In Part 2 of “How to Beat the Enrollment Recession,” we covered inbound and outbound marketing. In Part 3, we’ll discuss how to define your values through establishing your mission and vision, and how these values can help strengthen your relationships and shape your future. We’ll also cover some practical tips on how to incorporate these values into your everyday marketing.
Step 3: Define Your Values and Build Relationships
When conducting any marketing, establishing a mission to build your school’s voice and values is critical. So critical, in fact, that Richard Moss, from The Heights School, says his #1 piece of advice for struggling private schools is: “Know your mission and share it with people personally.”
Rich goes on to explain, “It sounds like a no brainer, but I think a lot times folks are soul searching for what their school’s main contribution to family and society is. If you aren’t sure what you bring to table and how you are different from every school in your area, you are going to have a hard time convincing other people that you are different, especially if you are charging tuition and the public school down the street is not. So constantly evaluating your mission, the way you think about your mission and the way you present your mission is critical to effectively build relationships.”
Establishing Your Vision and Mission
Establishing your school’s vision and mission is vital to give staff, parents and students both direction and purpose. It shapes school culture and renews a sense of loyalty, commitment, confidence and productivity. When you have a clearly defined vision and mission, every point of marketing and communication has a clear foundation which nurtures strong-ties and purpose-driven relationships.
To define your vision and mission you will first need to gather all the stakeholders in a positive and collaborative setting.
Once you have gathered your team, the following outline should help you define your vision and mission. The outline is summarized from a great article written by the National School Board Advisory that helps you define your vision and mission. I suggest you print out the full article for use during the meeting.
1. Define your ideal future:
- With an inspiring and positive attitude, decide as an organization where you see your school in the future.
- Draw on your collective (school) beliefs and culture, but know that the framework may change, so take future organizational changes into account.
2. Define your vision by incorporating beliefs:
- The beliefs that are the foundation of your vision should meet both school and community goals while clearly stating your values.
- They should clearly, publicly, and practically define the path to your intended future.
- They should be action-guiding and reflect your collective philosophy, knowledge and actions.
- They should be the cornerstone of strategic planning.
3. Define your mission:
- Keep it short and concise (no more than two sentences) using your beliefs as inspiration.
- Your mission should focus on the future and a communicate the singular, shared purpose of your school.
When coming up with your mission: keep an open mind and avoid cliches, stereotypes and negativity. Allow ideas to flow freely in a team environment and help other’s foster their ideas.
Communicate Your Mission Online
There are several ways in which you can demonstrate your values, sometimes even without a single line of text. You should keep your mission, vision and beliefs in mind when producing any online content including (but not limited to) social media, email marketing, blogging and your website.
Here are a few tips and ideas on how to incorporate your mission into various media:
To start, you need create a page dedicated to your mission. Here is where The Heights School discusses their mission: http://www.heights.edu/mission/.
The execution of the mission page might vary from school to school, but you want to be sure that you state your mission in a clear, concise manner. You may also include approach, methodology, execution, values, beliefs or history. But, always be sure to make the mission statement prominent and towards the top of the page so a parent or student can quickly understand your mission.
Your home page is also another important place to demonstrate your mission. While you don’t have to explicitly state your mission on the homepage, be sure to include a picture that symbolizes it. If you are committed to student-teacher relationships, have a picture of a genuine interaction between a student and teacher. If the core of your mission is education inspired by faith, show it! Be creative and make sure the first image visitors see communicates your mission before they even read a single word.
Take one of the slides from Hill Country Christian School’s homepage for example:
Now read their mission:
“The mission of Hill Country Christian School of Austin is to provide a Christ-centered, Classical, college-preparatory education that inspires students to become life-long learners and effective communicators who impact the world with the life-changing reality of Jesus Christ.”
They successfully portray their mission through a series of images in a slide show. And even just this single image of the student on the football field demonstrates this mission better than any paragraph could.
2. Social Media
Whenever you tweet, share or post, be sure to keep your mission in mind. You have seen it in the mainstream media one-to-many times where some employee posts something that gets the public in a frenzy. Immediately afterwards, some PR representative usually comes out and apologizes on behalf of the company and says that the post was not in line with their beliefs. But, if these posts are out of sync with the organization’s mission, then why are they being posted?!
Each time you post something via a social channel be sure to ask yourself, “is this in line with my mission?” If the answer is no, don’t post it, and save yourself parents and student backlash.
Every post doesn’t necessarily have to be centered on your mission, but it is absolutely critical to use your mission as a sort of litmus test to give a pending post a grade of pass or fail.
3. Email Marketing
Including your mission statement on the signature, or bottom, of every email is a fantastic way to reinforce your values and help new inquiries discover your mission for the first time. It also keeps you honest by making sure the mission is in harmony with the included content.
You can even go as far as creating a “School Mission” campaign where you share the school’s mission with inquiries through a series of emails which highlight the mission in action. Include videos of students volunteering, participating in school life, or just being themselves. You can also include testimonials from students where they describe what the mission means to them and how they live it on a daily basis. Any activity in your school that exemplifies your mission is game for this campaign and can easily be documented with a camera, video camera, audio recorder or notepad.
Rich Moss, from The Heights School, recommends blogging as a great way to build a community of parents that share your school’s views. One successful Heights School post, “Why Chess is Better than Video Games” attracted many new parents to their blog and increased exposure for The Heights School.
Mission-driven blog posts are important because they help spread your school’s mission through an untapped social network of parents with similar world views.
Foster Collaboration Through Community Involvement
Once you have defined your mission, get out there and spread it! It is no secret that the strongest communities are tightly formed around a core set of beliefs. Religious groups, political groups, and non-profit groups are all solid examples of people who rally around a shared mission.
This principle is so strong that Christine Wemhoff, from Archbishop Murphy High School, says that her #1 tip for struggling private schools is collaboration. She insists, “it is incredibly important to develop and continue creating community connections. This has been crucial for our success. We have reached out to the Archdiocese of Seattle, the Fulcrum Foundation, and other Catholic schools in our area and started asking their input in a variety of areas. We have started hosting conferences, junior high dances, and guest speakers that are open to the public. Most recently, our school administrators have begun doing professional training at local universities and in county leadership programs.”
When you use community outreach events as an opportunity to spread your values and mission, you help instill a sense of belonging to people that may be sympathetic to your views. Continuing to spread the word helps establish your name in the community and strengthen your base of followers. If you do exceptional work in the local community, you just might be featured on local news stations and websites, spreading your mission outside the scope of the actual event.
Stay Tuned for Part 4: Admissions Process Overhaul
Come back to our blog next week and read how more schools are changing up their admissions process with great success and enrolling more students than ever before!
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