Past Newsletters

Issue 691 - 4-jun-2017

Helping families understand your enrolment process

How easy do you make it for new families to enrol? Jodie Kensington of Catholic College Wodonga shared with me their new enrolment page of the website. I think it is very well designed to help families understand and walk through the four stage process of: 

  • Research
  • Enrolling
  • Accepting and securing a place
  • Familiarisation
The professionally presented 36 page Enrolment Handbook, under the Research section, is a clever way of answering most of the frequent questions up front.

Take a look at

Jodie says “I’ve been mulling over how to do the enrolment process differently for well over a year and the website redevelopment was part of that. We started with a total overhaul of the Enrolment Handbook last year. What was its purpose and its audience? What was the purpose of the Family Handbook issued in June/July to new families? Why the double up on information?  Now we have one document.  It follow a 4 step process that families take when deciding which school they want to enrol into. This is based on experience, questions asked on tour, and when they were asked along the whole enrolment process.  Our staff, our information evenings, Open Day etc, constantly refer to the handbook as the ‘one stop shop’ as refer families to start their answering their questions from there."

Well done Jodie and thanks for sharing what you are doing.

Issue 691 - 4-jun-2017

School photos – to photoshop or not?

Taking school photos is big business. In Australia purchasing individual, and class photos, is still an expected part of school life for most students. This surprises me when we these students are probably the most photographed generation ever. 
After several decades using large school photography companies this year we engaged a small boutique firm. A major reason was the level of care taken creating customised school specific back drops and the patience, directing and skill of taking multiple photos of individual students till the photographer was happy. This contrasted with the previous production line process of speeding through the individual portraits. 

The proposed increased use of photoshop was however an important consideration. The taking of multiple photos of class groups allows the swapping of a student’s face if they blink, are distracted, or are not smiling with another photo where they are. While this will make a better photo, and is still ‘real’, it is no longer the traditional snapshot in time which may cause laughter or embarrassment in years to come. Messy hair, crooked teeth and ties not being quite straight are all things I prefer to keep authentic.

A recent article, Photoshopping school photos is a modern day tragedy encouraged discussion of this issue. The article quotes a mother Ange Pickett whose son had teeth photoshopped saying “I want my son to be able look back over all his school photos and see how he has changed. It was also important for our son to know we love him as he looks now. Accepting the Photoshopped photo says to him that we think there is something wrong with how he looks”.

School photos are part of the marketing mix of your school. They are a record of school life. I believe it is something we as school marketers should consider and agree upon the level of photoshopping which you will allow. 

Issue 690 - 28-may-2017

Tell one student’s story to attract more like them

The more student stories you tell the more likely another prospective student or parent is likely to identity with their journey. This beautiful video from Brigidine College St Ives promotes their dance program. However in doing so it promotes the school culture, facilities and dedication of staff. 

Issue 690 - 28-may-2017

What is your role in school marketing?

“Your job as a marketer is to leave the brand in at least as good a shape as when you inherited it. And if the right choice is to maintain the status quo, then job done.” This is a good quote to re-read. 

Each of us are responsible to play a part in a season in the life of our school. We are part of the story. I find this sobering. The quote is from > Naughty Client School: marketing ethics and what not to do.

Understanding the role of ethics in school marketing is important. I believe there is no point teaching ethics to students if the adults are not practicing it. Do students and parents read our school advertisements and marketing materials and respond with “Yes! That’s true.” Or do they say “that’s not my experience” or worse?

The article also says…  “Marketing used to be the department that did the colouring in. Now we’re drawing the lines that everyone else colours in. And we all know why. The balance of power has shifted. Once brands were powerful and customers were grateful. Now customers are powerful and brands are grateful. So CEOs are desperately looking for help with truly understanding customers. And it’s what we’ve always done as marketers. It’s meant the marketing department finally has a prime seat at the boardroom table.”

Issue 689 - 14-may-21017

School lip sync video with a community difference

Over the years many schools have done clever lip sync videos to popular songs and in the process incorporated many students and staff. It can be a clever way of creating something easy to share while also showing off many of your school facilities.
However this week FCJ College in Benalla Victoria released a fun video combining students, staff and a local aged care facility. The result is something which obviously brought a great deal of pleasure to the elderly residents and provided an opportunity for them to spend time with young people. It also shows you that an old and familiar song can be better than a modern one if you want to engage an older audience.

This video is not merely a promotional tool. Principal Joanne Rock says “For the past weeks our Year 7s have been forging a special bond with the residents at Cooinda with singing lessons from Wellbeing director Catherine Burton. Some year 10 English students have also had the privilege to write the memoirs of 6 very special residents.” This community partnership came together with a concert titled “Let's Find our Voice!”

