Part 1: Directing Your School Marketing Chorus, Introduction

Perhaps you have the opportunity to hear a beautiful chorus like this one in person. Listening to each different voice play its part in the collective sound of the group is powerful. While the world’s best choral directors may not appear to be doing much as the chorus performs, the work done during rehearsals, arranging music for each part, and giving each singer the confidence to perform his or her part is significant. So is the work a school marketer must do in directing the chorus of voices that share your school’s message: admissions, development, administration, teachers, parents. Controlling these voices is impossible, but helping provide the structure to direct them is not.

This is Part 1 of a three part series focused on how to help direct your school’s marketing chorus; or put in other words, all the voices that help tell your school’s story.

The Challenge:

One of the biggest mistakes a school marketer can make (and one I make myself on a daily basis) is trying to control the school’s messaging on all levels. We each have a vision for how we want to talk about our school. We intentionally develop content and collateral that is consistent with the vision we have for our school. And then other departments seemingly undermine our efforts by using varying language and different talking points than we are using in the communications office. We get frustrated. We complain about these other departments who are killing our marketing efforts. We try to micromanage the messaging from all departments, and in turn, wear out both ourselves and our relationships with those departments.

Why Do You Need to Solve This Problem?:

Prospective families (hopefully) turn into current families. Current families (hopefully) become donors, but these families may be receiving very different messages about the school’s impact on their child’s life at each stage of their journey alongside your school. Communicating a consistent message is critical to your constituents understanding your value proposition. Your admissions pitch must be consistent with the product your faculty believe they are able to produce, and be in line with the experience your alums and donors have already had with your school. To have inconsistencies in how you talk about your school is to dilute the power of your message. Your school’s brand is important, and communicating the impact of your product requires the efforts of everyone in the organization.

The Solution:

So what is the solution?

Instead of complaining about how everyone else is screwing up your marketing efforts, develop structure around your messaging that provides the consistent sheet music necessary for a chorus to perform successfully. Imagine if a choral director never provided sheet music and instead assumed each singer knew the tune and would do his or her best to sing that tune. Is that a recipe for success?

This solution may sound like a no-brainer, but those of us who operate in the complex human communities we call independent schools know it is far harder than it sounds. Not only do the multitude of voices have valid perspectives they want shared from all corners of the school, but not everyone in a school community fully understands the implications of school marketing.

The next three posts in this series focus on developing foundational CONTENT THEMES for your school on which all communication should be built, DEVELOPING IMPACT BUCKETS to reinforce the “why this matters” of your content, and finally to generate SPEC SHEETS that prove invaluable internal pieces necessary for implementing a structured, cohesive communications plan. Remember, your school marketing model is only as strong as the architecture on which it is built. Take time to develop the architecture and then worry about how you will build around it.  

NEXT: Part 2: Content Themes