleague and I really wanted to take back ownership but it just felt overwhelming. It was something we knew we had to get to — we just weren't sure when or how.”
Canning worked with the Advantage team to think strategically about the redesign and the suite of tools of the content management system, Composer. “Now we know how to use those, which is really, really helpful. We're now working at the level we should be working at and we're maintaining this level of work while adding content every week.”
“When we launched the site, it was such a labor of love, but something that we're all very, very proud of,” Canning recalled. “I just don't know if it would've happened if we didn't have our Advantage consultant because we were able to think ‘big picture’ and incorporate that into the launch of the site.”
Keep Reading About St. Patrick’s Success >
4. Your communications need an overhaul
If the same efforts are producing the same lackluster results, it may be time to rethink your strategy. Entrusting a seasoned school marketing professional to assist with a special project can provide a fresh set of eyes on departmental procedures, communication processes, and marketing strategies.
When you’re not seeing the forest for the trees, a marketing partner can give an outsider's perspective and with years of experience working with schools, they know what works — and what doesn’t.
To assist in improving school-to-home communications, Taipei American School sought assistance to evaluate its parent communications and partnered with Finalsite Advantage to overhaul its communication strategy and gain a better understanding of the parent experience.
As Lindsey Kundell, director of communications explained, “We weren't entirely sure how to begin navigating our internal communications project, so we contacted Finalsite Advantage and it has been hands-down the best decision that we've made as a team. You don't know what you don't know,” Kundel admitted, adding that “in this field, we knew that we needed to have somebody on our team to coach and guide us through these uncharted waters, especially as best practices continue to emerge.”
Among many other efforts, the international school developed a Parent Zone for families to access important information with ease.
5. It’s time for a rebrand
A rebrand is about so much more than designing a new school seal. Redefining who your school is can require new language, updated imagery and colors, a redesign of your website, marketing collateral, and so much more. Where do you begin, and more importantly, how do you communicate and enforce these changes to your constituents in a positive way?
Working with experienced leaders in school branding can give you the guidance you need to successfully execute a school rebranding project. A rebrand is an important moment in your school’s history, and it’s critical that your efforts hit a bullseye with your constituents — from prospective families to your most devoted alumni.
The Mead School, an independent school in CT, brought in some additional help to level up its marketing and admissions strategy and support its rebranding efforts.
While distinctive, The Mead School’s logo — and extensive color palette — was in need of refinement. The school had a complex offering with an attached early Learning Center for infants and toddlers and distinct internal divisions within the main school. There was a desire to retain the bright and 'happy' feel that the community valued in the old logo. Working with Finalsite Advantage, a new approach was developed that respected the community's wishes while helping establish a clean new look for the school.
With its roots in progressive education, Mead was struggling to make itself understood and relevant within a competitive independent school landscape. The school needed help in defining its USP (unique sales proposition) both within its own community and the wider marketplace.
Following a series of consultant-led workshops and focus groups, it became clear that Mead’s commitment to immersive and experiential learning, and the outcomes of that approach on their student's ability to retain what they had learned, was a key differentiator.
And so, after much discussion and review, the tagline 'Learning That Lasts' was born — and integrated into the school's new identity and messaging.
“We've been able to put a voice to who we are, and help pull the messaging together in a concrete way.” And according to Mead, the decision to position Finalsite Advantage as a long-term integrated part of their approach to marketing and communications is one they’ll never regret.
6. There’s an initiative from school leadership
When the board calls, you answer. If you’ve ever felt the pressure of an initiative handed down straight from the top, you know it must become a priority. Having someone in your corner to develop a strategy to meet your latest admission goals and enrollment or fundraising targets can empower you and your team with the energy you need to succeed.
If school leadership pulls your attention toward an important directive, knowing you can count on someone to help with an important admissions campaign, website redesign, or a re-brand can provide some relief.
Facing just such a scenario, the admissions and marketing teams at Baylor School sought guidance on how to plan and execute a strategy to support their mid-and end-funnel communications to inquiries and applicants — an effort that needed to focus on improving yield within boarding families.
After a thorough ‘discovery process’ with their consultant, a series of targeted email marketing campaigns were developed using Finalsite’s email marketing tool, Messages, and its inbound counterpart Workflows. Top-of-the-funnel content was aimed at nurturing families to move forward with an application. Then, as the season progressed, attention turned to maximizing acceptance rates for both boarding and day students through a personalized, carefully timed email campaign that ran once offers of places had been sent out.
Supported by the Advantage team, Baylor succeeded in creating a new strategy featuring a range of clear initiatives in a short amount of time, while also becoming more familiar with the Finalsite tools available to them.
“We knew that if we were going to get the return on our investment of working with the Advantage service, we had to be committed,” Barbara Kennedy, director of external affairs said. “Finalsite Advantage definitely brought a skillset to us that we were missing — it's given our team even more confidence.” Kennedy added, “the work that we're doing now will pay dividends in the coming years.”
7. You need to get noticed
Launching a new school website is a big accomplishment, but if you have a great site and no one sees it, what’s the point? After deploying your new site, investing in search engine optimization (SEO) and digital marketing is the critical next step you’re trying to reach a new audience to make the best first impression.
So how can you break through the noise to engage new audiences, while continuing to refine your content to rank in search results organically? Partnering with a team of SEO gurus and digital marketing experts can help carry that initiative forward and help your site reach the right people at the right time, helping your new website make an even bigger splash.
Canadian Academy, an international day and boarding school in Japan, found a supportive partner when launching its redesign project. “Our new site looks amazing and there is no question that we would not have achieved such an impressive online presence without the support of Finalsite Advantage,” shared Rob Smailes, director of admissions and advancement.
With a revamped visual identity to accompany its new design, Canadian Academy now presents a world-class site experience that resonates with families around the world.
8. “Fly? Yes … Land? No.”
Indiana Jones said it best when asked if he knew how to fly a plane. The part-time academic/retriever of antiquities knew what needed to be done, but he didn’t quite know how to do it. If you know the importance of an initiative like reaching new families with digital advertising or revamping your admissions communications to boost conversions — but might lack some of the technical skills to execute those projects — outsourcing those skills can save the day, as long as there aren’t snakes…
For Hebron Academy, bringing in an external voice to elevate the school’s online presence brought a welcomed wave of new ideas and initiatives for their website redesign, branding, and messaging.
“There was — quite rightly — a lot of work on our side to pull this off,” shared Edwin Nunez, former assistant head of school for enrollment management. “Having an expert who understands what we’re trying to achieve and continues to support us has been invaluable.”
9. Limited budget
If financial resources for your advertising are limited, there’s not much room for error or experimentation. Working with experts in digital advertising will help make more of an impact with your precious marketing budget, and since they know how and where to invest your efforts, a marketing consultant will ultimately save you time AND money if your ads are working twice as hard.
Depending on your school’s needs, a Theme Design could be the perfect option. With the ability to work within nearly every budget and timeline, a Theme Design could have your site launched in as little as three months, and when paired with a school marketing expert to help guide your process, that journey can be made even easier.
School markers are some of the hardest-working folks out there. Armed with the best intentions and years of experience, even the most seasoned professionals can be hindered by the limits of time, budgets, and staffing. By seeking the support of a school marketing professional, a small investment can help pay dividends and allow you to get back to the work that matters most.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.