How to Help Girls Open Parents' Minds About Boarding School : Kimball Union Academy

When I was in college, I took one of those career aptitude tests and was anxious to read the results. Not only were they disappointing, they were inaccurate as far as I was concerned. But one of them was "librarian" and it wasn't until the advent of the internet that I discovered I love to research stuff. (So maybe that test wasn't all bad — just a few decades premature.)

Sarah moore

Sarah moore

As I researched two upcoming presentations we're making for CAIS/CT and AIMS, I found an incredible gem. It's Kimball Union Academy's Girls' Guide to Convincing Your Parents That Boarding School Is A Great Idea. This is the kind of marketing I like best — take a challenge and face it head on, busting myths with facts, correcting misperceptions, and overcoming "barriers to sale." I love this piece because its approach is so unique, bold, and brave. It's relevant, memorable and well-branded. And it's fun. 

When I contacted KUA's Director of Marketing Communications Sarah Evans Moore to ask her a few questions about it, she gave me such a great answer that I asked if I could simply reprint her reply here. 

Bonus content! In doing more research, I found KUA's incredibly clever acceptance video that you're going to hear a lot about in the future. It's always a good sign that a piece is working when I need tissues to get through it. This one's an award-winner, for sure. Sarah mentions it below, but be sure to watch it at the bottom of the post.

Without further delay, I'm going to let Sarah take it from here.

The Why

The biggest hurdle we hear from prospective families is the fear of sending their daughters away at such a young age.

We are proud of the Girls' Guide, as it so clearly demonstrates the KUA experience and the fact that it is a whole family experience! Even at a boarding school with today’s technology, parents are there each step of the way.

In general, both the Girls' Guide and the Congratulations Accepted Students video were driven by the need to identify with our current and future school populations. We want to provide genuine and real demonstrations of applying to and living through the boarding school experience. Students are truly at the center of our school and that includes identifying and directing your own individual journey. Girls in Middle School might not have the language yet to direct a conversation that says, “Yes, this is what is the right step for me.” Our Girls’ Guide helps a young woman initiate that dialogue. Our acceptance video says, “This is a journey that isn’t always perfect, but it’s my unique journey that is significant to my family.”

In terms of creating the Girls' Guide, like many other boarding schools, we are striving to increase the number of 9th grade female applicants. Part of our strategic plan is to be 50/50, and we are getting there. The biggest hurdle we hear from prospective families is the fear of sending their daughters away at such a young age. We find that our enrolled female students are incredibly capable, mature, and at some point in time had to guide the conversation of leaving home with their parents. We wanted to provide language to help with that conversation.

The How

These pieces were created in conjunction with Nomad Communications. The video was conceptualized by me and Nomad, but we did temper the language down slightly from Initial drafts were a little more “aggressive.” We were concerned that, given our online distribution through Facebook and on our website, we wouldn’t garner the click-through rates with the more aggressive language. The production costs were modest and included a larger, more comprehensive inbound marketing campaign.

I advocate that a school with any size budget can create this type of piece.

I advocate that a school with any size budget can create this type of piece. In a way, it’s the Buzz Feed model: Pick a subject of interest in your school or to your constituents and create a top 10 list. (We’ve used Top 10 Essay Writing Tips, Top 5 Interview Tips, etc.) Push it out via social media, via email, or on your website, and see what happens! It’s a relatively low-stakes way to share your message and highlight what your school values.

The Wow

The response to the Girls' Guide has been very positive with few concerns. The specific concern we heard was why we made the piece so “gendered.” (This is a valid observation from a young alumna!) We use Hubspot, and the qualitative measures we use demonstrated that the guide was one of the more popular, non-video, items. It garners modest, albeit consistent, click-throughs from our website. The piece has been up since early winter 2017. We are anxious to see how it performs during the height of the admission season.

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