The Value of Marketing for Today’s Public Schools

In the world of higher education, aggressive marketing is the norm. These institutions may use social media ad campaigns, email marketing, search engine optimization, crisp designed materials and more in the interest of generating engagement and interest from prospective students, alumni, donors and parents.

This approach to marketing is becoming more common for K-12 schools and districts, as well. At a time when many school districts must compete for students and turn to their alumni for key contributions, effective marketing helps them achieve their goals.

Why do public schools need marketing?

Historically, public schools have not had to compete amongst themselves. Decades ago, parents would have the option to enroll their children in a local public school or a local private school. While this provided some competition, the fact remained that most families would enroll their children in the local public schools without much thought otherwise.

Today, the story is much different. With programs like school vouchers and open enrollment, traditional K-12 schools and districts must market themselves to showcase the value they offer students and their families.  Each additional student enrolled in a school can bring in thousands of dollars in additional funding, and so it's critical to boost enrollment.

A strategic marketing plan can make an incredible difference. On top of increasing school enrollment, good marketing can also promote stronger bonds between a school district and its community. A community that trusts its local school district is one that's more likely to support fundraising campaigns and referendum efforts as those needs arise.

How schools market themselves

Every school district is different, and there is no single strategy that works well across the board. But there are a few common characteristics of an effective public school marketing strategy. For one, a good strategy is consistent with the mission and values of the organization.

In addition, the best marketing strategies for public schools incorporate stories and messaging that help audiences connect personally with the work the school is doing. To that end, it is essential for teachers, staff, administrators and school board members to be on the same page. A unified approach to marketing ensures messaging remains consistent across all platforms.

As you work to engage in a marketing strategy for your school or district, keep these concepts top of mind. Start with overarching goals, and then determine which stakeholders—such as parents, students, staff and alumni—you need to reach through your efforts. Then, find the messages you want your stakeholders to know and understand about your district. Finally, explore the best tools (such as email, social media, advertising, etc.) to reach those stakeholders.

With this formula, you can establish a marketing strategy that sets up your school or district well for the years ahead.