The ‘’why’’ & the ‘’how’’ behind public school events
There is mounting evidence that public events don’t pay off. Parents don’t come. Secretaries nag. Teachers do not support them. And, they cost money! We can agree right here and right now that public events are much ado about nothing and be done with them. Or should we stop and think why events are needed and why they usually fail? This article aims to point out that our school stands to gain a lot from such events as long as we are willing to invest, plan ahead and be patient.
The ‘’why’’ behind public events
FLS can definitely survive without school public events (SPE). No parent ever chooses a FLS because of the events organised. What parents choose schools for is the quality of learning they provide. Events are the cherry on the top, the characteristic that makes the school stand out. Expectedly enough most school owners would argue at this point that very few FLS do not organise SPEs these days and the moment one school comes up with an innovative public event idea, this gets copied by the competition. Therefore, how do events make any particular school stand out? I believe that the ‘’how’’ behind the events makes all the difference. Copiers are sloppy and unimaginative. If they were not, they would not imitate other people’s marketing, they would come up with their own. Therefore, the difference between the original and the copycat would be the content, the delivery, the way of setting up the event and even the frequency with which such SPEs take place. Frequency is related with money, though.
The greatest argument against school SPE is that they cost money and anything that costs money should be avoided. SPEs are part of the schools marketing plan. Marketing may be found at an affordable price but it cannot be entirely free. Therefore, there is no way we can put together a SPE without some investment but the way we budget our event is interwoven with its aim, which had better not be to dazzle the competition or to ‘’steal’’ the other schools’ clientele. The aims of SPE should vary: some should present and inform, some should entertain, some should involve the audience, some should showcase our work. The audience should vary as well. Some events are for families, some for students, some for parents and some are for everyone, even our friends and relatives. Most FLS target all their events to the general parent population of the school which means that they run the risk of exhausting their audience which gets bored of being exposed to the ‘’same old’’ and disengages. Audience targeting has the additional benefit of making the project easier to manage and the whole venture less costly.
The great argument for SPE is how they position the school in the collective consciousness of the community. They are part of the school brand and identity due to the fact that they can indirectly communicate the values the school holds and its ideology on education, teaching and learning. On a more practical level, SPE give visibility to the school. They are a very useful step towards strengthening the bonds between the very valuable existing clients and the school and, if well advertised, they show our potential clients how our school differs from its competitors. Last but not least, the whole process of communication keeps the school in the minds of the parents and gets them to be more actively involved. Attention is needed, here, though. This kind of loyalty and bonding is not created because back in 2007 we invited a psychologist to talk to parents about learning difficulties. This is built after years of putting together such events which have been thought out to ‘’make sense’’. Consistency is important as parents are more likely to join events once they become accustomed to them. This is yet another reason why patience is needed. PSE should not be seen as direct sales tools. More students will not register the following day because of the event. Still, PSE are money in the bank and the gain from them will show. The other day, a clients shared what a young mother told her. When the couple moved to the area, they did not have children. They saw the school as it was close to their flat. ‘’I could see what you were doing for your students’’, the mother said, ‘’and I kept thinking that if I have children, I want them to go to such a school.’’ Indirect marketing, like God, works in very mysterious ways!
The ‘’how’’ behind public school events.
PSE can give a lot to our school as long as they are painstakingly organised, otherwise they fail and the school gains nothing. When this happens most school owners feel that there is some kind of cosmic conspiracy against their school. Trust me when I say that when free events fail, the fault lies with the organisers.
Advance planning is essential when it comes to SPE. The best strategy for that, which also shows parents the exceptional organisation of the school, is to give clients a detailed list of upcoming events for the current academic year. Advance planning is also important in the way we promote the event. Promoting SPE means that we have to use all the media available. It has been proven that clients are more likely to engage with one message communicated via a variety of means, rather than with a multitude of messages promoted by one medium. Therefore, we need to use paper for the parents who are not into technology, social media to add visibility, email and SMS promotion and the school E-bulletin. It is also crucial to have the school secretary check who is actually coming to the event as most parents do not RSVP (which is French for ‘’please respond’’).
For every event content and delivery are key. The school management team needs to select topics that cover the needs of a diverse audience and to plan out a round of annual events that is balanced. It is also wise to choose different presenters for every event, some from the internal pool of teachers and some invited guests. Last but not least, the venue, its facilities and ease of access as well as the hospitality (coffee and snacks offered) matter a lot to our guests and make any SPE a social event.
Social media has made the ‘’now’’ matter. Therefore, as the event happens the school needs to upload information and photos on the event page. We should not forget the ‘’after’’ stage either. A well-rounded event should be followed by an email with a brief outline of the session, accompanied by photos. This will ensure that those invited who did not come will realise that it was their loss.
Despite all the arguments against SPE, they do have the power to build a dynamic profile for our school. This does not happen not only because they show that we care for something other than exams, pass rates and grades, but also because they give the chance to parents to feel, be inspired, share problems, share a laugh, build bonds all in the framework and context of our school. Do you think any other kind of marketing can give that to your school?
A merry and productive 2017 to all and to all a relaxing Xmas!
Blick, Dee. 2011. The ultimate small business marketing book, Filalment Publishing, UK
Baines, Fill & Page. 2011. Marketing 2nd, Oxford University Press, UK
Foster Bryan. 2011. School Marketing Manual for the digital age3rd, USA