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Marketing your school: from one SBM to another

Gillian Allen, an experienced SBM fr om the North East, is a firm believer in the power of school marketing:

Creating a positive identity and promoting your school effectively is all about improving the school’s reputation, raising its profile and contributing to its success.

She has agreed to share her tips for successful marketing with the readers of the SBM News.

Speaking at the North of England SBM conference, Gillian made the case for marketing as a core part of the SBM role:

Schools don’t just compete with each other to attract pupils, but also to recruit the best staff, gain partnership support and community approval. A good marketing strategy can enhance internal and external awareness of the good work that is being accomplished by the school. It provides a method of communicating to students, parents, staff and the community that the school is dedicated to achieving excellence as well as meeting the educational needs of its community.

Gillian has been involved in education for 18 years, working across both the primary and secondary sectors. She has achieved the BA (Hons) in School Business Management and is a tutor on the Certificate of School Administration (CSBM) programme – in fact, she is one of the first pair of CSBM tutors where both tutors are practicing SBMs. Gillian is now the School Business Manager of Churchill CommunityCollege, which has radically overhauled its public image over the last few years:

At Churchill Community College, we have recognised the need for significant cultural change, and part of my role is to lead on a programme to increase students’ self esteem and confidence, as well as raise our profile within the local community.

Churchill Community College was created during a reorganisation of education in the area. The core of the new school was the old secondary school, which had developed a mixed reputation within the local community. The new College had new buildings, new students and new staff and a need to develop a new image. Marketing has been one of the tools to turn the situation around:

We have a new name, new advertising literature and a new uniform. In improving the external perceptions of the College, we have found that we have created better morale amongst the staff, and increased self-esteem for the students. They are proud to belong to the school now.

Results at Churchill have improved dramatically, attendance has increased, and staff turnover is down. Gillian describes how they managed to turn their image around:

We had a very supportive governor who invited us to go and visit his business, wh ere marketing was seen not just as a way of selling a product, but about raising the ethos and culture of the whole organisation. There was great emphasis on valuing the staff and encouraging leadership at all levels.

After seeing this kind of approach to marketing, Gillian was keen to implement it in the College, but they needed advice. The governor persuaded a marketing agency to visit the school free of charge, and discuss strategies. Following that visit, they set up a marketing committee and established their own plan:

The key piece of advice was to concentrate on what we were doing well, and forget the negativity of those who didn’t have faith in the vision – people were either converted or got left behind. We developed our plan based on links to the community, links with our primary schools, and our internal ethos – staff benefits and welfare.

Gillian is passionate about the benefits of this holistic approach to marketing, and has seen the results at Churchill, but with years of experience, she knows that time and budget are limitations that need to be managed. One option is to find untapped skills within the existing staff:

One of our IT staff showed a flair for design, and he has developed his role to become a real asset to the school’s marketing campaign. He is now our Marketing and Publicity Officer and we have been able to use his expertise to help us develop a comprehensive marketing strategy, with agreed actions and timescales. We have been able to explore new ways of communicating with our stakeholders which has had a fantastic impact on how we are perceived in the local area. We have also completely revised all our publications, internal displays and our website, so that we have a corporate image. We also work closely with our primary schools, which has improved our communication with them, and helped the transition process.

Having a marketing strategy which is supported by the headteacher and senior leadership team, has helped us develop a positive image of the College. Above all, marketing needs to be central to school business management and embedded into school development planning.

If you are interested in following the College’s lead, Gillian has created a presentation recommending some practical and manageable actions. Click here to download.

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