The Business Side of Private School Marketing [Podcast]

Jeff Shields, President and CEO, NBOA

Jeff Shields, President and CEO, NBOA

Jeff Shields has been the President and CEO of the National Business Officers Association (NBOA) since March of 2010. NBOA is the only national association focused exclusively on supporting independent school business officers and business operations staff and fostering financial and operational excellence among independent PK-12 schools.

In this fascinating, wide-ranging conversation Jeff takes a deep dive into the effect that the 2008 economic downturn had on virtually ever facet of operation of independent schools, especially the marketing office. Because of his position at NBOA Jeff has a unique perspective that he shares with us on subjects such as the effect rising tuition has on the marketing of our schools, the ever-expanding facilities at schools, the increasing sophistication of both the business offices and the MarCom offices at schools, and the effect that virtual schools have on traditional schools.

With Jeff’s knowledge and experience not just in the business side of independent schools but also his first-hand experience in marketing and communications, this podcast should not be missed.


Jeff Quoted

2008-09 put into a spotlight the business practices of independent schools. With that, trustees, heads of schools, business officers…had to look themselves in the mirror, up their game, and start talking about marketing questions that remain critically important today…such as what’s your market, who do you serve and what is your school “world-class” at?

[Independent schools] offer a premium product. Our market is not as price sensitive as some believe in all locations.

The construction boom is how independent schools are differentiating what they deliver. Facilities have always been a unique aspect of our value proposition. State of the art facilities help make an intangible sale more tangible.

Make sure your facilities are pristine, well-maintained. That goes a long way in communicating the value of a school.  

The channels of communication are not only more numerous—websites, direct mail, social media, in-person events, etc.—but the level of sophistication and coordination required demands greater resources.

NBOA hired a marketing professional to tell its story and connect the value it provides with the schools that can benefit. It pays for itself in dividends. NBOA had 702 members in 2010 and now has 1285. We invested in the professional and the market research. This professional reports directly to me.

I think we’re a little slow in making the appropriate level of investment [in MarCom].

The channels of communication are not only more numerous—websites, direct mail, social media, in-person events, etc.—but the level of sophistication and coordination required demands greater resources.

It’s hard for schools to invest more in something that is intangible where the value is derived over time. It’s not derived immediately.

I think it’s a direct line—the health of a school’s marketing program and how it supports admissions and advancement—to the financial resources a school will have to fulfill its mission.

What you’ll learn

  • The changes in the business side of independent school management over the last 10-15 The effect that the 2008 recession had on independent schools both as it regards the business side of schools and on how schools market themselves.

  • How tuition levels, which have been hyperinflationary for 15-20 years, affects the ability of independent schools to attract students.

  • How the economic downturn of 2008 set in motion a widespread effort to increase the sophistication and capabilities in of the business offices at independent schools, including increasing the understanding of the markets we operate in.

  • How a renewed focus on building new facilities is affecting they way schools market themselves, talk about themselves, and compete with other schools.

  • The critical and changing nature of how a school describes its value to the families in its market.

  • How schools are adapting their focus and spending on MarCom departments in the face of an increasing number and sophistication of communications channels that need to be managed.

  • The challenges that independent schools face in the next five+ years.

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