Marketing your school is essential in today’s competitive educational environment. The good news is that there are so many effective ways to do it—you just need to get started. So, here are 51 ideas to get you moving in the right direction.
Invite them in: Create a virtual video tour of your school. Make sure you film it when there are students and staff present and viewers can see the activity and enthusiasm present. Include students, staff, volunteers, and support staff, and show their smiling faces and grab some quotes that reflect the values your school represents. This is also a great video for the marketing area of your school’s website. (You could also do this with static pictures.) You DO have a marketing area, right? Let a tour bring your school to life for those prospective visitors.
Put that website to work: Your school website is the communications and marketing hub for your school, so make it count. It should be mobile-friendly (responsive), accessible to those with disabilities (ADA compliant), current, informative, engaging, conversational, and easy to navigate. It should have the forms and instructions available to register, the answers to all the most common questions (ask your office staff if you aren’t sure what those are), calendars, and contact information. You should have information for both your prospective site visitors (a robust marketing area) and the parents of your enrolled students (current engagement and customer service). We can help you with this area, so reach out to us, but in the meantime, subscribe to our blog and gets lots of great information twice a month. Also, check out these blog posts: “School Websites—The Swiss Army Knife of Influence & Communications,” “Does your School Website Help you Become a School of Choice?” and “How a Website can Help a Struggling School.”
Tell them a story: One of the most effective tools a school has is the ability to share the stories of its people and programs. You want your audience to see their children succeeding and thriving at your school, so give them real-world examples to envision. Be specific. Show successes. Describe dreams that come true. People relate to people, so give them something to relate to. Use these stories on your social media posts as well. See “Storytelling: Your Most Powerful School Marketing Tool” and “Telling Your School’s Stories.”
Gathering stories: Provide incentives to gather stories that you can share in your marketing efforts (website news stories, videos, social media posts, blog posts, local media human interest stories). Rewards can be as simple as a verbal recognition at a staff meeting or a candy bar for a student who shares the success of a fellow student, but make it part of your school’s culture to gather stories that represent your school’s strengths and values. Let your staff, students, and parents know you value the story-sharers among them, and you’ll have plenty of great stories to share. See “Telling Your School’s Stories” for ways to gather stories from your staff.
Highlight your families: Invite families to tell their stories, and share them on your school website, linking to them from your social media. It’s as simple as asking families for answers to a few questions that will provide social validation to other prospective families. Let your existing parents help prospective parents make the decision to select your school! See great examples at St. James Episcopal Day School or see video stories at Santa Fe Christian School. Do this also with students, staff, and alumni as well!
Highlight your programs: Create an area on the marketing pages of your school website where you tell the stories behind some of your most effective programs or projects. Do you have certain programs you do every year (often you’ll have one or two in each grade)? Take a picture or two and tell the story behind it. Why is it effective? What do the students learn? How does it broaden their educational experience? Why is it so effective and yet fun? These stories are a great way to highlight your school’s strengths and what makes you stand out.
Post those testimonials: Collect testimonials from parents, students, staff, and alumni at every opportunity. In addition to a page on your website to be used as part of your marketing and enrollment information, these can be used as graphic elements throughout your website, in social media posts and memes, and in other marketing collateral you create. Collect these via a form on your website, during parent/teacher conferences, or from social media channels, and keep some handy forms for parents to leave comments in the front office.
A day in the life: To help prospective parents get a real feel for what it is like to be a student at your school, walk them through a day in the life of “……” (select a student at the various grade levels). It can be as simple as a slideshow with captions or a video. Select a student from the elementary grades, one from the middle school, and another from the high school to show the variety of opportunities. Be sure to include lots of smiling faces, quotes from the student and others they interact with, and how the student you are shadowing feels about his/her day. If yours is a boarding school, consider a “week in the life” of a student as well.
Community-wide events: Can you establish a once-a-month event to which you invite your targeted prospects? For preschool or kindergarten students, what about a day to visit and get a preview of your programs (parents get to see their own child interacting)? For upper grades, invite a parent to let a current student be their guide as a “Day in the Life.” Provide a campus tour with coffee and donuts and be sure any feeder school parents are aware of the event. Create a “story time” on a Saturday in your school’s library and get creative with a variety of programs (stories, art, visits from local professionals or businesses). Have a unique offering, then expose other students by holding a “friend day” and letting students invite a friend for the day. Use social media and your website to publicize your events.
