Two of the most valuable attributes someone can have are knowledge and experience. Knowledge builds an intellectual framework and accumulates data, but experience forges conviction. Experience solidifies that knowledge and filters it through reality. The greatest teachers give knowledge and provide experiences that move that knowledge beyond theory and into confidence.
Most of content marketing is about knowledge, ideas, and insight, but it isn’t limited to articles and video. The step beyond giving information is to invite your community to an experience. These are not new parents’ meetings or school tours but events hosted for the value they create for families and students. The goal of content marketing is to build relationships by creating value, so the aim of these events is to meet new families and let them see how your school’s values express themselves.
Decide on a Value
Show what is important to your school by choosing one of its core values, then build an event around it. When families come and partake in this event, they are given the opportunity to understand your school all the more. They benefit from your conviction and are clued into what it may be like if their child attended and their family joined your tribe. In some ways, this is a thirty day free trial for education; students receive the use of a partial product to decide if they want to go farther. This is why your events must be intentionally rooted in who you are as a school.
There are typically four core values that schools operate under, even if they’re communicated differently from place to place: academics, faith, family, and athletics. Each of these serve as entire realms for promotional event ideas, so let’s explore a few of them.
- Academics – Host regular group tutoring sessions, classes on study skills, college representatives/fairs, supplemental lectures or trips based on a specific area of common curricula
- Faith – Spiritual life or apologetics camp, Bible study classes, hands-on faith experiences
- Family – Family values conferences, date nights, marriage and parenting seminars, multigenerational games and activities
- Athletics – Nutrition classes, sports camps, summer training programs
Each of these have the ability to draw new families to your school and to shape their perception of it. Instead of seeing your school as distant and irrelevant, these parents and students now have a relationship with it and the people there.
Involve Your Team
Almost as important as having your values on display is to have your people there to meet visiting families. There are a few reasons why values are more important than individuals: they’re transcendent and they are the culture. Faculty members move or find new jobs, but well-developed and ingrained values can survive the length of an organization.
I’ve heard it said that people don’t leave ministries, the leave leaders, and there is some truth to that, but only when the culture of the organization hasn’t been fully developed. If the faculty and board have been shaped by specific values, are committed to what they stand for, and have been trained to operate well within it, a headmaster could step out without the school missing a beat. Ultimately, this is actually the job of the headmaster, so there’s that. People are essential to the equation, not just as cultural vehicles but as individuals.
One of my favorite parts of serving at a classical school was the camaraderie of like-minded, intelligent, and loving teachers. They are still some of the best people I’ve ever met, and they’ve left a lasting impression on me. The same could be true of potential families. Albeit, they won’t get to know them the same way a fellow teacher does, but they can know the warmth and care that those teachers have toward their educational community.
People are essential to the equation, not just as cultural vehicles but as individuals.
Trusting your team to be there on the front lines, greeting, teaching, moderating, whatever needs to be done, exposes the parents to world class teachers and provides the opportunity for even your teachers to more deeply identify with the school’s culture. Involve your team.
Some Broader Perspective
Leveraging them for the benefit of the audience and to build relationships may be a more novel aim, but promotional events are nothing new. The novelty might be that they are intrinsically face-to-face; they make your school physical and tangible, not just another name and post on a social feed somewhere. An event is actual human interaction – that’s novel! So unique that in 2017, 95% of marketers said events gave them an all-together unique opportunity just because the digital aspects of marketing have become so prominent.1
And because of its prominence, social media marketing can’t be ignored. Physical events balance an overwhelmingly digital field, but no one would show up if it wasn’t for having found out about it through digital means. (I’m at WorkHub Tyler at this moment because of a Facebook ad for their open house. I’m a digital success story because I now have a paid membership!) Almost all of the promotion leading up to an event can be done on Facebook and Instagram. Seven in ten Americans use Facebook, and 90% of Instagram users are under the age of 35.2 Targeting specific age brackets within x number of miles from your school can garner quite a bit of attention.
Social does more than just prepare for an event but serves as a de facto marketing tool during it because 34% of people will make a post about the event they’re attending. This number could actually be much higher given the parents of your youngest students will be digital natives, i.e. Millennials. Inviting them to post with a given hashtags increases that likelihood and provides a substantial amount of social proof for your event. If your school shares pictures from the event, that’s expected, but user-generated content from families will get more attention. Receiving more general attention is one thing, but it goes a step farther than that, because they’re not just sharing that picture to the people that have liked your page – they’re sharing it to their own friends and followers. The average Facebook user has 338, so that could mean thousands more people see your event than are actually there.3
Private schools are weird. Or, they can at least be seen that way by most people. Only 10% of all US students attend a private school, and only 78% of those attend a religiously-based school.4 Some schools have a reputation to overcome, whether that stodgy, elitist, or irrelevant, and events can help alter those perceptions (or reinforce them, so don’t be weird). In fact, 84% of people say they have a more positive view of organizations after attending an event.5 These could go very well for your school, especially if there is suspicion aimed at your school.
Events need to revolve around your core values as an institution. Building them from a deeply held ideal and making them immensely beneficial to the audience is the best way to make a connection with the people in your community. These will often revolve around academics, faith, family, and athletics, and the benefits are magnified when faculty, staff, and digital media are involved in meaningful ways.