The Ravenscroft viewbook won Silver in the 2016 Brilliance Awards. InspirED interviewed Jennifer Marchi, Ravenscroft’s Director of Marketing and Communications to reveal the goal, process, product, and results.
Printed viewbooks are still valuable in many school markets and bear a heavy burden. They are usually the flagship of the brand in messaging and graphic design, lay the path for differentiating the school from competitors, and are a significant component in getting prospective families to visit the campus. Creating a memorable, compelling viewbook that stands out from competitors is a daunting task, but also one where a team can collaborate and create something from nothing with strategic aplomb. Here's how Ravenscroft did it and created an award-winner in the process.
Start with a Goal and Target Audience
As with most independent school viewbooks, the Ravenscroft viewbook's primary goal is to support the school’s recruitment efforts regionally and nationally with prospective PK-12 families as the audience. Within that audience, the more focused target for them is Lower School parents with a goal of bolstering enrollment in that division. This is a challenge not unique to Ravenscroft but is a common for many independent schools in 2017 primarily due to the decreasing demographics of school-aged children and steep tuitions.
“But we had much larger aspirations for it than simply as a recruiting tool,” says Ravenscroft’s Director of Marketing and Communications Jennifer Marchi. “We hoped to launch a new brand identity for the school — one for the outside world (prospective students and their parents, leaders in the Raleigh area) and one for the Ravenscroft family (parents of current students, alumni, faculty, and staff).” They also hoped to strengthen bonds with the school to result in increased involvement and pride and continued support, financial and otherwise.
Enrollment marketing — and specifically the development of a new viewbook — drives brand development at many schools. If a solid brand doesn’t exist when it’s time for a new viewbook, developing one in advance of its creation is a perfect time to do so.
Find Your Difference
Ravenscroft wondered what symbol or theme would make the school stand out from the crowd and be unique to the school and truly “them.”
They found the ideal messenger in their mascot, the Raven. It’s a powerful symbol for the school and its students. Ravens are smart, intellectually curious, and live within a strong community. The words Prepare to Soar and image of a flying Raven sets the tone of a superior education and a promising future.
Create Purposeful Copy and Design
A great deal of strategy went into the Ravenscroft viewbook’s copy and design. With the help of Andrea Hopkins of Andrea Hopkins Design, creative writer Rachel Morton, and photographer Bob Handelman, the piece was destined to become an award-winner.
“The tone is personal. We tell the Ravenscroft story through on-site glimpses and snapshots of life at the school, in the classroom and beyond,” says Jennifer. “We keep the copy brief, use bold headlines and many little access points for each spread.”
Ravenscroft used a bright, primary color palette that appeals to both youngsters and their parents while ensuring easy navigation with a clear type hierarchy and plenty of white space.
Integrate Theme and Messaging Across Channels
The viewbook works in conjunction with an online microsite, why.ravenscroft.org. The digital content and printed pieces complement each other, each having the ability to stand alone, yet tell a combined story without being exact replicas of each other.
Jennifer explains the strategy. "Having a compelling digital presence is essential in today’s world. Our current website lacked the panache that we desired and wasn’t slated for a redesign for another year. To overcome the limitations of the older design, we created a compelling microsite/digital experience and the printed viewbook together. Together they tell a complete story about Ravenscroft; our mission, our value, Lead From Here and elements of our programmatic distinction, voices from our community (students) and more."
Track Results and Outcomes
Ravenscroft experienced an increase in inquiries after the launch of “Prepare to Soar” and the initiative received a tremendous amount of praise from its internal audience.
An important outcome of the viewbook was the school’s ability to unify and align its brand across the community. Using Prepare to Soar, parents, faculty, staff and alumni are all able to share a consistent message and say the same things about Ravenscroft.
Knowing how important Word of Mouth marketing efforts are, we’ve even used the viewbook as a messaging aid for our Proud Parent Program.
Let The Results Lift You Up
One of the most significant results of Prepare to Soar is that it has generated a renewed sense of pride and school spirit. As if that in itself weren’t enough, that outcome has led to increased word of mouth, the most powerful marketing tool for any school.
Advice for Other School Marketers
Not only was this a successful, award-winning viewbook, but it was completed ahead of schedule and on-budget. That’s music to any school’s ears. Jennifer has some advice for others about to embark on a new viewbook:
1. Photography. Photography really, really matters. This might be obvious, but it is an area where we, as schools, tend to either do it ourselves or do it “on the cheap.” Whether working on printed or digital pieces, the photography tells the story — you are your pictures. It is a worthy investment, so to the extent possible, invest in the best photography the budget will allow. [InspirED couldn't agree more. See our Photographer Resource Guide.]
2. Don’t be afraid to work with “independents.” By being willing to work with independents, instead of partnering with a firm or design agency, we were able to assemble the most amazing team of talented subject matter experts. The best designer. The best writer. The best photographer. This “winning” combination of resources would not have been available to us had we limited our thinking to firms and agencies.
The Ravenscroft Viewbook Creative Team
Jennifer Marchi, Director of Marketing and Communications
Margaret Mills, Director of Admissions
Andrea Hopkins, Andrea Hopkins Designs
Rachel Morton, Creative Writer and Storyteller
Bob Handelman, Handelman Photography
Note: We wanted to draw your attention to Ravenscroft’s compelling video, created by Trailblazer, which was completed prior to the viewbook project. https://vimeo.com/104548282
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