I got a call this morning from a client who I haven’t heard from in three years. It was delightful to catch up. Clients feel like friends because in my capacity as a brand development partner, I hear unvarnished truths from school administrators which allows me to get close to them in ways that other business relationships might not.
She called to check in and told me of her successes since we last talked. And there were many to be proud of. The school had made a great place even greater in these few short years and my client had a key role in making this happen.
She also told me about her current challenges with enrollment, her frustration and stress managing social media, and her — rightful — feeling of being overwhelmed. This director of MarCom wants to serve her school well, get excellent results from her efforts and keep up with trends. She loves her school and loves her job. Really.
She wants to find new and creative ways to reach prospective parents and has been told by the world that social media is the way to do it. If that’s the case, she wants to know which channels and what content? What kind of content (video)? Who posts? Can she get help from the community so that the burden isn’t only on her? And just when she thinks she has her ducks in a row, a parent or teacher suggests a new social media channel. “Why aren’t we on XXX?” (Gee. Thanks for the tip.) Social media is a moving target. She wants to know how to keep up.
Being a nice person, when one of her colleagues asks her to do something (even if it’s only peripherally related to MarCom), she says yes. The more frequently she says yes, the more she heaps on her plate. And rarely, if ever, does anything get taken away.
She has people on her team who are superstars at their job: a graphic designer/photographer and a website manager (who does so much more than maintain the site) but the team still can’t get it all done. So she outsources graphic design and writing when needed and it fits in the budget. Even then, there’s so much to do, so little time to do it, and so few people on the team.
When you’re busy putting out fires all day long, finding time for true strategic thinking is difficult. She’s well aware that she needs this time to focus and streamline her efforts. But carving it out is next to impossible.
She didn’t mention it, but I know what also adds an enormous amount of stress to this job. It’s when a major project comes along like a website redesign or a viewbook. These huge, critical, time-consuming projects are in addition to her regular responsibilities. And I’ve never heard of hiring even a project manager for these special projects — unlike when development hires a campaign director. Have you?
I offered her some advice in areas, gave her blog posts that dealt with her issues, pointed her to schools that can inspire her, and told her she’s not alone. I hear her story from every director of MarCom I work with. This is a relatively new position for schools with its current description. No longer is this a director of publications. This is now a director of strategic marketing and communications and a whole different animal than even 10 years ago.
This position went from print; to print and web; to print, web and social media; to print, web, social media and marketing strategy. And here’s the tipping point.
Many heads of school and boards have yet to realize this.
You all need more resources (both in budget and personnel) to do your jobs well and not give your life over to the job you love.
Master Electrician, InspirED School Marketers
Master Electrician isn’t just a fun title for me. It’s how I feel about sparking school marketers to do their best work, connecting them to one another, and helping to make their jobs easier. In 1991, I founded Turnaround Marketing Communications, a branding and marketing firm that serves independent schools exclusively. After working with close to 100 schools, I realized that school marketers needed a marketing and communications community to call their own — a place where they can find brilliant ideas and brain food to take their school marketing to the next level and feel supported in their jobs. InspirED School Marketers was born in 2014 to fill that void and with the help of my fabulous Best Boy, Rob, we are on a quest to make InspirED a resource you can't live without.