American School of Guatemala
With an astonishing history spanning over 70 years, the American School of Guatemala (CAG) has been providing a bilingual college preparatory education to over 1,600 local and international students.
With a very active parent community, CAG is proud that generations of families continue sending their children and grandchildren to the school with upwards of 35 percent of their students coming from legacy families.
With Finalsite's help, CAG successfully implemented an ambitious five-year strategic plan, which focuses on:
- Strengthening the educational experience
- Recruiting the best teachers
- Upgrading facilities
- Strengthening their value proposition as well as bolstering financial sustainability.
The American School of Guatemala (CAG) was founded in 1945 and is an independent, non-profit, non-denominational, college preparatory institution that offers a rigorous academic program modeled after the best educational practices and methodologies of the United States of America. CAG was founded on the principles of a co-educational, bi-cultural (Guatemala-United States), bilingual (Spanish-English) program. CAG is fully accredited in the U.S. by the New England Association of Colleges and Schools and recognized by the Guatemalan Ministry of Education as a Laboratory School.
"It’s been a huge shift going from a homegrown system to a professional website provider. Like all schools, we are feeling the ‘growing pains’ but our collaborative efforts and positive direction have changed people’s mindsets and opened the door to so many other things."
KIMBERLY DE PIVARAL
PUBLIC RELATIONS AND COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
At the start of the five-year plan, members of the board attended a conference presentation by another Finalsite school and were inspired by their online digital strategy. Hearing how other schools face similar marketing challenges, and learning how they strategized to overcome these issues, inspired the board to invest more in marketing, communications, and development.
Kimberly De Pivaral, the school's Public Relations and Communications Manager, has been at the school for 22 years, first as a teacher and now managing the marketing of the school, including the website.
"Part of our school culture has been to maintain a low profile; but with increased competition, and as a result of social media, we needed to do a better job managing the messaging and telling our story," she said. "Once everyone understood this underlying issue, we started drafting a strategy to better position ourselves and to begin to understand and create a more focused value proposition for families."
CAG also realized that hiring from the outside brought a new perspective to their team. To this end, they felt very fortunate to hire TK Ostrom as a consultant to help with their marketing, admissions, and development efforts.
Ostrom brought a wealth of knowledge and experience having worked with schools around the world, and in the end she joined their team as a full-time employee. Together, TK and Kimberly have worked diligently to craft a plan, the website being the focal point of their efforts. CAG realized they could take control of telling their story to drive admissions and, as importantly, to engage current families and their 6,000 former students.
The school held a series of meetings with the community to understand how they saw the school and to better craft their brand architecture. Key concepts that emerged were: community, connectedness and meaningful experiences. In meeting with these various groups, they captured the soul of the school and came up with the phrase "meaningful lives". This motto permeates the website and inspires all of their marketing efforts.
They realized their bulletin board style website needed to be upgraded, and with tuition the primary source of funding, the focus of their redesign was to drive admissions. In working with their Finalsite deployment team, they were able to craft a new website that matches their strategic goals.
From the engaging homepage video, to stories showcasing meaningful lives, to an infographic featuring successful outcomes, prospective families are inspired to learn more. Crafted on Finalsite's CMS, Composer, CAG is able to update the site to keep the content relevant and timely.
Their admissions landing page contains a more comprehensive video and clearly outlines the steps visitors can make to inquire, visit and apply. With a new online admissions tool, CAG was able to integrate their admissions and streamline their operations.
Around the same time, CAG welcomed a new director, Patti Marshall. Her commitment to furthering their marketing and communication was in line with the school's strategic plan.
"The families CAG attracts are globally minded and time crunched to balance work and family time," Marshall said. "Our families value their children's education as the most important investment they are making for their families, and for the future, and they understand their investment in education should help them find the balance they need."
"This comes with tremendous responsibility for CAG to be responsive, transparent and succinct in how it communicates personally and collectively to its families, and most especially how CAG takes these responsibilities into consideration when illustrating the value added of an CAG education to our community and to our visitors. We know we have specific platforms and limited amount of time and tight budgets to get a lot in a neat and concise package in ways that are relevant and meaningful for current and prospective families."
Kimberly added: "This first launch is only the beginning. We have now hired a full-time webmaster to take our website to the next level. Finalsite Feeds has been very positive so we plan to take advantage of other Finalsite modules including athletics, emails, blogs, and the Posts module to keep our community more engaged and informed."
Kimberly said the shift going from a homegrown system to a professional website provider was tremendous in scope and effect.
"Like all schools, we are feeling the 'growing pains' but our collaborative efforts and positive direction have changed people's mindsets and opened the door to so many other things," she said. "We are excited to work with Finalsite to bring more of our visions to reality as the Finalsite toolset is robust, easy-to-use and we have enjoyed working with the Finalsite team."
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