Websites, viewbooks, Facebook, annual fund appeals, Twitter, magazines, YouTube, signage, e-news, ads, blogs. All of these are just a sampling of the vehicles you use to communicate with your audiences and market your school. How integrated are they? Are you sending the same brand messages for all of them? Do they look like they’re visually connected to one another? In other words, are you representing your school with one voice, or are there tens of voices doing their own thing?
“Good grief,” you say. “It’s a wonder we can produce stuff at all, let alone have it be ‘integrated.’” I hear your pain. But what if you could integrate your marketing and communications and make your job easier—not harder?
Take a sampling from any one school comprised of the viewbook, magazine, Facebook page, website, annual fund appeals, parent e-news, soccer uniforms, and the school sign on the street.
These materials alone will tell me if the school has brand messages and a graphic identity that they use consistently across mediums. I look for consistency in colors, logo and font treatments. I look for brand adhesion that indicates the school knows how to differentiate itself from the pack and sing its distinguishing characteristics from the rooftops. I look for professionalism in writing and graphic design. I look for strong photographs that don’t necessarily need to be professionally shot, but that convey the ethos of the school.
Spread a dozen or so of your marketing and communications on a table and take a cold, hard look. Do they look like they come from the same school? When you read the key points or introduction, does the copy sound like your school and distinguish it from its competitors? Would alumnae/i love what they see and recognize their own experiences? In addition, ask yourself and your team: Are we maximizing our talent, efforts, and time? Are we getting the results we want?
If you think your sample group of marketing pieces wouldn’t pass muster, perhaps your school would benefit from a communications audit (sometimes called “assessment” because it feels somewhat less threatening).
Here’s a quiz to help you determine if your school would benefit from a marketing communications audit.
- Feel like you have many marketing/communications balls in the air, but not enough to show for it?
- Feel like there are too many cooks in the proverbial marketing kitchen?
- Have a hunch some departments are overlapping marketing efforts?
- Think some marketing is falling through the cracks?
- Think some audiences are being over-served and some under-served?
- Think your brand messages aren’t being communicated consistently in every department, or even within one department?
- Feel that the process for developing the school’s marketing communications isn’t as streamlined or effective as it could be?
- Wish for a collective marketing calendar so that all departments are on the same page?
- Think your school could benefit from a school wide marketing plan, but doesn’t have one?
- Wish all of your marketing communications had the same graphic identity, but know it’s the Wild West out there?
- Think some people are under qualified to do marketing?
- Worry that your competition has a leg up on your marketing efforts?
- Feel embarrassed about some of your materials because they have errors or look home-grown?
- Are pretty sure you “get it” for most of the above, but social media is still unchartered territory?
If you answered “yes” to most of the questions above, you should consider a communications audit.
You can do a self-directed communications audit. Just know going in that it’s time consuming and you don’t have the benefit an outsider’s view, but self-assessment is better than no assessment. Here’s a simple way to do it. First, establish a committee of your school’s marketers. Second, examine your marketing and communications efforts with a critical eye by rating them on a scale of 1-5 based on criteria such as writing, design, brand message clarity, graphic identity compliance, etc., and allow comments for each piece. When you tally the responses, it should be fairly clear where the winners are and where some work needs to be done. Third, now examine the process whereby marketing and communications are produced at your school. Look for redundancy, inefficiency, and blockages. Look, too, for those who are most skilled in this arena, and take advice from them.
Turf wars and politics may get in the way, but even if you make small improvements incrementally, it’s better than what came before.
If it’s in the budget, hire a consultant to conduct an audit. The fee for audits can range from $10,000-20,000, depending on the scope. The consultant brings to the table expertise, time, an outsider’s view, and the ability to make recommendations without school politics overshadowing their opinions. The school can instruct the consultant to concentrate on certain areas or the entire school. Consultants can assess approaches, process, personnel, and results.
If you think your school is doing well with your marketing communications, but needs help with only your social media channels, edSocialMedia is one of the firms that conduct social media audits. edSocialMedia creates a comprehensive picture of a school’s current social media presence by conducting extensive research into the school’s social footprint along with surveying the school community. They distill the findings into a set of recommendations that can serve as a guide for the creation of a social media engagement plan.
Full assessment, partial, or social media only, the question remains: Ought you do an audit?