WIGO: In March, All Attention is on Tier II Applications
Since the inception of the incentive based marketing program (VISION 360, TIER I: INNOVATORS, TIER II: PIONEERS) to Creative Marketing Think Tanks (CMTTS), many have wondered what it takes to be a TIER II: PIONEERS school. We get emails, phone calls, and impromptu questions throughout the month from marketing team members who want to elevate their school’s status. One of the great results of a multi tiered system is that it fosters healthy growth with our unique schools. And the best part is, our schools are becoming more and more open with sharing their strengths and weaknesses with each other with the intent to share “best practices” to improve their respective marketing efforts.
So, want to know how to become a TIER II: PIONEERS school? Hopefully you attended one of March’s CMTTs, because we spent the entire session going over each aspect of the application which focuses on each school developing their Marketing & Public Relations Strategic Plan for the 2012 – 2013 school year. As with applying to any grant or program, attention to detail is key – don’t be the school that loses out on an opportunity over a spelling mistake! We’re starting to see some great applications from our elementary schools. We all know what that means – opportunity for more incentives for all the hard work your team is doing!
Interview Spotlights: St. Columbkille | Principal Mary Ann Rios
MAX LA: What have you done to increase enrollment at your school over the past two years?
Mary Ann: We have actively marketed to the parish community as there are many families with children. During the 2010-2011 school year, a presentation to parents during Family Catechesis resulted in an enrollment increase of 12 students in January 2011. Testimony was given by the pastor, parents, students and principal. Round table discussions were led by school parents and individual tours were scheduled. This has now become an annual event for St. Columbkille.
The School’s Open House is a collaborative effort with the Religious Education Department at the Parish. The Sunday of the Open House, catechism classes are cancelled and parents & children must attend a Mass in place of class. Parents are then invited to the school for tours, information, activities for the children and parents, free snacks and drinks, and free raffles. This has proven to be a good event for the school as many interested families attend. This ties into our Parent Incentive Program. Parents get school packets that they can hand deliver or mail to potential families they may know. Inside the packet is a “referred by” sticker where parents can write their name. When parents refer a family and they register to our school, the referring family receives free registration for one child.
During the 2011-2012 school year, we have organized more community building activities for current and prospective families. Parents are encouraged to bring friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers, etc. to any of the free events offered (e.g. BMX Show/Fun Day, Family Picnic, and Movie Night). Potential families walk away with a school packet and usually fun give-a-ways. Some of these activities have also been promoted at the parish and in local businesses with an open invitation to attend.
The use of technology and media help market the school as well. This year, St. Columbkille has been featured in The Tidings twice and on channels 2, 7, 9, 52, and 62. New media is free and has highlighted our technology improvements thanks to the Archdiocesan Sponsored C3 Pilot Program. A willingness to host events at our school has helped better market to the outer community. A new and improved website will hopefully draw new families and donors to the school as well. Links:
The Preschool Outreach Program is in place but is still in the beginning stages; it’s still too early to tell.
Finally, as many of our families need tuition assistance, we heavily market the fact that a Catholic education is affordable. Heavy development efforts allow us to provide tuition assistance to all families who qualify through the school run Sponsor-A-scholar Program.
MAX LA: How did you organize your team and get them working as a unit?
Mary Ann: The Marketing Committee has seen some transition within the past few years as members have come and gone. The key pieces are 1) having a plan for the year and 2) having a consistent leader. This year we have a power house team and people who are actual marketing experts. Our team meets once a month for about two hours. People volunteer for tasks and progress is reported via e-mails, phone calls, etc. The co-chairs (leaders) of the Marketing Committee really have to be dedicated to seeing projects through and keeping people accountable. The Marketing Committee Co-chairs report to the School Board which is an added measure of accountability. Documentation of marketing efforts such as analysis of events, income/expense reports, videos, and pictures are shared as well and are becoming standard practices.
MAX LA: What are you doing to outreach to your partner schools during this time of the year?
Mary Ann: We are currently developing an Open Enrollment Campaign. This will include traditional means of communication including mailers, flyers, announcements and presentations. We hope to present at local parishes that do not have schools and pre-schools in the area.
Good Shepherd Catholic School | Principal Terry Miller
MAX LA: What is a recent marketing success you’ve had and how did you achieve it?
Terry: In the 2010-2011 school year we only had 10 kindergarten students. In the 2011-2012 school year our kindergarten enrollment increased to 25 students.
We attribute the increase to a concerted effort on our part to increase the kindergarten enrollment. A number of ways we did it was by contacting our surrounding preschools and establishing a personal relationship with the preschool Director; by asking our school parents to go onto school search websites and rating our school; by trying to get photos or articles in our local paper: the Pre-school and Admission Directors participated in large weekend pre-school fairs; and by holding an Open House for just Pre-K and Kindergarten parents.
