With social media domination and the vast adoption of digital technologies, customers in the new millennium are becoming more sophisticated and selective in their interactions with all forms of marketing communication. In particular, customers now prefer meaningful and relevant content that enriches their knowledge-base and value system, over sleek ads’ in expensive, glossy school directories.
Printed ads not enough
As advertisers, schools need to realise that it is no longer about placing a photo of their 25m swimming pools or hectares of green fields in the printed publications in the hope of getting the attention of potential parents. Whilst it is without a doubt that these would have been striking and impressive images, the trouble is: your target customers will not be able to engage with your brand, nor remember it and, ultimately, use it.
Attracting customers and building strong connections
To attract the right customers and for them to build a strong connection with your school and brand, schools need to think about developing a content marketing strategy.
Here is a little definition of what content marketing is, from the Content Marketing Institute: “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” (http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/what-is-content-marketing/)
An article thoughtfully written by Michelle Linn likens content marketing to a famous comedian, Michael Jr., of giving people an opportunity to laugh:
“…in Los Angeles, every comedian I know … we’re all about getting laughs out of people. And I just had this shift, this epiphany, where instead of going to get laughs, I just decided, why don’t I just give them an opportunity to laugh?… So I went up there and dropped my shoulders … because I was looking to give something instead of get. Everything changed. When you’re looking to take something from somebody, they can sense it. You can’t necessarily articulate it, but you need something from them. So the audience, they actually have more control that way. But when you have a gift, your job is simply to present the gift.” (http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2017/02/give-meaning-content/)
Schools – a content haven
School is a haven for high quality content. It is the only place on earth where thoughts, ideas are generated daily- whether by students or teachers. It is the only place where we can physically see a human being’s character and mind develop. It is one of the most influential places that shape an individual and a wonderful place where concepts of right and wrong is consolidated.
Schools are in a privileged position to be an authority of meaningful and useful content, to reach and connect with likeminded parents and students. The trick is knowing who to go to and how to get the desired content. A good school will share its knowledge with the wider community. We have seen examples of great content produced by one school’s music co-ordinator on developing children’s interest in music; the benefits of learning a musical instrument; or the importance of messy play by an early years’/ kindergarten teacher; or tips for building a strong language foundation by a co-ordinator of an EAL department… As a school, we are incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by highly-qualified subject-matter experts, who, if approached well, can generate unique and compelling articles for our content strategy.
Content marketing in action- a fine example
Our colleagues at the British Boarding School Workshop (BBSW for short), who help British boarding schools to recruit international students by connecting them with overseas agents, are a live example of content marketing in action. Members receive frequent updates on country and regional trends about studying abroad. There are useful tips on working with agents from different countries. They also produce useful statistics about the marketplace for UK schools. It’s no easy task compiling such content, however you will find that it’s worth every investment of time when the returns is a) greater loyalty and b) deeper connection with customers. BBSW has grown in memberships and, more importantly, there is a healthy number of repeat subscriptions too, which are all credit to how well the company builds connections and continually evolves to meet the needs of its customers, through content.
So if you haven’t already thought about a content marketing strategy for your school, now is a good time to get together with the team (remember to involve the academic team as well!) and brainstorm the What, Who, When and Where in the context of content development. You will be surprised how much you will enjoy this exercise and the product at the end!