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This question has been answered, and points have been awarded.
Private School W/ No Extra Funds For Marketing
7/4/2008 at 12:12 PM ET
We are a small, private school in a rural area. This is the 6th year of operation, and quite frankly, has been run poorly from a financial/organizational standpoint. Enrollment is only 26 students at this point with 3 full-time teachers and 2 part-time. Grades taught are K-8th. Almost NO marketing is being done and it's very frustrating. I am a TEACHER, not a PR person. But I can't stand watching this flounder because some people can't get their act together. Does anyone have any suggestions? My job may depend upon it.
7/4/2008 at 12:16 PM
How about AD-Funded WAP advertising? With FREE Datamatrix codes which you can incorporate into your existing advertising.....
7/4/2008 at 12:21 PM
Talk. Talk to anyone who will listen. Talk about your school and what a difference it is making. Write an article and submit it to the local papers.
Does anyone in your community have PR or advertising experience? Can your school set up a barter?
And don't forget, you may not be a PR person, but you are educated and you can learn. Teach yourself, what I hope you teach your children... that it is desire which fuels success. Empower yourself, if no one will help you. Read about PR and promotion. Become enthused and others will too.
Hard to believe? Just try it.
7/4/2008 at 1:02 PM
I say there is next to nothing you can do, being a private school, if no one is sponsoring anything or offering anything. My recommendation is to close the doors now. Yeah, I know all the touchy-feely things. The poor kids...etc.
Well, if the parents won't foot the increases, then they have to find another school for their kids. If the school is underfunded, and the prospects not good for more funding...close the doors. Notify the parents, and find another job.
Facts are facts. You can't change it because you wish it were different. It is what it is, and one can not change what is.
7/4/2008 at 1:23 PM
I think mop summarised my initial thoughts. WMMA is giving you a reality check and it makes sense - but, as a teacher turned marketer & PR consultant, I do empathise with you.
I have worked for some colleges who needed additional funds. These are some of the successful projects I undertook:
* I issued a press release every month so that the media raised our profile amongst the local community (that includes local businesses of course)
* I ran some holiday courses in conjunction with other public bodies and charged fees. Some of the other public bodies funded the advertising so it cost me nothing to produce
* I went to each head of department and asked them what equipment they needed. I then targetted all local employers asking them to sponsor a particular piece of equipment. I made sure the businesses I asked would find it relevant - so local farming organisations sponsored the geography department's new weather satellite tracking system and we gave them daily on-line updates of the weather
* One college needed a new drama studio so I went round to all local businesses involved in drama, arts & entertainment asking to sponsor a new building. I found one dance studio who had outgrown their premises and they funded the new building in return for exclusive use at agreed hours
You do need time to do this. I did it commercially for these colleges and took 10% commission on the cash equivalent of the sponsorship raised plus a monthly retainer. You might need to find a local person who would help you in this way.
If the press release is a problem for you, contact me through my colleagues at the UK Press Release Writing Service [URL deleted by staff -- please use the Profile page to share this info!] and we will help you write them and distribute them for you each month pro bono to help you on your way.
I hope this encourages you to great things so that you can all concentrate on helping young people.
7/4/2008 at 3:42 PM
The bottom line is, How are the kids? How much better are they for attending your private school than the other choices? Test scores are the easiest to measure, but how much do they love learning? Do the kids arrive as early as possible and leave at the last minute (like in Rafe Esquith's book, "Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire")? Are the kids' emotional, physical, etc. needs met?
The key for marketing is the special benefits your school offers. Parents have choices where to entrust their children. Your private school needs to offer something better than all the other schools. If you're not sure what the unmet needs are in your community, ask the parents (both that have children in your school and not). What's missing? After school programs? Different curricula? Then offer what's wanted at a price that people will pay.
7/4/2008 at 4:39 PM
I'm wondering if you could hold some sort of "special event" or "open house." A huge awareness building campaign surrounded with lots of excitement.
You could advertise the event in the local papers, put up flyers around the community -- and offer an incentive to come and learn more about the school while having a fun, community day. Maybe a sweepstakes to win free tuition ... or other perceived value prize.
You could also have an early bird special ... anyone enrolling by xxx date will receive 10% off tuition.
Then run some fundraisers. I've had great success with pizza -- it's easy, cheap, no $ outlay up front and everyone loves pizza. Try
You could create a school newsletter to keep parent-teacher-student communications alive. If you have emails, try
I hope some of these ideas can help! GOOD LUCK!
7/4/2008 at 7:36 PM
Is your problem related to a lack of awareness, lack of a USP (Unique Selling Proposition), or some of both?
If it's USP, Jay and W.M.M.A. really nailed it. What makes your private school better than the other choices available to parents? That difference is your USP, and the one you build your marketing on.
If it's lack of awareness, then the other comments are relevant, you need to increase your profile among parents and your community in general. Zelda's idea of an open house is a great way to get parents and the local media familiar with your school, and like Mop said talk it up!
Try some online avenues as well. Start a blog about that focuses on the school, why it's worth saving and celebrates your achievements. Build a school website and use that as your call to action. Start participating in regional online forums and groups as a representative of your school. Be open, honest and be willing to accept negative comments as well as positive ones.
But, bringing it back to Jay and W.M.M.A.'s comments, none of the PR is worth the effort of your school doesn't have a USP worth promoting.
Best of luck.
7/5/2008 at 9:36 AM
You are in a desperate and frustrating situation. However it is difficult to know where to begin in terms of offering constructive advice because you have given very little information about your school, its values and why parents choose (or don't choose) to send their children to you.
