I’m no engineer, but I do know the value of a solid foundation. The foundation is the basis upon which something is supported. Foundations are essential for buildings, organizations, relationships, and yes, marketing plans.
As we make our resolution to market our school (you’re with me on this, right?), the first step I suggest is aligning your school values to your school marketing agenda. Because this is such an essential marketing tip, I’d like to help you with this step. Let’s work together to lay the groundwork for marketing your school by defining your school values, mission, and stakeholders.
Your school values are the ideals in which your school population believes. Values define the deeply held beliefs that define your school’s culture—who you are as a school.
If your school doesn’t have a set of predefined values, do the following:
- Ask yourself, “What do the people at our school believe?”
- Ask other administration and staff what their professional values are. Add the common answers to your list.
- From your own list and the responses you receive define a few core values and e-mail them to some select people for feedback.
School marketing begins with who you are, and these steps can help to shape your overall brand.
I once heard a marketer say that when he sells something, he has to believe, deep down, that if his customer makes a purchase, then his or her life will improve for the better.
- Do you believe the education and services your school is providing will improve lives for the better?
More than anything else, your answer to that question will influence the success of your school marketing efforts. If you answered “no” or “not really,” then take a minute to figure out why you’re not buying into your school’s brand. Values are more than words; values guide attitudes, actions, and decision-making. If you don’t believe in your school’s brand, then you can’t expect others to become invested through your marketing efforts. It has to start with you.
Values determine how your school will behave, and that is where your mission statement comes in. Marketing best practices dictate that your school’s mission statement will drive all your school marketing projects. Many schools already have a mission statement in place. If this is the case with your school, then use the following questions to evaluate your school’s mission. If your school’s mission statement is undefined or a little ambiguous, then use the following questions to clarify your mission.
- What does your school do to support its values? Does your school believe that every student can succeed? What are some of the ways you help every student succeed?
- What makes your school unique? Or even, what does your school do better than any other schools in the area?
- What makes your staff unique? Or what do you do to show your staff members they are valued?
There are lots of different words we use to define the varying groups of people that are connected to schools: publics, audiences, target audience, customer, community. The word we think fits best for school marketing purpose is “stakeholder.” A stakeholder, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is a person who is involved in or affected by a course of action. This definition encompasses all of a school’s key publics including students, staff, parents, taxpayers, boards of education, parent-teacher organizations, etc.
You know who your stakeholders are (and if you need help defining them better, stick with us, we’ll cover that in another post). This week we’re taking in general terms and, in general, about the needs of your stakeholder’s. Here are some questions to get you started:
- Who are your stakeholders? In general, make a list of the groups that are involved in or affected by your school.
- What matters most to your stakeholders? Remember to think in general terms. All of your varying stakeholders do have different values on deeper levels, but on the surface, they all should have something in common—a base value that matters most. Hopefully, this will be something that aligns to your school values as well.
- What are your stakeholders’ “pain points?” A pain point is a problem, real or perceived that worries, annoys, or concerns your stakeholders. It’s harder to generalize pain points, but don’t try to go too in-depth here—remember, we’re just laying the groundwork at this stage.
With these three questions, you should have a pretty solid foundation for understanding your school’s stakeholders.
Understanding your school’s values, mission, and stakeholders is a great foundation on which to start building marketing plans. These three areas will serve as the basis for any campaign you run by helping you to answer:
- What do we want to accomplish?
- What do we need to say?
- And whom are we trying to reach?
Happy School Marketing!
Katie Brooks, School Public Relations Manager