Why School District Marketing Matters Now More Than Ever

Bill Stamats

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Branding and marketing aren’t services traditionally associated with public school districts. And the reason makes perfect sense. Until recently, districts could safely assume that they would serve most school-age children living within their boundaries. But social and political forces at work over the past couple of decades have upended that assumption.

Today, districts across the nation are retooling — investing in branding, marketing, and communication campaigns designed to engage parents and attract students. Since Stamats knows how crucial brands are in higher education, we understand the transformative power of branding and marketing for K-12 schools, too.

With that in mind, let’s explore five reasons behind the dramatic rise in school district marketing.

1. Families have more choices

Presently, with expanding voucher programs, private school options, and homeschooling, parents have more choices about how and where they educate their children. Even within the public school system, open enrollment means that the nearest school district isn’t necessarily the defacto choice.

To compete, districts need to focus on clear branding and compelling communication that emphasizes student/teacher engagement, academic excellence, outcomes, and community value.

2. A powerful way to tell your story

Moreover, there are amazing things happening in every school and every classroom in your district. A well organized marketing effort can capture those important stories, share them with the public, and weave them into the fabric of your brand.

Student achievement, faculty awards, and innovative new programs communicate the value your district brings to the community. But authentic, well-told stories go even further. By counteracting much of the negative press public schools receive lately, stories help balance the larger conversation.

3. … And improve engagement

Success attracts success. When districts begin marketing themselves in a clear, unified way, people take notice. Broad community awareness and engagement turns citizens into district advocates. Over time, this can fuel new opportunities, improve attendance and graduation rates, and lead to higher student achievement.

Also, a compelling and consistently articulated school district brand can generate immense pride among students, families, district employees and the community they represent. For many cities and small towns, the result is a much-needed culture-building lift.

Finally, a strong district brand and marketing presence is an effective recruitment tool. This presence attracts top-notch teachers and administrators who may be choosing between several offers.

4. Inspire new audiences

An effective branding and marketing program helps districts motivate audiences that don’t have a direct link to their schools.

While parents, students, faculty and staff are your primary target audiences, consider the value of everyone else. Alumni and their parents, non-parents, retirees, and business and community leaders — together, these constituents are a powerful untapped resource that could serve your district in countless creative ways.

5. Forge valuable partnerships

Also, major employers in the towns and cities you serve likely recruit employees from across the nation. Is your district’s marketing material front and center in the relocation package those employees receive?

A holistic marketing effort should include a robust and highly collaborative business outreach component. By connecting with new-hires first, you can begin to build relationships early. This positions your district as the natural choice for parents new to the area.

Launching a district marketing program

Understandably, many district leaders aren’t comfortable with the thought of stretching budgets even further by making new investments in marketing. But there are ways to start slowly using existing resources.

Begin by clarifying the top three ideas you want your brand to communicate. These brand “pillars” are the authentic qualities that set your district apart from the competition (e.g., innovation, strong student-teacher relationships, or unique hands-on learning opportunities).

Then, translate those brand pillars into a set of consistent brand messages. These can be reinforced on your website, through social media channels, in teacher blogs, and more. And remember, the most powerful messages are rooted in stories — real-life examples of how your district is fulfilling its promise every day.

In any event, from competitor research to branding and website design, Stamats can help your school district stand out from the competition, connect with a new generation of families, and build for tomorrow. Call or email for more information.

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