During my time spent as a PRO in the education sector, I’ve learnt a few things and I want to share my top seven marketing mistakes that schools make.
7. Lack of a Marketing Strategy
Some education providers engage in Marketing and PR at key times during the year e.g. between May and October in the run up to an open evening. This is great as your efforts coincide with peak times that students are looking to apply to colleges. However many schools do not integrate this into a series of meaningful Marketing activities over the course of the year resulting in an adhoc and often ineffective approach to recruiting students.
Solution: Put some thought into producing a Marketing and PR Plan. It can even be as small as one side of A4. The key is to focus your efforts and take some time to define your overall goal. You can then consider the message you want to be heard and the different Marketing avenues you can use to make sure that it reaches your audience.
6. Not embracing Social Media
Social Media has been embedded into our culture and it is here to stay. Lansons Communication 2011 PR Review estimates that there are 30 million users of Social Media in the UK, equating to roughly 65% of Great Britain’s population. Of these, 1.4 million are under the age of 20, making it a fantastic opportunity for schools and colleges to connect with potential students. Many schools are wary of this technology, however some education providers have embraced the new technology. I have noticed that The University of Essex in particular has successfully established their brand on Twitter @uni_of_essex, engaging and interacting with current and potential students alike.
Solution: Start to use Social Media to generate content and provide valuable information to a large portion of under 20’s that already use the networking platforms.
5. Not updating website content as frequently as required
A website is the face of a school or college and must reflect the brand image in a short space of time. Dr. Lingaard of Carleton University found that people judge a website within 1/20th of a second, meaning you need to create a fast and lasting impression. The problem with maintaining a website is often the time element involved in making the updates.
Solution: The time invested will help to make your website feel fresh and encourage students and parents to revisit and look for new content. Producing press releases will allow you to distribute to media organisations and use as headlines for your latest news too.
4. Keeping successes quiet
This one is for the teaching staff (though not all teaching staff, i must add!) that work in secondary or further education that employ a Marketing or PR person. Keeping your success quiet doesn’t allow for your PR person to make the most of the opportunity.
Solution: Inform your Marketing / PR department or administrator responsible with news of your success, however small the piece of news may be. They will try to promote and use your story in the best way, even if it’s a mention in the newsletter.
3. Failing to recognise newsworthy stories
This point links in with one above. Not only is it enough to let people know about successes within your school, developing a keen eye for news stories is essential in gaining coverage for your school or college.
Solution: Look at local and national media and identify the types of stories that are being covered by newspapers and education bloggers etc. If there is something that fits the bill, get to work on promoting it.
2. Missing journalist deadlines
Ok, so you’ve identified your exciting, newsworthy story, written a press release, included a photo and sent it off to a journalist at your local newspaper. You carefully wait to see your article appear, but it never gets printed. Why? It either wasn’t that exciting to begin with, there were more important stories to cover or you missed the journalists deadline.
Solution: Contact your local press and media organisations and politely request the cut offs for deadlines to avoid missing out on coverage.
1. Not fully understanding their usps
Finally, there are some education providers that do not communicate their unique points in their Marketing and PR. To be able to recruit students, a school or college must look attractive to new students and parents, making it clear what sets you apart from the school down the road.
Solution: Think about what makes your school unique, do you have an impressive range of extra curricular activities that aid childcare for working parents? Do you have top of the range technology that is helping prepare students for the workplace? Whatever makes you different, make sure people know about it!