I have been a principal of 3 different schools ranging in size from 6 to 270 students. So I am giving you my thoughts from this perspective rather than a strictly marketing one:
1) How much actual influence do you have over your school situation? If you have a principal or line manager, will they listen to you? If not, you need to question whether this school does actually need to close. Good schools listen carefully to all staff members and include them in key decision making processes.
2) The bad news is that you appear overstaffed. Either some folk will have to lose their jobs or you will all need to take a pay cut. I live in rural Scotland. For the size of your school, public schools here would have: 2 full time teachers and regardless of age range, 2 classes. It is perfectly possible to give children an excellent education in a multi-age class. One teacher is the principal with 1 or 2 days out of class per week to do principal duties, with a regular supply teacher planning and covering the class. For additional class based support, 1 part time teaching assistant would be very useful. A full time admin assistant would be a bonus (I've only ever had part time - even with 270 pupils) and a part time cleaner, for a couple of hours each day. I am telling you this, so that you know what is possible and realistic.
Have a good think about recruiting passionate and able parents and volunteers to deliver some of the activities.
You need to find a system that enables you to cut back on staffing and build it up again, once the roll increases.
3) It is unlikely that over the summer you will get a lot of new children. Almost all parents have decided where their child is to be educated the following session. However this is good news...you have breathing space to plan an effective recruitment and fund raising strategy. If your school is to remain open, begin your marketing strategy and action NOW. Most private schools look for fees to cover two-thirds of costs and donations and fundraisers to cover the other third.
4) Recently I visited a small alternative private school based in Seattle (27 students) who have a very informative website. It may be worth your while looking at this
even though it is for middle and high school students.
5) There have been several questions posted on Marketing Profs during this past year about marketing private schools. Some of the advice might be applicable and useful for you:
These are both about children's club but the advice was spot on and may help you too.
(sponsoring a school event)
Finally, feel free to contact me for further advice. If you click on my name, that takes you to my bio and e-mail address.
Good luck and best wishes,
Creative STAR Learning Company
7/7/2008 at 8:25 AM
I feel for you. Your job does depend on it. You have to start at the top. Because with 26 kids -- and a staff even as small as you describe-- this school is probably under water already. I'd have a heart to heart with the administrator and find where their head is. What are the school's plan for the future. Then get the PTA group going. There are many options for funding-- fundraising, grants, and all the suggestions above-- but its a long lonely jaunt if you don't have buy in from the top. Best wishes and good luck.
Sell Well and Prosper tm
7/7/2008 at 12:21 PM
See? You picked a great place to ask this question!
Randall (WMMA) is right on..since it's been 6 years. If it was your 2nd or 3rd year I might stick it out a bit AND I'll avoid the soapbox of school vouchers.
Check around with the local businesses to see who does each one's marketing. As a community institution, they may have an interest....but with access to only 26 people plus teachers, it's not a very attractive market.
You might also consider re-naming the school after a benefactor.
If you're in Chicago area, contact me. I'd be happy to help.
7/7/2008 at 12:43 PM
Wow! I can't thank all of the responders adequately for all of the help!
I have been busy taking notes and following links - it can be very time consuming.
Juliet, your responses were extra helpful and the links you provided were all followed and are still being read and documented.
Our USP is the fact that we are a Christian school that requires Bible class on a daily basis and chapel 2 days a week. We are small enough that each individual student is well known - we have interaction with the parents on almost a daily basis. Since we are private and are about 4 miles outside of town, the parents have to bring the children to school. At the end of the day, the parents are required to come inside to pick up their child, so even if we don't have a full conversation there is contact continually. We emphasize character as well as academics - I know for a fact that is one of the reasons some parents have chosen our school.
A good example of character building at our school - A new female student (6th grade) made a rather snide comment to an 8th grade male student that he had worn the same shirt 3 days that week. When the parent came to pick up the female student, the teacher held a short conference with parent and student. She explained to the girl that there could be several reasons why this boy had worn the same shirt 3 days that week - maybe he only has a few shirts, maybe he has to do his own laundry and hadn't had time to wash other clothes, maybe he has no sense of fashion :-), etc., but that whatever the reason she had no need to comment on it and embarrass him. She needed to put others feelings above her own. I saw the girl as she was coming out of the classroom - she had been crying - not because she was yelled at or even disciplined, but that someone had gotten through to her heart and she was made aware of her callousness and hurtful behavior.
Situations like the above are addressed continually here - nothing "slides" by. We are available to our parents even in the evening - they have our home number and are free to call us. That is not a school policy, that is just the heart of each of our teachers. Not sure of the best way to market that.
As for being overstaffed, I'm not sure how to handle that situation. One teacher teaches K-2, I teach 3-5 and the third teaches 6-8. Our salaries are only $15,000/yr. - add the fact that I drive 32 miles round trip 5 days a week and it means that I won't take a paycut. I already put 1/3 of my paycheck back into my gas tank. I also buy any extras the class needs, prizes for my prize box, any decorations that go on my wall, extra pens, pencils, staples, stickers, etc. It would suffice to say that I don't do this strictly for the money, but then again I wouldn't do it for free. The two part-time teachers are teaching in exchange for one free tuition for their children - one teaches art one day a week and one teaches physical education 2 afternoons a week.
Thank you again for everyone's input - am still studying this and would be happy to hear any other ideas, advice, or comments.
7/7/2008 at 1:13 PM
I didn't see your response before I posted one of my own. Unfortunately, I am 3 1/2 hours southwest of Chicago - West Central Illinois. Thank you very much for your offer of help and for your comments.
I agree, 6 years should be long enough. The one thing that gives me hope is the school board has 3 new members - 2 are businessmen and 1 is a physician. This makes me think that this could be a turning point for the school.
Again, your comments were greatly appreciated!
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