Horn tooting infographics: Create a page or section on your website (and create a digital version you can use on social media or as a flyer as well) that highlights your school’s best qualities. You can use a simple Infographic program or pre-designed icons to keep it simple and clean, but a simple image and a few words announcing your strengths can be quite memorable. Some common stats are: grades served, student/teacher ratios, college placements, technology use ratios, average test scores, diversity percentages, scholarship percentages or amounts awarded, community service percentages, enrichment offerings, athletic programs, groundbreaking programs, and after-school programs.
School blogging: The goal of a blog is to connect with other people interested in your topic. Your purpose would be to connect with parents, students, community members, and those ever-important prospective student families. There are many advantages, see “The School Administrator’s Dilemma: to Blog or Not to Blog,” with the time commitment being the biggest challenge. However, it can integrate well into your annual marketing goals, be used on all your social media channels, be linked to on your school website, help you keep rumors at bay, help the media cover your good stories, help you brand your school, and help your target audience get a real feel for the human interest side of things.
Rhyming campaigns: Use rhyming or alliteration in your next marketing campaign theme for memorability. Studies show that people see rhyming phrases as more accurate than non-rhyming phrases. It could be because they are more memorable, likable, and repeatable, but regardless of the reason, it seems to help. Can you come up with an accurate but rhyming title for your important marketing effort? Sometimes it is as simple as some alliteration in a hashtag like #WelcomeWednesdays, but give it a try and see the benefits of adding this element to your next marketing event.
Bystander effect: The more people who are around, the less likely someone will take the lead and take charge (diffusion of responsibility). This applies to a marketing campaign where it is obvious you are sending your request to lots of people (everyone thinks it is the responsibility of everyone else to respond). So, send your requests out individually (like survey requests, community feedback, parent requests, etc.) when you want to be sure your message is valued and especially if you want people to respond to it.
Hand-written notes: Because nearly every communication these days is digital, sending a handwritten note will really stand out. There are also ways to do it right that include sincerity, specificity, brevity, being personal, and proofing your note. Learn more on our “Telling Them Thank You” blog.
Every penny helps: When seeking donations, does the wording matter? Yes! Richard Wiseman, the author of 59 Seconds conducted a study with Barnes & Noble to identify the best of the following phrases: “Please given generously.” “Every penny counts.” “Every dollar helps.” “You can make a difference.” And the winner was “Every penny counts” with 62% of all contributions. “Every dollar helps” came in last place with only 17% of the total. Why? Putting a small amount in the box might have made them look cheap, but the “Every penny helps” title encourages even the smallest contributions. The box asking for a dollar didn’t encourage lesser amounts and people don’t want to look cheap, so fewer people contributed and gave nothing at all. The color of the box mattered (the red box did better, maybe because it appeared more urgent).
Inbound marketing: Parents put lots of research into selecting the best school for their child. You want your school to be part of that process. This will not only establish your school as an expert—establish your credibility, but it lets parents know you are there to help. You can do this by creating content to help them make the best decision for their situation. It can be an eBook with questions to ask themselves or the school’s admissions department, checklists for parents during the selection process, college preparation tips, parent or student guides, and other resources parents can download for free. They provide their e-mail information, and your school can then nurture that prospective parent with additional updates and information over time. Admissions information. Tip: keep the information you request on your “free download” form to a minimum (name/e-mail) or they won’t fill out the information. For some example topics of content, here are some title ideas:
- Questions to Ask When Selecting a School for Your Child
- Selecting a High School for Your < insert son/daughter/child>
- 5 Steps for Selecting the Best School for Your Son
- Choosing the Best Private/Independent/Public School for your Family
- Top 20 Questions About Life at
- Big Benefits of a Small School
- How to Match Your Child’s Interests to the Right School Choice
- Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten
- Beyond Grades: the Importance of Leadership and Community
- Athletics: More Than Trophies
- Arts: Educating the Whole Child
- How to Prepare Your Child with Life Skills for Future Job Markets
- Top 3 Things You Should Know When Choosing a Preschool (elementary/high school/etc)
- Preparing Your Student for the College of His/Her Dreams (career of their dreams, etc.)
Lead nurturing: When a school gets a request for information about enrollment or tuition or attendance boundaries, don’t let the contact end there. Create what is called a “nurture campaign” that will continue to inform this prospect with additional tips and information. It will help your school stay relevant and front-of-mind so when they are weighing their options, your school stays on top. This could be a series of e-mails with tips and information, links to additional downloadable topics, or videos that highlight areas of interest. There are many programs to make this process easy, like MailChimp that offers a free version or GetResponse with a low-cost version.
