Launching a new approach requires reflection of past challenges and successes, and summertime is the perfect time to reflect on student recruitment outcomes from the prior year.
REVIEW student data: demographic, residential, sibling and any survey data (climate, family exit interviews) and review student academic achievement. Combine this data with last year’s recruitment experience.
Utilize these results to plan and SET GOALS for the upcoming year. Use this time to create a master plan, establish what enrollment outcomes you need/desire and set goals.
DOCUMENT YOUR PLAN — create a Recruitment Timeline and Calendar, be planful about the entire calendar year. It is helpful to schedule your lottery date first and then work backwards from that date. Include:
- Internal Communications/Reminders
- External Communications/Reminders
- Schedule Building Power Walk and Talks
- Open Houses
- Community Events
- Open Application Portal
- Close Application Portal
- School Tours
- Run Lottery
- Acceptance Party
- Summer Retention Events
EVERYONE IS A MARKETER!
It is also a time to build school culture with staff. Move to a culture of engagement and one that is supportive of all families. Set the tone with central office staff and school staff that Everyone is a Marketer. The positive culture will also be validated by the overall building appearance. Plant some flowers or take other small steps to spruce up your buildings. This is an area where the school community can come together and help — especially older students, instilling pride in their school.
ALLOCATE / FINALIZE A MARKETING BUDGET
School marketing can be done on a small budget, but aggressive student recruitment requires a generous school marketing budget to cover items well beyond the cost of printed communications. A school recruitment and marketing budget should include:
- All printed recruitment publications
- Give-away items
- Trade Show displays and tablecloths
- Video creation/production
- Website and social media support
- Social media advertising
- Print advertising
- Radio/TV advertising
- Tour and open house event decorations, refreshments and supplies
- Recruitment fairs
- Staff mileage reimbursement
- Postage costs
“If you do marketing correctly, it is building a great school culture. It is using data to drive decision making. It’s promoting your school to your families and community.”
DOCUMENT BRAND IDENTITY
Consider creating and sharing a Brand + Visual Style Guide for the district. This will guide everyone working on recruiting. Document logos, colors, tag lines and rules for print and social media marketing/advertising so all school staff are informed on how to best use their school’s respective logos, colors, and tag lines. Sample guides can be found with a quick google search. (Here is an example from New London Public Schools.)
Effectively communicating your district brand and associated school brands supports the district in its journey to operational excellence – spreading the word and sharing what you’re all about.
CRAFT THE STORIES
Crafting stories for each school, including information about the students served, school highlights and successes, as well as distinct school qualities and culture are important for consistent communication. Telling each school’s story as part of the bigger district story will engage community members and families and foster district-wide unity.
Sharing each school’s recruitment dates, admission schedules and literature will support the entire recruitment and retention process for the district. When something exciting happens at one school be sure to share the excitement across all schools.
IDENTIFY THE MARKETING TEAM
Ideally one person per school, in addition to central office staff, would make up the team and work together to punch through this pre-season list of action items.
CREATE CUSTOMER PERSONAS
Do you know what keeps your customers up all night? Being able to answer that question will lead you to successful recruitment and retention. Customer personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. They help you understand your customers (and prospective customers) better, and they make it easier for you to tailor content to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different groups in your community. According to Hubspot, the strongest buyer personas are based on market research as well as on insights gathered from your actual customer base (through surveys, interviews, round tables, focus groups, etc.). Depending on your school, you can create as few as one or two personas or as many as 10 or more.
CREATE CUE CARDS/SCRIPTS
Create several different topic specific scripts for your entire faculty to have at their fingertips. This is very useful when answering the phone, when giving tours, hosting open houses or for those awkward stops in the grocery store where a parent or community member wants to know about your theme or recruitment schedule. It is a way to make sure the correct information about your school and district is being shared in the community.
REVIEW AND REFRESH WEBSITE
This is a great time to update staff contacts, add important enrollment dates, and highlight happenings in the district for the upcoming school year. Don’t forget to archive irrelevant pages and content.
PLAN FOR SOCIAL MEDIA
Today’s families are busier than ever, and they now have countless ways to receive communication and digest information. Families expect schools and districts to keep them up-to-date at all times. This is especially true when it comes to their own child and the school where their child is enrolled. Maintaining this communication will support the retention of students and families at your school by keeping them engaged and fostering a sense of belonging even if/when they cannot be present. Don’t forget to share news and information with all district employees, building staff, and most importantly those who answer the telephones.
IDENTIFY AND PREPARE CONTENT YOU WILL NEED INCLUDING MARKETING MATERIALS, BROCHURES, INVITATIONS AND MORE
Create relevant and interesting content that tells your school story and explains why your school is remarkable and distinct. This is your opportunity to publicly report out on your school data and tell your school stories consistently throughout the calendar year. Note the words “calendar year” here. Good school marketing means telling your story constantly and not letting off the gas pedal, even in the summer, in order to achieve success. Share the admissions timeline, tour dates, and explain clearly how and when a family can apply to your schools.
It is helpful to have paper applications, scanner cards, laptops and iPads available, so when families and interested parties ask to fill out an application you will not miss a beat. Providing online access to families is easy and efficient when your recruitment team is at an event. Remember each year the application content should be reviewed and updated before the application period begins. Consider having access to the online application available during all internal and external recruitment events.
CREATE A “ROAD SHOW KIT”
Purchase a rolling bag and fill with all recruitment materials:
- Extension cords
- Trade show display
- School and enrollment information
SCHEDULE SCHOOL PRESENTATIONS AND COMMUNITY EVENTS
It is important for each school to have their own presentation kit available and ready to roll at a moment’s notice. As discussed above, create a “Road Show Kit.” Purchase a rolling bag and fill with recruitment materials to be ready at a moment’s notice.
If you are asking yourself, “Does this mean I need to be a salesperson?” The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Being able to talk about your magnet school and present your magnet school theme, the district and school goals, and share your school story is all part of the recruitment and retention process. Community events are also perfect opportunities to share information about your school and theme. Some community events to consider are: summer beach venues, parades, car shows, craft shows, and holiday sing-along events to name a few. Plan ahead and reserve a table, make a float, or even provide student entertainers.