We did a great deal of planning and preparation for the Pre-K and Kindergarten Open House. We advertised the Open House on our website; we prepared “Save the Date” flyers which emphasized the fact that we were located in a residential neighborhood, with a secure closed campus, that we had Spanish, Planet Bravo computer instruction, art instruction, a music teacher and a physical fitness and health teacher for enrichment. We distributed the flyers to our parents to hand to their friends, we obtained permission to put the flyers in the Beverly Hills Library, we posted the flyers at Supermarkets that would allow us to do so and we distributed flyers to the various preschools in our local area.
At the Open House (scheduled for one hour), we had an individual packet for each parent. Within the packet we had a Blessing for Children, a Kindergarten Readiness Checklist, a poem entitled “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”, a primary version of our School-Wide Learning Expectations, and Pre-K and Kindergarten Curriculum Maps. At the meeting I welcomed and made brief comments about the school, our Pre-K and Kindergarten teachers gave an overview of their programs including talking about the philosophy of their programs, the curriculum maps, and the other items in the packet. Following the presentation by the Pre-K and Kindergarten teachers we had a brief Question and Answer period and then people broke into groups for tours of the school. At the conclusion of the Open House Parents appeared excited and started asking about how to enroll their children in the school.
MAX LA: What have you done to better cultivate website and social media marketing?
Terry: When the Admissions Director receives phone calls from prospective parents she asks them “How did you hear about Good Shepherd?” and the answer is normally “the website” or “from a friend or parent who has a child in the school”. We know our website has to be continually reviewed and updated to make it appealing and user friendly for potential parents. We have a parent volunteer with website experience who is helping us keep the website current and up-to-date and is able to have our website link to other information.
Regarding social media marketing, we have a Good Shepherd Facebook page. We are also going to establish a link on the Home page of our website to the Facebook page which would allow alumni to register.
MAX LA: How did you build your marketing team, and how has it grown over the years?
Terry: Our marketing team began to take off when we hired an Admissions Director who started to attend the monthly MAX LA meetings. We began to get parent participation on the committee from two parents who had background in marketing and real estate. Our next step was to recruit lower grade parents to participate as POP parents and interact with preschools.
Bishop Mora Salesian High School | Principal Sam Robles
MAX LA: How did your school create its branding guidelines, and how has your brand evolved over the years?
Sam: Branding had been a real mess at Salesian for years. Our only consistency was our inconsistency. The ‘flavor of the month’ was dependent on who was running a particular program at that particular moment in time. The high turnover in our coaching staff and in the athletic department and the lack of any guidelines whatsoever allowed for a smorgasbord of logos, colors, fonts and overall presentation. It was actually the requirement of a Marketing Plan that was mandated by the Department of Catholic schools that allowed us to realize how bad we were in the area of Branding. We took a committee of various stakeholders and evaluated what was in place. We made sure that we had a wide spectrum of our community involved and also that someone with graphic and design expertise was involved. We quickly learned that we did not have a Brand that would identify us as an institution. After long and focused discussions on ‘who we were’ and ‘who we wanted to be’ we directed our attention to determining our brand. We rolled out the new and improved Brand at several meetings and we documented the branding policy on our website and on all handbooks. We made it clear that any variance or inconsistency with our policy or brand would not be tolerated. Another big piece of this was narrowing down our vendors; we presently use two vendors. The vendors know our brand and have agreed not to sway from our brand. About a year ago one of our coaches decided he would create his own logo for team jerseys. The school refused to pay the bill so that the coach was made financially responsible, as per our policy, and the team was never allowed to wear the jerseys.
MAX LA: What is your school’s unique selling proposition, and how do you use that to attract new students?
Sam: The uniqueness of Salesian High School is that our philosophy, mission, and vision is based on the teachings of St. John Bosco. Don Bosco taught that for an institution to be viable there had to exist four components. The Salesian School is a Home, a Church, a School and a Playground where the students find a welcoming environment and a new style of life. We promote Family. We promote Brotherhood. We not only tell our prospective families who we are, we show them who we are by allowing them to interact with our students, our parents and our alumni. Every opportunity that we get, be it open house, a community event, a CYO game, etc. we ‘show off’ our product. Our best recruiters are our students, our parents, and our alumni.
MAX LA: What is your marketing and admissions team doing this time of the year to ensure increased enrollment for next year?
Sam: The president of It’s A Habit Company, Sam X Renick is on our Advisory Board. Mr. Renick is an author, a song writer and also travels the country putting on assemblies for school aged children. He talks about financial literacy and the importance of saving money. Presently, It’s A Habit Company and Salesian High School has partnered in providing free school assemblies to the Catholic elementary schools in the local deanery. The marketing and admissions team is making it a priority to call each principal of all the students that have been accepted as freshmen for next year. We are promoting an Excellence in Education Dinner Banquet where we invite our feeder schools to nominate one 7th grade boy and girl to receive this award and partake in the banquet with their families. This event is in its 19th year. Our music department offers after school music classes to all ages, we are actively recruiting students from our feeder schools.