How to Create an Award-Winning Viewbook : Presbyterian Day School

The Presbyterian Day School viewbook won Gold in the 2016 Brilliance Awards. InspirED interviewed Rachel Bishop, PDS' Director of Admissions to learn how it was done.

What parent of a young boy wouldn’t find the cover both compelling and inviting? The design and photography inside mirror the energy of boys. The copy speaks directly to parents and is unique to their mission. Well done, Presbyterian Day School!
— 2016 Brilliance Awards Judge's Comment

When you’re a small school, it’s difficult to rationalize the expense involved in hiring a marketing consultant — but sometimes the results justify the cost. Such is the case with Presbyterian Day School in Memphis, which won the Gold Brilliance Award for 2016 in the viewbook category. (You can view the whole viewbook here.)

Presbyterian Day School is for boys from age 2 to grade 6 and, like most independent schools, PDS’ most powerful marketing tool is word-of-mouth. Savvy school marketers know that positive word-of-mouth can be elusive, particularly if you don’t control your image in the marketplace. PDS wanted to take control. So when PDS’ new Head of School Steve Hancock took the helm, PDS knew this was the time reinvigorate their identity, to right misperceptions about the school, and make the school known for what it wanted to be known for.

I often hear prospective parents say, ‘I don’t want to come to campus and fall in love with the school, knowing I can’t afford it.’
— Rachel Bishop, Director of Admission

PDS committed to hiring a consultant to develop their brand, create their viewbook, and tell their story in an accurate, compelling way. They engaged Mindpower out of Atlanta to help them change the community’s perception that PDS is only a school for athletic boys from wealthy families.

PDS knew they were much more balanced than what people saw on the athletic fields, with excellent programming in the arts, music and academics. PDS also knew, while their tuition is $7,000 more than their largest competitor, they were worth it. Lastly, PDS knew that even though middle and upper class families thought they would never qualify for it, there was financial aid available to them.

Director of Admission Rachel Bishop says she often hears prospective parents say, “I don’t want to come to campus and fall in love with the school, knowing I can’t afford it.” But Rachel’s goal for all marketing efforts is to get families to come to campus. She knows they are going to fall in love once they do, and while they’re there, she can show them the school’s fabulous arts and academics and explain how PDS is more affordable and accessible than they may have thought.

During the brand development process, Mindpower spent numerous days on campus listening to the parents, students, faculty, and alumni rave about their PDS experience and to point out some things that needed improvement as well. “Hiring Mindpower made me nervous in the beginning,” says Rachel. She worried that they couldn’t know PDS as well as they knew themselves, but her fears were quickly abated. Mindpower brought a new set of eyes and clarity to the school’s brand that PDS was seeking. “My husband went here, our son goes here, and I work here,” says Rachel. “We all love this place, but didn’t know how to put it into words. Mindpower was incredible.”

Mindpower encouraged the school not to be so safe this time around with their brand and to let their audience know what the school knows: PDS knows how to educate boys. So Rachel and her team determined they would “be bold and think big.” Rachel’s favorite turn of phrase in the book is, “Give us a boy, and we’ll make him stronger, smarter, happier, and overall, better.” (Sometimes it’s the seemingly simple statements that are the most effective.)

We’re sort of an oddity these days among independent schools, as we do our website completely in-house and always have.
— Winston Baccus, Director of Communications

The viewbook debuted in August 2016 and a new website launched at the same time. The school’s graphic identity is memorable, playful, easy-to-read, and boy-friendly. Winston Baccus, PDS Director of Marketing, built the site on Joomla over the summer. “We’re sort of an oddity these days among independent schools, as we do our website completely in-house and always have,” says Winston. Using the graphic identity of the viewbook as a style guide, Winston created the website in a very short amount of time compared to other independent schools who use an outside developer. (Building a website on your own has advantages and disadvantages, and one of the advantages is control.) The result was a beautiful site that tells PDS’ story in a compelling way.

If you ask PDS if it was worth it to hire a consultant for such a small school, you’ll get a resounding “yes” from Rachel. She says had they done it themselves, it would have taken an incredible amount of time they didn’t have and wouldn’t have been nearly as good. Plus, we're happy to say, it turned out to be an award-winner.


The Presbyterian Day School Viewbook Creative Team

Presbyterian Day School
Steve Hancock, Headmaster
Steve Hearn, Assistant Headmaster
Rachel Bishop, Director of Admission

Heather Lear
Jenny Brower
Don Grant

If you like this post, you'll love our newsletter, the Daily Jolt. Sign up here.


For more brilliant ideas and brain food for your school's marketing and communications, subscribe to our newsletter.  We'll make your job easier.