Increasing school intakes

How your marketing can increase pupil numbers

A significant number of schools and colleges engage with Oyster because they feel their message isn't being conveyed to potential students and parents as well as it could be and enquiry and intake figures are below capacity. One of the hardest tasks for any organisation is being able to look objectively at their own brand and marketing.

From experience, we are able to gain a pretty clear impression of a school or college's key strengths, character and ethos fairly quickly following initial discussions and a site visit. We talk with pupils, teachers, SMTs and headteachers to give us the insight we need and then feedback our impressions. Without exception our initial feedback very accurately identifies who they are and the strengths that define the character and ethos of the school. So let's get to work? 

Well it's certainly a starting point but shaping your brand and message in a way that gains traction and increases enquiries needs careful refinement. Who are your competitors? What are they saying? How do you compare? What differentiates you? Do parents and pupils buy into your perceptions? If not, why not? What specifically makes you who you are and how is that demonstrated? Then there's how you look, what you say, how you use imagery and messages, your social media and website and every touchpoint on the 'prospective parent journey'. Getting your school marketing right takes focus and planning with the creative bit coming into play once you have a clear vision.  

The prospective parent journey

Understanding the prospective parent journey is the ground map for your brand and marketing. There's a number of well chosen paths that most prospective parents will follow or come across that include word of mouth, website, virtual tours, video, prospectus, advertising and the essential school visit. So everything you prepare needs to be truly integrated into the journey. Every part of this journey from answering the phone to shaping the school tour around the interests of individual pupils is part of the brand experience.

Can you be sure about your position & message?

It's easy to think we know why people choose our school but in truth, until you have undertaken some form of research, it's just your team's interpretations. Parents make decisions for all sorts of reasons and what you think you should focus on may be no different from competitors or be missing key USPs (unique selling points). It's easy to go round in circles unless you stop and spend some time focussing.

By using an agency like Oyster to run focus groups and research, you will understand more about parent reasoning and decision making, understand strengths and weaknesses and begin to position yourselves in your own space that differentiates you from your competitors. There's always a sweet spot and it's important to make sure you fully understand and identify it.

Following consultations, it's easy from here?

It's certainly a big step forward. We're now working with informed information and have a good view of where we need to position the school. But the next stages are critical and this is where an experienced agency like Oyster shine through. There may well be some brand adjustment required to ensure your school looks and communicates in a way that reflects the character and ethos you want to portray. This might include additions or tweaks to colours, considering the fonts you use and how they project you, how you use imagery and the type of images that will best convey your messages, un-cluttering key propositions and just shaping the brand to be a suitable vehicle with which to communicate with your target audiences. 

What's design communication?

At Oyster we talk about 'design communication', this refers to the balance between headlines, imagery and design. So once you start considering your message you aren't just considering a headline but every aspect of the communication.

There are so many headlines out there in schools' marketing but only a handful really deliver a clear and compelling proposition. Very often this is because the balance between message, image and design isn't working for all sorts of reasons. Equally the ability to shape a campaign that gives you multiple options to keep demonstrating the different way in which your message is true is often missing from school campaigns. This goes back to the different touch-points along the 'prospective parent journey' and the ability to actually bring your core messages into the very fabric of your brand. So whilst your core propositions and headlines are important it is equally important to know how to balance them within every aspect and treatment of your communications and how to make it stick.

Engaging web, digital and social media

How you employ your brand and messages on all digital platforms is a key part of the prospective parent journey. Bring core messages onto the Home page, give them substance, use case studies and make the experience an engaging one. Animation and video can be incredibly powerful, short clips and longer content can all help shape emotions and engagement. Look at every aspect of your digital communications and ask yourself if your message is coming through or could be better communicated. Use social media to visually and practically reinforce your messages and get your pupils involved because nothing carries quite as much weight as the thoughts, comments and enthusiasm of young people.

What now?

Oyster have shaped school and college brands and run campaigns for over 15 years and enjoy outstanding results. We work with some of the most iconic brands in the sector and have also helped to reinvigorate many schools and colleges facing enrolment and identity challenges. We offer great value and excellent returns on investment. So if you would like an informal discussion we'd love to hear from you!


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