Issue 688 - 7-may-2017

Why choose a girl’s school?

What is distinctive about your school? Why do parents and students choose your school over another option? Finding these unique aspects and sharing them is a key part of telling your story well. Brigidine College St Ives has a short animated video of the advantage of attending a girl’s school. 

This is the text that accompanies the video “When a girl enters the doors at Brigidine each day the girls can be themselves, as glorious as that is. They can laugh, cry, yell out loud, work hard or run around and have fun. They don't have to impress anyone: just learn how to be themselves. And while they are learning how to be themselves, they are in an environment that supports their growth, allows them to make mistakes and helps them fix their mistakes. A fabulous journey as they make their way into adulthood.”

What unique aspect of your school could (or have) you tell with animation?

Issue 688 - 7-may-2017

Don’t hide from, or ignore, awkward questions

How do you make a 45 to 60 minute bus trip each way to and from school sound attractive? Next year when Flinders Christian School’s Traralgon campus is transferred to being part of the multi-campus Chairo Christian School it will become a “Kindergarten to Year 8 campus, with the parents of Years 9 to 12 students being encouraged to send their children” to the Drouin Campus. 

The transition began this year with Year 11 students catching a bus to Drouin. This week the school released a video telling the story of one staff member, and two students, and their own experiences. I feel their honesty of sharing the positives and negatives gives the video an authenticity often missing from promotional material. 

Well done Chairo.

Issue 687 - 30-apr-2017

If you tell stories promoting your school is easy

The Wilderness School in Adelaide have created a series of videos of students and parents. Each allows a student, or parent, to tell their own story. It provides a beautiful insight into the school's culture and vision. Each story promotes the school yet in a refreshingly 'non-promotional' way.

The “I am…” series is of students and the “Side by side” is from parents. With each video being around two minutes there is enough time to engage but not too long to switch off.


Take a look also at “I am Bella, Molly, Sophie, Lowell and Melarn” and the ‘Side by Side’ series by exploring the school's YouTube Channel at > Wilderness School YouTube 

Issue 687 - 30-apr-2017

Would your school survive a court decision?

Who is allowed to attend your school and how are they funded? A Court of Queen's Bench judge “issued the ruling that after the next school year, non-Catholic students won't be able to attend Catholic schools in Saskatchewan (Canada). So as of June 30, 2018, Saskatchewan school children who are not Catholic will have to attend public schools.” The court ruling “calls for the end of public funding for non-Catholic students who attend separate schools."

The Court ruling “could force thousands of Sask. students from Catholic schools” and "the public school system would have "an incredibly difficult time" managing the influx of students."

In marketing our schools we often assume a stable continuation of the current systems. However rules change, new schools start, existing schools close, a scandal can tarnish a school’s reputation. As marketers we need to plan for the future with flexibility.

Australian readers from independent and Catholic schools should be aware of the impact on our school funding from the Catholic School's strike in Goulburn in 1962. Have a read of "A 'strike' changed it all"

Court ruling could force thousands of Sask. students from Catholic schools, education minister says
Expert predicts 'significant change' in Sask. Catholic school system if court ruling stands

Issue 686 - 9-apr-2017

Is your school prepared for media attention?

When 40, of the nearly 400 students, at Lee Christian School in North Carolina caught the flu the school realised they needed to act. They sent a text to all parents advising them that the school would be closed for the next two days. Specialised cleaners were called in to the school in a proactive attempt to stop the potential of a further outbreak. 

The decision was reported in local media including sending out a TV news crew. The news team reported on a single red piece of paper signage and interviewed some students.

While the school’s response was overall seen as a positive one consider:
  • Text messages may be seen on news reports – take care with grammar and tone.
  • The sign you quickly pop on the door could become the centre of a news report – take care.
  • In the absence of school staff reporters will interview anyone. 
  • Media attention may not be in response to your beautifully crafted press release but rather news you don’t have any control over.
It is a good reminder to ask whether students, and staff, know who to direct journalists to.

Source > Sandford School Forced to Close by Flu

Issue 686 - 9-apr-2017

Provide more than enough reasons for families to consider your school

How many reasons do you provide to prospective families to enrol at your school? Lindfield Christian School in USA has created a page of their website listing 101 Reasons – By combining slide over photos, text and links to more details, including some videos, it provides a wonderful series of snapshots into the school.

So as not to overwhelm visitors with 101 reasons you can also narrow categories by areas of interest - “Academics / High School / Elementary School / Athletics / Student Life / Fine Arts / Middle School / Faith.” Naturally, several of the 101 reasons appear in multiple categories.

