Investing in School Marketing for the Long Term [Podcast]



If you need to convince someone that marketing for your private school is worth it, listen to Brad Rogers, Headmaster at The Gow School, discuss his decision to commit to marketing and branding for the long-term and the benefits that the school has realized.

The Gow School is a school for students with dyslexia and similar language-based learning differences in South Wales, NY near Buffalo. Gow has 132 boys who board and recently added day students and girls and now has 18 days students.

Brad has worked with students with dyslexia and language-based learning differences throughout his 30-year career. He taught at Lawrence School in Ohio for 11 years, and was Headmaster at Odyssey School in Maryland for 8 years. Brad assumed headship at Gow in 2004.

Five years ago at Brad’s urging (or should we say insistence) Gow committed itself to a long-term effort to market and brand itself consistently and compellingly. This podcast presents an inside look at Gow’s journey.

Brad talks about the genesis of the decision to embark on this program and why he felt so strongly that is was critical to Gow’s future. He discusses openly the problems that the school community faced along the way, both in changing the how they talked about themselves and in the way marketing and communications were created at Gow.

As part of the branding process, Gow decided to appoint a director of marketing, which was a big investment for a school as small as Gow. But Brad talks about how important a role that decision played in the program’s success, and the efforts that the new “steward of the brand” took to create buy-in throughout the community. The benefit of this undertaking is that there is now “institutional ownership” of the school’s brand.

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Brad Quoted

We were judging ourselves based on what we saw, not on what others saw.

36 months later, there is now institutional ownership of our marketing strategy, of our brand, of how we communicate with the outside world.

For some of leaders and staff members, there was some squirming in the chairs. In truth, the hard conversations have to happen. We allowed a professional group to scratch at us a bit and make us think and act differently. 

We had to have a person, beyond the head, who was steward of the brand who would own this, be the point person, the final set of eyes, the quality control professional. I had to use my executive authority and push for this. It was scary from the economics, to operations, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Actually, I would. I would have done it sooner.

We’ve been able to demonstrate our ROI. Our enrollment has improved. Our message is consistent.  Our staff now takes the step of talking to our Director of Marketing Communications before they order the new Lacrosse jerseys. It’s beautiful.

I held a toy school bus and said, “This is us. We have to get on board. Branding and marketing ourselves is critically important, now more than ever.” Teachers got it. Development staff got it. Admissions loved it.

There’s a level of school pride that came with this marketing initiative that no one expected.

I’m now a big believer of the marketing science and art. I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. If there’s anyone who wants a Head’s perspective, they can give me a shout.

What You’ll Learn

  • How and why Gow entered into a brand development.

  • How Gow created their first Director of Marketing position, who took on the role, and what her responsibilities are.

  • How Gow went about achieving school-wide buy-in for the branding effort.

  • How they budgeted for this position and got buy-in from faculty and staff.

  • How Gow measured and achieved ROI.

  • What surprised Brad about this experience.

  • What his recommendations are for small and large schools regarding marketing and communications.

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