Head of School as Marketer-in-Chief [Podcast]

Tom Olverson

Tom Olverson

A veteran of thirty-eight years in independent schools, Tom served as a Head for twenty-seven of those years as well as serving as Vice-president of the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools, President of the Independent School League, one of three community members of the Ethics Advisory Committee at Children’s Hospital in Boston, and a trustee at Tenacre Country Day School in Wellesley.

Tom now serves as a consultant for RG175, a firm doing executive searches as well as highly personalized leadership and governance consulting to schools, based on the values of integrity, inclusivity, knowledge, and flexibility. Tom and all of the members of the RG175 team are personally and professionally experienced in recognizing, promoting, and sustaining leadership at both the executive and governance levels in schools.


Tom Quoted

 “Schools have mythologies that emanate from past glories that make it difficult for the school to tell the truth about how well they’re serving the community.” 

“Heads must help hold a mirror up and ask, ‘How good are we really?’”

“I advise new heads that this a great chance early in their tenure to start getting their arms around reality. ‘How well are we living this mission? What does the public think of us?’”

“Schools with ambiguous identities are suffering from the proverbial ‘death by a thousand cuts.’ They may be able to survive, but they will never thrive.”

“Sit down with consultants and ask what kind of students you’re sending to our school because that reflects what they think of the school.”

 “You need to be open to the truth.”

“New Heads often come in with solutions before they know the problem.” 

“Because of the lack of understanding that so many heads have about marketing, positioning, branding, they are unable to present to these critical decision-makers — the board of trustees — an analysis and path forward that they can buy into.”

“It’s important to have an entrepreneurial mindset — especially in small markets. If you don’t, you’re going spread the resources around that makes you average or slightly above average. If we’re going to be great in a certain area, it means you might not be able to allocate resources to other areas.” 

“Watershed School is a great example of ‘What do we believe in?’”

“Schools facing identity issues are not willing to say what they believe in and live with the consequences of executing that belief.”

“Leadership doesn’t have a marketing focus or understand that their most important customers are in the school. They need to dazzle those folks.”

“I applaud EMA for their Institute for New Heads and their focus on marketing.”

“You can’t just say it, you need to prove it.”

“If you think in terms of brand associations, and we want to be known as the best in a particular category, it stops these one-off programs that don’t tell a coherent narrative associated with a brand that drives behavior.”

“We’re not going to create real change unless we get our arms around reality.” 

What You’ll Learn

How the role of Head of School has changed.

Examples of how you can make your school distinctive.

Why the time involved in making a family feel their child is known is worth it.

How your admissions process starts the distinctive brand.

Why schools aren’t keeping up with the market.

Why schools need to be open to the truth.


Tom’s blogs

The Courage to Choose, The Courage to Lead

Boards Behaving Badly

EMA Heads Institute 2019

Americus Reed’s podcast with InspirED

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