One reason is the school’s > Great Race “a spirited class competition during Homecoming week that requires students to band together to complete a variety of physical and mental challenges. Dressed head to toe in their class colors, they compete in games of Blind Volleyball, Dodgeball, Academic Bowl, Can-Can, and Tug-of-War before participating in a sprawling race across the high school campus”. 


See also > 2015 Great Race 

Issue 685 - 26-mar-2017

Video helps people know what to expect from your school

When prospective parents and students are considering schools they will: 

  • Ask friends for recommendations
  • Search online
While a positive personal recommendation from a known and trusted people is the most effective promotion of your school it can give a narrow view. School websites, especially when using video, can open the window further. Thomas Hassall Anglican College and The Hills Grammar School have both worked with Daniel Sieff and his video company Revery.
The day in the life of The Hills Grammar School reveals a great deal about the school. One of the things I liked about this video was the inclusion of the maintenance people blowing leaves and setting up chairs. It can be the inclusion of these extra human elements, which are often left out, which says something about a school culture. There is also a clever way of marking the passing of time from each period in the school day.

A day in the life of a school from REVERY on Vimeo.

Issue 685 - 26-mar-2017

Google Alerts is a helpful tool for school marketers

Schools find themselves being reported on in the media for all sorts of reasons. It helps to be aware of it early. Using Google Alerts each week I receive notifications for a variety of keywords and phrases. 

The three basic ones I would encourage you to set up are:
  • Name of your school
  • Name of your Principal
  • Suburb
You may also like to set up ones for local competitor schools. Things like your suburb you may like to only receive weekly rather than daily. I am currently receiving daily alerts for the name of a high profile parent in case they mention their children or school.

The challenges with Alerts can be:
  • Other schools, Principals and suburbs with the same name around the world can also appear in your alerts. 
  • The sheer volume of some words and phrases means you receive more emails than is helpful or the alerts don’t feature what is actually relevant to you.
Encourage your staff to be your eyes and ears in local media. It is better to have several staff mention an article than for all of them to assume someone else brought it to your attention. This is especially important if you don't live in the local area of your school.

Another paid tool is > Mention 

Issue 685 - 26-mar-2017

Simple school sign receives global media attention

At the entrances to St Joseph’s RC Primary School, in Middlesbrough UK are signs “Greet your child with a smile, not a mobile”.  

These simple signs reflect the school culture and are an encouragement that communication matters. The positive media attention would be worth more than any school could pay for.

Have you taken a look at the signs around your school lately? What do they communicate about your school to staff, parents, students and visitors? 
  • Is the tone harsh, informative or friendly?
  • How clean are they?
  • Are they legible?
  • Are there spelling mistakes or grammatical errors? 
  • Are they consistent with colours and school branding?
During a visit with a Principal I pointed out a small sign at a school entrance which misspelt the school name. The sign had been made by a contractor but no one had noticed the error.

I find the biggest challenge is not with signs that go through the marketing staff but rather the enthusiastic staff member making Workplace Health and Safety, or event signage, with no regard to consistency or who still think clip art is wonderful.

You may be surprised how many signs there are at your school so take a walk with a camera and record them. A handy tool for schools is the > School Appearance Audit which guides you through some things to look for.

Source: UK school puts up signs to parents: ‘Greet your child with a smile, not a mobile’  

Issue 684 - 19-mar-2017

Movie night for Christian school’s documentary

“You’ve seen the book, now come and see the movie” is how Belgrave Heights Christian School’s promoted their “Heights of Hope” hour long documentary. While gathering short stories for the printed Heights of Hope book of stories the school also interviewed several people. The school booked a local theatre and invited the school community, past and current, to attend. With tickets being only $5, including refreshments, it was a good way to regather and connect the community.

See the movie at > Heights of Hope - Documentary

Heights of Hope - Documentary from Belgrave Heights CS on Vimeo.

Issue 684 - 19-mar-2017

Monthly video release builds interest for school centenary

Regina Blackburn, Marketing Coordinator at The Cathedral School Townsville has produced a 100th anniversary commemorative book. The history includes stories of being an all girls school, to being evacuated to a small inland town during WWII, to the Sister departing in the late 1970s and becoming co-educational.

One of the biggest Centenary projects for Regina has been a series of past student video stories. One video has been released each month since the 99th Foundation Day in July 2016. Each three to four minute video covers a different era. The last one will be released on the school’s 100th Foundation Day. “It’s been a great way to showcase the history of the school but in a personal way as we are sharing the personal stories and memories from past students. There will be 13 stories in the series.”

The first video released in July 2016 was of Mother Eunice, who was the only non-past student interviewed. Mother Eunice is the only remaining Sister from the time the School was run by the Sisters from the Society of the Sacred Advent so it was an important story to share. 

Enjoy exploring the stories at: Centenary Stories. The videos have also been released on facebook with one being viewed over 12,000 times.

