The idea of marketing a public school district can bring outcries from parents and community members because, as many are quick to point out, a school is not a business. Their response is understandable, as many believe a school’s sole focus should be on the education of its children, but it’s also shortsighted. I haven’t worked with or been part of a school district yet that didn’t make education and safety its top priorities, but savvy superintendents know there is more that goes into running a successful school district – and marketing plays a key role.
Why Do Public Schools Need Marketing Anyway?
Today, public schools have more competition than ever with private schools, charter schools, and magnet schools all vying for the same students, and it’s critical for public school districts to showcase their programs and opportunities so families can make the best decision for their children. Ultimately, a school district must manage its financial health, and schools suffer when students start leaving for other options.
Even if a district doesn’t face steep competition, regular communication helps increase school pride and parent engagement. It’s not uncommon for a school district and its students to rack up honors and awards that never get shared. My children might be in elementary school, but when I hear the high school debate team went to state competition or the National Honors Society helped a local non-profit, it increases my overall investment in our schools. I can speak intelligently about the entire district, I stop aimlessly searching for homes in other areas of town, and I can imagine my children growing up in our schools. I even volunteer more because I have a clearer sense of the programs and events with which I want to get involved.
When school districts share more they get increased support from their entire community. Whether a district is looking to pass a levy, needs volunteers for a reading program, or wants to rally fans around a sports team, all members of the community – whether they have students in its schools or not – need to understand the mission and initiatives. Strong schools give back to the community in so many ways. They turn out future citizens and leaders (who will pay taxes) and also contribute to higher home values since families pay more to live in communities with great public schools.
Marketing Tactics that Work
The marketing activities school districts undertake vary based on their size, budget, demographics, location, and available talent resources. Here are just a few marketing tools and tactics a school district can use to help get out its message:
- Website – Most school districts have a website, but many are hard to navigate and make it challenging for visitors to find the information they need. Keep your website updated with student and district news and be sure to include links to social media accounts.
- Social Media – The idea of implementing social media can be daunting because it requires someone (or a small team) to post content regularly. But passing on a district Facebook page is a missed opportunity because it’s where so many caregivers and community members already are. In addition, posts to social media reach members outside your community – allowing others a chance to see the great things your district is doing.
- Newsletter/Magazine – A regular publication that gets mailed to the homes of everyone in your district instills pride and ensures your key messages get heard. This is also a great opportunity to reach alumni and local businesses that can provide support and financing.
- Public Relations – Local news outlets love to focus on the great work being done by students in their community. Sharing your stories in the local newspaper or with a nearby television station will make families proud and will help build your district’s brand in the eyes of the surrounding communities.
- Video – A high-quality video can tell your district’s story in a powerful way and allow you to showcase the values and initiatives you believe are most important. Videos can be embedded into a website, shown at community events, or broadcast on local public access stations.
- Podcast – Many parents would love the opportunity to hear from their district’s superintendent or other top administrators. A monthly podcast can be posted to the website, shared through social media, and even sent to local media outlets.
No matter which tactics a school district decides to implement, one thing holds true. If you don’t tell your school district’s story, you’re leaving it up to families and community members to write it for you.
About Scooter Media
Scooter Media is a full-service communications agency in greater Cincinnati specializing in public relations and social media.