Webinars: Private schools will sometimes do webinars during the year to educate and engage prospective parents. We’ve seen topics like: “How to afford a private school education,” “Helping your child study,” “Helping your child transition to high school,” “Guidance for the college-bound student,” “Kindergarten: The Next Step,” and “Helping without helicoptering.” What a great way to engage parents, whether prospective or already enrolled! Adding value will set your school apart, which is the whole idea for marketing your school.
Search engine optimization: Many schools, unless they are boarding schools or online schools, want to attract students from their local areas. This means that your search engine optimization (SEO) must be localized to include the cities or towns you serve. In order to find and convert the right students, you must be found in a local search. Your school address can help you show up in a local search for the same town, but what if you serve students in the next town over as well? This is where optimization must come in. Some of the areas that will contribute to successful SEO, especially for local schools, are claiming your business (school) on Google, securing inbound links, responsive design (mobile-friendly), accessibility, target keyphrases, reviews, etc. Learn more with “Make SEO a part of your school marketing.”
Landing pages: If you are doing any Facebook Ads or Google Ads, you will want to send those who click on your ad directly to a page that discusses the topic of your ads. Don’t make the mistake of sending your hard earned visitor just to your school’s homepage. If they are not taken directly to the information they were interested in, you’ll lose them. Create a landing page and a Call to Action (CTA) for that page, being to gather the information that will let you continue to market to the site visitor with information you already know they care about.
Text messages: While you don’t want to overuse this method, it is very helpful for reminders or for sending a link to something important and timely. Most schools have some sort of parent notification system for enrolled students, but don’t overlook this method to include prospective parents as well. If you have an open house coming up, why not let them know as well? Write up a brief invite that tells them you have not forgotten them and that they are welcome. Have a webinar you offer? Let them know that as well! Texting is often the preferred method of communication with parents of younger children, and the open rates are much higher than with e-mails.
Surveys: Be sure you are aware of how your various audiences feel about their relationship with your school. Are they advocates or begrudging? Is there something they are dissatisfied with, and what do they think you should do about it? The very act of getting input can provide support and cooperation, so don’t miss this valuable opportunity. Can you include other community members as well as those without students in your school? What is their opinion, and what impact can you have on them (or do you care)?
Customer service: An often overlooked aspect of effective marketing is your school’s customer service levels. This includes everything from the first impressions people receive (by visiting your school, clicking on your website, or perusing your social media posts). How would you rate? If you don’t rate an A+ in these areas, it is time to rethink how important this aspect of marketing really is. Check out Parents: Raving Fans or Raging Foes? and Roll Out the Welcome Mat to get some ideas for improvement and to download our customer service eBook.
Creative signage: Beyond the digital outdoor signage, think out of the box a bit and enliven your school with signage that supports your brand and values. It might be as simple as adding the colors of your school to your hallway walls or attaching colorful banners to the exterior of your school for special events. Are your values highlighted where staff and students are reminded daily? This can be from inspirational quotes to posters of staff and students living those values. When a guest arrives at your school, is it clear where they need to be, and is that message welcoming or dictatorial?
Back-to-school or open house marketing: Before school begins (over the summer and even the last few months of the previous school year), begin to engage your staff, parents, parent organizations, and students in your recruitment efforts for the upcoming year. Before new parents make a decision, be sure you make your presence known using your social media, summer events, open house events, social media contests, website refresh, and so much more. Make sure parents can register online. Get some more ideas at “Starting Each School Year Strong.” Don’t forget to reach out to local pre-schools, churches, realtors, and others who can share your school’s information with those kindergarten parents as well.
New family night: Invite prospective parents to mingle with the staff, tour the campus, and meet your community. Since this event will cater specifically to new families, you’ll want to enlist a team of parent ambassadors to conduct campus tours and facilitate a social hour. Use PTO/PTA, alumni, or current students and their families. Connecting new parents to a community will build their budding sense of camaraderie with the school. Hold your New Family Night in the spring to correspond with the registration season. If possible, a personal phone call to invite or thank new families shows that you care about your school family on an individual level.
Meet the teacher night: Parents have high expectations of your faculty. They want to feel informed, heard, and considered. While the primary focus will be on the individual classrooms, featuring the best qualities your school has to offer (programs, facilities, and activities) is sure to excite the community. Arrange for the school band, orchestra, or choir to entertain your strolling crowds. Have the local Girl or Boy Scout troop hand out water bottles. Enlist your student council officers or PTO members to organize a spirit wear sale. Show parents that your school is a community with multiple facets. (Don’t forget to take some video to use later on your social media and website!)
