Here are some ideas that might be worth considering for your school.
- First impressions count – conduct an image audit Try to look at your school through the eyes of a first-time parent, or ask a non-teaching friend. Pay attention to:
o school grounds – are they tidy?
o can people find your office? Is signage adequate?
o what is the first thing people see when they walk into the front office?
o are they greeted promptly by friendly staff?
o what is your on hold music/message on your telephone system?
- Where are your students coming from? Think about ways in which you can work with your local pre-schools (primary schools) and feeder primary schools (secondary schools) to establish good relationships with students and parents before they start making that next education decision.
- Work in partnership Think about working with other public schools in your area for community events, media articles and promotional material. This could have many cost saving benefits and will also highlight the value of continuity in education in a public school K-12. It might be useful to produce a group of schools brochure, for example, to hand out at promotion opportunities, to the tourism office and leave in the local library, community areas and even your local real estate agent.
- Use of positive role models (advocates) Some schools have produced some fantastic people who are very much in the public eye for sport, art and academic achievement. Find them and use them in your promotional material and at special events if you can. Samples of newspaper advocate campaigns are on the School Promotions intranet site.
- Use the media News media coverage is free. Use it. Your local newspaper is always looking for stories and loves local good news stories. Develop a good working relationship with your local newspaper – the more personal the better. If they don’t know you they are less likely to publish your stories. Whatever is going on in your school (events, activities, new programs, new staff, meetings, new facilities, cross-school events, business support) make sure you tell your local media and tell them BEFORE the event. Two (2) weeks’ notice is good. If you don’t tell your local media about events you cannot say they won’t help by publishing material.
- Advertising This requires homework. Find out whom you want to target, what they read, watch, or listen to, and assess how effective your advertisement will be before you do anything. When you have done your research develop an advertisement with impact – one that gets your message across to the people you want to reach.
- Promotion on hold Change your telephone on hold music to a promotional message for your school. Doorbell chime music doesn’t say anything about your school and can be annoying.
- Signage Can people find the principal’s office easily? Is your school signposted properly on all sides? Does your school’s changeable sign carry information that is reinforcing the messages of quality and excellence you wish to convey?
- Promotion in the foyer If your office reception area can take it, use this space to promote the events of your school. An In the News board or promotional video running on a loop is better for visitors to look at than a wall with a dodgy landscape on it. Show off your student work. Have photographs of Students of the Month. Having said that try not to have too much clutter. Find a balance.
- Develop a school welcome pack/parent information pack What do people get when they enrol in your school? Think about producing a parent information booklet or folder that outlines key times, dates and information that parents want to know. However, keep this concise – people will not read it if it looks too thick and too long.
- Customer service How are your visitors treated when they enter your school? This is important. Make sure that all of your staff understand the importance of saying hello and offering to help visitors.
- Open door policy Always make parents feel welcome. They should feel that they can approach you with a query, concern or suggestion. What arrangements do you have to enable working parents to see you?
- Encourage feedback Create a feedback form and put it at your reception counter. People like to see that you care about what they think.
- Public image What does your uniform look like to the outside world? Are your students in full school uniform and do they look neat and tidy? Are your teachers and front office staff professional-looking?
- Thank you certificates Make sure you acknowledge help from your local community. Produce thank you certificates for businesses to display in their foyer. Even if these cost a bit of money to produce, if the business is popular it could mean a lot of free publicity if it is displayed in a prominent place.
- Look at your emblem Does it still reflect your community? Is it still relevant? Does your community connect with your emblem or does it just make your school look old and tired?
- Look at your school motto Does your school motto still reflect the purpose and vision of your school? Note: If your community loves your school mottos and emblem, but you feel it doesn’t reflect your school very well, you can develop a separate banner statement for your school and use your emblem sparingly on promotional material.
- Get involved Community involvement is a two-way street. If your school is seen to be helping your community, then people will be more inclined to get involved with your school and think good things about you.
- Create a photo library An image really does say one thousand words. Especially when it has happy kids in your school staring into the lens. Put together a photo library of images you can use on promotional material and on your website.
- Open your school for community activities If your school is used for community activities (i.e. classes, events, community meetings) it may be a way of promoting familiarity with your school grounds and your staff.
By Ros Bastian