Private School Marketing: Thriving Post-Pandemic Means Equal Parts Re-Invention and Remembering
It’s hard to think of an industry that has been more disrupted by the Covid-19 Pandemic than Education. We are seeing higher churn and higher new student enrollment over the past couple enrollment seasons as more parents consider alternative education options. How do you restore stability?
Here’s a seemingly paradoxical answer: (1) Reinvent, and (2) Remember your strengths.
Reinventing to Meet Demand
Many private schools have experienced growth since our world changed in early 2020, taking advantage of their relative autonomy (compared to public schools) and nimbleness to meet changing needs.
COVID has raised the differences between private and public education options to the forefront of consciousness. Many independent schools responded first by finding innovative ways to stay safe while staying open, then by introducing hybrid and remote options, sometimes coexisting.
Schools that REINVENTED quickly to seize the opportunity grew their enrollment.
No More Resting On Your Laurels
Public Schools are beginning to think more like Private Schools; in other words, how to compete. For Private Schools, being the best game it town is no longer enough as more specialized remote options are available from anywhere.
School Marketing Trends
Change and choice are here to stay. Here’s a few areas where schools are reinventing their marketing toolbox to adapt.
- Greater reliance on digital interaction & your school website. People now expect remote/electronic alternatives to in-person events like parent-teacher conferences, orientations, and other events. No longer can we expect the participation rates for in person events. All of this impacts the traditional role of the school website, which now must support real-time updates, and contain much more engaging content (e.g. video).
- Social & Emotional Learning (SEL). SEL has become a key driver for both administrators and parents as they seek to reduce mental and behavioral health concerns resulting from distancing and lockdowns. Schools not only need to implement SEL curriculum and programs, but also learn how to assure prospective parents they are on the leading edge of this movement.
- Rolling open enrollment. Many admissions directors are moving to rolling open enrollment, recognizing not only the demand for more choice, but the demand for change at any time. Federal, state, and local mandates change almost daily, and parents react to these changes immediately to secure a school option that meets their needs.
- A larger social media and web presence. Schools are relying more heavily on social media, search engines, and web presence to engage with parents and prospective families on important issues and changes. Parents are always considering school choice options, with much less aversion to switching schools. It is imperative that your school has strong online engagement, visibility and reputation.
- High-quality remote and hybrid learning technologies. Investments in remote learning technologies and processes have removed previous long-held assumptions around capacity and class size, as schools increasingly wonder if hybrid/virtual learning is the new normal.
Remember Your Strengths
As important as adaptability is in our environment, it would be foolish to do so while forgetting our strengths.
We discussed earlier about the explosion of choice in education. Maybe a more accurate description of the situation is an explosion of accessibility to that choice. The options have always been there, but now there are more of them, with more specialization, and greater accessibility. The pandemic tore down many previous economic barriers to alternative education options and made more options available to more people.
Why is this important? Because EVERY school (public, private, charter, online, immersion, etc) must know what its target audience needs, and how they uniquely meet that need. This is the heart of brand positioning, and it’s relevant to all schools. If you don’t have a clear, documented brand positioning strategy that plays to your strengths, it is difficult to impossible to do anything more than tread water.
There’s plenty to unpack round brand strategy. Here’s a starting good point:
A Simple Tool to Merge the Past, Present and Future: The SWOT
When crafting a marketing strategy for your school, it’s important to understand the internal and external situational factors. One common tool we use to analyze a school or organization’s situation is the SWOT analysis, which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
The first two components of SWOT, Strengths and Weaknesses, make up the internal situation, and the latter two components, Opportunities and Threats, make up the external situation. Internal factors analyze the relative strength of your unique approach to education, academics, website, marketing team, resource availability, assets, etc. External factors might include education sector trends, parents’ economic conditions, or competitive pressures.
The SWOT analysis should help you answer the question, “what opportunities are we uniquely prepared to capitalize on?” In addition, it should help you become aware of liabilities (weaknesses or threats) you may need to address. Finally, it’s a foundational input to the development of your school brand positioning strategy.
More Private School Marketing Ideas
Do you need ideas or ongoing help with marketing your private school? Reach out to the Rocketship team for a consultation. We can help your school or education service:
- Refine your brand strategy and marketing plan
- Grow enrollment
- Save time and resources utilizing CRM and email automation
- Maximize your web and social media presence and engagement
For a complete guide on developing a growth marketing strategy, download our free Marketing Playbook for Private School Enrollment Growth.