Information packets: Develop an information packet (usually mirroring the information on your up-to-date website) that includes a flyer highlighting you school’s strengths, success stats, contact information (including your school’s website URL), and even the phone numbers of a few parents who would be willing to answer questions from prospective parents. Include registration dates, tour dates, office hours, parent, student, and alumni testimonials and lots of good photos. Put these packets in the hands of local neighborhood associations, churches, realtors, chamber of commerce, feeder schools, preschools, daycares, and youth clubs.
Student marketing club: If you have a junior high or high school in your district, encourage some creative entrepreneurship by inviting a local marketing or communications firm to help students develop and implement some marketing strategies to increase school enrollment. Not only will the students receive some great hand-on experiences, but you’ll be engaging community members and benefit from some practical and effective marketing efforts. Effective outcomes have been student-developed marketing videos, word-of-mouth and social media campaigns, and a big increase in school spirit to boot!
Community service events: Using your parent organizations and your student clubs or organizations, plan several community service projects for during the year. Be sure that the events piggy-back on your school’s values as well as some of the educational focus happening during the year. Create a series of articles for the local newspaper and radio highlighting these student service projects, their purpose, and the benefits to those serving and those receiving the service. Take lots of photos and use them in all your marketing channels.
Befriend your local reporters: You need to help local media reporters help you. They have busy schedules and are spread thin, possibly over more than one beat. Make their jobs easier by providing them with all the materials they need to cover your school and its successes and challenges. You will want to get to know the local reporters long before a crisis erupts. Invite them to sit down with you and get to know their needs, deadlines, best times and people to contact, preferred format for materials, and any pet peeves they want to share. Give them a school tour, share your school’s mission and values, introduce them to key administrators, and develop a rapport. Then, return their phone calls promptly (building trust), be honest (if you don’t know an answer, tell them you’ll find out and then do it), and expect to available for both the good times and the bad. Building relationships can make all the difference!
Social Media Marketing Ideas:
#TeacherTuesday: Highlight a different teacher every Tuesday on your social media posts. Share a fun picture and tell who they are, what drives them, what they love and value, and let your followers get to know them. Link to a profile page or a news article on your website where they can learn a bit more.
#Ilovemyschool: Ask students what they love about your school, and have them write and draw their answer on a large sheet of poster board. Have them hold it up; snap a picture, and you’ll have some great social media posts you can use all year long! Oh, and why not do it for your staff and administrators occasionally as well?
#JustFactsMa’am: Use a social media post to share some of the great statistics at your school. What are you known for? Share it socially. Low student-teacher ratios? Post it. What’s the number of scholarships awarded last year? Make a fun graphic and share your successes. Lots of highly-qualified teachers? Share that percentage and encourage your followers to do so as well. Be sure to include a fun image or graphic, of course.
#ThrowbackThursdays: Reach back into your school’s past and find some great archived photos and stories from past yearbooks, and use those for social media posts. It’s fun to see, will bring the history of your school to life, and might even highlight some past alumni who are now parents of students in your school. Or, post a baby picture of a different staff member each Thursday, and ask your community to guess who it might be to engage them and create more interaction with social media.
#Countdown: Use photos to do a countdown to some event at your school. Maybe it is a post with a student holding up a sign or drawing of the number 10 and your post says “Only 10 days until school is out!”—pick a different countdown number and event occasionally. This is also a great way to remind your followers of upcoming events like graduation, holiday breaks, back-to-school events, testing days, teacher recognition day, and so much more. Have the students and staff get clever with the images and ways they display the number, and see how creative they can be.
#GraduationCountdown: Ask high school seniors what they will miss most when they graduate, and use their answers as social media posts (along with their senior photo) during the last month of school. It’s a great way to let seniors share their perspective with lower classmates and add a bit of school spirit and enthusiasm to the end of the year.
#InspirationalQuotes: Combine a great picture with an inspirational quote, and you have the perfect social media post. Use your students as much as possible for your photo, and watch your social media engagement skyrocket as their parents share these posts on their own social media channels.
#SchoolTagline: What is your school’s tagline? Let students respond to that question in a social media post. They can write it out, use artwork, hold up a photo, or whatever works, but have them respond. For example, if your school tagline is “Every student matters, every moment counts,” ask the students to respond to how they know they matter and how they make every moment count. What a great way to incorporate a tagline into their life and internalize its meaning.
#ADayintheLife: Use Instagram to post a series of photos that represent a typical day for a specific student or staff member. Vary it each week with different grades or staff (include support staff like secretaries, crossing guards, custodians, and food service folks as well). Make this a once a week project!