Issue 683 - 12-mar-2017

Publish your school’s history with short stories

Sarah Kelly, Events and Promotions Coordinator at Belgrave Heights Christian School sent me a gift this week of a copy of “Heights of Hope.” It was a wonderful read. Rather than attempting to tell a whole story of the school’s history the book contains 85 double page spreads of short stories with corresponding photos. 

Each author is identified with their role or length of time at the school. Students, parents and staff – past and current are included. I felt that the diversity of voices, stories and new and old material gave the book appeal to a wide audience. It also left the reader with a sense that the stories are continuing. Kelly explained “It’s been such a fun and challenging project to share some of the school history with the aim to also share our unique culture.” The book is not a dry or formal historical document. It makes you laugh, cry and imagine. 

The book was presented to current families late last year. All alumni who come in to collect a book also receive a voucher for the Tree Tops Café. The book is being given to new families to “help give them a context and see where they fit.”

Andy Callow, the Principal says “this small book is a collection of stories where the common thread is a school community whose very existence itself is a story worth telling.”

Well done Kelly and team. Thanks for sharing your story. 

Issue 683 - 12-mar-2017

School Open Day tips and ideas

Most families will look at several schools to reassure themselves they are making an informed decision. It is important, as school marketers, to remain aware of what options your parents have as they compare and choose schools. St Augustine’s College Sydney  had an extensive advertising campaign in local media leading up to their Open Night. The series of advertisements, each with different photos, gave an insight into their updated facilities. The event was well attended.

Some things which impressed me
  • Balloons and signage on the local main road acted as a prompt for directions
  • A staff member greeted visitors at the gate, handed out a map and explained where to go
  • Free gelato and sausage sizzle stalls
  • All, or many, of the staff were there from 3.45pm to 7.00pm with clear name badges
  • Many of the 1,300 boys were there – well presented in uniform
  • Boys were doing science experiments or working with clay and talked with visitors
  • Student bands played in the quadrangle
  • Students were doing sport training on the field
  • Large pot plants were strategically placed to block off some areas to visitors
  • While the Principal spoke a slideshow of images scrolled through behind him
  • A student spoke to the audience in both sessions
  • Students took visitors on tours in small groups

One of the challenges is that the school is in a residential area and fills the site. Parking is limited. The school asked that senior students use other forms of transport to school that day as one way of freeing up some additional street parking for visitors.

Issue 682 - 5-mar-2017

Producing a commemorative book for your school anniversary

In 2016 Rehoboth Christian College in Western Australia celebrated its 50th birthday with several events. The school first opened its doors on 14 February 1966. This was also the day decimal currency was introduced to Australia. On 14 February this year the College launched a beautifully presented 132 page book of stories, photos and memories called "Seed Nurture Flourish."

A complimentary copy was provided to each family of the over 600 children enrolled, plus current staff, Association members, and anyone who attended the 50th dinner. With only 1,000 copies produced past students and staff members could order a copy at the heavily subsidised price of $40.

Seth Merlo, Projects Officer explained “the mandate was that it be a high quality, coffee table style book that was visually rich and very different from our yearbooks in terms of look and feel.”

The response has been tremendous, with people expressing how overwhelmed they are with the quality of the book and proud that humble little Rehoboth has grown so much that we are now able to pull something like this off.  Inside there is a "visual timeline" of concerts, graduations, sports, and camps that folds out to 4 pages in the centre of the book. Archived videos of concerts, openings and other events are accessible via QR codes.

“Rather than tell a dry blow-by-blow history, we also wanted the tone of the book to be very community-focus - to tell our story with many voices. Our anniversary theme was "Seed Nurture Flourish" - so the book is divided into three corresponding parts. Seed tells the early days, before the opening of the school, while Nurture tells the five-decade story in five chapters and Flourish covers the anniversary year and a look forward. Each chapter was written by different members of the school community, with many little side stories included throughout from past and current students and staff.”

With many more stories to share the College created an anniversary website

To help build interest and increase appreciation for the quality of the publication a series of videos were published via Facebook giving a look behind the scenes into the printing process. Click on links to watch each video.
1. Producing the Slipcase
2. The Print Process
3. Binding, Covers and Final Product
4. Launch Day

Congratulations Rehoboth and thanks Seth for sharing with us some of the journey.

Issue 682 - 5-mar-2017

Can you make people laugh with your school marketing?

Sometimes an effective advertisement is simply one that makes you smile while it reveals a problem and provides a solution. I laughed at this advertisement by School Stream who help many schools in Australia and New Zealand with communication to parents. 

Many schools have a "Doris" and all of our schools will have a Mandy, Sarah and Brad. Have any schools used this humorous style of video for their own promotions?