Facebook Live: School videos, especially live video, are a great way to boost engagement on your school’s Facebook page. The most updated Facebook algorithm favors video, and while it’s still more than fine to post pre-recorded video on your page, going live with Facebook Live will get your video ranked even higher on your followers’ news feed. And the videos stay on your news feed after your live broadcast ends, so followers can continue to interact with your video later on. Additionally, your willingness to go live as a way of giving your learning community a chance to see behind your school walls is a great way to demonstrate transparency. From Q&A sessions and presentations to school pep rallies, FB Live is a great way to share your school’s stories in an engaging way. Check out how Bayshore Christian School uses FB Live to showcase their positive campus culture.
Facebook Ads: We all know that your parents are using social media—daily. So what better place to marketing to those prospective parents? Assuming you already have a Facebook page for your school, creating a Facebook Ad is pretty simple. Select your purpose (for example, if you want to increase enrollment, you’ll run some ads over the summer targeting your desired audience), write some content that is engaging, fun, and relevant (your school’s unique strengths, how you can help their students, etc.), and include a visible call to action button (like scheduling a tour or requesting more information). You can even use Facebook Ads to remarket to these visitors on Facebook later!
Facebook Groups: Facebook Groups are a great way to create micro-communities within your school population. Looking for a way for alumni to connect? Working on a special project that merits regular updates? Facebook Groups are a great way to offer meeting places for like-minded individuals within your learning community. Facebook allows business users (which schools are) to create groups that branch off their page, so a group can focus on a particular topic and still be a part of the greater whole. Check out how Ridgefield Public Schools uses the Facebook Groups feature to foster communication among interested parties regarding their School Start Times Project.
School videos: There is one strategy that seems to get lots of engagement with school marketing, and that is creating a video. There are so many schools creating fun, engaging, and informative videos that you don’t want to be left out. To learn how and to get started, check out our blog called “Creating a School Video that Won’t Break the Bank.” We’ve listed a few ideas below, but then be sure to snoop around and see what other schools have done that is creative and effective, and join the fun. You can have students create your videos, involve your staff and administration, and as technology advances, it gets easier and easier to edit and create professional quality results (well, at least professional enough to get the job done). Have fun, but give it a try and see the increase in traffic and engagement you’ll garner.
Video Marketing Ideas
Perspective videos: To see a great example of a school showing student’s progress through their years of school, visit www.htacademy.org and click on the “Start Here. Go Anywhere” video. It’s fun to create and very effective in bringing the school experience to life for someone checking out your school.
History videos: Grab those old archived pictures of your school along with original staff and administration, and put together a slideshow video of the history of your school. If possible, interview some of the original teachers or administrators or students and get their perspective and memories as well. A history can show your school’s longevity, dedication, achievement, and consistency in delivering an outstanding education to its students over the years.
One-Minute videos: Create a series of one-minute videos that highlight a different aspect of your school. Include any and everything that your school excels at or that you are proud of. A great example is the One Minute Video Series produced by Eastern Christian School. They highlight everything from performing arts to athletics to STEAM to their faculty and then use the videos in their social media posts and marketing efforts.
101 reasons: How many reasons can you come up with for why parents should enroll their students in your school? Linfield Christian School came up with 101 and displayed them all on their school’s website. Turn it into a contest with staff, parents, and students participating, and see how many unique answers you ge—then highlight each one. Turn each reason into a social media post, of course!
Teacher/student-produced videos: There are lots of clever videos out there on YouTube, Vimeo, and SchoolTube, so just do a search to get some great ideas. Here’s one called “Welcome to the 4th Grade” of a teacher’s back-to-school rap to introduce himself to his new students. A video by students in Australia tells the incoming students what school will be like for them. This one is a heartwarming video about that first day of kindergarten from a parent’s perspective.
Videos to address sensitive topics: Schools are also using videos to address uncomfortable topics in thought-provoking and engaging ways. Instead of running for cover with the next big public relations challenge, face it head-on with a video. “We See You” shows that teachers care (in response to local teen suicides). Here’s one about student bullying. Do a search and see how other schools are handling topics important to your school. These videos can be used both internally (for your students and staff) and externally on your website and linked to from your school’s social media channels. Who knows, maybe yours will be the next big viral video to bring your school some great positive public attention!
Whatever school marketing strategy you try and whatever needs your school needs to address, just jump in. If you don’t let your community know what you do well, how will it know? Make marketing a part of your yearly plans, and see what a difference it makes in your school reputation, brand image, loyalty, and trust.
Bonnie Leedy, CEO, School Webmasters, LLC.